Monday, May 31, 2010

Getting to Algonquin Park during the G8 Summit

Unless you have been on a canoe trip for the last year, you have no doubt heard that our fair town of Huntsville is hosting the G8 Summit from June 25-27. Hot on the heels of that event is the G20 in Toronto. Needless to say, there will be some major security in place and disruptions to everyday life in both places. My suggestion? Leave town! Go on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park!

Having said that, you will need to think about a slight detour if you are traveling from southern Ontario to our Oxtongue Lake or Opeongo Stores and popular Hwy 60 access points like Smoke lake, Rock Lake or Opeongo Lake. The G8 meeting is at Deerhurst Resort, just east of Huntsville off Hwy 60, and there will be traffic restrictions in that area. While the official word is a bit vague, it is safe to assume that the normal route along Hwy 60 to Algonquin Park from Huntsville will not be accessible from June 21 through the 27th. Downtown Huntsville will be very busy as well, with traffic control points at various intersections (yet to be revealed) sure to cause slowdowns.

The map below shows various road restrictions expected to be in effect. Roads highlighted in red and pink are the ones to avoid. You can download the full-sized version here. If you do need to drive in or around Huntsville, there is a good outline of the various restrictions and alternate routes here.

The best route for traveling to Algonquin Park, from Hwy 11 to Hwy 60, will be to take Muskoka Road 117 east from Bracebridge to Dorset, then Hwy 35 north to Hwy 60. According to my calculations using Google Maps, using this very scenic route adds only seven km of extra distance, and due to more winding roads, maybe 20 minutes of extra driving time. Not a big deal. And the best part is that it is a really pretty drive, you can stop in the charming village of Dorset, take in the fabulous view at the Dorset Fire Tower Lookout and see new sights along the way.

View Larger Map

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Leave No Trace" in Algonquin Park

The Algonquin Backcountry Recreationalists have partnered with the Leave No Trace organization and produced a well-done document outlining how back-country users can adopt Leave No Trace camping principles in Algonquin Park. Not only does this document give excellent tips and tricks on how to camp in a low-impact fashion, it also helps create a mindset that will help both novice and experienced canoe trippers think about careful planning, responsible travel and safety.

The basic principles of Leave No Trace camping are simple:

  - Plan Ahead and Prepare
  - Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  - Dispose of Waste Properly
  - Leave What You Find
  - Minimize Campfire Impacts
  - Respect Wildlife
  - Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Putting these simple guidelines into practice takes commitment, careful planning and constant vigilence. 

You can download the PDF version of the document here. If you are not in a mood to download, read more about Algonquin-specific low-impact camping tips here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

There's snow time like the present...

OK, so I know that I was blabbing on about the nice weather in the post and luring all you unsuspecting canoeists up to Algonquin Park. Today, we in the middle of a cold snap and winter has made a (hopefully) brief return.

What you might have seen along the trail this morning 
(dog not included)

There are still many people out in the park on canoe trips. This type of weather only underscores the need to NEVER UNDERESTIMATE Algonquin Park weather. If you are prepared with proper clothing and gear, make sound travel decisions and have a flexible plan, there is no reason you cannot enjoy a safe, reasonably comfortable trip, even in inclement weather. On the other hand, inexperience, poor judgment, overly ambitious route plans and inadequate gear are a recipe for an unpleasant experience.

A somewhat chilly forecast for the season

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Spring has definitely sprung!

What beautiful weather we have been having lately. Like the early ice-out this year, everything else seems to be about three weeks early. Trilliums are starting to flower, a few black flies have been spotted and the trout are biting, according to customer reports.

If you are planning a trip to Algonquin Park in the next few weeks, you should be prepared for black flies and possibly a few mosquitoes. In a recent newsletter from our friends at Black Feather, bug expert and Black Feather director Wendy Grater offers some great advice on dealing with bugs. Here it is:

As the trilliums start to bloom and buds turn into leaves, the blackflies and mosquitos of the north woods start to make their return.  All mosquitos are not created equal.  Of Canada’s 74 species, some are extremely aggressive and annoying, others less so.  Aedes vexans, for example, is a small, in-your-face mosquito that comes out a week after a heavy rainfall, day or night.  Other species, such as Culex tarsalis, are less aggressive.  Sneaky but easily disturbed when biting, C. tarsalis will attack your ankles and backs of hands while you are not looking. Only the female mosquito feeds on blood, which is a vital source of protein for egg production.  The so-called ‘bite’ is actually a puncture by her proboscis.   
What is the best protection against this relentless little insect?  In Canada, a product can be registered as an insect repellent only if it provides greater than 95% protection for at least 30 minutes to an approximate area of an average human forearm.  If it meets this standard, Health Canada issues it a Pest Control Product number.  
Products based on a synthetic chemical that we know as DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) offers long periods of protection.  The mosquito hones in on carbon dioxide, heat and lactic acid that we produce.  DEET has been used for the past 40 years and is the best protection against mosquitos.  Since the mid 1950’s, DEET has undergone extensive testing and billions of applications.  DEET is available in varying concentrations.  A 30% product would provide about 6 hours of protection, and is best for most adults.  There are guidelines for the use of insect repellents for children under the age of 12.  As a precaution, wash off insect repellent when you come indoors and do not use a DEET based repellent on your pets! 
b) Natural Remedies
There are a number of natural insect repellents, using such things as eucalyptus oil, citronella oil and soy bean oil.  The word ‘natural’ suggests a gentle, toxic-free method of protection, but the effectiveness of natural products still relies on chemical action.  Some plants are toxic and many used in repellents contain volatile plant oils.   Algonquin Outfitters note: many of these are quite effective but generally do not last as long as DEET-based products. Trial and error or expert advice are the way to go here. I personally find products containing tea tree oil and eucalyptus to be reasonably effective.
c) Homestyle Remedies  (ie:  Wendy’s tricks after 25 years in the wild!!)
There are several ‘home’ remedies:  ingesting foods high in sulphur, coating your skin with petroleum jelly, eating onions, eating garlic.  Its safe to say that the amount of garlic that you’d have to eat would leave you friendless long before you repelled any mosquitos.
Some personal things that you can do to minimize the amount of bugs around you:
- avoid wearing dark colours - these attract bugs
- avoid eating bananas
- keep cool - heat and sweat attract bugs
- don’t breathe!  - C02 attracts bugs!
- don’t use perfumed shampoos, soaps or makeup (try citronella-based shampoo & body washes)
- use bug jackets or at least head nets. Algonquin Outfitters note: these products are a physical barrier against bug bites. If you live and/or work in bug country, you definitely need a bug jacket. We carry a wide range and are big fans of the Original Bug Shirt.
- seal pant legs and sleeve cuffs to shut out insects
- impregnate a bandana with DEET or Citronella and tie around your neck
- sit (or stand) a minimum of 3 metres (10 feet) away from the next person.  Space allows air to circulate, decreases the amount of warmth and CO2 around you.
 Canoe tripping in bug season can be quite enjoyable if you are prepared to deal with our flying friends. You are guaranteed not to see many other people, that's for sure!