Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to fill a theatre

How do you make a theatre go from this:
Huntsville's beautiful Algonquin Theatre is ready for the BMFF
 To this? (sorry for the bad picture)
BMFF Road Warrior Paul Price gives the thumbs up to Huntsville enthusiasm
 All you need to do is host the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour! The shows last Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Huntsville's Algonquin Theatre were sold out performances, with great films, great door prizes and a good time had by all. 

Algonquin Outfitters has been involved with this event in Huntsville since the very beginning. Once upon a time, a young outdoor instructor named Paul Brittain, who worked at the now-defunct Summit College, came to us with a proposal, something along the lines of: "So, there are these cool films, and we have a great venue but we need some help." So help we did. Eventually, the event outgrew the beautiful Chapel at MBC, so we moved to Grandview Resort. Then they built this beautiful theatre in downtown Huntsville and here we are selling out two showings in a frozen cottage-country town of 20,000 people. Way to go Huntsville!  And beyond, for that matter. We get people from places like Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Vankoughnet, Haliburton, Ravenscliffe, South River, Kearney, Emsdale, Killaloe and even some regulars who drive up from Toronto just to see the show here.

I re-counted on my fingers – we have presented the World Tour for 16 years and I have have been fortunate to have seen every performance. The movies this year were among the best ever. And that is saying a lot, given some of the memorable films we've seen over the years: some standouts for me were The Human Race (1997), Bhutan - The Last Shangri-La (1998), True Fans (1999), Berserk in the Antarctic (2001), Biscuit (2003), Sinners (2004), The Hatch (2005), Asiemut and Aweberg (2006) and the list goes on. Feel free to comment below if you have a favourite from this year, or any year.

Amazing things happen when people see these films. You can expect to be moved, possibly shocked, occasionally brought to tears, inspired, certainly made to laugh, amazed at the physical ability and mental endurance of the human race and have your jaw drop in awe at a landscape you never knew existed on this planet. The great thing about being a host is that people will spontaneously share their impressions and tell you their stories. Last night was no exception. At intermission, I ran into a man I just met the day before, a friend of a friend. I asked him what he thought of A Life Ascending, our feature film of the evening. He looked me straight in the eye and said, " That was life-changing." 

Wow. At the end of the night, one of the theatre volunteers, a woman, I would think, in her sixties, came up to me and said: "You know, I really liked that kayaking movie. It made me think that if I had my life to live over again, I'd like to try that." Wow, again.

Stay tuned, next year's film choices will be announced on this blog sometime around the first week of December.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Ontario Parks reservation system is up and running today!

Are you looking forward to this? Then read on! Photo by Steve Baker.
The long-awaited "new and improved" Ontario Parks permit reservation system just went live this morning. The parks folks claim it is a faster and more efficient system and early reports from my spies inside the park confirm that this is the case. For full details, click here. The FAQ page is worth reading as well.

Don't forget about these! Photo by Brad Coultes.
Since OP has gone back to CAMIS, the service provider prior to the 2010 season, it's kind of a "plus ça change, plus ca reste la même chose" situation but here are a few highlights:

1) As before, Algonquin Park Interior reservations can only be made by phone: call 1-888-668-7275 with your access point and the names of the lakes you intend to camp on each night at the ready. If you live outside of North America, you can call: 1-519-826-5290.

2) Woohoo! "Reservation and camping fees will remain the same for the 2011 season. There will be a $1 savings if the reservation is made online."

3) The five month in advance reservation window remains in effect. Start counting the days!

If you are not sure about where to start with this process, there are a number of sources of reliable information about canoe routes. The first step is to get a map, It is difficult to give specific route advice without knowing whether you have a park map and what previous experience you have in Algonquin Park.

PDF versions of two different Algonquin Park maps are available on line:

Algonquin Park has this too! Photo by Martin Jordan
A somewhat dated version of the "official" Algonquin Park Canoe Route Map, useful for for general route planning, is available here.

Jeffrey McMurtrie's much more detailed and recently updated map is available here and for on-line viewing at our web site.

If you want a real map that you can hold in your hands, lay out on the table and make notes on, you can order the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map (along with guide books and many other useful park publications) on-line from the Friends of Algonquin Park Bookstore. The highly detailed Adventure Maps for Algonquin Park are available from our friends at Chrismar Mapping Services.

For the most comprehensive unofficial site, lots of trip planning information, route ideas, trip logs and other related links, check out Algonquin Adventures.

Descriptions of many Algonquin routes can also be found at the Canadian Canoe Routes Algonquin page:

Fine dining awaits on every campsite! Photo by Bob Hansen.
There are guidebooks available that can help you with your canoe trip planning. "A Paddler's Guide to Algonquin," by Kevin Callan, has some excellent route descriptions and canoe trip tales. Don Lloyd's fine book, "Canoeing Algonquin Park," is another very useful resource for trip planning. Different areas of the park are described and mapped so that you can put your own trip together. A great deal of historical information and natural history is also presented. You can order both these books on-line at the Friend's bookstore.