Algonquin Park: 3 Days on the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail

Algonquin Park. Ontario’s gem in the rough. The place where everyone can experience the beauty of Ontario and nature without having to travel in to the wild of Ontario’s north.  Being the oldest Provincial Park in Ontario (established in the late 19th century), and the first Provincial Park in Canada, it has the honour of being famous for its wildlife, and sheer beauty.

My friend Tom and I planned our trip last summer (2008). We only had 3 days to spare, so we planned to hike the 1st loop on the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail located off of the highway 60 western corridor section of the park.

Algonquin Park: West Gate

Algonquin Park: West Gate

We only had 2 nights to camp, therefore we obviously had to select sites that would meet not only our need for water and a great view, but also be accessible by our respective physical condition.  Our first night would be spent at the 2nd group of camp sites at Romana Lake, appoximately 8 kilometers in. Our second site would be at the beautiful Little Hardy Lake, a site withone camp ground that would turn out to be a physically demanding 12 kilometer hike from Romana.

We first day started out a little late, but promissingnone-the-less. We arrived at the park entrance around 11 am. Somewhat later by about 2 hours then our intention. Regardless, we were excited and pumped up, ready to get going!

Tom
Me

Me

We started out on a beautiful day. It was a little overcast, not too terribly humid, and the bugs were scarce. Once we crossed the river by the parking lot, we were in the woods. It was great. Within 5 minutes, we couldn’t hear an un-natural sound. Just the birds anda light wind in the trees. A whispered “Welcome- Enjoy Your Stay
En route to Romana

En route to Romana

En route to Romana

En route to Romana

Soon after though, it started to drizzle. Then that drizzle turned to rain. It wasn’t too bad, and we pushed on. But then the torrential rain came…
Being a person who likes to make plans, it’s only natural that I planned for rain. I made sure Tom brought some rain gear too. But what I planned for, andwhat fell from the sky, was completely beyond what we were equipped for. It rained a heavy, hard, and fast rain. It was relentless and didn’t stop for 3 hours. However, nature was kind to us, and it did stop about 30 minutes or so before we reached Romana Lake. Of course I expected more rain so immediately set out to put up the giant tarp I brought.
We were soaked completely. Our rain gear was not meant for that kind of rain. But we didn’t care. We were there and excited!
Romana Lake is a little lake about 8 kilometers in to the park, or about a 4 hour hike in the crazy pouring rain. The access to water is somewhat precarious, but not impossible. Expect to get wet. It’s not what I would call a lake for swimming in, and the water was clear, though of course we still boiled our drinking water just to be safe.
There was a good deal of firewood, and despite the rain, we were able to get a reliable and consistent fire going in a relative short period of time. This was welcomed, as we had clothes to dry!
Romana Lake

Romana Lake

Romana Lake

Romana Lake

My only real complaint about the rain, was how it effected my brand new Kodiak hikers. Theses $100 boots quite litterally fell apart. The adhesives on the soles broke down and they seperatedfrom the boot.
Actually, my real complaint was with Kodiak who refused to address the issue, and after asking me where I bought them, just ignored me… Okay- that’s said and done. Let’s move on.
Our camp site was a fair size with the large camp fire pit area seperating my tent from Tom’s. Which is good, because he snores! We had our emergency rain tarp up, but it wasn’t needed as the night was clear and star filled. And to take the edge off, we had a little bottle of liquid warmth to ward off the cold!
After a good night’s sleep, we got up, had a quick hardy breakfast, and packed up our gear. We knew we had a long hike to Little Hardy Lake… I only wish we knew how long!
Day 2 was over-cast. Not too humid again, but things started to warm up to uncomfortable levels. The trail also started to get significantly hilly. Elevation changes were constant, and in some cases long and steep. We were hot, sweaty, thirsty (our water ran out quickly), and tired. It was great!!!
Because of the heat and the limited access to water, we took regular breaks on the hour. One of my favorite little spots was about 2 hours in. A pretty little stream nestled in a gully, gently slopping down (and up- it really depended which way you were looking!).
Rest Break

Rest Break

Twisted Tree

Twisted Tree

Tom

Tom

During the long and winding hike on the hilly trail, we ran out of water. This was problematic due to the heat and lack of water sources.  However, we pushed on and about 5 or 6 hours into the hike, we came to a huge marsh that was fed by Mink Creek.
It was gorgeous. The tall reeds and grass was quite the contrast to the brown and dark greens in the woods. And, the water was a welcome site too! With a little help from our purification kits, and after a short break, we were on our way again.
Mink Creek

Mink Creek

Me on Mink Creek

Me on Mink Creek

After crossing Mink Creek, we were finally well past the half way mark to Little Hardy Lake. Maggie Lake was practically around the bend, and then we’d be at our destination. The weather cooled off a little, and the sun started to show it’s welcomed light.
Steeprise Lake

Steeprise Lake

After a 12 kilometer hike, and about 7 hours later, we finally made it to our site. Little Hardy Lake. Only one camp site on the whole lake, and it was ours!
It was beautiful. A beach front site with a sandy bottom. We walked straight into the lake, got some what, struck a fire, and made some awesome coffee!
Little Hardy Lake has only one camp site on it. 50% of the site is surrounded by water. Access to the water is terrific, with a nice sandy bottom starting off at about 30 cm deep, that slowly gets deeper as you walk further into the lake. The water was clear, and the view is terrific. We were treated with the classic sounds from a pair of loons nesting on the lake.
Wood for the fire was somewhat lacking, and of course the park discourages foraging for more. The wood that was there was damp and difficult to maintain.
The evening was fantastically clear, and at one point we were treated with a rapid succession of sharp flashes of light coming from the South-west. I’m not entirely sure what it was- perhaps sheet lightening from some darkened stormy sky behind the tree line, or maybe some yahoos who brought fireworks into the park…
Evening on Little Hardy Lake

Evening on Little Hardy Lake

Morning on Little Hardy was beautifully bright, and typically cool. During the night, we were lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature- particularly by the frogs singing in chorus, and at other times, awaken by the foot falls of what sounded like a moose. But morning was here. We washed up, had breakfast, and packed up camp for our finally hike back to “civilization”.
Tom's Tent

Tom's Tent

My tent

My tent

One Last Parting View

One Last Parting View

We took off for the final leg of our journey around 10 am. Perhaps a little late for the keen backpackers out there, but we wanted to enjoy this site that we arrived at so late the day before.
The trail started off perfectly. Gently sloped down with very little obstructions. Though there were some boggy areas that we had to creatively navigate, it was fairly quick travelling, and the sun was illuminating the woods beautifully- with shadows broken up with streams of light raining to the ground. It was perfect.
The Trail Back

The Trail Back

Day 3

Day 3

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

Creek Crossing

It got a little hilly near the end, but it leveled out again, making the final stretch quite relaxing. We didn’t want to go, so we took our time here.
The Last Kilometer

The Last Kilometer

The Final River and The End

The Final River and The End

And so we come to the end of our 3 day journey with one final river crossing. One last shot of what was a rewarding trip. We wished it could have lasted longer, but we know we’ll be returning.
In a few short weeks from this posting, we’ll be back. See you in 2009 Maggie Lake!
Advertisements

6 Responses to “Algonquin Park: 3 Days on the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail”

  1. patrickivan Says:

    Sorry about the formatting, folks. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and placed spacing between paragraphs! On the edit format, everything is fine- but when I publish it, the spacing is all messed up… Arg!!!

  2. patrickivan Says:

    Tried editing it again… It looks fine in edit mode, but when I publish, the spacing between the paragraphs don’t show up!

    I may not be the best writer in the world, but this certainly doesn’t make me look any better.

  3. guest Says:

    Thanks for the story. I’m planning my own trip now and your info really helps.

  4. havock Says:

    This is the trip I just booked for me and a buddy.

  5. Mike Koss Says:

    Going to do this trip, 4 days, 3 nights, with a buddy and we’re trying the 55km loop in Sept./2011. Looking forward to it, as it will be my first backpacking, camping trip.

    • patrickivan Says:

      That’s quite the hike for a first time out. But you should be fine if you’re in good shape and have light gear.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: