Wow, Part One of our mid-March Algonquin Park sun and warmth adventure took had us on a circuit of the Hemlock Bluff Trail. You can have a look at it here – Algonquin Park – March 2019 Part One.
After exiting the trailhead of the Hemlock Bluffs Trail and crossing back over Highway 60, we scooted back to the car for a well-earned lunch break before tackling the next installment of our Algonquin day.
With tuna wraps, spicy turkey pepperoni sticks and cold water in hand, we took a quick trip through the park along Highway 60 to see what was happening. The short answer to that was nothing much was happening at all.
The parking lots of the interpretive trails started to have some cars in them, but not that many. It should be noted, parking for a couple of the interpretive trails is not plowed during the winter. Notwithstanding, it was somewhat surprising, that we didn’t see more people in the park given it was March break for schools in Ontario. All of which is disappointing in some respect given the warm temperatures and sunshine.
Undaunted and after indulging in and savouring a bite to eat, we spun the car around at the Logging Museum and started to head back towards our next destination Mew Lake.
Spirit of Algonquin
When the spirit of Algonquin Park calls, at least for me, it calls for a specific reason. The beckoning call of the Park always has a message that the “person on the other end” needs to hear and needs to take to heart. I had written recently about the concept of Soul Places and the deep connection many of us have to very specific areas in the outdoors. Algonquin Park is that for me. The call this day was, “come to my place; dwell in my spirit for a moment and allow the warmth and sunshine to evaporate the anxiety, dispiritedness and sadness from your soul.”
We picked the Mew Lake area to hit up next for a couple of reasons. The first was, we wanted to hike something that we really hadn’t done before and check out something new. Secondly, with the sky, a brilliant blue and the sun blazing overhead, I really wanted to spend as much time soaking it up as possible. The abandoned airfield at Mew Lake seemed like a perfect spot to do that.
Last year, on the Monday of the May long weekend, we hiked down through the Mew Lake Campground and across the airfield to check things out and see what the area was about. We included a few pictures from that day in Thoughts From The Wilderness – New Beginnings.
Nevertheless, for this adventure, we decided to park near the airfield and hike the trail which skirts the western edge of the abandoned airfield. This trail intersects with the Highland Backpacking Trail, at which point we would take the Highland Trail to where it crosses the Madawaska River and what is referred to as “Mew Lake Falls.”
As a side note, in the summertime the airfield is rich with wild blueberries, making it a favourite buffet table at times for the local black bear population and other animals found in the park.
We parked our car near the recycling and refuse disposal area at the Mew Lake Campground, and were welcomed by this cutie – a Pine Marten.
The Pine Marten is a member of the weasel family and like many animals, they become opportunists if a potential food source is nearby. Much like the wild blueberry patches in the airfield, the recycling and refuse bins, always hold the potential of snagging a tasty morsel.
As he darted back across the roadway and scampered up over the snowbank, disappearing into the forest, we gathered our stuff and scampered up and over the opposite snowbank and headed off down the trail on our own adventure.
A left turn onto the Highland Backpacking Trail. After about a kilometre or so, we arrived at the falls on the Madawaska River. A few pictures along the way.
Mew Lake Falls.
A few stylized pictures from around the falls.
From the falls, we hiked about another 600 to 700 metres along the Highland Trail until we reached the Old Railway Bike Trail. At this point, we made a left turn, said goodbye to the Highland Backpacking Trail and headed east along the Old Railway Bike Trail.
We love all kinds of trails with all variety of terrain. Flat, hilly, gently sloping or any combination, it doesn’t matter. But, a flat section with outstanding views all wrapped in sunshine and warmth; honestly, we could have stood there all day soaked up this almost ethereal experience.
We came to the point where a link in the Old Railway Bike Trail would take us back to Mew Lake. With another left turn, we started back towards the campground.
The Old Railway Bike Trail is built on an abandoned railway rail bed. As such, the trail is flat and perfect for hiking in all seasons and biking during the non-snow times of the year. Interestingly, the railway when it was in full use back in the early 1900’s, it was one of the busiest rail lines in Canada, purportedly with trains passing through every 20 minutes.
I mentioned there was a lot of snow right?
The information sign on the left would normally be close to waist height. We’re in the abandoned airfield at this point. It was a slow, leisurely and most welcomed hike, with our faces tilted up to the warmth of the afternoon back towards the car.
One question that has plagued man since the dawn of time is, “why did the turkeys cross the road?” The short answer is, “they don’t.” The simply run down the centre of one of the roads at Mew Lake.
The turkeys were scratching and looking for nibbles in and around the recycling and refuse area at the campground. When chatting with a Park Ranger, he indicated there are very few wild turkeys that over-winter in the Park. The tough Algonquin winters make for a challenging existence if the turkeys don’t head to more hospitable locations within the province.
He mentioned this a group of four, hang around the Mew Lake Campground, while there is another small group that lives near the Visitors Centre located further east in along Highway 60. He said their research suggested that there wouldn’t be any more than twenty wild turkeys wintering along the Highway 60 corridor.
As it was approaching late afternoon, we made a quick drive through the campground before leaving and guess who made yet another appearance? A pair of friends. One on the ground and one keeping an eye on things from an adjacent tree.
With much sadness, because we had to leave, but with a freshly renewed spirit, we exited the Mew Lake Campground and with a left turn headed west along Highway 60 for the homeward trek.
Heading home we decided not to take the most direct route, but more of a “backcountry roads” route. And are we glad we did!
Never seen so many white-tailed deer gathered in one spot in my life.
Perhaps some functional “farm art” out in a field.
A sun slowly setting across Severn Sound and closed up cottages on an adjacent island.
Just about done and bidding a good-bye for the day.
It was just over twelve hours from the time we left and locked the front door until we arrived home and unlocked it again.
Words don’t do justice to our day out. Algonquin Park is one of my Soul Places. That Tuesday, my soul and spirit needed repair. Algonquin did just that.
If Algonquin Park is not on your list of places to visit, it should be. So get it written on your list. Even if you can only ever make it once in your lifetime. You won’t be disappointed. Go and make some memories as soon as you can. Even today would work!
The Friends of Algonquin Park and Ontario Parks have all the information you need to plan that perfect outing. If you need to rent anything piece of equipment for your adventure or need even more advice, check out Algonquin Outfitters. They have a location in Oxtongue Lake, near the West Gate entrance to the Park.
Thanks for reading and staying with us on this two-part trip to Algonquin. I hope we’ve imparted if only a tiny bit, how impactful and special this magical part of the planet is to us.
— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —