Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trip Log: Rock Lake, Algonquin Park, May3-5, 2013

After checking out all the flooding in Algonquin two weeks ago, we decided to take advantage of the (late) opening of Rock Lake Campground and see how much the water had gone down, and how much damage was done in it's wake.

We got a late start, not arriving at our campsite until about 9:10pm.  We did see 2 moose on the way, but we didn't stop to try and take pictures (one was well after full dark and we wouldn't have gotten a good shot anyway.) Setting up the tent trailer in the dark was a bit of a challenge, made more difficult because we were trying to keep quiet for the other campers.  Once the trailer was up, we made a quick dinner of burgers and headed to bed.

Sun up on Rock Lake...time to fish!
I was up at 5:30 the next morning for a bathroom run, and figured I'd grab my camera, head for the beach, and scout out some good spots for sun rise shots.  I was out there for an hour playing around before the sun popped over the horizon.  The lake was almost like glass and I eagerly set up for my first shot when a motor boat came buzzing up the far shore, cutting right through the perfect reflection.  I took a few shots anyway, then waited 10 more minutes for the ripples to calm down...and just as they did, two more boats puttered through and stopped in the middle of the area to fish.  I guess since there was still ice on the lake for the actual trout opening weekend, it was to be expected.

Breakfast was pretty basic; Red River cereal and bagels.  Then we headed out and hiked the Beaver Pond Trail.  It took us longer than the posted time because we stopped a lot and took pictures.  It was fun though.  The kids climbed every glacial erratic along the trail, and I got to goof around with my new wide angle lens and take some shots where the perspective is off.  Lots of fun.  Disappointingly we didn't see any beaver on the hike.  We'd really hoped we would since they'd be out repairing their damns and lodges.  Still this trail is a really good one.  So many trails have a destination in mind, be it a stand of old white pine or a lookout, and the rest of the hike is a pretty monotonous trek through the trees.  This hike had things to see around every corner, and lots of places to stop and look around.

After the hike, we had planned to go to the Portage Store restaurant for lunch, but it ended up being closed for renovations.  We were pretty starved by this point but we still stopped to take pictures of two more moose, then stopped at the Two River's Store for some food.  Even though the store's inventory was pretty sparse, it was a busy spot with lots of people getting ice cream.

After lunch, we headed back to the Mew Lake campground so we could hike to the waterfall and see what the water levels were like.  There was still lots of water, but nowhere near the amount of two weeks previous.  We headed further along the Highland Backpacking Trail to see how much evidence of flooding we could see.  And there was lots.  There was sand all over the trail that hadn't been there last summer.  There was a tree that had that sand embedded into it's bark a foot and a half up.  There were little brushy plants with that stringy dirty grass wrapped around their branches, you know the kind of thing you see in the spring in ditches after the water has dried up?  Keeping in mind the water level is usually at least 2-3 feet below the actual bank of the river, and the debris line was about chest level on my dad, it's pretty crazy to imagine the trail with that much water on it.  I'd say in that spot, the width of the river was probably 15-20 feet wider on both sides at it's peak.  Even before we got to the waterfall, we could see just how insane the flooding had been.  Two weeks ago, when we were walking along the Track and Tower section before it intersects with the Highland Trail, if you looked down the banks, you could see water.  Now that it's gone down, we looked down and you can't even see the river...there is a 10 foot drop off, and no water in sight, but two weeks ago, the water level was about 2-3 feet below the top of that drop off.

Part way on the drive back to the campsite, mum decided we should hike the Lookout Trail so I could take a few shots with the wide angle lens.  If you do the trail backwards, it's not very far, distance wise, to the cliff...but it's all up hill and very, very steep!  Dad and the kids didn't even get out of the truck.  Mum made it part way and said she'd wait for me...I swear I thought I was going to die.  It was hot and I'm not in the best of shape.  Thankfully I didn't take my whole camera bag, just the camera with the wide angle on it, and a bottle of water.  Was it worth it?  I got a few shots, but the sun was right in my face, so the sky and clouds were over exposed...but I'd do it again, with plans to be at the look out for the sunset...maybe.  Climbing back down that hill was hard enough in bright day light...after dark, might not be such a good idea.

Dinner that night was a feast.  We made fried rice, roasted veggies, quesadillas, and salad.  Everything was yummy and easy to make.  While we cleaned up, the kids took my camera and dad's spare and went for a walk.  My memory card had 1116 pictures on it when I got home.  I'm pretty sure more than half of them were shots Squatch took of the Canadian Geese, and the back of Bubbie's head.

Our next quest was to head down to Booth's Rock Trail's parking area and shoot the cliff in the fading sun.  It was pretty fun going from my 10-20mm lens, to dad's 400mm lens.  I was a little disappointed the trail wasn't open or I would have hiked it to get some shots from the top (not at dusk though...lots of stairs to come down in the semi-dark wouldn't be good either)

That night we finally had a fire and the kids got to roast marshmallows.  After they'd had their fill, mum threw in the Vulcan Magic fire pouches which make the flames turn different colours.  The kids loved that.  After full dark, Dad and I set up a little kiddie tent and took it down to the beach to attempt some night photography.  Not our most successful experiment.  I managed to get 2 shots before I couldn't get the camera to cooperate anymore.

It was cold that night and we ended up having to turn the heater on at about 3am.  Mum gave me a spare flannel fitted sheet and I was able to wrap myself in that inside my sleeping bag which helped way more than you'd think it would.  I was impressed.  I have two extra flannel top sheets at home (the fitted ones got ripped) so I will definitely sew them together to make a liner for our sleeping bag before we go on our next trip.

I didn't get up as early the next morning, but was still out and walking around the campground an hour before anyone else stirred.  We had banana pancakes, maple baked beans and bagels for breakfast, then went for a short drive towards the east gate looking for moose.  The best one was down the Opeongo Road, where mum spotted one on the far shore of a small lake.  We watched it swim across Costella Lake, come up on shore and walk down the road.  I've never seen one swimming in person like that and I was so excited I nearly fell out of the truck, the strap of my camera bag wrapped around my ankle, when I tried to get out to take a picture.  About 30 seconds further down the road, a deer jumped out in front of us.

After a quick stop at the visitor's centre to see how much of the view from the platform I could get in a shot with the new lens, we headed back to pack up everything and head home...with a brief stop at Henrietta's Bakery in Dwight for pastries and a drink.

Total moose seen during the trip: 9
Other wildlife: deer, gray jay, squirrel, black duck

EDIT: The next day, Chris's friend sent him a text from Algonquin.  He'd seen 22 moose in one trip through the park and back.  So jealous!

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