Algonquin was the last big highlight on our trip through Eastern Canada and we had been looking forward to it for such a long time. We were eager to finally leave the hotels, motels and camp sites behind and try backcountry camping in the wilderness. As you can easily see on the map Algonquin consists of a myriad of lakes interwoven with vast forests. We decided to access the park in Whitney and had to go to the East Gate to obtain our permit. Also, we had to leave some info about us and our equipment behind in case something happened to us out in the wilderness. Although this was months ago I still remember the giggly girl who worked at the East Gate office and whose positive vibe was super contagious.
We rented a white canoe and parked our car by the lakeshore in Whitney. We packed our canoe carefully as we were planning to stay out there for 2 nights – and there was no quickly going back once we were out on the lake. We packed enough food and water, our tent and sleeping bags and some bits and pieces. I thought long and hard about whether or not to bring my camera. As I was planning to do a blog post about this experience I definitely wanted to take heaps of pictures. I decided against bringing the camera though as I was too scared to break or lose it. Instead I brought my phone and powerbank and wrapped them in three dry bags which I attached to the canoe and always kept close (I am VERY paranoid with my technical equipment…).
We set out on Galeairy Lake and started paddling with no actual destination in mind. We basically just wanted to spend the night in two different locations somewhere in the middle of nowhere. On the shores and on the islands within the lakes were marked places where we were allowed to set up camp but that was pretty much the only sign of civilization there was – there were no bathrooms, no running water, no electricity.
In the late afternoon of our first day we chose a lovely spot on a stony shore and decided to spend the night there. One thing we had learnt while camping was to better start setting up camp earlier than later. With no kitchen, no bedroom and no running water the most mundane everyday activities like cooking and going to sleep take so much longer.
As it was a perfect warm Indian summer day I decided to go for a swim first. I honestly hadn’t even brought a swimsuit – it’s a clothing item that somehow completely loses its purpose once there’s nobody else around anymore. We set up the tent and started a fire and I spent a long time watching the sun set over the still mirror the lake had become.
To me it always feels so weird not to have a computer with me and to stare at my phone in offline mode with no messages or notifications coming in for days. With my studies, my job and my blog requiring the use of these devices pretty much 24/7 it is definitely an interesting and enriching experience to just sit there and listen to the wind and the waves and my own thoughts completely unable to do productive work.
We spent the second night on a shore close to some shallow waterfalls. I loved the constant murmuring of the water in the background and the fact that it was real and not some YouTube meditation sound loop. The sunset was spectacular that night and I couldn’t get enough of standing there and taking photos of this fireball slowly melting into the surface of the lake.
We had started a fire before the sun had fully set and were sitting there joking and chatting and having dinner – when suddenly we heard a cracking sound behind us. Everything had looked so bright and friendly while the sun was still shining. Now that it had grown dark we realized that there was all the vastness of the black Canadian woods behind our backs – we had no idea how large that forest was nor what lived in it that might have been drawn here by the smell of our food. The cracking sound again. We could tell from the sound that whatever it was it was definitely much larger than a bird or a squirrel. We moved to the other side of the fireplace to stare right into the impenetrable darkness of the woods. We hoped it was just another person who was camping close by and gathering firewood. I thought it might be fun to try the classic horror movie line “Hello? Is there anyone there?” but my travel partner got very creeped out by it 😀
I was less worried about zombies or axe murderers but knew that there were in fact bears in the area which are known to get attracted by the smell of food. We agreed that it was probably smart to make a hell lot of noise to scare off whatever was lurking in the dark woods. We started singing and shouting random stuff into the woods and were never quite sure whether we were scared or about to burst out laughing as the whole scene must have looked and sounded downright hilarious. We never found out where the cracking sound came from and later suspected we might have scared off a super deadly, dangerous fawn but… you never know right?
When I woke up at some point in the middle of the night I heard some wolves. The moment was completely surreal – there I was, curled up all cozy in my tent on a lakeshore in the Canadian wilderness, the only light coming from the crescent moon and a thousand stars in the sky, the waterfall whispering in the background and the wolves howling in the distance.
With this backcountry camping experience a life-long dream of mine has come true. When I was little there used to be a commercial on TV that showed a tiny lush island in the middle of a lake and every time I saw it I would think to myself that one day I would love to just pitch a tent and start a fire on some little island and spend the night there. Check 🙂
Needless to say, we returned to civilization safely with our canoe and our belongings and I lived to tell the tale.