Camping part 2 – Algonquin National Park

So we all rose around 11am on day two.
Our fire had actually managed to burn all night, and no one had suffered to the cold.
And it looked very much like it would be  raining by mid afternoon..
But, there was no way the weather was going to stop us in continuing our enjoyment of mother nature and the wild, in fact, it just added to the excitment and adventure of the weekend.
So we passed around some muslie bars for breakfast, got changed (There was no indoor shower, and the outdoor one was cold unless you maintained the sauna fire to heat the water) and loaded our bodies back into the cars.
And headed off to Algonquin national park (one of Canadas largest).

1 hour later we had arrived (a seemingly short drive in good company) and the first item on the agenda was finding some food!
Muslie bars for breakfast had just not done the job.
So we popped in to the national parks restaurant/gift store and all devoured some burgers.
It was actually a bit of a joke for us all, as we realised how much we have been living on burgers over the past month.
When you go out to a restaurant in Toronto, a burger is always going to be on the menu. And alternative options pretry much consist of pizza, donuts and Mexican. .
But none the less, these were good ones!

We all agreed that despite the rain we were going to have to do some exploring! And found out that the park is so big… that you actually drive along one main road (properly civilized, even with traffic lights at some points – it runs from one side of the park to the other; east to west) and can stop off at several points along the road, and get out to do several bush walks and see different lookouts or rivers or beavers dams!

So we started by driving to the very furthest stop at the other end of the park and visiting the Algonquin museam.
We thought this would be a good way to wait out the wet weather indoors. ..
But… it was an outdoor museam trail.
So we donned the few rain jackets that we had between us (some going without, or make shifting waterproof gear from plastic bags) and set out to see the place!

It was actually very cool, with bunk houses, dining halls, feeding troughs and tools from the old forestry industry preserved along the walk. There was a particularly cute old steam boat that you could climb through, and various information stops along the way too. And after we all accepted the damp and muddy conditions everyone eased to the playfulness of being in nature anyway.

Then we ran back to the cars and back tracked a little to go explore a beaver dam walking track.
Although we didn’t spot any actual beavers…
We did see several of the little floating wooden houses that they had built in the rivers, and saw one giant dam! Which was quite impressive.

And we even decided to fit in one more track, now that we were already wet.. a rapids track, which we boosted through in less than 30 minutes, because Stuart had seen a fireworks store on the way in that we now planned to take advantage of, and needed to catch before it closed.

And the look on his face when he finally held that box of fireworks.. was priceless. The “Crowd Pleaser” would be set off on the pier that night.

So after an exhausting day of driving and walking and chipmunk spotting!! (Holy mac those little critters are adorable! ! They actually make squirrels look ungainly and slow – the first chipmunk we spotted we actually mistook for a leaf blowing along the side of the road) we returned to our perfect little lodge to relight the fires and make some punch!

As I was chief fire starter at this point, I hastily lit the indoor fire and then moved outside to start the fire pit as well… squatting alone in front of the pit outside, in the gathering dusk, in the middle of the bush I was hearing all kinds of winds and rustles… I am not even ashamed to admit that I was checking over my shoulder and scanning the surrounding vegetation every minute..
But I became increasingly certain that something was going on out there….
Soon some loud bangs were pretty obvious, and while they sounded like they were coming from the direction of the front gate (a significant distance down the drive) I just couldn’t be certain…
Surely enough, a few minutes later the sound of motors came roaring up the driveway.
And I panicked a little… As a quad bike came speeding through the property without hesitation. Followed by a second one… who pulled over to stop.
At this point I really was unsure whether I should flee or confront. But of course, I convinced myself it must be the property owner. .. and nervously said hello, as I asked the stranger if his name was David..
It wasn’t.

But it turns out the guy was actually renting another one of the property owners cabins, a little further up the drive, with 3 of his buddies. These guys had actually stayed in the house we were in previously, and had loved it so much that they now did maintenance runs around the property – in exchange for further escapes.

Any way, he was concerned because they had lost 2 of their friends in the bush (they all had quad bikes) and needed to know if we had seen any one go past earlier, other than the friend he was searching with (who had just ridden through the property seconds before) – which we hadnt.
But as i said. .. The customary conversation about my nationality now had to be undergone… and when the guy mentioned he had a son in Sydney, I happily palmed him off to the Australians inside.. Who all gave me a bit of a hesitant look as a lead a strange and clearly bush – oriented man into our house.
And I returned with much more calm to building my fire.

When I returned to the house several minutes later, satisfied with my fire making success, I found the whole group quizzing the bush – savvy man about the appropriate protocol when one meets a bear.
So actually his experience proved very helpful to us all.

Mike cooked up a delicious pasta tortellini dinner and we all ate outside around my fire with a few drinks and a lot of punch..
and the countdown for fireworks began as we all eagerly watched the darkening night sky, and monitored one another’s drunkenness in search of an ideal balance.

Some hours later we couldn’t wait any longer and all made the precarious way back down the sodden wooden staircase to the pier – With the Crowd Pleaser in hand.
The brave majority (including myself) packed themselves onto a standard wooden park bench on one of two platoons which floated at the end of the bridge (on the lake). This was just a couple of meters back from where we were actually setting up the fireworks, on the second platoon.
And a couple of the more safety conscious group members decided to abide by the packagings “stay 6 meters back” rule, and waited at the bottom of the stairs on the other side of the bridge.
Mike (definitely the most intoxicated of us all at this stage) and Ryan were put in charge of the show, and we cleared space for them to dive onto the bench after the fireworks were lit.
It was so much fun.

The explosions went off mere meters from where we were sitting, and we were fortunate that only one of them fell over….
Just missing Stephs face, and leaving her with a little singed hair…
This meant that when it came time to light the big popper, everyone panicked as soon as it was lit, and dove for the far end of the floating platoon.. which of course began to sink under the accumulated weight, leaving me to fall into a huge puddle as I scrambled too late from collecting the burnt out remains of the earlier victims..
But all in all, it was a good show, and a good adrenalin rush.

We all cheered for the success of it, and returned to the cabin to continue another night of drinking and feasting and relishing our independence.

One of the greatest bonding activities conducted throughout this trip was definitely going to the loo..
In the absolute darkness of the middle of the bush, in unfamiliar terrain, and with a distant awareness that bears are ever present in Canadas wilderness.. going to the toilet outdoors (because there was no indoor or flushing toilet) was just a little daunting.
So we would declare every time we needed to go, gathering a party, who would go out with the 1 torch and squat any where around the house that seemed presently convenient..

There was no flushing toilet on the property at all, but there were 2 long drops…. Both of these however were located in opposite directions up or down the drive and meant distancing yourself even further from the feeble light and security put out from the cabin. So they were not even considered in the midst of the night.

We well and truly marked out our territory to any surrounding wildlife… Which we fortunately never ran in to outside of the national park.

And at the end of the second night I lay down on the floor of another bedroom, to share a single mattress with Bria.

What a day.

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