It is planned to start our tour very early in the morning this time; I shall pick up Patrick at 5:15am and afterwards Sylvia, Randy and Pete (from the Netherlands) as well. But once more the night is extremely short, a lab report has to be finished and handed in on Monday and so I can go to bed not until 3:30am. Somehow I haven't figured that out how to set my alarm clock (set alarm time, increase volume AND switch the alarm on!) and so I get up one hour later than expected. Nonetheless, the traffic isn't very heavy, our LeBaron runs very well and so we reach the west gate of Algonquin Park at the middle-late ;-) morning. We book our campsite at Ramona Lake. We have in mind to do a hiking tour across the lake district of the park and do have the right weather for that purpose. We park the car at the Parkway Access (Highway 60) at the Oxtongue River, three kilometers behind the west gate and get started.
From here the trail leads us across a bridge over Oxtongue River. A sign warns us, that in late April and beginning of May this area might be flooded, what would mean an abrupt end of the trip (or we just would roll up our pant legs and wade through the water). However, after a few hundred meters we get to a fork. Here begins the trail loop, which leads us around Minnow, Eu and Guskewau Lake. The trail begins as a broad way, but narrows down to an insignificant path very soon after. Small streams like the Leaf Creek are to be crossed.
Indian Summer is gone, almost all the leaves are dropped off and form a brown, rustling layer that covers everything on the ground - including chunks of rock and mud holes. The forest looks bare, but therefore the sun gets through to us so much the better. It is good to feel the sun, if one has been studying at the desk all week long ;-).
Although the sun is warming us up, it isn't bright enough for the snake that lies on the trail. It is considerable stiff and doesn't try to escape. An opportunity, we don't miss. The snakes skin feels soft and smooth, but it doesn't like to be touched and so it toddles off.
We pass Maple Leaf Lake and South Leach Lake and hike along Hardy Creek until we come to Little Hardy Lake, where we have our breakfast break. A feast made of sandwiches, meat balls with mustard and some oatmeal for dessert let us forget our getting up early in the morning. We stay here for some time, sitting in the sun and enjoying the scenic view.
We get started again - for today a hike of about 25 km is issued - and nobody wants to hike into the night. We walk round Maggy Lake on its east side, wonderful campsites are spotted a the shore.
The following section leads us over small hills and pasture-like clearings.
We have to cross some brooks, sometimes using some rotten wooden bars bridging the gap.
After 15 kilometers we get to the next fork. Here one can take the small (32 km), the big (55 km) or the very big (88 km) loop, we decide to go further on the short route, taking the junction to the east now. Here, too, huge mud holes have to be crossed, but in most cases we manage that with our feet staying dry.
Eight kilometers are remaining, that we want to cover before the dusk and so we step forward a bit faster. Conversation is getting rare, everybody concentrates on his own steps. 25 kilometers are doable, but one has to walk, to get there ;-). As we are only two clicks away from our site we can watch a beautiful sunset, which urges us to go on, because the starting dusk takes the light, which is rare despite the leaflessness of the trees.
Finally only a strawberry-red spot at the sky is left, but we almost made it. The next fork, that leads to the eastern side of the bigger loops, is a signal, that there are only few hundred meters left to walk.
As we arrive on the campsite it is just that light enough to collect some fire wood and to pitch up the tents. As the fire is burning, we are cheering up. The last kilometers were quite strenuous, but a hot chocolate at the fire pit makes us forget about that quickly. With the darkness in this time of the year the shivering cold that penetrates everything is coming, too. The water for our pasta takes forever to boil and we would like to forego the 3 minutes of boiling that kills all bacteria in it., but we are cautious, nobody wants to miss a weekend lying in bed with beaver-fever.
The evening shapes around the fire, but not very long, we want to get up early the next morning, to hike some kilometers to the north. The night is freezing cold, but in the tents its endurable and I sleep through, catch up with what missed the last days.
We get up, but not as early as we wanted. But so everybody is recovered very well. We agree to start the day very calm and lit a fire, to warm us up. The lid of the site's toilet box is covered with ice, but underneath it there is a comfortable wooden seat. Everybody, who is thinking now, man, what is he talking about now, toilet stories or what, I want to tell that there is nothing more relaxing than watching the animals that romp around in the fog-overcastted forest ;-)
We have breakfast in the morning sun and it takes us quite a time to get started. Finally we break camp, the plan is, to have lunch at Thunder Lake and than to head back to the car again. Shortly after we left Ramona Lake the trails leads us through a swampy part of the park. Wooden bars are the only way to avoid soaked hiking boots. Glittering Lakes and drying beaver lakes line our way.
We reach Thunder Lake at noon and find a nice, sun-drenched spot at the shore.
Our lunch - made of sandwiches, cheese and a canola bar - tastes fantastic, just because, we are in the woods. The panorama here is a special gift from nature.....
The break last only short time, it is noticeable that it is end of October already. Although the sun is shining it is cool and we don't wan to stay long (and cool down), but start on our way back.
The trail in this southern part isn't very straight, it runs zigzag-wise across numerous hills. The brownish color of the leaves still dominates and it isn't easy to make out the chipmunks that rustle in the foliage. But not only the chipmunks hide themselves....
The last lake on our tour (Guskewau Lake), emits a peace, that lets us hope to sight a moose, but unfortunately not on this trip.
In the last rays of sun we reach the parking lot again. A big cake is waiting for us in the car, a delicious piece what we really deserve right now. Before it is getting dark, we drive back to Waterloo, only once we stop in Gravenhurst to have a burger with home fries. Strengthened again we cover the rest of the stretch and arrive in Waterloo in the evening. Once more we had an absolutely beautiful weekend with many small adventures and experiences. In order, that it stays like that forever...;-)