Sunday, May 29, 2005

Clean Up Algonquin Park for Free!

For the last nineteen years, on the first full weekend of June, Algonquin Outfitters has sponsored this popular event to help clean up Algonquin Park canoe routes. It is an excellent opportunity for individuals and groups to give something back to Algonquin Park.

The Clean-Up Weekend is open to all, even to those who don't need to rent a canoe! Individuals, families, outers' clubs and Scout troops have all participated in the past. This event is run at Algonquin Outfitters' main canoe outfitting store in Oxtongue Lake. Participants usually arrive and register early on Saturday morning. Staff members explain the guidelines of the event, provide participants with garbage bags and flagging tape and help select canoes and other equipment. Participants are responsible for routing their canoe trip and paying for camping permits. While paddling and portaging through the park, participants are responsible for stopping at campsites and portages to pick up litter and look for natural or human-caused damage to report to Ontario Parks staff.

Clean-Up Weekend participants can take advantage of free canoe rentals for aluminum canoes, a discounted rate for Kevlar canoes and 50% off complete outfitting. Trips can start on Friday or extend to Monday and still qualify. On Sunday afternoon, prizes are presented, with awards for the most litter collected, the most unusual item found and most bug bites. There are also draws for some great door prizes!

You must make a reservation with Algonquin Outfitters to receive the discounted or free rentals. Call 1-800-469-4948 (705-635-2243) for more information or to reserve.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Luc Mahler bike race results...

This just in....

Luc is doing well at the Canada Cup Camp. He only has one result posted so far, from Sunday the 22nd. He placed 7th (of 16) in the Junior Expert H division. If you go to the Canada Cup site and click on "results", you will see his posting on the last of the 4 options.

Scratch, scratch, scratch...

I got my first black fly bite of the season today!

The black flies restrained themselves over the recent holiday weekend and Algonquin Park canoe trippers enjoyed cool but otherwise nice weather. Best of all - bug free! Not so today. When I arrived at work this morning, I was admiring the glass-calm waters of Oxtongue Lake, back-lit by the morning sun. All looked serene and peaceful except for the halo of hungry insects buzzing around the heads of two young German fellows packing their bags for a canoe trip. As soon as the store the store was open, they came in and bought bug hats!

The key to camping in bug season is to have a positive attitude, use physical protection (like a bug shirt or bug hat at the least) and avoid using scented soaps and shampoos. There is a wide variety of insect repellant available and as many opinions about what works.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The first long weekend of the season

The May long weekend, with the holiday officially known as Victoria Day, is in full swing. Cool weather has kept the black flies at bay and Algonquin park is full of people canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping and having fun. Our store was really busy yesterday and it's great to see a succesful "kick-off" weekend to the 2005 canoeing season.

Sadly, Algonquin Park sees its' share of holiday mishaps and this weekend has been no exception. We've heard sirens and seen emergency vehicles head into the park twice since Friday morning, responding to vehicle accidents. The air ambulance was called in both times to evacuate seriously injured people. Tragically, a motorcyclist was killed when he hit a deer near the West Gate. Incidents like this underscore the fact that the most dangerous part of a canoe trip is the drive up. Take care when you are driving!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Go Luc Go!

Many of our canoe customers may not be aware that the "bikes and boards" division of our Huntsville store is very active in sponsorship and support of competitive atheletes. We sponsor a number of local mountain bike racers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers, wakeboarders and adventure racers.

One of these racers, Luc Mahler of Huntsville, has been selected to attend the Ontario Team Training camp and to race in the Canada Cup races in Bromont, Quebec this weekend and at Mont Tremblant the following Saturday.

We wish Luc the best of luck and will keep you posted on his progress.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Good fishing for Rich and friends...

Despite cold weather and blustery conditions, Rich reports that the fishing was excellent. He was a bit vague on which lake produced the best fish but is the the way of the succesful angler. "Yes, we caught fish but I won't tell you where..."

I saw pictures of nice sized (11 pounds) lake trout and some fat brook trout. I haven't figured out how to put pictures on this blog yet, so unfortunately I can't share them.

The Bell canoes received rave reviews - fast, light, stable.

Check out all the Bell whitewater boats at
Palmerfest this weekend.

Support your local outdoor educator

In the spring and fall, we provide canoes and equipment to a number of school groups. These groups are generally high school students and usually fall into one of two categories: "outer's clubs" or physical education classes. These groups are organized and led by some very dedicated teachers who have to pass through some incredible hoops and jumps to get these young people into Algonquin Park. Funding cuts, difficulty getting supply teachers and liability concerns are a few of of the big ones.

Neverthless, the enthusiasm and commitment of both new and experienced teachers organizing and leading these trips is inspiring. Right now, in the peak of black fly season, we have two schools out on trips. These teachers and students deserve a big pat on the back for their effort!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Look out fish!

Early this morning, Rich Swift, the General Manager of Algonquin Outfitters, and three friends headed up Lake Opeongo in one of our water taxis, on the first leg of their annual spring fishing trip. Their ultimate destination was Lake Lavielle, a remote large lake northeast of Opeongo. Lavielle holds a special place in the Swift family's hearts as it was the favorite lake of Rich's father, the late Bill Swift Sr., better known as Swifty. The trip to Lavielle is not an easy one. The most direct route in and out requires that you walk the famous (or infamous) five km Dickson-Bonfield portage both ways. Swifty claimed that as a young man, guiding for Camp Pathfinder, he ran the portage "fully loaded" in 41 minutes. Fully loaded, in those days, meant carrying a waterlogged cedar-canvas canoe and a heavy canvas canoe pack. In his uniquely colorful language, he described his physical appearance at the time as "all legs and eyeballs." Anyone who knew Swifty can imagine what a sight that would have been!

Rich and his forty-something crew (one is even fifty-something) will have an easier trek over the portage. They are testing our newest rental canoes, the Bell Northwind, a canoe that weighs, appropriately, forty-something pounds in the "KevLight" construction. Look for these at our Oxtongue lake and Opeongo stores, in the Featherweight Carbon-Kevlar rental category.

Swifty often said that Algonquin Park offers "excellent fishing for the ambitious." Good luck to Rich, Scott, Tek and Doug!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Where did those bugs go?

Cool weather over the last day or two has kept the blacks flies at bay. Keep your eye on the forecast if you are coming up in the next week or so - warm weather means bugs, cool weather means they'll hold off for a while.

White and red trilliums are in full bloom - what a lovely sight! Most trees are "leafing up" and should be in full foliage within the next two weeks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

They're back.....

Well, I hate to admit it but I saw a few Black Flies yesterday. The good news is that the temperature has dropped dramatically and frost is predicted for tonight, so that will slow down the onslaught for a few more days. The other good news is that the first of the critters to hatch don't bite much, they just buzz around and annoy you. Consider it training...

If you would like to learn more about Black Flies, check out what our friends at Agriculture Canada have to say. If you would like to celebrate Black Fly culture, you can always participate in the town of South River's annual Black Fly Hunt! Going to Maine soon? The Maine Nature News has a very detailed Black Fly Report and rating system.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Spring in Algonquin Park

Spring has truly arrived. The trilliums are up, though not yet in flower, trees are"leafing up" and there is a lovely tinge of green to the forest horizon. Best of all, the black flies are still asleep, so anyone lucky enough to be in Algonquin Park can enjoy bug-free camping, for a little while.

A big family group came back today from their annual trip down the Oxtongue River. The spring floosd has subsided and the river is now at a reasonable level for canoe tripping. The Oxtongue is an often-overlooked canoe trip option and is a nice introduction to river tripping. It can be done as a one, two or three day trip, depending where you start. There are two very scenic waterfalls to portage around and a few short portages around smaller rapids. Chrismar Mapping has produced a detailed "Adventure Map" of the river, available at our Oxtongue Lake store.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

What a Day...

What a day to be on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park! The weather is beautiful: sun is shining, no wind, no bugs, pleasant cool spring morning temperature, what more could you ask for?

This time of year is one of the best-kept secrets of the canoeing calendar - the pre-black fly, early May canoe trip. You should try it sometime!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Sailing, sailing...

Our ace canoe repairman, Johnny Gall, just got back from an ice-out fishing trip, up on the "western boundary" of Algonquin Park. They didn't have much luck fishing, what with the crazy weather last week (hail, snow, wind, rain) but did have an amazing canoe sailing experience on Ralph Bice Lake. He and his two friends were travelling in three solo canoes, so they lashed the craft together and rigged up a huge tarp for a simple downwind sail. The wind was fairly strong, and they got going so fast they almost ran into on the remaining ice at the far end of the lake. Forty-five minutes from teh Hambone portage to the east end of the lake is very good time.

Campers on shore came out from under their tarps to witness the wild episode and one wag shouted at them, "don't you know this is a "no-wake" zone!"

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Open Boats are Here!

I've haven't seen so many open whitewater canoes in our yard for years! It was very exciting yesterday when the Bell Canoe truck and trailer arrived yesterday, loaded with models like the Ocoee, Prodigy, Prodigy X and Nexus. The Nexus is even rigged with the triple saddle system, enabling it to be paddled as a solo or tandem (or triple??? I'm not so sure about that) canoe. Some of these canoes are for sale, some for rent - stay tuned for details.

Ontario whitewater enthusiasts will be able to try out all of these models at the upcoming PalmerFest and Single Blade Symposium, at Palmer Rapids, May 21-22. Algonquin Outfitters will have a booth there, with lots of great deals on paddles, used kayaks and more!

More Bell boats are coming later. Their Kevlar touring canoes are among the lightest in the industry - we will offer them in our "Featherweight" rental category and have them for sale at the Huntsville store..

Speaking of new rental canoes, we are making a substantial investment in new Swift canoes for our fleet this year. Look for brand new versions of our most popular rental models like the Kipawa, Algonquin and Winisk.

Opeongo is Good to Go!

Our water taxis have been all the way up both the North Arm and East Arm! They report that the lake is clear of ice.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Water Taxi Adventure

OK, at some point we'll stop talking about the ice on Opeongo Lake. These days, however, it is an item of great interest to outfitters, trout anglers and canoe trippers using Opeongo Lake as an access point for the Algonquin Park interior.

Current conditions on Opeongo Lake: the South Arm is open but there is a big sheet of ice floating arond in the channel leading to the North Arm. The narrows leading to the East Arm is blocked but there appears to be open water beyond. Jerry Schmanda, the Opeongo Store manager, speculated that there would still be ice at the east end of the East Arm. We anticipate that Opeongo Lake wil be completely open by Thursday or Friday. We have no reports on interior lakes like Hogan, Lavielle or Big Trout.

One of our water taxis was able to take some canoe trippers to the Happy Isle portage, in the North Arm, this morning. On the return trip he was almost trapped by a huge floating, wind-blown ice floe, which was threatening to push the boat up on shore! The driver had to jump out of the boat at the shore and push it along the shrinking stretch of open water, with the ice pushing on the opposite side! This would have been no small feat, considering that the boat is an 18-foot welded aluminum work boat with a 90 HP outboard motor and that he was wading along a rocky shore in ice-cold water. Anybody who has ever envied the job of a water taxi driver's job of piloting boats up a big northern lake on a warm summer day might think twice when considering that those boats run from late April to mid-October, in all conditions. There are days when it is a cold, wet and very challenging occupation!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Cedar Lake is Open!

Just got off the satellite phone with our staff at the Brent Store, on beautiful Cedar Lake in Algonquin Park. They report that Cedar is completely open, with a little bit of ice floating around the east end.

Still no word on other interior lakes.

Opeongo Lake Ice Update

It is snowing heavily as I write this. Our water taxi drivers at the Opeongo Store report that the South Arm of Opeongo is half open. This morning, a boat got as far as the East Arm narrows but encountered solid ice beyond that point.

Conditions change rapidly, so stay tuned or call the Opeongo Store at 1-888-280-8886 for an up-to-the-minute report.

The good news is that all lakes south of Hwy 60 are open. This weekend, several hardy parties braved wind, hail, rain and snow and reported good fishing results from lakes accessible via the Rock Lake, Cache Lake and Smoke Lake access points.

Most lakes accessible from access points on the west side of Algonquin Park, like Tim River and Magnetewan Lake, are open.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ice Out in Algonquin Park

The big question on every Algonquin Park canoeist's mind right now is, "is the ice out in the park yet?"

After a long, cold, snowy winter, the answer (as of today) is, "not completely!"

Ontario Parks staff flew over the park two days ago and conditions haven't changed much since then. All lakes south of Hwy 60 are open, though you may still find sheets of ice floating around in larger lakes like Cache, Smoke and Louisa. Water levels are VERY high.

North of the highway, it's a different story. On Lake Opeongo, for example, the lake is completely frozen beyond Bates Island in the South Arm. Large interior lakes like Big Trout, Lavielle, Ralph Bice and Cedar are all ice-covered, with some open areas. Considering the weather forecast, things are not expected to change very quickly. Canoeists travelling at this time of year must be extremely careful. The water and air temperature is just above freezing and drifting ice could trap you for some time. Rivers like the Petawawa, Nipissing and Amable du Fond are in full spring flood, so extreme caution should be taken approaching portages and fast water sections.

When does the ice go out? A few seasons ago, our intrepid reporters unearthed a secret document revealing the results of a 33 year study of ice-out dates on Opeongo Lake. Opeongo is usually the last lake to open up in Algonquin Park. "Ice-out" refers to the day when boat travel from end to end is unimpeded by ice. Over 33 years of record-keeping, the average ice-out date was April 30, the earliest was April 12, 1981, and the latest, May 15, 1972. The official ice-out date for 2004 was April 25. With such a wide range of potential dates, you now know why our staff have such difficulty answering that popular question, "When will the ice go out this year?" The best strategy for trip planning is to have a flexible schedule and route plan and to phone us closer to your trip dates to get a better prediction.

For the official Algonquin Park report on ice conditions, click here. For an informative and relatively up to date report on Canoe Lake conditions, visit the Electric Penquin site.

I will post new ice reports as we receive them.