Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trip Log: Mew Lake April 21-23, 2013 Yurt Camping

Last week, my dad got a big telephoto lens for his camera, and we were eager to take it for a test run during moose spotting season in Algonquin, so we checked the weather and booked a yurt for a few nights.

With all the flooding in Algonquin this spring, we weren't sure we'd be able to actually do much.  A lot of trails were closed, and many of the roads as well, but we spent most of the trip driving back and forth along the highway looking for moose.  The moose, unfortunately were pretty elusive until monday night when we finally spotted a few.

Western Uplands Backpacking Trail
But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  We arrived at the west gate just after 2 on Sunday afternoon.  The sun was out, but it was pretty chilly. We stopped at the Western Uplands Backpacking trail entrance and checked out the water levels.  You could probably canoe the first part of the trail right now.

After unloading all the bedding and kitchen stuff at the yurt, we had a quick lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, then piled back into the truck to begin our moose hunt.  We didn't see any, but we did spot a Great Gray Owl perched on the top of a dead tree.  I've never seen an owl that close before, nor had I seen one twisting its head around.  I mean, I know they can do it, but seeing it was pretty cool.

We stopped at the visitor's centre (I bought a book) and took a few pictures from the viewing platform.  You can see how high the water levels were in Sunday Creek.  I hope to canoe there this summer, and usually, when you see it from the deck, it looks so narrow it's hard to imagine canoeing on it.

We headed in to Whitney after passing the east gate because we realized we'd forgotten a few things for meals (sauce for pita pizzas being one thing) but the store was already closed.  We spent some time checking out the very high level of the water flowing over the damn and under the bridge.  It was kind of scary really, standing on the bridge looking at that much water flow beneath you.  I'm not even sure why it was so eerie, when we've stood by other fast flowing rivers.  Maybe it was because the river isn't usually that high or fast, and it's kind of unnerving to watch huge waves barrel over an entire island.

On the way back into the park, just before the east gate, we spotted a fox sitting in the sun.  We pulled over and took a bunch of pictures, and he just sat there watching us.  After a few minutes he came close so he was only maybe 5-10 feet away (it's hard to remember when I had the camera pressed to my face almost the entire time, looking through a 300mm lens.) and posed some more before running off.

Trail leading to the bridge over Madawaska River
After a few failed attempts to get pictures of Great Blue Herons we kept seeing in swampy ponds, we headed back to the yurt then hiked to the falls near the junction of the Track and Tower offshoot trail and the Highland Backpacking trail.  The backpacking trail was closed and we soon saw why.  The water level in the river was so high, you couldn't get within 30-40 feet of the bridge.  We bush wacked our way along the water edge and managed to get a few pictures (not good ones as you can see, the trees were pretty thick.  In August when we were there, Chris and the kids walked along the bottom of the river and walked under the there's maybe a foot of clearance beneath the bottom.

It was starting to get dark when we got back so we made dinner and headed into the yurt.  We heard wolves howling a few times during the night.

High water on Madawaska River

The next morning was pretty chilly.  Dad, Bubbie and I went up to the field by the garbage area to see the morning sun on the frosty trees and took a few pictures then we headed back to make breakfast.  We headed back towards the west gate for more moose spotting. We saw one, a young one, dead in the ditch (about km10) with several vultures hovering around it.  As we sat there, observing it and wondering if it had been hit by a car the night before, we noticed a wolf on the ridge behind it, partially hidden by trees.  I tried to get a picture as it stalked off, but it was gone so fast all I got was a blur.  Other than that, we had no luck, but stopped to take pictures of run-off waterfalls, ponds and some beavers.  Then hiked the Hardwood Lookout Trail before heading back to camp to wait for Chris.

Once Chris arrived, we had dinner and started on a bottle of wine (much to the kid's horror) when we decided to try moose spotting at dusk, since early morning and mid day had been a bust.  Mum doesn't drink, so she drove.  We headed towards the west gate and spotted two moose at about KM17.  On the trip back, we spotted another one, a big male this time, in close to the same spot.

The next morning, we went out moose spotting again, this time going east with the intention of heading to Whitney to show Chris the high water levels.  On the way back towards Mew Lake, across from the Pog Lake Campground entrance, we saw Hydro employees and a truck driver watching a male moose.  We pulled over and walked right up to about 10 feet from him and he completely ignored us.  When the truck driver pulled away it startled the moose and he ran back a bit, but came back to his drinking hole a few minutes later.

Back at camp, we made a late breakfast and packed up the yurt to head home.  Along the way we stopped at Ragged Rapids Provincial Park, a day use only park just outside the west gate.  Chris and I had stopped before and only ever checked out the bottom trail, and so we didn't realize the falls is actually pretty big.  With a crazy amount of water rushing over it, it was kind of scary.  Even scarier, Chris and I ended up scrambling down the cliff and shooting pics from closer to the bottom of the falls. I saw on the Friends of Algonquin FB page that others had done the same, only they used safety harnesses which would have been smart (had I even owned any)  It was pretty tense going, especially since if you slipped you'd fall into frothy, freezing water and probably have no chance of surviving it.

All in all, it was a great trip.  We saw lots of wildlife, which is a rarity for us.  We always find it strange that in the park we see hardly anything, then on the way home, see tons of deer and other animals closer to Haliburton.  We also took a lot of pictures, saw some impressive sights (thanks to the flooding) even though a lot of the side roads and trails were actually closed.

Lunch day 1 - Grilled cheese sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies
Dinner day 1 - rustic vegetable ragout with rice and caeser salad
Breakfast day 2 - Red River Cereal, bagels, toast, coffee
Lunch day 2 - pita pizza
Dinner day 2 - stir fry vegetables  with noodles and caeser salad
Breakfast day 3 - french toast, hot chocolate pancakes, fried potatoes, maple baked beans, bacon

Wild Turkey
Canadian Geese
American Black Ducks
Common Mergansers
White Throated Sparrow
Great Blue Herron
Great Grey Owl
Common Flicker

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