When comparing notes with friends in Australia about if Id ever move there with Katrina (her familys in Melbourne) ),the one thing that I always keep coming back to is the weather.Id miss it.Simple as that.If youre Canadian,youll know its a national obsession.I mean,just look at my links ! We get it all up here.We develop an appreciation of the different seasons as we move through the calendar.Spring teases us with the smell (yes smell,not aroma,but smell !) of trees and plants coming to life again and the weather is unpredictable.Summer gives us blessed warm weather,lots of sun and marauding hordes of winged beasties of any and all varieties (Im thinking of the Black Fly song as I write this...Little black fly,little black fly.....chewing my bones in North Ontar-eye-oh-eye-oh...).And with the arrival of autumn,away go the crowds of summer campers.Mild days,cool nights and the rivers and lakes all to yourself. Winter. The mere mention of the word winter makes people antsy.Some people,hard as it may be to imagine,dont like the winter.They dont ski,snowshoe or skate (cant be Canadian then eh ? ).They head for the travel shop to book the earliest flight south.But if you start to pull out the fleece and skiis and waxes ,then the winter is a playground to be enjoyed.Skating the length of the Rideau Canal during Winterlude,snowshoeing quietly through the woods of Algonquin with camera in hand to capture the still beauty are pleasures anticipated with the falling snow.Animal tracks criss cross the woods leading everywhere and nowhere.
With its close proximity to large cities,Algonquin Provincial Park in the winter is something to savour.You can daytrip it if you start early or you can enjoy it on a more intimate level....like camping!
There are several options available to people wanting to stay overnight in the park.If youre keen , you could go interior camping pretty well anywhere your skiis or snowshoes take you.There are a few guidelines however for those choosing that route.Youre not allowed to camp at marked interior sites (I believe you have to be several hundred feet away or something like that).You also arent allowed to camp beside ski or hiking trails although you can use them for accessing the interior (no toboggans on the ski trails please ) .You must be out of sight or sound of these trails.
What weve done for the past several years is simply camp at the Mew Lake Campground,which is kept open for winter camping.This seems to be the preferred choice for most campers I see up there.The roads to the campsites are kept plowed and firewood is available at a self serve station ,as is camping registration.If youre lucky,you may even find a quinzee that you can sleep in if youre game.I did that last year.When the winds were howling outside,it was nice and quiet inside.Of course,if you're the least bit claustrophobic,then this may not be for you.
Since the Park established electrical sites at Mew,this has opened up a whole new world for people who don't want to tent in the cold.Ever since we got our VW Westfalia camper,we just hook her up and fire up the small electric heater ! Yeah it's kinda cush but it's not exactly shirtsleeves and shorts.Staying up late reading is also much more enjoyable.When we head out from the campground for a ski or hike,we leave the heater running and by the time we return,everything has dried out and it's warm and welcoming in the Westy.
For real luxury,the Park also rents out yurts year round.These eight sided habitats can sleep six people (two sets of bunks beds ) and they have...light ! Cooking is not allowed inside the shelters so you'll still have to bring up the Coleman two burner .There are only seven at Mew Lake and theyre booked up pretty quickly on weekends .I cant see staying in them in the summer but for winter stays there are some points to be made in favor of them.Because of a last minute yurt cancellation,Katrina decided to come up for the weekend and we got a taste of winter yurting.
Now I know there will be some campers out there scoffing at this yurt thing saying that its wimping out ,but Ive done the winter tent and quinzee thing and Ill tell you theres nothing really fun about that,its simply a comfort thing.Diving into a sleeping bag early in the evening for the rest of the night is not my idea of fun and isnt that what its all about ? Granted , the heater sounds like a jet taking off but its nice to have heat after a long day of skiing and snowshoeing ! Different strokes for different folks !
Whether youre in a tent,quinzee or really roughing it at a nearby resort,youve got to bring your skiis or snowshoes.From Mew Lake you can access the Highland Backpacking Trail.Theres also a summer bike trail that goes to Rock Lake.If you like your ski trails groomed and trackset,there are also three ski trails (Fen , Minnesing and Leaf) with various loops along Hwy 60.Minnesing is a favorite of ours and if you go there youll see why.As for snowshoeing,well,there really are no limits to that.