Saturday, January 31, 2015

Trip Log: Algonquin Park: Lake of Two Rivers, October 24-26, 2014

For the third year, Algonquin Park has hosted a special fall event for Halloween.  It's held the weekend before actual Halloween, and if you have kids and don't mind the cool (cold) weather, it's definitely worth attending.

First you have to keep in mind there are no reservations taken for sites after Thanksgiving Weekend, so all sites are first come first served.  We had been told by the staff that there were usually only about 30 of the 60 or so sites being used that weekend, so we weren't too worried about getting up super early in the morning.  Squatch had a doctor's appointment Friday morning, so we had most things packed then were going to head up.  That morning I checked online and there were about 35 sites available.  By the time we got home from the doctor's office, there were 11.  By the time we pulled out of the driveway, only 3!  Five minutes later it was down to 2.  We decided to take our chances and head up.  Turned out those 2 sites were being used by staff for their trick or treating station.  But with so many people showing up, and the weather being decent (not freezing and snowing) they opened up parts of Lake of Two Rivers.  The woman told us to head over, pick an empty site, leave something there, then come back and get the permit.  We picked one fairly close to the comfort station but not too close, then headed back.  As we waited for oncoming traffic to pass so we could get back into Mew, a wolf crossed the road!  It happened so fast we didn't get a chance to get the cameras out, but it was really exciting.  We'd seen a wolf before, just a brief glimpse of it on the top of a ridge about 10 feet back into the bush behind where a small moose carcass was, but this was a great view.

Before I get into the trip stuff, I just would like to say that my previous experience in Two Rivers campground wasn't great.  We had a dog almost pee on our tent, people walking through our site all day, and all our neighbours were playing music until nearly midnight (all sorts of songs...from country to East Indian...none of which blend together smoothly to make a sound you'd want to listen to.)  To top it off, there were people partying all night, playing horseshoes until late, and just a lot of those annoying little things that make you wish you were in the back country. You can read the trip report here.

Being there when it's almost empty?  Beautiful!  Wow.  It really is nice camping beneath the tall pines.  Sure there's minimal privacy (none) but when there are maybe 20 sites being used in the whole campground, you don't have to worry.  We didn't have anyone at any sites around us.  Would I go back in the summer?  Not likely, but mid week in the spring or in the fall?  Yeah, for sure.

Wolf at Beaver Pond Trail Parking Lot
As we were setting up the trailer, we realized we'd forgotten coffee.  In our rush and panic over whether or not we'd get a site, we skipped our customary stop at Tim Horton's, so this was a depressing start to the trip.  Mum and I decided to drive to Whitney.  On the way back, as we approached the Beaver Pond Trail, we saw another wolf!  This one crossed the road and stopped on a small rocky ledge.  We pulled into the trail parking lot and it walked to the edge of the grass, posed, crossed the parking lot, posed again, and then disappeared into the trees.  What a treat!

The kids were super excited to get to decorating.  We hadn't brought much since this was our first year and buying a lot of decorations last minute is expensive, but that didn't matter.  They set up their tomb stones, strung up spider lights and came up with grand plans for next year.  While they were doing that, I made up a big pot of spaghetti and we retreated inside to eat.  It wasn't too cold, but still chilly enough to cool your dinner down pretty quick if you eat outside.

After dinner, mum and I took the kids to the Owl Prowl.  This is held at the comfort station parking lot at Mew Lake where a big bonfire was burning with benches set around one side.  David, the naturalist, talked a bit about owls, what makes them unique, how they hunt and what they eat, then we walked out to the air field to see if any would answer to his owl calls.  None did, but it was still a fun time.  We didn't stick around for the bonfire afterwards.  Dad had a fire going at the camp site so we went back to enjoy that.

Before bed, Dad and I took the dogs for a long walk.  Biscuit was a complete nut the whole way up, and didn't settle down until long after the lights had been turned off.

The little electric heater was enough to keep us toasty all night.  We didn't even bother cutting the propane furnace in.  All of us slept well.

Breakfast!
I woke up around 7 and took Biscuit for more walking so everyone else could sleep without him being a pain.  We explored, checked out campsites and then headed back.  Breakfast was potato and pepper hash (made with mini gourmet potatoes...the three colour ones) peameal bacon (so much for going vegan...) and one eyed buffalos.  It ended up being a good thing we had a big breakfast, because with so much going on, we really didn't have time to eat the rest of the day.

First was the Skeleton Tour at the visitor's center (the kids ended up eating at the cafeteria) then we went back to camp to finish carving pumpkins.  Some advice for anyone thinking of going next year?  Clean your pumpkins at home...cause pumpkins that have been sitting in the cold makes the job really miserable.  At 3:30 we went back to the Mew Lake comfort station parking lot to watch the costume contest.  Squatch went as Tom Thompson.  It was kind of a last minute thing, as all our preparations for the trip were.  Some of the costumes were pretty amazing.

Next up was finishing the decorations at our site.  Not much was added.  A few more lights, a spider's web and some rats.  Like I said, we had no idea people got so over the top crazy with the decorating.  At 5 Dad and I took the kids to Mew Lake to trick or treat.  There were so few sites at Two Rivers that mum, who stayed behind, only had 13 kids.  I guess not many from Mew came over, if any.

We had a great time checking out the other decorations, it really was an impressive display of creativity.  And so much fun!  We had a quick snack back at camp then headed out for the Wolf Howl.  The dogs stayed in the cars (had to take both because the dogs don't exactly get along...Biscuit annoys Lucky by bunting him with his nose non-stop)  Like with the Owl Prowl, the initial presentation by Dave was informative and funny.  Then we all hiked out to the air field.  Again, no reply from the wolves, but given the noise at Mew Lake earlier (someone was walking around, dressed as a serial killer, revving a chainsaw, and the number of people standing there probably had a big impact.  The wolves would have been stupid to hang around too close.

The Canadian Supernatural Research Society presentation was very interesting too, unfortunately it started to rain.

It was chillier that night, and damp because of the on and off rain.  Also the wind kicked up, fluttering our tarps around.  We'd turned off the heat while we were all gone, so that didn't help, but it didn't take long to warm up and we went to bed.

The morning was actually not too bad.  I got up early and walked Biscuit all around, making notes of what sites I'd like to stay at in the future (in non-busy times) and then headed back.  We decided to just pack up and head out.

We definitely will be doing this again.  The kids had so much fun, and it really was impressive to see the work people had put into their sites.  Next year, we will definitely clean out the pumpkins before hand, and we will pack more snacks since we didn't have time to eat lunch or dinner on the Saturday.  Food that's just heat-and-eat would be good too.  Last year was much colder apparently and they had snow and freezing rain, so we should probably bring snow pants too.

I'm going to do a separate post with pictures of the decorated sites. There was just too much to put into a trip log.

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