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...