Friday, December 21, 2007

Welcome to winter!

Well, here it is, the first official day of winter. Around here, we've been enjoying winter unofficially for several weeks. If you haven't gone out and played in the snow already, stop what you're doing, put on some warm clothes, strap on some skis or snowshoes and get out there! If you don't believe me, here are a few random photos, taken today, around Algonquin Outfitters' Oxtongue Lake store:

I think it's almost time to shovel snow off the canoes...

Maybe I'll take the one in the middle without all the snow on it!

Sorry, Tent Cabin #1 won't be available for a few months...

These trucks won't be going anywhere soon...

Best wishes for the holiday season from everyone at Algonquin Outfitters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Banff Mountain Film Festival program for Huntsville

OK, drum roll please, here it is... the final program for Algonquin Outfitters' presentation of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, at the beautiful Algonquin Theatre, in Huntsville, Jan. 22 & 23, 2008.

Film titles only are shown below. For more info on each film, please refer to my post of Dec. 11.

Jan. 22, 2008
(More nature/travel themes)

  • Entropy
  • Searching for the Coast Wolves


  • The Western Lands - Hoy
  • Wings on Your Feet
  • Higher Ground: Mountain Photographer
  • Badgered
  • Great Day for Climbing

Jan. 23, 2008
(More action themes)

  • Balance
  • 20 Seconds of Joy


  • King Lines: Es Pontas
  • In-Flux
  • Climber
  • Cross-Country With the Snakes
  • Trial & Error
  • Ain't Got No Friends on a Powder Day

Get a taste of what's coming by watching the intro video:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Banff Mtn. Film Festival coming Jan. 22 & 23

Updated version: December 19, 2007
After discussing our film choices with the nice people in Banff, I have modified the list somewhat. The World Tour has already visited a number of venues in Canada and the US, so we now have the advantage of being able to get feedback from those audiences and the on-site coordinator who will be presenting in Huntsville.

Tickets are on sale now for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Huntsville!

Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E., on-line at or by calling the theatre box office at (705) 789-4975, or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352.

Both shows will feature a wide variety of films. While there certainly is more selection in the "action/adventure" categories this year, our goal is to put more human interest in the first night and more action in the second. Hopefully there will be something for everyone in between! Personally, I'm going to both nights...

Here is the list of films we are planning on showing (barring any last-minute cancellations), in alphabetical order:

20 Seconds of Joy
Best Film on Mountain Sport and People’s Choice Award
Germany, 2007, 60 minutes
Directed by Jens Hoffman
Focus: BASE jumping, Human Narrative
"I don't want to die, I want to live. I'm pretty good at running away, and this is my escape." This is how Karina Hollekim describes her dedication to BASE jumping. Documentary filmmaker Jens Hoffman first met the now 30-year-old Norwegian in 2002. He immediately started to film, planning to follow Karina over a long period, trying to understand why a young woman would challenge herself mentally and physically in such an extreme sport. Jens accompanies her through many stages of her BASE-jumping career, until it comes to a sudden stop and changes all aspects of her life.
Ain’t Got No Friends on a Powder Day
Switzerland, 2007, 5 minutes
Directed and Produced by Nicolas Falquet and Loris Falquet
Focus: Skiing

Loris is a "classic" freerider. Jean-Yves, however, has a more or less "accidental" style. This film draws a parallel between two styles and two approaches to the same mountain, which are otherwise worlds apart.
Best Film on Mountain Environment
UK, 2005, 7 minutes
Directed by Sharon Colman
Produced by Jamie Wolpert
Focus: Environment/Animation
The tale of a badger who just wants the world to let him sleep.

Canada, 2007, 11 minutes
Directed and Produced by Paul Cotton
Focus: Skiing
Balance profiles the rapidly growing world of new-school skiing, looking at all aspects of the sport: big mountain lines, terrain parks and half-pipes, and jibbing. This film captures the athletes' desires to push the edge of their abilities while facing the obvious safety risks associated with high caliber skiing. With high-energy footage cut to an upbeat soundtrack, the audience is challenged to judge whether these athletes are crazy or just extremely talented, or maybe both.

Canada, 2007, 2 minutes
Directed by Carlos Villarreal-Kwasek
Produced by Vancouver Film School
Focus: Climbing/Animation
A climber attempts an icy mountain climb and faces his inner demon in this animated short.

Cross-Country with the Snakes
USA, 2007, 7 minutes
Directed and Produced by Hansi Johnson
Focus: Cross-country skiing, Music
Cross-country with the Snakes is a short film about a nordic-skiing punk band. It documents a tour with the Black-eyed Snakes as they ski all day and play rock at night. Nordic skiing, long portrayed as serene and classical, is cast in a new light as exciting and dynamic through the lens of punk/blues rock and fast-action photography.

Norway, 2006, 11 minutes
Directed and Produced by Morten Gjerstad
Focus: Snowkiting
Entropy documents the most progressive season in snowkiting so far. Join a couple of the world's best riders as they search for the ultimate snow and wind conditions. Along the way, they reinvent snowkiting by taking a new-school approach and pushing the limit of ‘wake style’ maneuvers.

Great Day for Climbing
USA, 2007, 7 minutes
Directed and Produced by Stephen Burgess
Focus: Climbing, Humour
A sleepy climber has trouble distinguishing dream from reality as his climbing buddy bursts into song at the most inopportune moments. Who are those guys dancing in his driveway? How did his dog end up above him on the route? Where is that music coming from?
Higher Ground: Mountain Photographer
USA, 2007, 8 minutes
Directed by Chris Alstrin and Alexander Lavigne
Produced by Chris Alstrin
Focus: Climbing, Human Interest
Andrew Querner, a professional photographer from Canmore, Alberta, explains what drives his quest for the perfect climbing photograph. Difficulty and challenge are climbing's chief attractions, but the objective hazards climbing presents tap deep sources of fear as well. Andrew Querner's photography feeds on that, and explores the relationship between climbers and the mountain environment.

France, 2005, 17 minutes
Directed and Produced by David Arnaud
Focus: Kayaking
In-Flux is about the true meaning of paddling - the perpetual need to go and travel the globe with your kayak in search of the magic something you can find only on the river. Shot in Italy, Canada, Norway, and the Reunion islands, the film combines adrenaline-driven action and remarkable natural wonders.
King Lines: Es Pontas
USA, 2007, 13 minutes
Directed and Produced by Josh Lowell and Peter Mortimer
Focus: Climbing
A segment from King Lines, filmed on location in Mallorca, Spain. This spectacular segment captures Chris Sharma's challenging ascent of the Es Pontas arch. Deep water soloing at its best.

Searching for the Coast Wolves
Germany, 2006, 52 minutes
Directed by Richard Matthews
Produced by Heinz von Matthey
Focus: Environment
Gudrun Pflueger is an ex-world champion cross-country skier and long-distance runner. For the last six years, she has been studying wolves in the wilds of Canada, collecting field data, hair, droppings and other evidence for use in scientific projects on wolves. She goes in search of the mysterious coast wolves of British Columbia, a quest that culminates with a dramatic and powerful encounter.
The Western Lands - Hoy
Best Short Mountain Film
UK, 2007, 9 minutes
Directed and Produced by Grant Gee
Focus: Climbing, Human Interest
Writer Jim Perrin's attempted climb of the Old Man of Hoy on his 60th birthday. A poetic documentary of love, loss and landscape under the dying of the light.

Trial & Error
People’s Choice Award (Radical Reels night voting)
Canada, 2006, 8 minutes
Directed and Produced by Bjørn Enga
Focus: Mountain Biking
Mountain biker Ryan Leech sets out to ride an incredibly difficult trail in the coastal mountains of British Columbia. With the valley slated for clearcut logging, Trial & Error combines Ryan’s extraordinary riding with his thoughts about the very special location.
Wings on Your Feet
Switzerland, 2006, 25 minutes
Directed and Produced by Fulvio Mariani
Focus: Telemark Skiing, Human narrative
John Falkiner and Paolo Tassi - two charming characters, powder hunters and free heel telemark interpreters - tell us about their dreams and why they have chosen skiing as their true lifestyle. Whooshing through Fulvio Mariani’s camera shots, they guide us on journeys of discovery and friendship in magnificent landscapes around the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter is here!

Several things have happened in the last few days to get us all feeling that winter is really here:

1) The first snowfall to actually stay on the ground for over 24 hours. There is only a light dusting but there is snow nevertheless.

2) I'm wearing my traditional winter garb: flannel-lined pants.

3) Last night was Warren Miller film night in Huntsville (see trailer in the previous post). What a great event! With over 300 people in attendance, lots of kids in the audience, everybody stoked for a great winter ahead, fantastic footage of amazing skiers and snowboarders in beautiful mountain environments, it all added up to the perfect evening to get people in the mood for snow.

4) Evening temperatures are dropping dramatically. Tonight's forecast is predicting a low of -11 C.

5) Ice is starting to form in the more sheltered bays. With low overnight temperatures ahead, lakes will be skimming over completely any time now.

All we need now is more snow!

Here's what is coming up in the AO calendar:

Algonquin Outfitters presents the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour
Tuesday, Jan. 22 & Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2008

Join Algonquin Outfitters when the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour brings the spirit of outdoor adventure to Huntsville, at the Algonquin Theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 23 at 7:30 pm.

Hot on the heels of the largest, and one of the most prestigious, mountain festivals in the world, the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour has hit the road, with stops planned in more than 275 communities and 30 countries across the globe.

After two packed shows last year, Algonquin Outfitters is once again bringing the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to the Algonquin Theatre for two nights. Each evening will feature a different selection of films. Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students. Folks buying tickets for both shows can exchange their two ticket stubs for a coupon offering a 15% discount on their next purchase at Algonquin Outfitters.

This year's tour features a collection of the most inspiring and thought-provoking action, environmental, and adventure mountain films. Traveling from remote landscapes and cultures to up close and personal with adrenaline-packed action sports, the 2007/2008 World Tour is an exhilarating and provocative exploration of the mountain world. The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is produced by Mountain Culture at The Banff Centre, and features award-winning films and audience favorites from approximately 300 films entered in the annual festival in Banff.

The screenings of The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Canada and the USA are presented by National Geographic and New Balance; sponsored by Patagonia, Deuter, OR (Outdoor Research), Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Polartec and Gore-Tex Fabrics; with support from MSR (Mountain Safety Research), Lake Louise Mountain Resort, Petzl, World Expeditions & Mountain Hardwear..

Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E., on-line or by calling the theatre box office at (705) 789-4975, or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352.

Algonquin Outfitters presents the 14th Annual Winter Fun Day
Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008

We've changed the name of the Winter Assembly to Winter Fun Day, because, well, that's what it is. Self-propelled fun in the great outdoors is the theme Saturday, Feb. 16, 2008. This free, family-oriented, event takes place at the Oxtongue Lake location, just west of Algonquin Park, on Hwy. 60, about 30 km east of Huntsville. The Winter Assembly is designed to introduce people to self-propelled (or at least non-motorized) winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, kick-sledding, winter camping, ice-climbing and dog sledding, as well as provide a host of opportunities to have fun in the snow.

Stay tuned for more info!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

AO presents Warren Miller's PLAYGROUND Nov. 16

Algonquin Outfitters is proud to present the latest installment from Warren Miller Entertainment at the Algonquin Theatre on Friday, November 16, starting at 8 pm.

Warren Miller's PLAYGROUND is the 58th annual movie from Warren Miller Entertainment, leaders in action sports film-making. These films attract a cult-like following and mark the official start of winter for skiers and snowboarders everywhere. This year's production is saturated with deep powder, incredible cinematography, technical lines and massive air.

Showcasing stunning global destinations from Sweden to Canada, Alaska to Japan, and several others, Warren Miller's PLAYGROUND also exposes a most unlikely winter sports destination, a resort in the Arabian Desert called Ski Dubai. Olympic Gold Medalist, skiing innovator and pop icon, Jonny Moseley, adds a new title to his resume as he serves as the film's narrator.

Visit the PLAYGROUND with Algonquin Outfitters on Friday, November 16 at 8 pm, at the Algonquin Theatre. Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students. Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E. in Huntsville, by calling the box office at (705) 789-4975 or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352 or on-line at

For more info on the movie, visit

Watch the trailer for PLAYGROUND by clicking on the screen below.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Fall!

The first day of fall at Oxtongue Lake - beautiful colours and morning mist.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I was right about the fall colours

As a follow up to the previous post, I waited a few days and checked the satellite image again. Actually, I was forced to wait, since up until Monday we had very little blue sky. Check the image for September 17 - there is a definite, visible red tinge on the west side of Algonquin Park. Who needs to look out a window any more!

If you want a more definitive perspective, check out Ontario's Fall Colours Report.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Track fall colours by satellite

Regular followers of this blog will remember that we recommend the NOAA satellite image for the Great Lakes region for following ice-out progress. It occurred to me that this could be a useful tool for checking on the advance of fall colours in southern Ontario. Since the colours in this image are true, the green forest cover shows up clearly. Check the image for Sept. 3 and you will see that the western area of Algonquin Park is showing a bit of reddish tinge (or is this my imagination?). This corresponds with what we can see on the ground - mostly green but some early flashes of red coming through. Fall is here!

If you haven't looked at these satellite images before, here are a few tips. When the image first opens on your screen, you will find that you are looking at the upper left-hand corner, somewhere near Thunder Bay. Scroll right and down until you can recognize landforms and lakes of the Algonquin Park area. Bigger lakes like Opeongo, Cedar and Burnt Island are easily distinguishable. If you look carefully, you can even make out the thin line of Hwy 60 stretching across the region.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Summer 2007 highlights

Sorry, long time no blog and I must thank our loyal readers for their patience. Algonquin Outfitters had an extremely busy summer, which is good for business but doesn't leave much time for blogging.

Here are a few pictures featuring some notable groups and happenings at our Oxtongue Lake store since May (at least those I have pictures of!):

Our new outfitter, Jen McFarlane, takes two European travel operators
for their first canoe ride in a three-seat Swift Quetico.

Local high school teacher Marty Scarlett helps launch a kayak made by his students, while the CTV reporter gets right into Bracebridge Bay to get the shot! (For the full story on this great fundraiser, go to this link and scroll down to Operation Kayaks)

No roof? No problem! Two kayaks securely tied into a PT Cruiser convertible.

Pastor Tom Corbett and the gang from Pearce Memorial Church in upstate New York, ready to go on their annual Algonquin Park canoe trip.

If you have a roof on your car, there are many options for tying down canoes!

Empty canoe racks on the August holiday weekend. Reservations are highly recommended!

Campers from the Machal program at Camp Stone ready to paddle, even though they are still on the bus! Machal is a Hebrew acronym that stands for Machane Chalutzi, or pioneering camp.

The Sidell family after their 12th annual father/twin sons canoe trip. Slogan on Dad's shirt: "I'm the boss."

Glen Weber and friends ready to hit the road in the ultimate canoe tripping van, complete with Captain's chairs.

Kevin Birch of Salisbury University and our own Wendy Swift. Wendy is holding a plaque presented by Kevin, commemorating SU's 25th annual Algonquin Canoe program for new students. Check out the new "Salisbury Wall" in our outfitting room.

The "Kohn Expeditionary Force" poses after their 25th annual canoe trip.
This group of men met when they were campers and staff at Camp Tamakwa and have been going on canoe trips ever since. Every now and then a son comes along or a new member is recruited but the core group remains.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Employment opportunity at Opeongo Store

If you would like to spend your summer and fall working in Algonquin Park, here is a unique job opportunity. Our Opeongo Store, located at the Lake Opeongo access point, has positions available for seasonal outfitting staff and water taxi drivers.

We are looking for people who have these skills and experiences:

  • experience driving motorboats in all weather
  • possess or are prepared to obtain Pleasure Craft Operator's license
  • canoe tripping background
  • good general knowledge of Algonquin Park
  • good level of physical fitness
  • able to work in a close-knit staff team
  • thrives in a fun, fast-paced work environment with a wide range of duties and responsibilities
  • excellent communication skills
  • retail experience beneficial

Job details:
  • positions available for July & August and July - October time periods
  • accommodation available
  • numerous staff "perks"

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume by e-mail to the Opeongo Store manager Jerry Schmanda.

For more information, please call 1-613-637-2075 and ask for Jerry.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Algonquin Outfitters sponsoring two first aid courses in June

Get prepared for a wilderness emergency!
Outdoor enthusiasts wanting to be more prepared in the outdoors can take advantage of two wilderness first aid courses in Oxtongue Lake this June. Both courses are being run by Sirius Wilderness Medicine and are being sponsored locally by Algonquin Outfitters and the Wolf Den Bunkhouse. Both courses are being held at the Wolf Den Bunkhouse, 30 km east of Huntsville on Hwy 60, just past Algonquin Outfitters' Oxtongue Lake store.

Learn from the pros at Sirius:
Sirius Wilderness Medicine specializes in custom courses for groups and organizations, which are designed around participants' needs and the environments they work or live in. They have extensive experience developing and implementing wilderness first aid programs in the outdoor industry, at summer camps, in government departments as well as native communities in northern Quebec and Ontario. Sirius Wilderness Medicine's certification is recognized by outdoor programs and associations across Canada and abroad.

The introductory course:
The first course, WILDERNESS FIRST AID, takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 2-3. This is an experientially based 16-hour course designed for individuals who will be participating in outdoor activities within hours of medical assistance. The course will provide participants with an introduction to wilderness first aid. Basic topics are covered with an emphasis on practical skills, decision making and dealing with environmental conditions. A valid CPR certificate is the only pre-requisite. Those without CPR can sign up for the optional evening certification session (includes defibrillation). Topics covered include Backcountry Management of Shock, Patient Assessment, Injury Management and Treatment, First Aid Kits and Supplies, Musculoskeletal Injuries, Environmental Emergencies and Managing Medical Problems. Course tuition is $195.00 and the optional CPR-AED session is $50.00 (taxes extra).

The advanced course:
The second, and more in-depth, course is called WILDERNESS FIRST AID FOR OUTDOOR LEADERS. It takes place Thursday to Sunday, June 7-10. This 40-hour course has become a minimum standard for outdoor professionals, guides and instructors who work in a wilderness setting. Course content extends beyond urban-based first aid programs to include elements inherent in leading groups in the outdoors and guiding wilderness adventures. Special emphasis is placed on prevention of injuries, accident scene management, leadership, leader responsibility and liability, advanced first aid kits, wound management and managing the trauma victim. Again, a valid CPR certificate is a pre-requisite and those without CPR can sign up for the optional CPR-AED certification session on the first evening. Many topics of the two-day course are covered in more depth, along with additional sessions such as Wilderness Emergency Care, Leader Responsibilities and Liability, Leadership and Accident Scene Management, Backcountry implications of CPR, Vitals - Establishing a Baseline, Backcountry Wound Management, Common Expedition Problems and Long-term Patient Care & Monitoring. Course tuition is $385.00 and the optional CPR-AED session is $50.00 (taxes extra).

Contact for info and registration:
More details on both courses can be found at To register, please contact Sirius directly by calling toll-free: (877) 982-0066. Sirius will provide an information sheet to each participant.

Need accommodation?
Out-of-town people, or those wishing to avoid commuting, can stay at the Wolf Den. The Wolf Den offers three styles of accommodation for participants in the WFA program: dorm (8 beds/room) at $20/night; semi private room (4 beds/room) at $25/night; or private room (2 beds/room) at $30/night. There is a large kitchen for the use of guests with a fridge, stove, pots, plates and utensils. participants should bring their own bath towel and toilet articles. To reserve, contact the Wolf Den directly at 635-9336, toll-free, (866) 271-9336, or by e-mail.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Used rental canoes for sale at Swift Roadshows

Every spring and fall, our friends at Swift Canoe & Kayak run a number of "roadshows," where you can find a wide range of canoes and kayaks for sale at great prices. For the paddler on a budget, one of the best buys are used rental canoes. When canoes are retired from our rental fleet, they get repaired and refurbished and sent over to the folks at Swift. Prices range from $500 to $1000 or so depending on the model, construction and condition.

Three sales are coming up in the near future. Both feature on-water test paddling, expert advice, great selection and unbeatable prices. Click on the links for maps, show hours and more details:

April 27 - 29, at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area, near Guelph, Ontario

May 4 - 6, at the Rideau Canoe Club in Ottawa, our nation's capital

May 11 - 13, at Swift Algonquin, right beside AO in Oxtongue Lake

Sale day at Swift Algonquin!

We always have a number of used rental canoes for sale at our Oxtongue Lake store. Most are Kevlar and include popular models from Swift, like the Kipawa and Algonquin. Please call Swift Algonquin at 705-635-1167 or visit Swift Algonquin in Oxtongue Lake for more details.

The Swift Canoe and Kayak company sells new canoes and kayaks and used rentals as well. Call the head office in Gravenhurst at 1-800-661-1429 for more information.

Algonquin map news

My colleague Randy Mitson, who creates our retail blog, has produced a great map of all the Algonquin Outfitters locations. He did this using a new on-line service that I stumbled upon one day, called GMap. GMap allows anyone to create personal maps using the Google Map database. We've never wanted to link to the Google Map version of where we are, as some of the information they have is incorrect. For example, if you try to find our Oxtongue Lake store using our Dwight, Ontario address, Google Maps will locate it in the village of Magnetawan, a different town located an hour's drive northwest of here. Google Maps is a great tool but apparently not without a few bugs.

Speaking of maps, I'm excited to report that the official Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map, published by the Friends of Algonquin Park, has undergone a major update. The 2007 edition, sporting a snazzy label stating that it is "park ranger approved," is now compass and GPS compatible. The new map is overlayed with the UTM grid (at a 2000 m interval) as well as latitude and longitude. The new map will be available later this spring at all AO locations as well as the Friends' on-line bookstore.

These new features will make it much easier to plan trips with the Canoe Route Map and use other tools like GPS devices, mapping software and Google Earth for detailed cross referencing. We highly recommend using both the Canoe Route Map and Chrismar Mapping's more detailed Adventure Map series for actual navigation in the field. If you are like many people and are generally bewildered by all those lines and numbers on your map, visit Natural Resources Canada's excellent web page called Topo 101.

By the way, the ice is out!

Algonquin Outfitters' Opeongo Store and an
ice-free Lake Opeongo, April 23, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ice out?

Hmmm. My informants in Algonquin Park are not at work today, so I can't get an "in-person" ice report. Thanks to modern technology, the daily satellite photos covering the Great Lakes area can provide considerable information. The two images below were taken yesterday. If you look closely at the first, you can see grey ice on major lakes like Opeongo, Cedar and Lavielle. The next image is from four hours later, taken at about 4 pm EST. In my humble opinion, all those lakes look black, not grey. Based on the condition of larger lakes near Huntsville, which are essentially open, with the odd mass of "black ice" floating about, I would speculate that lakes in Algonquin Park are also filled with black ice (local term for what scientists call, very scientifically, "rotten ice") and all that is needed is a little wind to disperse it. Once that happens, canoe season in Algonquin Park will be up and running. Just don't fall in the water!

Algonquin Park from wayyyyy up, around noon on April 21.
Opeongo Lake is the greyish body just right and below of centre.

Same view, four hours later. The grey is gone!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Ice Conditions in Algonquin Park - April 18

After a lengthy absence, the sun is out in full force. Conditions are perfect for making lake ice disappear: sunshine, light wind and daytime highs in the double digits. If this weather keeps up over the weekend as forecasted, we predict that small lakes will be open by early next week and big lakes like Opeongo and Cedar a few days later. Things look good for "opening day" on April 28. Stay tuned to this blog for further photo updates!

All pictures below were taken today, April 18, by Jerry Schmanda.

Lake Opeongo, looking south from the store

Lake Opeongo, looking north from the store

Lake of Two Rivers, looking west from Hwy 60

Cache Lake at the boat launch

Smoke Lake docks at the access point

Canoe Lake, looking north from the beach

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reel film fest in Haliburton this weekend

If you missed the Reel Paddling film festival when we showed it in Huntsville last month, you can catch it in the village of Haliburton this weekend.

Our friends at Fleming College's Haliburton School for the Arts are presenting the film festival in conjunction with their Spring Art Show and Sale. Admission is free, so you can combine movie-watching and art-shopping in one trip to beautiful Haliburton!

Students and alumni from the campus’ Glassblowing, Jewellery, Artist Blacksmith, Ceramics, Textiles, Photography, Sculpture, and Painting & Drawing programs will be displaying and selling spectacular works of art. You can also enjoy a hike through the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, featuring 22 installations by Canadian artists.

One of the installations in the sculpture forest.
The Beaver, by Mary Anne Barkhouse and Michael Belmore

This event takes place at the Fleming College Haliburton Campus, Saturday, April 21st starting at 9 am. Free admission!

For more information, visit or call the campus at 705-457-1680. You can see a map of the area here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Is spring the new winter?

The robins are confused. The one hanging out in my yard lately is looking very unhappy, all puffed up to stay warm in the below-freezing mornings, pecking away at the frozen grass, looking for worms that are way down deep. The days are warming up though, and despite the widespread Easter weekend cold snap, I am still optimistic that most lakes in Algonquin Park will be navigable by "opening day"on April 28. Having said that, don't blame it on me if you can't paddle to your favourite fishing spot that weekend!

Lakes visible from Hwy 60 are showing open water around the edges and at river mouths and the ice is starting to look a bit gray. I just got an Opeongo report - some of our spring staff are moving into the residence at Lake Opeongo today. They were walking on the lake this morning and estimate that the ice is at least 12" thick near the store. The long range forecast indicates sun and warm temps after April 18, and if this holds true, things should start to open up quickly. Stay tuned to this blog and the Electric Penguin's ice-out page for further developments.

The Meteorological Service of Canada recently released three-month long range forecasts, suggesting that southern and central Ontario will experience hotter and drier weather than usual through the end of June. Since the peak of spring run-off has already passed, this will mean that water levels will drop quickly once the ice disappears. Take this into account if you are planning a summer canoe route that includes streams and small rivers like the Nipissing, Crow or Tim. It could also mean that black-fly season will be shorter than usual, which most folks won't complain about.

If you are canoe shopping, please note that our neighbours at Swift Algonquin are now open Friday through Monday until early May, when they will be open seven days a week. For details on new and used canoes in stock at Oxtongue Lake, please call Brian or Pete at 705-635-1167 or send them an e-mail. If you are getting spring canoe fever, combine a visit to Algonquin Outfitters, Swift Canoe and Algonquin Park! Our Oxtongue Lake store currently has amazing sales on winter clothing (ask about our amazing 30/40/50% off deal) and snowshoes are still on display and marked down 30%.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Winter is disappearing, sort of...

A quick ice-out update:
  • All lakes visible from Hwy 60 in Algonquin Park are frozen "shore to shore."
  • Recent reports claim that the ice on Canoe Lake is 12" thick.
  • With recent rain and mild weather, most snow is gone, though there are still deep patches in shady places.
  • Rivers are open and running (water is cold and high!).
  • The weather forecast is calling for cooler temps and even snow on Thursday and Friday of this week, so don't get too excited about spring in Algonquin Park quite yet!
All indications are good for an early to normal ice-out, unless the weather stays cold.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Grey ice in Algonquin Park

The latest satellite images are showing what looks like grey ice on big lakes like Opeongo and a surpising amount of green on the east side of Algonquin Park. I'm not sure how true the colours on these images are but it sure looks like bare ground to me! As spring advances, and the ice absorbs heat, lake ice changes dramatically from white, to grey, to black. Black ice doesn't last long.

Satellite image for March 23.
Opeongo is the large "Y" shaped lake just right of centre.

For you Algonquin Park ice-out keeners, check out the Outhouse Daily News and enter the annual ice-out prediction contest - deadline April 15, 2007.

A wild morning in Huntsville

This post is a little off-topic, considering that the theme of this blog is canoe-tripping in Algonquin Park. However, I did have two extraordinary wildlife sightings this morning that I thought the faithful readership would be interested to read about.

A little context first: currently, we still have a good foot or so of crusty snow on the gound in the Huntsville and Algonquin Park area. With the exception of us heavy-footed humans and the pointy-footed deer, animals can travel quickly and easily across the frozen surface of the snow in the early part of the day. And, yes, the lakes are still frozen but big lakes near Huntsville are looking a little grey, which means that break-up is not far off. Living where I do, at the end of a dead-end road, bordering on a large expanse of undeveloped woodland, we see lots of signs of wildlife, including wolf, moose and bear. By evidence of tracks and howls, I am convinced that we have a resident pack of wolves down in the valley below our house. This morning, I finally saw one.

Like most pet owners in rural areas, I habitually let the dog out for a short time after getting up in the morning. The cat seems to enjoy being outside too, so I often let him out at the same time, though only on a string. I had just put the cat back inside when Utah (the dog) went off, barking like I'd never heard him bark before. It was hard to believe such a big noise was coming from a small dog. He was standing on snowbank beside the house, hackles raised, trying to look bigger than his 28 pounds, sounding like a german shepard. By the time I got the cat indoors and walked back to see what was up, he had advanced about 10 feet from house, still barking and growling.

I looked across the yard and there was a smallish grey and white wolf, standing at the edge of the woods, about 60 feet away. As Utah barked, and I called him to the the house, it backed away and calmly walked off into woods. The dog had the sense to come when he was called and not go roaring after his wild cousin. This is the same dog that was chased and almost caught by a wolf a last winter.

Utah takes on his large cousin Tor.
The wolf would be less tolerant, I think.

Later, we went for a walk. I couldn't see the wolf tracks on the crusty hard snow but Utah's keen nose could certainly smell the trail. We went down the bush road that extends off the end of our road and goes down into the above-mentioned valley. I was standing at the crest of the hill, gazing about, when Utah marched off into the forest, looking very alert. At the same time, I heard an odd mewing sound coming from the same direction. I peered into the fog to saw an unusual creature loping off down the hill. At first I thought it was a huge otter, then maybe a wolverine (which I very well know don't live around here), then it dawned on me that it was a fisher, the largest local member of the weasel family. I'd never seen one before and it looked bigger than the dog! Utah wisely chose not to chase it. He might have a slim chance with a wolf but a giant weasel is quite another thing, especially one that is famous for being one of the few predators that successfully hunts porcupines. Seeing the fisher un-nerved me more than the wolf, as there are many stories, local and elsewhere, of these crafty predators taking house cats. Maybe the cat won't go outside for a while!

The fisher - common in our region but rarely seen.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thinking spring yet?

Satellite images tell all: no canoeing yet!

It's about the time year we start getting calls from anxious anglers planning their spring "ice-out" canoe/fishing trips. Here's what we know so far:

  • winter campers in Algonquin Park have reported average ice thicknesses of about 10" on some interior lakes. This is about half what we would expect at this time of year!
  • larger Algonquin Lakes were not completely frozen until the first week or so of January. Normally all lakes are iced over well before Christmas!
  • heavy snowfall in February and rapidly dropping water levels combined to cause seepage and slush formation, resulting in poor-quality ice.

Despite the recent cold snap in early March, which may have caused some ice formation, all these signs indicate a good possibility of early ice-out. We will keep you posted as we learn more!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Wolf Den bloggers

News flash! Our friends Robin and Ben over at the Wolf Den Bunkhouse have joined the blogosphere. The Wolf Den is a unique and very affordable option for accommodation on the west side of Algonquin Park, withing walking distance of our Oxtongue Lake store.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

March Break: what to do?

The answer is easy: visit Algonquin Park for some spring skiing and snowshoeing!

Even with the late start to winter, we've got excellent snow coverage and the big snow expected tonight should ensure that we'll be enjoying snowsports well into March and possibly even April.

Get out the snorkel!
An AO employee's spouse enjoys some deep powder skiing on the Fen Lake cross-country trail last weekend (name withheld to protect the innocent). Thankfully, no injuries ensued.
Look at the great snow conditions!

While you're up here, take a little time to think about spring paddling by joining Algonquin Outfitters at the Algonquin Theatre for the Reel Paddling Film Festival. Produced by our friends at Rapid Media, the "2nd annual Reel Paddling Film Festival World Tour brings the world’s best paddling films to paddlers across North America and around the world. The festival has been created to inspire more people to explore rivers, lakes and oceans, push physical and emotional extremes, embrace the lifestyle and appreciate the heritage of the places we travel." For a list of the films travelling with this year's tour (unfortunately we won't have time to show all of them), click here.

Need a place to stay? Our friends Robin and Ben at the Wolf Den Bunkhouse are offering a March Break special:

Stay at the Wolf Den on your March Break and receive a 10% Discount!

Things to do:
  • Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking and the world class Visitor Centre in Algonquin Park (7 min drive to park gate and ski trails)
  • Soak up the grandeur of Ragged Falls (15 min walk)
  • Hike through mixed forests and past spectacular lookouts on the Beetle Lake Trail (starts right across the road )
  • Relax by the fire in our lounge or warm up in the Cedar Log Sauna
  • Downhill skiing at Hidden Valley
  • Outdoor skating in nearby Dwight

Contact Robin or Ben today at 1-866-271-9336 (1-705-635-9336) or via email

Offer Valid From the Night of Sunday March 11th to the Night of Thursday March 15th.

Please note that the Wolf Den is a "fume-free" place to stay.
Dogs of all sizes love winter! You should too...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winter Assembly schedule

Celebrate winter with
Algonquin Outfitters!

The 13th Annual Winter Assembly will get you excited about winter! Join us for an activity-packed day with something for everyone. All events take place at Algonquin Outfitters in Oxtongue Lake, February 17, 2007. Rental and demo equipment is available at no charge if participating in the events and lessons. Please sign out equipment in the store before the lesson starts. Call 1-800-469-4948 (705-635-2243) for more information.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ongoing Events: 10am—4pm

• Equipment demonstrations: test-drive high-tech snowshoes & cross-country skis - thanks to Tubbs Snowshoes, Atlas Snowshoes, Madshus Skis, Salomon Skis

• Winter campfire: warm up around the campfire!

• Cross Country Tips: meet Glenn Buckmaster at the ski oval for informal lessons. See specific lessons at 11, 1 and 2:30 pm. Please sign out rental equipment inside (no charge if you are taking a lesson). Please get ski equipment before the lesson starts.

• Ice climbing: join Summit College staff & students and learn about this popular winter sport. Ongoing activity - follow the signs on the lake and trail to the climbing site.

• Quinzee Building: take snowfort-building to the next level. By the lake (conditions permitting).

• Winter Campsite:Summit College staff and students will be setting up a winter campsite - drop by and chat about winter camping!. By the lake (conditions permitting).

• Winter Disc Golf: if you can toss a Frisbee®, you can play Disc Golf - try it out on the lake!

• Don’t forget to sign up for door prizes inside! Door prize draws at 12:15, 4:30 - you must be present to win!

Morning events

• 10 am til 12:30: Dogsledding - with Winterdance Dogsled Tours. Meet and pay at the dog truck - follow the sound of barking!

• 10 am til finished, Quinzee building: join Summit College students and build a traditional snow house.By paddle hut.

• 11–12, Cross-country ski lesson - novice classic: instructor: Glenn Buckmaster. Get skis inside ahead of time, meet at ski oval.

BBQ lunch: 12-2 - Opens at noon. Buy food tickets inside please! Thanks to Chef Chuck!

Afternoon events

• 12:15, Door prize draw: At the front counter - you must be there to win!

• 1-2, Waxing 101 for cross-country skiers: instructor, Glenn Buckmaster. Upstairs in the store. Waxing is easy - learn the basics!

• 2-3, Snowshoe 101: Meet at demo area on the lake. Learn about and try new-fangled snowshoes! Short hike included.

• 2:30 - 3:30, Cross-country ski tour: instructor: Glenn Buckmaster. Meet on the oval. A roving lesson on the groomed Blue Spruce trails.

• 3:45, Fun snowshoe race: Just one lap around the oval! Prizes for adults and kids! Meet at the snowshoe demo area.

• 4:30, Door prize draw, snowshoe race prizes: at the front counter - you must be there to win!

Special Sunday event: 9:30am - 12pm, Sunday, Feb. 18

• 13th Annual Snowshoe trek to Ragged Falls: trek leader, Gordon Baker. An adventurous annual tradition! Free snowshoes for use by participants, or bring your own. Meet at the AO store front counter by 9:30. Car pooling required. Dogs that play well with others are welcome if well-behaved and on a leash.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Summer jobs at Algonquin Outfitters

Algonquin Outfitters is now accepting resumes for the following seasonal positions:
  • Retail sales associates
  • Rental shop and outfitting staff
  • Maintenance staff
Spring, summer and fall positions are available at our Huntsville, Oxtongue Lake, Opeongo and Bracebridge locations. We are seeking people who love the outdoors and enjoy sharing their knowledge of the outdoors with others.

Accomodation is available at our Oxtongue Lake and Opeongo locations.

Our staff enjoy working with a diverse range of people; spending time in Algonquin Park and other beautiful areas; paddling, hiking, biking, travelling, camping and other outdoor activities.

If you are interested in joining the Algonquin Outfitters team, please email your resume to Beth at our Oxtongue Lake store.

We thank all who apply, however, only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

Some scenes of life at AO:

Rental staff at Oxtongue Lake getting ready for a canoe delivery

One of our outfitters packs a group trip

Opeongo water taxi driver and customers before boarding the boat

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Winter Assembly returns February 17

Winter fun in the great outdoors is the theme of the 13th Annual Winter Assembly, hosted by Algonquin Outfitters, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007. This free, family-oriented, event takes place at the Oxtongue Lake location, just west of Algonquin Park, on Hwy. 60, about 30 km east of Huntsville. The Winter Assembly is designed to introduce people to self-propelled (or at least non-motorized) winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, kick-sledding, winter camping, ice-climbing and dog sledding, as well as provide a host of opportunities to have fun in the snow.

This year’s event will pack a host of activities into a single day. You could drive a dog team, learn how to build a snow shelter, try skate skiing, go on a snowshoe hike, learn about winter camping, make a snow house, enter a snowshoe race (and hopefully finish!), play snow games, watch ice climbers in action and more! Representatives from a variety of manufacturers will be on hand to talk about the latest in cross-country ski equipment, ski waxing techniques, snowshoes, winter camping gear and demonstrate new winter products. Lunch is always a highlight of any winter activity and barbeque fare, like hamburgers and sausages, will be available.

Equipment for all activities will be provided free of charge for Winter Assembly participants and a heap of door prizes will be given away throughout the event.

For more information, please call Algonquin Outfitters, 1-800-469-4948 (705-635-2243).

Please note that there is a charge for dog sled rides and a family rate is available.

The final schedule for the 13th annual Winter Assembly is not yet cast in stone, but in the meantime, here is a general overview of the day:

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007:

9 am: Algonquin Outfitters opens

10 - 1 pm: dog sled rides. Please sign up to make sure you get a turn!

10 -12: morning program (x-c ski lesson, ski and snowshoes demos, snowshoe hike, quinzee building, dog sled rides, etc.)

12 - 2: lunch

1 - 5: afternoon program (skate ski lessons, ski and snowshoe demos, ice climbing demos, wax clinic, etc.)

Sunday, Feb. 19:

10 - noon: 13th annual Ragged Falls Snowshoe Adventure Hike

Advance registration is not required - simply show up! All events take place in the immediate area of our Oxtongue Lake store (except the Ragged Falls hike - car pooling req'd).

Dog sled rides are provided by Winterdance Dog Sled Tours.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Banff Mountain Films a success!

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour stopped in Huntsville for two nights this year. Thanks again to all the nice people at the Algonquin Theatre for helping make the event go smoothly.

If you missed the shows in Huntsville or would like to see if the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is playing in your area, check the World Tour schedule here.

As Charla (our road warrior from Banff) mentioned, the hardy individuals criss-crossing the continent showing films are keeping their own blog. Check it out for great stories of life on the road and some behind-the-scenes stories!

If you'd you'd like to to find out more about any of the films and the people behind the camera, or perhaps purchase the longer version of some of the action films we showed, I've included links to the filmaker's sites.

Here is the list of the films we showed each night, in alphabetical order:

Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour Film Menu

Huntsville, Tuesday, Jan. 23

Anomaly (custom edit)
USA, 2006, 16 minutes, Directed by Todd Jones
ANOMALY n. (a·nom·a·ly) 1. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule 2. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify. Hard to define, never easy to apply. Yet, this has come to embody a year of extraordinary feats, tribulation and continued progression within the Ski & Snowboard arena. Anomaly, TGR's newest 16mm and HD ski and snowboard release, showcases the freakish and abnormal abilities of today's top athletes as they push the boundary of what is humanly possible.

Special Jury Award
Canada, 2006, 26 minutes, Directed & Produced by Will Gadd
Will Gadd and Ben Firth are two top Canadian ice climbers. They thought climbing "awesome" bergs would be a lot of fun, so the Aweberg trip was born. The bergs looked great, but the reality was somewhat different. Note that the sounds of the picks in the film are much quieter than in real life!

Kids Who Rip (Custom Edit)
USA, 2005, 12 minutes, Produced by Rod Parmenter
Kids Who Rip highlights amazing young athletes in the action sports community. This special edit for the Banff Mountain Film Festival features remarkable kids who love to ski, snowboard, skateboard and surf.

Patagonia – A Travel to the End of the World
Norway, 2006, 40 minutes, Director/Producer: Vebjørn Hagen / TV 2 AS
Attempting the first unsupported traverse of the Southern Patagonia Icecap, Børge Ousland and Thomas Ulrich start from the small village of Tortel in August 2003. After three days of paddling into the Patagonian fjords with two kayaks each, they reach the bottom of the Jorge Montt Glacier; from here they carry their equipment up and start skiing across the ice cap. This film is most of all about the spirit of adventure. Few expeditions have had to master so many different skills to reach their goal.

Roam (Custom Edit)
Canada, 2006, 18 minutes, Directed & Produced by Darcy Wittenburg, Jamie Houssian
Roam is a mountain-bike film that follows the travels of the world’s top riders as they explore new places to ride, and visit some of the notorious meccas of mountain biking such as, Moab, UT and Whistler, BC.

The Simplicity Factor
Canada, 2006, 7 minutes, Directed & produced by Nathan Cando
The Simplicity Factor is a segment from The Top 20 Classic Boulder Problems of North America. Featuring an all-female cast of athletes, it looks at bouldering's overall appeal while showcasing ascents of several famous boulder problems.

The Thrill Seekers (Extreme Film School)
UK, 2005, 3 minutes, Directed by Roland Arnison, George Arnison
One of the 12 productions from the Kendal Mountain Film Festival Extreme Film School "48-hour Film Marathon". Two brothers try their hand at mountain biking, climbing and another extreme sport on a camping weekend with hilarious results.

Huntsville, Wednesday, Jan. 24

People’s Choice Award & Special Jury Mention
Canada, 2006, 56 minutes, Directed and Produced by Olivier Higgins & Mélanie Carrier
In 2005, Olivier Higgins and Mélanie Carrier went on their first cycling expedition - 8000 kilometers across Asia. In six months they pedaled from Mongolia to Calcutta, India, traveling through Xinjiang, the Taklimakan Desert, the high Tibetan plateau and the jungle of Nepal. Why? Not only to discover the world, but also to discover themselves.

The Best of Jo
Canada, 2006, 3 minutes, Directed & Produced by Logan Carlstrom
"The Best of Jo" is a stop-action Lego film about a coffee-addicted guy named Jo. He is eager to try all the mountain sports available to him, such as climbing, skiing and fishing.

Conversing with Aotearoa/New Zealand
USA, 2006, 15 minutes, Directed and Produced by Corrie Francis
In an age of technological integration and urban life, people turn to the natural world for a wilderness experience. What draws us to the remote corners of land and sea when we realize something in our lives is missing? In this animated documentary, New Zealanders attempt to fathom their deep, personal connection with their land.

First Ascent: Didier Vs. The Cobra (Custom Edit)
USA, 2006, 25 minutes, Directed by Peter Mortimer
The elegant, granite Cobra crack in Squamish, British Columbia is perhaps the hardest crack climb in the world and the Swiss climber Didier Berthod is among the world’s best crack climbers. Far from the spotlight, Didier spends months in his epic quest to snag the first ascent.

First Ascent: Thailand (Custom Edit)
USA, 2006, 8 minutes, Directed by Peter Mortimer
Steep towers of untouched rock jutting out of the ocean. And the best part is, with only the sea below you, there’s no rope. Thailand is a dream come true for David Lama, perhaps the best on-site climber in the world, and purportedly the future of the sport. Amidst the exotic beauty of the Andaman Coast, Lama and friends take 60-footers into the drink, and bring deep water soloing to a new level.

Ride of the Mergansers
USA, 2004, 11 minutes, Directed & produced by Steve Furman/ Furman Technologies
The hooded merganser is a rare and reclusive duck found only in North America. Every spring, in the Great Lakes region, the wary hen lays and incubates her eggs in a nest high in the trees. Just 24 hours after hatching, the tiny ducklings must make the perilous leap to the ground below. Ride of the Mergansers brings this hidden drama to the screen.

Yes to the No
Canada, 2006, 10 minutes, Directed by David Mossop
A look into the sport of noboarding, which is snowboarding without the use of bindings. The sport of snowboarding was essentially started by skateboarders and surfers looking for a winter alternative to the two summer sports. Now that snowboarding has reached its peak, there is only one way to change the way snowboarding is done, and that is to take the bindings off the board and really surf the mountain.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Winter is here, really...

After an additional 10 cm of snowfall yesterday and the coldest night of the season predicted this evening (-26 C with wind chill of -34! Brrrr), I think it is safe to say that we are getting firmly back on the winter track.

Speaking of tracks, our friends at the West Gate just phoned in with this good news: the Fen Lake Ski Trail is groomed and track set. It's looking good for cross-country skiing in Algonquin Park! The cold conditions tonight will set up the tracks nicely and the trails should be in great shape this weekend. More snow and more seasonal temperatures are in the forecast for later this week. The park's day hiking trails should be in fine condition for snowshoeing as well.

If you are heading up north without skis or snowshoes, drop in to our Oxtongue Lake store and check out the great selection we have for sale and for rent!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Woo Hoo Hoooooo! We have snow!

Purple wax conditions in Algonquin Park: fresh wet snow at -1 C

I took this picture late yesterday afternoon but couldn't post it due to the HEAVY SNOW. In downtown Oxtongue Lake, our only option for high-speed connection to the Internet is via satellite. On very rare occasions, weather causes interference. In this case, we're not complaining.

More snow is on the way today, in fact there is a snowsquall warning for Huntsville and areas west of there:

Drive carefully today!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Woo Hoo! Snow in the forecast...

I won't believe it till I see it but this is encouraging:

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Green is the new white...

The number one topic on everybody's mind this winter is the wacky weather. If you live in eastern North America, I don't have to tell you about it. Normal winter activities are being postponed due to strangely mild temperatures and little or no snow. Any business depending on winter tourism is feeling the pinch, especially ski area operators.

Fortunately, a good number of people seem to have found some positive attributes to the situation: they point out such cost-saving features as the lower cost of heating, no need for snow removal, safer driving conditions and the like. Others glumly mutter about climate change or plan ski trips to the west, where there appears to be almost more snow than they can deal with.

My suggestion? Take advantage of the unusual weather. Revel in it - get outside, go hiking, biking or whatever land-based activity you prefer. Work on your garden. Play golf, even. Please don't think you should canoeing - the water is still deadly cold and, this area anyway, lakes are frozen. Satisfy the camping bug by going on a backpacking trip in Algonquin Park. Be prepared for sudden shifts in the weather.

Speaking of frozen lakes, ice conditions are very unpredictible - stay off lakes and rivers! A visitor at one of the local resorts went skiing on Oxtongue Lake a couple days ago and fell through the ice. Fortunately he ended up in shallow water, hauled himself out and was warmed up by some local fellows visiting their hunt camp. He was lucky.

Meanwhile, do a snow dance, and hope that winter returns. Or be proactive - make an offering to the snow gods! On New Year's Eve, my wife and I hosted a fun party at our house with a small group of friends. Despite the damp mild weather I got an enormous bonfire going and in a moment of inspiration, decided to sacrifice an old pair of downhill skis to Ullr. This is a time-honoured tradition in ski country and I hope it works. When it came time for fireworks, we even became more creative. The BBQ lighter I was using to ignite the various incendiary devices ran out of gas, so another member of the inspired group picked up one of the red-hot binding heelpieces (now separated from the skis) with a pitchfork and we used that to light the fireworks.

Who says we don't know how to have fun in the north country!