Fireside Chat:  Web Page Visitors' Algonquin Park Stories

Pull up a log and join us 'round the campfire as readers of this web page tell their most inspiring, entertaining and informative Algonquin Park tales...

Story Themes:

Awestruck Reverence...

John Neumin:

"The portage to Greenleaf lake was a total of six kilometers. Three kilometers up the biggest hill I have ever seen in Algonquin, and three kilometers down. If Jeff and I had known what we were getting into we may not have made the attempt, but if we had known how beautiful it was going to be I think we would have done it twice! We originally decided to go to Greeleaf on our trip because the map described spectacular 50 meter cliffs. We were not disappointed. For three days and two nights we had the most beautiful lake in the park to ourselves! The sunsets were incredible, the site was one of the nicest I have camped in, and the feeling of solitude was wonderful. The lake did give the illusion of being a beautiful green colour and the cliffs were a fun climb, especially the creek to Lost Lake."

"If it is solitude you are seeking, and a chance to really commune with nature, this is the place to do it."

Barry Booher:

"My girlfriend and I camped for five days by the Lake Of Two Rivers."

"We where there in September of 1995. The leaves on the trees were all orange, red and yellow. Standing on a cliff looking across the forest was a gorgeous site. The lakes, hiking trails and surroundings were great. How many places can you feed chipmunks out of your hands? How many places will a wolf come into your camp site? Algonquin Provincial Park is fabulous. If the chance to go is within your reach, do it."

Braving the Elements

Tripper Al:

"The summer of 1995 trip had Nancy the Moosespotter and I doing a 4 day trip south of the highway. We had our 15 foot Novacraft (Portage Store) loaded and we were paddling at 8:30 to get across Smoke Lake while it was flat. The daytime temperature got above 90 degrees so we stopped on Big Porcupine for lunch and decided to spend the rest of the day swimming and watching the people go by."

"The next day took us through North Grace to Louisa. We took the last campsite on the Northwest section of the lake before you get to the Rod and Gun portage. Although it was only 2:00 we stopped because the campsite looked so nice and the thought of spending the afternoon swimming and solo paddling seemed like a luxury. We always set up our tent first and I voted on pitching the tent on a flat area right next to the lake. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. My canoe partner wisely insisted on pitching the tent up high behind some rocks and trees. She explained that I had always taught her to set the tent up in a protected area. Good advice!"

"At about 2:30 am we awoke to thunder, lightning and incredible winds; a terrible feeling in the middle of the night with nowhere to go. There is nothing to do in this situation except to stay in the middle of the tent away from the tent poles and as low as possible. Our biggest fear was not getting struck by lightning but having a tree fall on us or getting blown away like in the Wizard of Oz. Had we set the tent up on the clearing below, we would have been blown into the lake! At around 6:30 a.m. everything died down. We broke camp and made our way up to Head Lake for night 3. We saw so many trees down and also evidence of plenty of lightning strikes. As it turns out, three twisters had touched down in the Huntsville area, a tree had fallen on the roof of Henrietta's Bakery and a cabin from Camp Wapomeo had blown into the lake that night! Luckily, the campers living in that cabin were -- you guessed it -- out on a canoe trip!"

Rod Macleod:

"In 1996 my brother and I planned a trip together as we hadn't tripped together for a while. He had bought a new car... it was the first time we hadn't rented a car for the trip. The car broke down and the part was not covered by the warranty, $800. He was so unhappy that he backed out, but agreed to drive me up for a solo trip. He dropped me off and broke down outside of Huntville again, $700."

"The wind was so bad, I had to wait till the next morning to start. I paddled to Burnt Island for my first night and my wrist started to throb halfway along, due to fighting a head wind all the way. Next day, my wrist was swollen. I wrapped it and headed for Trout Lake. The next morning my wrist had an egg size lump and my fingers were stiff. I paddled to Little Trout and camped. Now my fingers almost didn't work and I could hear a grating sound when I moved my wrist. I paddled to McIntosh in a lot of pain, even though I was taking Tylenol 3's. I met two other canoeists at McIntosh portage and we camped on the island across from the portage. The weather had been rainy and windy every day so far and more of the same was coming. We set up camp and I strung a tarp to make dinner. I fixed the two I was with dinner and Bodum coffee. Then the weather really hit. The wind roared across the lake. I heard a loud crack and the top 20 feet of a tree ripped off and fell 75 feet from me. Five minutes later, a tree crashed down 100 feet from my tent and another few minutes later a third crashed down. We were trapped and scared but I went into my tent and hoped that I wouldn't feel the tree I was sure would crush me. Finally, the wind died down after two hours. Next morning, I had enough and decided to cut my trip short and go out through Ink Lake. The two paddlers I had camped with helped me with the portage. I paddled out, sure my wrist had a stress fracture, hitched a ride to Algonquin Outfitters and called my brother to pick me up there the next day."

"In 30 years of paddling I never had such bad luck on a trip. But I would do it all over again. I love Algonquin Park and tripping. The moral is if it starts bad and gets worse... get OUT!"

Martin van Driel:

"In August 1997, my friend Brett and I tried to canoe down the Tim River and then go across the portage from the Tim River to Stag Lake. This portage is 2860 m long and on the Canoe Routes map, the portage is labeled as low maintenance. It was getting late in the day and the portage was the last thing that we were going to do that day. While the trail was in lousy condition, it was "followable" up to a point. Then it became ambiguous. We followed what we thought was the trail, but it started getting dark. We checked our compass and realized that we weren't at all going the direction we were supposed to be going. So, as it was getting dark, and we were standing in a knee-deep bog, we decided to put the canoe down in the mud. We unrolled our sleeping bags and slept in the canoe, in the middle of nowhere!"

"The next morning at the crack of dawn, we resumed and found the Tim River again! Instead of going our intended route through Devine lake and several other small lakes and low-maintenance portages, we paddled UP the Tim River and back to Magnetewan Lake where we had started our trip."

MARTIN'S NOTE: If anyone has successfully gone through a low-maintenance portage I'd like to hear from you. Tell me where you were and what the trail was like! I'd especially like to hear from anyone who's been through Stag and Devine Lakes! (Note: the low-maintenance portages are coloured black on the canoe routes map!)

Scared Senseless!

Sherpa David, a.k.a. Tripper Al's pony:

"My second trip to Algonquin, I had an interesting experience with Tripper Al and his sherpa workers. Being the last one to the camp site, my Sherpa pal (Whiney Dave D.) had a very poor choice of sites. I being the brave lad, looked further in the woods to find a nice mossy site for our tent. We pitched a tent and decided that brave Sherpas like ourselves don't need the safety of a fire for protection."

"Nevertheless, later that evening, tired and worn out, I was considering going to bed. Well to our East in the bay (we camped on a Peninsula) we heard a large mammal chomping in the water at the lilies. Flashing lights and trying to see this magnificent beast, we only upset him more. The more our lights scanned the foggy bay the madder he got, only to come crashing through the water, up the embankment, over the peninsula, right past my tent. Needless to say, I nearly wet my pants and was sure he was going to charge us or tear up the tent."

"Soon after he left I convinced our entire group to go up to the tent, pull up the stakes and set our tent next to the fire. I didn't get much sleep that night."

"The moral of the story is stay close to the fire and don't stray to far from camp or risk getting run over by the masters of Algonquin Park (Moose)."

June Harrow:

"In the summer of 1996 my husband myself and my dog Prince, found the most beautiful site in the interior of Algonquin Park. We pulled our canoe up onto shore, hooked it on an old stump of a tree and prepared our campsite."

"That night we were awakened by something ripping apart our campsite. Not knowing what it was, (Algonquin at 4:30 in the morning you can't see you hand in front of your face) we waited !! and waited!!. All we could hear was this animal snorting - and growling - and pounding around our site. With me and my knife, and my husband with his - we sat there waiting for the inevitable. An hour later we were still waiting, at this time we thought for sure that we were not getting out of this situation with out getting hurt. Our imagination had pictured this animal any where from a 200 pound raccoon, to a full size grizzly bear, and any thing in-between. Then we heard a loud thump right outside our tent. My husband and I look at each other - thinking " This can't be" but sure enough this animal decides to lay down in our campsite and have a snooze."

"Half an hour goes by with no noise - so we decide that we are going to make our escape. My dog and I were the first ones to go out of the tent. With stocking feet and up to my knees in water - we waited for my husband to get the canoe. With the canoe in the water, my husband jumped in and pulled the dog in, and I was to push off. Just as I was pushing off I heard a rustling behind me. As I turned slowly around I could see this animal starting to stand up. It was the biggest moose I have ever seen. I froze to the spot unable to move for a few seconds - I was so close that I could feel its breath on my face - too close for me! The rangers later told us that it was probably around 2 tones with a full set of antlers."

"To this day I still get scared at night when I hear noises. This is a story that I will tell my grand children. And I you are wonder about what the dog did - he slept though the whole situation!"

Shelly Gauthier:

"I was on my first solo hiking trip through the Second Loop of the Western Highlands trail. It had been one month and a half since my first trip to the park and I felt I was ready. The only thing I was nervous about was getting used to the sounds of the park, because one thing you become very aware of is your precarious position on the food chain, and this really enhances your senses. Not the mention the fact that I had an unfortunate incident earlier in the Spring when I struck a moose with my car, and felt like there were 'WANTED - DEAD OR ALIVE FOR MURDER' posters everywhere that the local critters had posted. My more experienced friends told me to listen to all the sounds of the park, and try not to listen for anything that you might consider threatening. This worked like a charm, and just as I was beginning to nod off into a much deserved sleep, the clump clump sounds from far away reached my ears. Not thinking too much of it, I reminded myself of my friends' advice and began to nod off, then the sound started to get closer and closer until finally it was just outside my tent. CLUMP, CLUMP, and then a dead silence. I sat bolt upright, and peered out the mesh in my tent but it was so dark I couldn't see a thing, although I could hear its breathing not more than eight or ten feet away. Of course, I didn't get a minute's sleep after this, and when the sun finally came up, I exited my tent to discover the moose tracks eight feet away. I guess they got a little bit of revenge."

Derek Boucock:

"I was staying at Rock Lake when one of the people I met up there asked if I wanted to go up Booth's Rock (a hiking trail). I've been up it hundreds of times, since I've been going to Rock Lake since I was 2 (I'm now 17). We started up it, us being 15 or so we decided to run and see how fast we could "walk" the trail. Right near the end of the trail you walk by a marsh. So we started walking down, when I thought I saw a huge tree trunk. I just figured it to be from a storm a few nights ago and a tree getting hit. When we got closer we thought it could be a bear. When we we're about 10 feet from the "thing," it turned around and there was a huge bull moose looking straight at us. Well, it didn't take us long to react and start running top speed in the other direction. We ran about a kilometer back into the trail, decided we didn't want to walk the rest of the 3 km to get back to the entrance, and so headed back toward the moose. The moose was in the swamp eating. We treaded softly and eventually got by him. Of course when we went back to the camp no one would believe us. That was something I'll never forget for the rest of my life!"

Tripper Jim:

"In September 1995, my friend Steve and his son Curt accompanied myself and my son Jesse on a canoe trip to Happy Isle Lake. While portaging out, I noticed a cow moose to our left. I found a rest for the canoe and started to take a picture. I then turned to see Steve standing only a few feet from a young bull moose, taking its picture. The moose kept raising and lowering its front leg pawing at the ground. I told Steve that he should move aside, and when he did the bull continued on its way. It stopped a short distance later and turned as if to tell us how lucky we were."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Getting THAT close to a moose is NOT recommended!!!

Jeff Feltis:

"When my brother and I were 4-6, my parents took us for our first Algonquin trip. Now that we're older, with kids of our own, it has become a tradition every year to camp here. Our favorite campsite is Lake of Two Rivers. I'll confess, the store is close and handy. However, we also try to reserve in different seasons to see the beauty of Algonquin in different stages."

"On our third trip, my 5 year old son had to go pee at 5:30 in the morning. We were in the tent and the rain was pouring. Now I could have just told him to pee outside of the tent, but we've grown to appreciate and respect all of Algonquin, so to teach my son these same values, I got up. My son got dressed in earnest and headed out of the tent. Just as I went outside, I saw, not even 7 feet from my son, a timber wolf. My son looked at me and said 'Dad, I think I just went pee.' I was scared and amused; I didn't know what to do. All the wolf did was look at us, sniff and turn away."

"Nothing beats this kind of harmony between man and animal... to respect each other. I'm glad Algonquin Park is still protected to offer this, to me as a child, to my son and to his children in the future."


"In the summer of 1974 I was seventeen years old and on a solo trip from Two Rivers through Louisa, Head and Cache Lake. I grew up in the park and often went for two or three nights of canoeing when I wasn't pumping gas or slinging canoes at Killarney Lodge. On this one trip, I left late in the day. I kept the gear light taking only a sleeping bag, a hatchet and a bag of mixed nuts and granola. By night fall I had reached the Pog Lake Dam and pulled up for the day. After a windy paddle I fell quickly into a deep sleep. Sleeping under the stars with the granola tucked next to me (for safe keeping) and my hatchet close at hand, I suddenly awoke to a very strong musky odour. I opened my eyes and heard a growl. A black bear stood over me. Shocked I jumped up with the hatchet and growled back. Luckily the bear ran off. I didn't sleep anymore on that trip, but I did get to finish my granola."

"The moral of the story is... DON'T SLEEP WITH YOUR GRANOLA!!!"

Incidents and Accidents

Jodi Kovitz:

"I was staffing a 13 day canoe trip from South Tea lake, that was headed up to Eustache, where we would be resupplied with food, and back. On the third day of our trip, we found ourselves on the 3500m portage from little Madawaska to Radiant Lake. The other counselor on the trip and I were traveling more slowly than the campers, bringing up the rear carrying Grumman canoes. As we were approaching a bridge that lay about 2000 m into the portage, a tripper came running back to us with an incredible smile on her face. She told us that she had lowered her canoe into the rapids below and had shot them the rest of the way down."

"Although she said that it was challenging, and that she had to get out of the canoe a few times, we were eager to do anything to avoid carrying our canoes the rest of the way, as our necks were sore and we were tired. So, I hopped into the stern of one of the canoes, while my fellow staffer hopped into the bow. The tripper said, "follow me" (as she got into the other canoe), and so we did.... until the current swept us in front of her. I heard her screaming faintly, and turned my head around to see what she was saying. All of a sudden, I felt a crash... we had hit a tree that lay across the rapids head on, and before I knew it the canoe sank!"

"At first we laughed, and sat in the canoe. It was like a whirlpool. We kept on giggling until we tried to move the canoe and it would not budge. The pressure from the rapids was too strong. After a lot of anger and frustration, the tripper decided she would take the second canoe and carry on down the rapids, and the other staff member and I were to go up the current, back to the bridge, and find the portage path. Well, much easier said than done. We could not go up the current, as we were falling all over the place. We started going down the river, and it got really deep. I did not want to take the chance of swimming, as even though we were both in life vests, either of us could have injured ourselves easily. Looking up at the shore, which was almost a cliff, it seemed rather hopeless to bushwhack our way up there, if not to discover a path. Yelling did not help; the water was too loud. I remembered that I had thrown my FOX 40 whistle in my backpack at the last minute, so I blew really loudly 3 times. All of a sudden we heard a voice, which we followed as we scampered up the cliff (getting cut and bruised along the way) and through the forest."

"Fortunately, we all piled into two canoes and headed onto Radiant Lake. A family with a cottage there was kind enough to go back with the tripper, and managed to get the canoe out of the water."

"There are 3 morals to this story:

"We each carried our own canoes through the Dickson Bonfield Portage a few days later (5300 m), which made that 3500 seem like nothing. Push yourselves, even if you chant "I think I can"... it can become a nightmare rather than a game when you try to take the easy way out."

Tom Yates:

"It was the summer of 1996 that the nine of us were camping on Booth Lake. At about 11:30 a.m. we could tell that a big storm was moving in. All of us watched it move across the lake, a magnificent sight! When the storm really hit we headed for the tents! The storm was just about over when CRACK (although we don't remember hearing it) lightning hit our camp. One young boy who was closest to the tree was blown off his feet and into his tent; the two boys lying down in their tent were paralyzed for at least 45 minutes. They could not move! Needless to say, we were a little worried. Five of us, including me, had burns of some sort. After a while we took stock and realized how lucky we were. We treated the burns with our first aid kit and found that we were generally in good shape."

"The next day we found out that two people on Booth were hit at other camps and a young man died on Shirley Lake! We ran into a ranger and he took one of the boys out of the park to see a doctor and brought him back later (logging roads!) It took most of the day. We kidded him when all he brought back was a newspaper (we wanted Pizza, or BEER!)"

"We have learned that in the same situation again, we will NOT lay down in the tents! The more exposure to the ground the worse off you are. We will try to only have our feet (close together) on the ground. We will also avoid camping beside shallow rooted trees. The tree on our campsite had a 40 foot stripe of no bark from top to bottom and our tents were covered in exploded bark! A memorable trip to be sure!"

Tim Ahlborn:

"It was the summer of 1977 and my wife and I and our two German Shepherds were on a portage with two friends from Hamilton. We are from Ohio. It was the last day of our trip and we were camped on an island on Lake Louisa. It was just after breakfast when it happened. Our friend, Stella, slipped on the rocks near the lake's edge and fell backwards. She reached back to brace her fall and broke her left arm just above the wrist. We gave her several aspirin and made her as comfortable as possible with her arm in the cold water. I helped her husband break camp and they left for the portage at the end of the lake. My wife and I broke camp and caught up with them. That was when luck returned to our side. As we reached the portage a group of four men were just putting in. They told us about a logging road just 50 meters into the woods and helped us carry our equipment to the road. Just as we got there Jim flagged down the last logging truck of the day and talked the driver into taking him and his wife back to the logging camp. We waited on the road with all of the equipment. When Jim reached the camp they found a couple who had driven in by mistake. The couple gave Jim and Stella a ride back to their car at Rock Lake. Jim and Stella then came back to the logging camp and received permission to drive back along the logging road to pick us up. We threw all of the equipment into his car and headed back to our car at Rock Lake. By now it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and we were packed and heading out of Algonquin Park. Stella, with arm packed in ice, decided that she wanted to go to the hospital in Hamilton, and off we went."
"Later that night, as we sat around their house, we planned the next summer's vacation, a portage trip to Quetico. The next day we learned that there had been what seemed to be a tornado at Rock Lake the previous afternoon. The same time we would have been on the lake had it not been for the broken arm."

"I guess the moral here is that everything happens for a reason!"

"We have been to Algonquin almost every year since our first visit in 1971 and we love it."

Humorous Happenings

Gerry Franklin:

"A couple of years ago I was a member of a party of six men. We put in at Brent, bound for a weekend of camping, fishing and day tripping in and around Gull and Glacier Lakes. Four of us were experienced paddlers, the other two didn't realize what they were getting into."

"Two of the canoes had reached Gull Lake and we had been fishing for an hour before we started to become concerned. Two of us walked back down the portage to find our tardy friends. You never saw a sorrier sight. These two fine examples of fit Canadian men (both heavy smokers) were a mess. They were sharing the load of a 15' fiberglass Scott canoe. They were cursing, stumbling and bouncing off every tree they passed. My partner and I had a good laugh at their expense, which didn't go over too well."

"We camped and fished and generally enjoyed ourselves for a relaxing weekend. Now it was time for the return trip. Our two manly voyageurs made a hasty decision. They carried the canoe a few feet off the path and left it there. We paddled out three men to a canoe. I was tempted to go back later and get the canoe but I didn't want to create any hard feelings among old friends. I've always wondered who ended up with that fine canoe..."

"The moral of this story? Don't bring chain smokers and couch potatoes into the park."

Ray Howe:

"About three years ago, we had a college student and a high school student with us (in the park interior). Their chore was to get wood. We were on a very used island and the noticeable wood was scant. When they came back empty-handed, one of us in camp asked, 'where is the wood.' The response was, 'there is nothing out there but an old dogbox.' (the latrine!!)"

Andrew (Rick) Butson:

"After completing my third year of taking young people to Algonquin Park, I have gotten much better at directing the young people to the better routes and the right supplies. However, my strongest memories remain of my first year and our naiveté."

"Being our first week long trip to the park, I absorbed myself in literature on canoe-tripping and canoeing over the months prior to the trip. It was in one of these books that I found the wanagan. Defined as, a wooden box used to hold food and other supplies on a canoe trip, it seemed like a good idea. What could be more convenient than a box with all our food in it. It was not until I read about the wanagan again in Bill Mason's Song of the Paddle that I made my decision that our group HAD to have one. Afterall, Bill said so. I figured that a small box is great for a small group, however, with 12 people, we would need a big box. There, on the top shelf at Canadian Tire we found it. Bigger than the biggest cooler, a plastic storage box. It had everything, big plastic clips to hold the lid down, big handles on either end. I was in bliss. It seemed like such a great was not until the first portage, 2 km, that it became evident our purchase was not as great as I had thought. One behind the other, rucksacks on, with our wanagan between us, my canoe partner and I trundled along the portage trail. Not being masters of the wanagan, even changing hands was an exercise in precision that at one point sent me off a particularly narrow swamp bridge. Even though we had a 17 ft Coleman canoe, our rucksacks and the wanagan left us with little extra room. I remember thinking one day that our canoe was much like a bulldozer pushing the water in front of us. By the end of the second day, the wanagan had long wooden poles tied on either end, allowing us to carry the the box sideways down the trail. However, being wide apart, the handles were difficult to carry and required removal every time we had to get into the box. When in the canoe, our handles hung about two feet over each side. It was bad enough watching out for the other canoes, but venturing too close to shore could end in disaster. By day three, the entire group had voted that the wanagan would make a nice addition to the park. I, however, (rather like a stubborn driver who will not ask for directions when lost), refused to leave the wanagan behind, forcing my canoe partner to stumble and swear the remaining portage trails of the park with our Canadian Tire casket . As it turned out, we may have budgeted for a bit...well a lot...more food than we needed, and much of the wanagan's food was never used."

"The wanagan is still in use to this day, now storing three propane lanterns in their cases, three propane posts, six propane hoses and a tackle box with our Coleman repair supplies. It is still called the wanagan. However, it has never seen another tour of Algonquin Park, and never will as long as I am around... but it sure is a good storage box!"

Andrew (Rick) Butson:

"Two years ago, our youth group decided to undertake a five day trip to Algonquin Park to give some city kids (and leaders) a taste of nature. In retrospect, we may have bit off more than we expected that year. Our trip started in Opeongo Lake and ended in Rain Lake."

"We learned many lessons that year including; what not to pack, this lesson learned after the first 2 km portage, we learned that you can not carry all that extra kit and an aluminum canoe at the same time, and last, we learned not to step out of your canoe when you ground out in a swamp!"

"Our first night was spent on the North arm of Opeongo, with the second night scheduled for Big Trout Lake. By noon, it was clear we were not going to get the group there before dark, so my canoe partner and I went ahead to grab a campsite on Big Trout Lake. We rushed ahead and, after an unscheduled tour of the lake, grabbed a campsite at the West end of Big Trout. It started getting late, so we used a radio to contact the group, which was putting in at a creek connected to the East end of Big Trout. I decided it would help if my partner watched our site while I headed back to the East end of the lake to guide our group to our site. What I did not anticipate was the hour it would take our canoes to move down the creek and onto the lake (or the wind picking up in that hour, however, that is another story). By the time the group hit the East end of the lake it was dark, so by radio I arranged with the main group to signal them by flashing my flashlight on and off until they got to my position; then we would move up the lake to our site together. Upon seeing my signal, our main group started signalling back to me with their lights. Seeing all this flashing, a particularly loud group of campers on an island near my position started flashing their light at me and at my group. This started a chain effect on Big Trout Lake. By the time we made it to our site there were flashing lights from campsites all over the lake. I doubt anyone knew why they were flashing their lights on and off but it sure made for a funny sight from my perspective."

"We have a lot of good memories of that trip but my evening on Big Trout Lake is one of the best for canoeing war stories."

Sean Babic:

"Last year, a good friend of mine and I decided to take on the challenge of the great Algonquin Park. Being so called city slickers, from Toronto, we figured it would be fun trying out our 'courage.'"

"We left later in the day and arrived at the park at dusk. When I was younger, (about 8), my parents and I made it tradition to visit the park. So I kinda figured I knew where I was going and how things worked... like with getting permits and so on. It was the long week-end and for some reason we figured we wouldn't have to reserve anything, that the park would be big enough for everyone. When we arrived we found all the offices closed, and didn't know what to do. We parked the pick-up in a parking lot and started to wait for the sunrise."

"Next thing I knew, I was tired and kinda dozed off in the back of my friend's pick-up. Now my friend wasn't what you call an experienced camper, so I bet his imagination was running wild in the dark. As I was snoozing, I over heard him talking to himself, about how he needed to go pee. Now being real smart and real heroes, we didn't bring any flash lights... nothing but one lighter that I happened to misplace in the truck. Now I think we were parked, in the parking lot at Lake Opeongo. It turned out that my friend needed to do more than pee, so he decided to make his way down to the latrine by the water. He was 'slightly' scared, so he tried to wake me up, so I could accompany him. I brushed him off and kept sleeping. Since I wouldn't move, he then decided to go by himself."

"About a minute into my friend's little journey, I heard someone yell a loud curse word; then moments later I heard someone running. (I still didn't open my eyes, to see what was going on.) Then, I was startled by the truck door slamming shut. That woke me up in a hurry, and I looked to see who was sitting in the cab. It was my friend. Scared stiff, his eyes were as big as dinner plates and it scared me too, a bit, to see him like this. So I asked him 'what's going on,' his reply was 'wolves'... there's a wolf over there. And meanwhile it's pitch dark, and I can barely see a thing, so I'm waiting for something to attack me, cause yes my imagination was running wild. I look at my bud and tell him to unlock the door so I can jump in. He's like 'forget it, you didn't walk with me, I'm not gonna open the door.' Well, I just lose it I start screamin' at him to open the door, while he's in there chuckling at me. Meanwhile, I yelling out loud 'open the door, you want me to die or something?!'"

"While yellin' and cursin', I didn't notice something approaching, then, boom someone fired their flashlight right in my eyes. As that happened I tripped over my sleeping bag and fell out of the pick-up and ended up lying on my back in a considerable amount of pain. I heard a female's voice say 'would you shut up... it's only my dog. Your gonna wake up the whole park if you keep that up.' I look up and see two attractive ladies standing there with their dog. At that moment, I felt like the BIGGEST idiot on the planet. Must have been a funny sight, me being 6'3", 195 and my friend around 6', 200... terrified over a dog. To me, it was pretty pathetic."

Gary Grant:

"This summer, after about 10 years away from Algonquin, I brought my wife and daughter to the park for the first time. The first night, as we lay beside the fire (the ban had just been lifted), we watched a couple of mice playing in the woodpile. We watched them for a while, 'til they disappeared into the raspberry bushes beside our site. (after years away, i thought...hhmmm bears like raspberries ....hhmmm)"

"As we went to bed, we made sure all goodies and garbage were locked up in the trunk of our trusty and rusty 18 year old Volvo. The next morning we opened the trunk to find toilet paper and gorp strewn all over. We laughed and cleaned up the mess, thinking that the chipmunks must have been in the trunk while the lid was open."

"Later in the day, I noticed a little creature scurrying through the trunk. Our little fireside friends had come through the rusty floor and gained access to our food fortress. We emptied the trunk, and made sure all food was secure inside containers, and went about our business. We didn't see them again for a few days."

"The final evening of our stay, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Bartlett Lodge. We drove from Canisbay to the dock (I know it sounds lazy...but we had paddled all day) and my Sandy said 'ah.....honey....the mouse hasn't left the car yet. He just ran over my foot!'"

"The next morning, we took everything out of the car and re-packed for the drive home. We never saw him again, but he had taught us never to trust plastic bags for food storage, even in a campground, unless your car is free from holes."

Andrew (Rick) Butson:

"In our youth group's fourth annual trip to Algonquin Park we undertook our most ambitious adventure yet Opeongo Lake to the Barron River where it joined the Petawawa River. It had become a tradition that the staff would plan a food menu that was clearly superior to the one planned by the young people's groups."

"The sixth night was one of my favorites: pancakes and maple syrup. The day had been sunny for the most part and our paddle from Upper Spectacle Lake to Achray had been most enjoyable and had allowed us to dry our wet shorts and gear. However, a weird weather pattern had brought in a thunderstorm around mid day that held us up for two hours on Stratton Lake. Despite the reappearance of sunshine, the rain dropped by for another visit just as we got onto the Barron River, and was threatening another major storm as we paddled into our sites on Brigham Lake around 7 p.m."

By the time we had set up our tents and gotten our sites sorted out, a light rain had started and the thunder was rumbling in the distance. It was in this environment that I set up a MSR one burner stove, on some flat rocks by the fireplace to cook our long awaited pancakes. Yummy, light fluffy pancakes covered with maple syrup. The lightning was lighting up the sky as I set off down to the lake to get water for our feast. Humm... lightning... lake... my mother always told me to avoid lakes during a lightning storm... I decided it would be ok if I just popped down to the water to draw a pot full of water from the swift current and boiled it for 10 min to purify it. It was a good plan and about twenty minutes later I had a full pot of drinking water to make our pancakes with. I had not counted on three other grumpy tired canoeists who were getting impatient for dinner as they waited in a light rain for a pot of water to boil, nor had I counted on the clouds making it dark so quickly, however, the end was near, soon our bellies would be full."

"My canoe partner was on mixing duty as we combined our water with some of our pancake mix. It seemed to mix up well, a bit thick, but hey not a big deal. Plop, in goes the first pancake into the hot oil in the pan. It was odd, our pancakes had the consistency of pudding and cooked about as well. After ten minutes of cooking one pancake I was sure we had messed up the mix. Must need more water I concluded, 'better turn down the heat,' I was coached. 'Don't scrap it... give it to me,' came another suggestion. After passing on a pudding pancake with a pile of overcooked crust from the bottom of the pan we added more water to the pancake mix and were ready to try again. I felt sure that this would be a good one. It had better be; the mood of the group indicated to me that the food may not be the only thing hanging in the trees that night. With the dark upon us, and the light rain picking up speed, my group watched by lantern light as I poured the mix into the pan and waited for the tell tale bubbles to appear atop the mix. It was a long wait. Once again the pancake simply wouldn't cook. 'Maybe boiling the water took out all the oxygen so the pancake can't bubble,' came a helpful suggestion. My canoe partner, the pancake mix mixer seemed to be becoming more and more annoyed as he became wetter and wetter. The question of why we were not cooking under our tarp came up and I struggled to explain that the rocks by the fire seemed to be a great place to hour ago... This had been my second and last attempt to cook a pancake. I was beaten. My only hope was to save face by turning over the pan to another, thus proving that I was not the only person incapable of cooking pancakes. With this in mind, I offered another group member a chance at the chef's position. Staring at the pan someone finally asked the question that we were all thinking, 'do you think that adding hot water did something to the mix?' I pointed to the postage stamp sized directions I had cut off the box a week earlier, 'It doesn't say anything about adding cold water, only adding water,' I said, hoping to shift the blame for this disaster to Aunt Jemima. We stared at our pot of pancake pudding and the decision was made, 'let's start over again with cold water,' said the new chef. Thankfully we had plenty of mix... after all, we were going to show the young people, who had long since retreated to the dry comfort of their tents, how well we could eat in the 'wilderness.'"

"A new mix was made by adding cold water pooled from our group's water bottles. Soon the new chef had pancakes bubbling in the pan and I was left to eat last as the group plowed tiredly into the steaming circles of fluffy goodness. It was a soggy group of 'skilled wilderness travelers' that retired into our tent that night. We had only eaten a few pancakes each, as even the bravest of us didn't relish sitting in the rain eating. On the good side, the flow of water off of our tarp provided a great water supply for cleaning out the pots and pan, as well as our dishes, and allowed me to refill my water bottle. My group, however, was not impressed with my new water supply discovery. Some people can be so grumpy!"

If you have an Algonquin Park story to tell, click here.

Thanks to Tripper Al for submitting the idea for the "Fireside Chat"!

Marg's Park Page Return to Margaret's Algonquin Park Page Table of Contents