Algonquin’s visitor centre has a board for recording wildlife sightings. When we stopped by the centre a couple of weeks ago, one of the entries read “Mewtwo at Mew Lake” (for the uninitiated mewtwo is a Pokémon, and no, I didn’t know that until our son, who
used to watch Pokémon
, told me). I don’t know if it was an actual “sighting” (can I even use the word “actual” in this context?) or if it was meant as a joke (judging by the entry right above it could be). Regardless, it speaks to the latest Pokémon craze, which has been the centre of many debates lately. Proponents of this augmented reality game say it gets people outside and helps them get connected with other players and places they haven’t seen before. The “Pokémon go away” team, on the other hand, doubts if people even notice what’s around them with their gaze glued to the screen. I do think playing Pokémon Go outside is better than Assassin’s Creed in the basement, but I still find it hard to understand why virtual characters are needed to get people out of their house. To me, outside on its own is exciting enough, with all the bunnies, loons, bears and other real life “Pokémons.”
But enough rambling, back to the trip report. We initially planned a canoe trip in the backcountry but because my mother-in-law was joining us, we had to opt for something less intensive. Luckily, our friends had a site booked at Algonquin and there was just enough room for us.
As expected, the park was packed. Because Kearney Lake doesn’t boast much privacy, we could see and hear everyone all the time. Our site 152 was pretty good compared to the others but had no separation whatsoever from the next one. Luckily, our neighbours used it as sleeping quarters only and spent most of their time hanging out with their friends and family on another campsite.
Even though I was annoyed by all the crowds, it was exciting to see how diverse they were, probably the most diverse I’ve seen during all our years of camping. And even though we couldn’t get a canoe at Algonquin Outfitters (served us right for coming so late and not booking in advance), I was happy to see so many people trying canoeing for the first time. And there is always ice-cream to sweeten up the disappointment.
Without a canoe, we were landbound but still had tons of fun and it didn’t require a single electronic device. Here are some of the highlights.
I guess we weren’t completely landbound as we spent a lot of time swimming in Kearney Lake. Twice we swam all the way to the island and back. My favourite moment was floating and watching the clouds.
Speaking of sky watching, one night we sneaked to the beach to find a star- strewn sky. One minor pet peeve was light beams people kept flashing across the lake and into the sky.
With easy access to the Old Railway Bike Trail, our bikes got a good workout. The bike trail is 16 kilometres long and runs all the way from Rock Lake campground to the Track and Tower Trail. As the name clearly indicates, it follows the former railroad and is fairly flat.
My plan was to ride to the Track and Tower Trail and then hike a portion of it to the lookout over Cache Lake. That didn’t quite work out. Instead, we biked to the Lake of Two Rivers to get ice-cream. Almost eight kilometres one way is a bit of a trip for ice-cream but it was absolutely worth it. Plus we found other tasty treats along the way.
Next day we decided to head the other way toward Rock Lake. That portion of the trail had fewer people, that is until we got to the Rock Lake campground where tents and RVs were packed so close together that there seemed to be hardly any space for people to walk around. Compared to it, Kearney Lake felt super private.
Views from the top
So the hike to the Track and Tower got nixed, as did the Lookout Trail. Luckily, Algonquin has some easily accessible points to enjoy the park vistas, like the platform behind the visitor centre.
On our last day, we did manage to tackle one of the park’s trails. We’ve never hiked Whiskey Rapids and with a total length of 2.1 kilometres it looked like something we could do quickly. There was no whiskey, of course (that’s false advertising if you ask me), and the Rapids weren’t particularly rapidy, probably because there’s been so little rain. Still there were lots of stops along the way with access to Oxtongue River where kids enjoyed splashing and running around. The whole trail took us around an hour and a half, something you wouldn’t expect for a trail this short.
Moments of solitude
I know I said the park was packed but even among crowds you can find moments of peace and quiet. Like a late evening walk along the beach.
Or this cozy nook on Whitefish Lake that we found during our bike ride to Rock Lake.
Or simply catching up on some reading.
At the end of our Whiskey Rapids hike, we discovered a fake pine tree – a cellular tower trying to blend in. Reminded me of the meme being circulated on social media: If trees gave off WiFi signals, we would be planting so many trees. Now we have one that does. I understand the reasons for needing cellular towers in remote locations, but I can’t help feeling sad to see the civilization continuing to make deeper inroads into the remaining pockets of nature. Sad to realize that we can no longer enjoy the outside world without augmented reality or Internet access. At the visitor centre we saw people huddling in the WiFi area and then quite a few people at the Kearney Lake beach clutching their phones, like they were a lifeline. Where do we draw the line? Because soon we won’t be able to see the forest for the WiFi trees.