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Major steps in canoe trip planning.
* Gathering information and maps. May 5,6, 2001
* Getting a group together . May 5,6, 2001
* Choosing a route. May 5,6, 2001
* Reserving camping permits. May 7-11, 2001
* Deciding which Algonquin Outfitters base to use and reserving outfitting needs. May 7-11, 2001
* Reserve transportation. May 7-11, 2001
* Shopping for equipment and supplies. May 12-17, 2001
* Last meeting before departure, checking list. May 16, 2001
* Getting to the access point and back again. May 18-21, 2001
1.The Permits and Quotas
Anyone camping in the interior of Algonquin Park must obtain a wilderness camping permit from one of the 29 official access points on the park perimeter. I’ve heard the cost of a permit is $6.00 per person per night. The maximum number of campers allowed on any one site is 9. When obtaining a permit, you have to specify a proposed route and list the lakes on which you will camp on each night of the trip.
On weekends and holidays the most desirable lakes within a day's travel of an access point are likely to be fully booked. So advance reservations for wilderness camping permits should be made. There is a non-refundable charge of $10 for a reservation.
If we want do some fishing, a freshwater fishing license is required to fish anywhere in Ontario, and Licenses can be purchased at any of the access points to the park.
2. The Team
2 person for one canoe, using lightweight backpacking gear and dehydrated food, (I’m thinking that some of my favorite instant noodle would be perfect), it is not difficult for two canoeists to fit all they need for a week's duration in a single large pack weighing less than 30 kg. A pack of this weight can be carried short distances by an adult in good physical condition. Similarly, a typical 5 m long Kevlar canoe also weighs slightly less than 30 kg. With one paddler carrying the canoe and the other the pack and paddles, it is possible to cross a portage trail in a single trip. The Canoe is normally designed with handles and pads that for easy carrying by a single adult.
If it is not possible to fit all the gear into a manageable pack for single trip portaging, then it is worth considering "trip-and-a-half" portaging as an alternative. In this approach one paddler carries the canoe completely across the portage, while the second paddler takes half the gear to the midpoint of the trail and then returns to the start of the portage. The first paddler next backtracks to mid-trail to retrieve the gear left earlier, while the second paddler crosses the entire trail with the remaining gear. In this way both paddlers end up making one and a half trips along the trail.
Since the Park regulation limits the number of 9 people per campsite, I assume one car can carry 2 canoes at one time with extra wide rooftop carrier (I had to confirm it with Outfitter), this way we can do “one car, two canoe, four person” way. So the ideal size for a group is either 4 or 8 person. More than that we have to break up two groups.
Even though canoe trip not requires much physical strength as backpacking does, and we can chose a route that take little portage or not at all. But some times portage is not avoidable, we may come to a point that need to carry the canoes for few hundreds meters to another lake. If you haven’t evolved in any kind activity for some time, the first day paddling can make you really exhausted, it’s a good idea to start doing bench press two weeks before we go.
3. The Climate
By late May the bright green new leaves of the deciduous trees are visible everywhere, and the days are warming rapidly, but days of rain or even snow with temperatures hovering near the freezing point can also occur. In May the average daytime high is 17 C, and the overnight low 2 C. These cool temperatures limit the population of biting insects, and for those who simply have to escape to the wilderness after a winter, early May can be a good time to travel. Remember that water temperatures are still close to freezing, and an accidental upset that would be harmless in mid-summer can easily result in death from hypothermia.
By early June the population of blackflies is also growing rapidly, and many experienced travelers avoid camping in the park in June.
To deal with blackflies it is necessary to seal off sleeves and pant cuffs, since these insects prefer to crawl into confined spaces before biting. In cool weather it may be possible to avoid bites simply by wearing a full set of clothing. The material has to be tightly woven, since mosquitoes are quite capable of biting through thin fabrics. Insects prefer dark colors such as black and deep blue, while bright whites and yellows may have a slight repellant effect
All these large flies can usually be dealt with by paddling quickly and seeking windy surroundings wherever possible. Since the number of insects attacking at any one time is usually small, swatting can be an effective countermeasure. Wide-brimmed hats are an effective deterrent for horse flies and deer flies.
4. The Equipment and Clothing
Modern, light-weight Kevlar canoes, Rent around $20/day.
 Tents normally can accommodate 2 person, Self-supporting tents are necessary on some rocky campsites.
Rent around $5/day.
 Sleeping bags. A synthetic-filled bag rated to 0 C is adequate for use from late spring to early fall. The cheapest I found is $23.49 at Wal-Mart, At this price they have one rated –5C to 25C, another one rated 0C to 30C.
 Backpacking stoves, It saves a good deal of time in searching for and cutting firewood. Rent around $5/day.
 If we want set up campfire, a folding saw essential for cutting wood. Birchbark from fallen trees is abundant at most campsites, and makes a remarkably effective natural firestarter. Birchbark should never be stripped from living trees.
 A wide-brimmed hat is essential, both for protection against the sun and insect attacks.
 Cool nights are frequent, and pair of lightweight wool or synthetic pants and a warm jacket is necessary to deal with these.
 Rain gear is another essential, coated nylon rain jackets and pants are quite adequate. Jeans should be avoided, since they are very difficult to dry if they become wet.
 A spare pair of lightweight shoes or sandals which can be used to wade through shallows.
These are just some in my mind now, We should discuss a detail check list for things we should bring alone and double check the baggage two days before departure.
5. The Camp Robber
Nearly every Algonquin campsite has a resident army of camp robbers. These typically include red squirrels and chipmunks. Grey jays are also skilled at hit-and-run food robbery. Raccoons are common campsite visitors, and adopt at tearing open packs. Algonquin has a large population of black bears, and there is always a chance one will decide on a nocturnal visit to your campsite to provide the ultimate camp-robbing experience.
To avoid loss of food and damage to gear, it is essential that every pack containing food or even smelling of it be tied shut and suspended off the ground at night or when leaving a campsite unattended. Squirrel proofing is relatively straightforward, food pack requires that it be suspended at least 3 meters off the ground, and 3 meters from the nearest trunk or branch.
6. The Wildlife
Abundant populations of birds and large mammals which, due to the ban on hunting in most of the park, are often non-chalant regarding the presence of humans.
For many canoeists the highlight of an Algonquin trip is a moose sighting. Any party travelling for a few days in the interior is almost certain to have at least one moose encounter. In my experience the marshy offer good opportunities. Chances of sightings are best in the early morning or evening, and rather obviously improve if one is careful to travel quietly. If current or wind is used to drift by a moose while keeping very still, it is sometimes possible to come to within a few meters of the animal. Care should always be taken in approaching the animals, particularly bulls. Moose present relatively little risk to a canoe in deep water, but can charge very effectively on land. If a moose blocks the path on land or in shallow water, there isn't much to do but wait until it decides to move.
White-tailed deer might sometimes be sighted in a clearing along a portage trail, but will run as soon as they sense humans. River otter may occasionally be seen fishing along lakeshores. Beaver are primarily nocturnal, and are sometimes seen swimming past a campsite in the dusk. Signs of beaver construction activity- dams, lodges and food piles- are seen everywhere in the park, Black bear seem to be spotted more frequently along the park roads than on the lakeshores of the interior.
Wilderness campers might be fortunate enough to hear some of Algonquin's 300 resident timber wolves howling. Howling is used as a location mechanism to allow adult wolves returning from hunting to rendezvous with waiting pups. The wolves are extremely wary of humans, and are almost never sighted.
If any species symbolizes Algonquin, it is surely the common loon. These can be seen on even the most crowded and urbanized of lakes. Other commonly sighted birds include Merganser ducks, great blue heron, osprey and hawks. Herons tend to favor marshy regions along river banks, while the birds of prey prefer areas with high cliffs such as Otterslide Creek or the Barron Canyon.
7. The Safety
In spring thunderstorms is very rear, but it pose a special hazard to canoeists. Winds in a thunderstorm can easily reach 80 km an hour, with sudden gusts. When the late afternoon skies fill with towering cumulus and thunder is heard in the distance, it is prudent to stay close to shore. At the end of the day a campsite should be chosen that is not too exposed, and tents pitched away from tall "lightning rod" trees. Canoes should be carried well back from the shore, overturned, and either tied to objects that can't move or jammed between large trees. All lightweight loose gear should be stowed away.
8. Protecting the Park Environment
Park regulations permit camping only at designated sites, each of which is marked with a large bright orange poster depicting a tent. Campsites have been built on almost all the usable land along major canoe routes, so this regulation is normally not much of a restriction.
Most campsites have pit toilets. If one is not available, human waste and toilet paper should be buried at a depth of approximately 15 cm at least 50 m back from the lakeshore. , The same earthmoving equipment is also useful in disposing of leftover food and biodegradable waste such as apple cores, which should be buried well away from the campsite. All washing should be done with biodegradable soap, away from waterways. Dishes should never be cleaned in lakes or streams. Cans and bottles are banned in the Algonquin interior. More importantly, any garbage which is not biodegradable and cannot be burned in a campfire must be packed out. If the ban on cans and bottles is followed this is not much of an inconvenience. At the end of a multi-day trip the garbage that needs to be packed out usually consists of little more than a handful of plastic bags.
Every campsite in Algonquin has a fireplace built on a stone or gravel base. Fires must be extinguished after use to the extent that all ashes are cold. Today many campers prefer to cook on lightweight backpacking stoves, lighting open fires only on exceptionally cold or buggy nights.
9. The Risk
Bear proofing a food pack can prevent loss of supplies, but it will not prevent a curious bear from inspecting a campsite, and nosing through any pack or tent on which it detects the slightest odor of food.
The majority of Algonquin bears are wary of humans, and will go out of their way to avoid contact. A few bears have learned that camp robbing can provide an easy source of food, but even these bears are normally timid, and can often be frightened away by loud noise. If a bear approaches your camp, the first line of defense is to make as much noise as possible. (Banging pots and pans is the traditional method). If the bear doesn't back away, the only safe alternative is to let it have its pick of the available food. It is important not to run from an aggressive bear, but rather slowly back away while facing the animal.
Bears are most likely to be a nuisance in heavily used areas near access points where an abundant and reliable food supply can be obtained by raiding the camps of inexperienced travelers. They are particularly fond of fresh meat, fish and eggs. One of the best techniques for avoiding bear raids is therefore to carry only vegetarian supplies with little odor, and seal these in plastic bags. It is very important to minimize the smell of food on you and your clothing. Food should never be taken inside a tent.
In a few very rare instances healthy young adult male bears in Algonquin with no known history of camp robbing have attacked humans as prey. In 1978 three teenagers camping on Radiant Lake near the center of the park were killed by a bear which tore into their tent in the night. There was no food in the tent. In 1991 two adults were killed by a rogue bear on Bates Island in Opeongo Lake, in a heavily traveled area just a few kilometers from the main dock. The bear clearly intended to eat the humans. In 1997 an 11 year old boy was dragged from a tent by a bear on the North Arm of Opeongo Lake. Once again, there was no food in the tent, so the incident can not be explained as a typical case of camp robbing. The boy would have been killed had it not been for the intervention of other campers, who drove off the bear by attacking it with paddles. In all three instances the bears involved in the attacks were tracked down and shot within a few hours. Since the attacks have all occurred in a relatively confined area of the park it has been speculated that the bears involved may have had a common ancestor, and been genetically predisposed to unusually aggressive behavior.
History suggests that we can expect an attack on humans by an Algonquin black bear roughly once a decade. Although this is a disturbing prospect, to put the attacks in perspective, the odds of being struck by lightning in Algonquin are far greater than those of being attacked by a bear, and the hazards of travel on the highways in and around the park present a far greater risk still.
10. The Reward
I’m just not capable to put my own experience into a readable piece, and here is some other people say about this great natural wonder land.
“On an evening in early August I am lying on a huge, flat slab of granite at the northwestern end of Lac Lavielle, near the very center of Algonquin Provincial Park. There is a chill in the evening air, but I am still warmed by the heat the granite has absorbed from the afternoon sun. As the sky darkens to deepest black on this moonless night stars by the thousand become visible, and the Milky Way stretches in a glowing band from horizon to horizon. In the distance loon calls echo through the dark. The only sign of other humans is a campfire flickering in the distance on the far shore of the lake.
When I wake shortly after dawn water vapor rising from the warm lake has condensed in the cooler air above, creating billows of mist that shroud the shoreline and swirl through the trees surrounding my campsite. The strengthening sun dispels the mist while I eat breakfast, and by the time I launch my canoe the sky is cloudless. I reach my destination, a sandy beach on the eastern shore, in time for a morning swim in the sparkling clear, cool water.
Drying in the sun after my swim, I reflect for a moment on the subtle beauty of Algonquin. This maze of pristine blue lakes separated by rolling green hills lies just three hours' drive from the crowds and pollution of industrialized southern Ontario, yet feels part of another world. The park is immense, covering an area of over 7000 square kilometers, with more than 1500 km of canoe routes. Near the center, 30 km from the nearest road and over 50 km from the closest town, it is possible to travel for days on end and see no evidence of civilization. “
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