Friday, December 12, 2008

BMFF film lists for Huntsville, Jan. 20 & 21

Here it is, the film list for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour’s stop in Huntsville, Jan. 20 & 21, 2009, presented by Algonquin Outfitters. Thanks to Stefanie and Seana of the Banff Centre for their excellent advice and recommendations.

Remember, if you attend both shows, save your ticket stubs and receive a one-time 15% discount on any regularly-priced item at Algonquin Outfitters.

Please note that, unlikely though it is, film selections may change at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances.

Reviews are not available for all the films in the program but I have included a few to whet your appetite.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009.
Doors open at 6:30 pm, the show starts at 7:30 pm.
Get tickets now!

Award: People’s Choice, Radical Reels Night
Canada, 2007, 12 minutes
Directed by Alexander Lavigne
Produced by Ryan Leech

Description: Combining sheer difficulty with creative style, three athletes execute mind-bending feats of bike mastery and redefine technical riding standards.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“...a fantastic short sport film that keeps the crowd mesmerized and brings on the oohs, aahs and even applause..."
Journey to the Center
Award: Best Film on Mountain Sport
USA, 2007, 55 minutes
Directed by Jens Hoffman
Produced by Iiro Seppanen and Jeb Corliss

Description: Journey with three world-renowned BASE jumpers as they travel 10,000 miles to confront the mist and mystery of an old cave, an ancient culture and their own demons at the center of their dangerous mission: Tian Keng, the Heavenly Pit.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“The film has everything…beautiful imagery and scenery, human connections, diversity in the characters, great storyline and build up of excitement and tension in the jumper’s journey and preparations for their mission.”

“ palms are still sweating!”
Patagonian Winter
Award: Special Jury Selection
UK, 2007, 31 minutes
Directed and Produced by Alastair Lee

Description: Andy Kirkpatrick is a pioneer of winter climbing in Patagonia, with many hair-raising ascents to his name. His latest Patagonian horror show is an attempt at the first winter ascent of Torre Egger with fellow alpinist Ian Parnell.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“...a classic alpine film with unbearable conditions, difficult ascents, insufferable bivouacs all laced with Andy and Ian’s self deprecating British humour. Audiences loved this film for the story & imagery, but most of all for their incessant jokes and funny perspective of their often appalling situations.”
The Cable Car
Switzerland, 2008, 7 minutes
Directed by Claudius Gentinetta, Frank Braun
Produced by Claudius Gentinetta

Description: While traveling by cable car to a place somewhere in the mountains, an old man treats himself to some snuff. With every sneeze, the cable car cabin falls apart more and more, but the man is far from accepting his fate.

The Sharp End: Eastern Europe
USA, 2008, 17 minutes
Directed and produced by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen

Description: A talented group of climbers explores the unique history, culture, and danger of one of the world’s most remarkable climbing destinations.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“Once again a great storyline, unique rock formations backed by beautiful scenery, non traditional climbing techniques and an interesting meeting of the American and German/Czech climbing culture. This film has something for everybody...”
Under the Influence
USA, 2008, 12 minutes
Produced and Directed by Todd Jones, Steve Jones, Corey Gavitt

Description: Follow the mind-blowing efforts of today’s top riders in the amazing conditions that emerged from one of the deepest winters in recorded history. This special version for the Banff tour features relentless powder in Jackson Hole and incredibly steep spines in Alaska.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“This is another classic Teton Gravity Research Film, steep lines, big ascents and helishots of backcountry and big mountain skiing.”

“, excitement, danger, photography, powder... It’s TGR; what more can you say?”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009.
Doors open at 6:30 pm, the show starts at 7:30 pm.
Get tickets now!

The Red Helmet
USA, 2008, 6 minutes
Directed by Tyler Young
Produced by Dave Barlia

Description: Overcome with fear, a young boy runs into the forest. He finds a magic red helmet and goes on the adventure of a lifetime. Slowly building courage, he is transformed and returns to confront his boyhood fears.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“...provides a really great montage of different sports in a short period of time, with a fantastic soundtrack.”
If You’re Not Falling
Award: Best Short Mountain Film
UK, 2008, 8 minutes
Directed by Paul Diffley
Produced by Dave Brown

Description: Canadian rock legend Sonnie Trotter heads to Scotland to do battle on another “hardest rock climb in the world”. As each day passes, he collects more and more airtime: fifty-foot falls from the steep rock buttress that plunges down beneath a historic castle. “Well, if you’re not falling, you’re not trying,” observes Trotter.

Red Gold
Award: People’s Choice
USA, 2008, 54 minutes
Directed by Ben Knight and Travis Rummel
Produced by Travis Rummel

Description: At the headwaters of the two largest remaining sockeye salmon runs on the planet, a proposed mine may require the largest dam ever constructed to contain the toxic runoff. Native, commercial and sport fishermen oppose the proposed Pebble Mine, while mine officials argue the case for development. At stake is a unique way of life that would not exist if the salmon didn't return with Bristol Bay's tide.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:

“The most talked about film so far on the tour. It is a stunning mosaic of photography, land and seascapes, real people’s stories and a mine that threatens the largest run of sockeye salmon on the planet.”

“The photography in Red Gold was wonderful.... No wonder this film was the Peoples' Choice!”

“All of this year's choices were very good. Only Red Gold stood out in a class of its own.”
The Unbearable Lightness of Skiing
Canada, 2008, 14 minutes
Directed and Produced by Greg Hill

Description: A season of backcountry skiing, described by a keen and passionate narrator.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:

“Beautiful scenery, great narrative by the filmmaker and ski ascents and descents that are dreamy. A film with a local feel but broad appeal.”

“This is a great ski film, particularly for audiences that are adverse to the sponsored, hip-hop, TGR type of film. Great footage, mellow soundtrack, a few laughs.”
USA, 2008, 10 minutes
Directed and produced by Stephen Hyde

Description: A Peruvian family journeys into the Andes to cut enormous blocks of ice, bringing them down to the valley to make colorful shaved ice treat called Shikashika.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“ upbeat and lighthearted film on an aspect of Peruvian culture.”

“...showcases a lifestyle that is very different to our way of life.”

USA, 2007, 3 minutes
Directed and produced by Joaquin Baldwin

Description: An origami tale of a skillful paper folder who shapes the world with his hands.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“...great short animation, very kid friendly...”

“...shows the diversity of the festival entries... makes you think about what the world has become.”
Mountain Town: The Cowboy and the Park Goddess
USA, 2007, 13 minutes
Directed by Brendan Kiernan and Frank Pickell
Produced by Steve Metcalf and Brendan Kiernan

Description: Isabelle Fallardeau is a young woman whose passion for snowboarding and penchant for power tools has led her to a career as one of the world's only female terrain park builders. Mac Smith is a lifelong rancher, environmentalist and ski patrolman who experienced personal tragedy and triumph while leading the development of Aspen’s Highlands Bowl.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“a really great short film portraying 2 mountain town characters that reveals their lives through what they do for a living. The cowboy portion has some really great vintage ski footage from the 70’s and 80’s and the Park Goddess is quite down to earth and inspirational for a younger audience. This film has really good broad appeal and has something for everyone.”

“Great human interest story.”

The Last Frontier - Papua New Guinea
USA, 2008, 18 minutes
Directed and produced by Trip Jennings

Description: The Epicocity crew travel to Papua New Guinea to document the island of New Britain’s pristine water, habitat and intact indigenous culture through an exploratory caving and kayaking expedition.

Reviews from the Banff Mountain Film Festival:
“Probably the most well-done paddling film we’ve had. I think it should be included at every location. With its mix of culture and sport, it can be enjoyed by non-paddlers.”

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A little insight on film selection for the BMFF

Now that tickets are on sale for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Huntsville, we get many inquiries about what films are playing each night. In order to answer this question in a roundabout way, I will now reveal how film selection works, or at least, how it works here.

Algonquin Outfitters has a film selection committee of one, yours truly. Once the films are selected for the World Tour, the hardworking folks at the the Banff Centre compile a list of films available to screen and make it available to tour hosts. The list tells me the film's title, director & producer, country of origin, length, classification (ie. general audience or parental guidance), awards won at the festival, subject focus and a short description. Even more useful is a list of comments made by audience members, festival staff and "road warriors" who have seen the film either at the festival in Banff or on early dates of the world Tour. Not every film on the list gets reviewed this early, so sometimes all the information I have is a descriptive sentence by the film-maker. The festival also has resources and guidelines for film selection and sends out a promo DVD containing short clips from selected films (for some reason I haven't received one yet). There are also some great resources and an excellent contest for the interested public.

With this information, I go through the list and make notes. Certain films jump out as "100 % must show," others as "no way," most as "maybe" and a few as "well, I'd really like to see that but will anyone else?" After 10 years of hosting the festival in Huntsville, I think I have a reasonable sense of what will or will not appeal to our audience. Having said that, our audience is one of the most diverse on the tour, so it is not easy to predict and I long ago accepted the fact that you can't please everyone. Then, I use a spreadsheet to make a list for each night, which calculates running times for the first and second halves and the whole evening. I used to use a calculator for this but then I discovered Excel. Finally, I email my preliminary list to the Banff Centre and get the tour coordinator's opinion. Her opinions on audience reaction, the order films should be shown, music and film quality are invaluable.

So that is where I'm at in the process for this year. Once I hear back from the "Banff people," I will finalize the list and post it on this very blog.

If you are anxious to buy tickets before that, and can only go to one night, I will say this. The first night (Jan. 20) leans more towards towards the action sport/adventure category but this year's film selection contains films with many layers of themes. Many of the action sport films have underlying themes of culture, travel and human interest that will give them a broad appeal.

The second night (Jan. 21) features a wider range of film subjects, leaning more towards nature, mountain culture, humour, creative film-making and adventurous travel. And, of course, there are ski films in the list for each night!

I hope this helps!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Banff Mtn. Film Festival tickets available now!

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

Please note there are two shows, on Tuesday, January 20 and Wednesday, Jan. 21. Different films are shown each night. I recommend going to both! No, I haven't picked the films yet but will in the next two weeks or so. Check this blog later for a list if you would like more details on the films being shown 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.

Here's a teaser - check out the always exciting World Tour Intro Video:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The things we do to stay connected...

After the heavy wet snowfall we received recently, I had to trek across the AO roof with a broom and clean off the satellite dish. Despite the fact that we are not that far from civilization, satellite is our only option for high-speed internet. It's pretty reliable but the dish doesn't work too well when it is coated with an inch of crusty snow...

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Algonquin web

This must be the season for creating web sites. Well, it is that awkward in-between time in this part of the world when you can't paddle because the lakes are frozen, you can't ski or snowshoe because there is not enough snow, hiking or biking is awkward because there is some snow, so what's an outdoor person to do? For some, apparently, the answer is to stay inside and make web sites. Or blog.

Along the lines of Gord Bell's site, referenced in my last post, Bob McElroy has recently created The Algonquin Web, a compendium of Algonquin-related blog and news feeds. I am honoured that he elected to include this blog in his list. Thanks Bob!

In Bob's words:
The Algonquin Web comprises references to news stories, blog entries, and website updates related to canoe tripping and camping in Algonquin Park and surrounding territory (which includes, in practice, most of the adjacent Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Forest). It is compiled by melding selected rss feeds, augmented with the manual addition of items.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Handy new weather site & winter links

If you are a weather forecast junkie like me, you'll like this handy web site created by Gord Bell, owner of the Beauview Cottage Resort in nearby Baysville.

The site, called accu-window-weather, has links to a number web cams located in tourism destinations throughout Ontario. If you don't believe the forecast, there's nothing like a sneak peak to double-check!

Who knows, maybe some day Algonquin Outfitters will have a weather web cam (hint, hint)...

While we are blogging about weather, here are a couple of other handy links for the upcoming winter season:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Winter is here!

Happy winter from Algonquin Outfitters!

Sometimes it is hard to believe in global warming. When I drove into Oxtongue Lake this morning, I was surprised to see that at least 75% of the main body of the lake was frozen over, an unusual event for this time of year.

Well, the ice is thick enough for a fox to make tracks on it...

The same scene taken on Nov. 24, 2006 - winter arrived late that year

While some Ontario ski resorts are opening tomorrow and southwestern Ontario is experiencing huge snowfall amounts this week (I heard that some areas south of Lake Huron will be getting up to 60 CM over the next 48 hours), our area has a nice coverage but still not enough for skiing and snowshoeing. Be patient, it will come!

Outfitter Creek is still running
Look at the strange shadows made by the canoe rack

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Banff Mtn. Film Festival coming Jan. 20 & 21, 2009

Algonquin Outfitters presents the 2008/2009
Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour

Tuesday, Jan. 20 & Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Algonquin Outfitters is again bringing the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to the beautiful Algonquin Theatre for two nights. Each evening will feature a different selection of films. Stay tuned to this blog, film descriptions will be posted mid-December.

For the last ten years, Algonquin Outfitters has hosted this spectacular showing of mountain films in Huntsville. Films in the world tour bring the spirit of adventure to life on the screen and feature a wide variety of stories - from mountain sports, mountain culture and the environment - to entice and inspire viewers.

The tour features a collection of 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 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, Alberta. The world tour spans the globe, making its way to North and South America, Europe, South Africa, India, Poland and Iceland.

Advance tickets will be available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E., in historic downtown Huntsville, on-line at or by calling the theatre box office at (705) 789-4975, or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352.

Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students. Folks buying tickets for both shows can exchange their two ticket stubs for a 15% discount on their next purchase at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or Oxtongue Lake.

Huntsville has a great reputation among the BMFF tour coordinators - let's give them another warm Huntsville welcome in 2009!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Tuesday, October 21 marks the date of the first significant snowfall this fall. And me without snow tires on yet...

Ooops, still need to wash, er, shovel, a few canoes.

The safest place for a kayak or canoe in this weather is on shore.

The trusty '53 GMC is always ready to go on a canoe trip...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Fall colours are peaking NOW in Algonquin Park

You have to see it to believe it but the colours are spectacular right now. Quick, get in your car and drive north!

The Algonquin Park web site has an informative page on the fall colours, with a cool graph showing leaf change activity, recommended leaf viewing locations and more.

While you are there, check out the annual Fish Survey Results and start planning your spring fishing trip for 2009!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

See the fall colours from space

You don't need to buy a ticket on Richard Branson's rocket to see the world from space. Regular followers of this blog will remember that we recommend the NOAA satellite image for the Great Lakes region for following ice-out progress. These images, updated several times daily, are also a useful tool for checking on the advance of fall colours in southern Ontario. Since the colours in this image are true, green and red forest cover shows up quite clearly. Check the image for Sept. 23 and you will see that the western area of Algonquin Park is showing a lot of red tinge. This corresponds with what we can see on the ground - the colours on the west side of Algonquin Park are lovely right now, with a nice mix of brilliant red, orange, yellow and green. Peak red will happen in another week or so depending on the weather. The danger of waiting too long to see the colours is that heavy rain and/or wind can knock the leaves out of the trees.

If you haven't looked at the NOAA 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 to the right and down until you can recognize Georgian Bay, then go right (east) and look for familiar 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.

For a second opinion, and an overview of the fall colour situation throughout Ontario, visit the Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Algonquin memories of September 11

Every generation has defining moments that cause people to ask "where were you on such-and-such a day." Some are celebrated, like "the day a man stepped on the moon," but sadly, most of these days are tragic, like "the day JFK was assassinated" or "the day John Lennon was shot." September 11, 2001, is now one of those defining moments and I can't help thinking thinking about my own experience that day.

My wife and I were finalizing plans for a road trip down to the eastern seaboard of the US, specifically to Assateague Island. Just before 9 am, around the same time planes were crashing into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, I was trying to call the US National Park Service and change my camping reservation. Of course, I had no idea that all the government buildings in Washington DC had been evacuated, so was getting a little frustrated that I couldn't get through to anybody. Eventually I called the park directly and the friendly park ranger told me that he couldn't get through either and that something funny seemed to be going on. While not that far away, that person, like me, had no idea what was happening. So, off I went to the hardware store to get a few items. While there, I noticed that an unusual number of people were gathering in front of the display television and that the news coming from it was very strange. I watched for a while, then went home and like many people, spent the rest of the day glued to the television watching the bizarre and tragic events of that day unfold.

The strangeness didn't end there, though. Over the next few days, back at work at Algonquin Outfitters, I had the unusual task of explaining to people returning from canoe trips what had happened in the world while they were out in the park. I would say something like this: "OK, you are not going to believe what I am about to tell you but...." Reactions were predictably shock, disbelief, sadness and frustration over messed up travel plans. I remember one woman who absolutely refused to believe what I told her. How could you make this up? After I explained to him that he might want to call the airline, since all fights were grounded, a British fellow commented that he had noticed the absence of jet trails in the sky. He had assumed, since he was in the wilds of Algonquin Park, that planes didn't fly over the area at any time!

Needless to say, we changed our travel plans as well. We were planning to leave on Sept. 15 and our route would have taken us through both New York City and the outskirts of Washington. It just didn't seem like a good idea to go there at that time. We opened up the road atlas and drove east, to our own Maritime Provinces and had a great trip with no itinerary.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hardcore staff trips

Not looking totally into night paddling, our heroes depart the Opeongo dock.

A few of the many perks of working at Algonquin Outfitters are access to canoes and tripping gear, proximity to Algonquin Park and the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors at your doorstep. Trouble is, we all still work five days a week like the rest of the world, so some of our staff try to cram a lot of paddling into their limited time off. Chris Bosworth and Brad Coultes went off the scale this week with an unprecedented (to my knowledge) circuit of the "Opeongo - Lavielle loop" in 16.5 hours, without using the Water Taxi. To put this in perspective, I would generally recommend that the average canoe tripper take 5 days for this trip.

Hardcore tripping is not for the average paddler. This type of paddling adventure requires commitment, experience, teamwork and a willingness to put up with a little hardship. Both fellows have previous experience with Hardcore tripping. A few years ago, Chris paddled the Meanest Link route from our Brent Store to Opeongo (via Cedar, Radiant, Francis, the Crow River, Lavielle and Dickson) in 18 hours, with colleague Rob Finkbeiner. Travelling with Jon Wilke, Brad recently completed the Opeongo-Oxtongue Lake-Huntsville leg of the Meanest Link in under 30 hours, including one camping night.

Hardcore tripping is not a new thing in Algonquin Park. Back when he was a Camp Pathfinder trip leader, AO founder, Bill Swift, AKA the Mean Dude, claimed he did the Dickson-Bonfield portage in 41 minutes, fully loaded. Back in the early 50s, "fully loaded" meant carrying a canvas tripping pack and waterlogged cedar-canvas canoe, not modern lightweight gear. Paddling solo, our Opeongo Store manager did the Smoke Lake loop in 8 hours (a few years ago...). Many other hardcore trips by AO staff, park staff, camp trippers and others have gone unrecorded over the years.

Here is Brad's account of the trip (for those not familiar with the route, Dickson-Bonfield is a 5 km portage):

Bos and I completed another Hardcore trip yesterday........leaving Ope at 4:10 AM paddling up Opeongo in a meteor shower.......up through Proulx, down the Crow River to Lavielle and Dickson, back to Ope (Dickson-Bonfield took one hour exactly), then met up with Andy and Adrianne where Opeongo's three arms meet and back to the was a 16.5 hr trip! Thank God for the wind!
Photographic proof - they were there!

Yes, you are allowed to take a rest.

OK, one night paddle a day is enough...

Cruising with friends down Opeongo in Sawyer Cruisers .
We still have a few Cruisers in the fleet and they
are our fastest rental canoe.

Back at the Opeongo Store by dusk!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

High water and bugs on the Petawawa

Surf's up, on rare sunny day for this summer.

Our friends from the Canpaddle expedition sent some pictures and one of the trip members created a great blog (which, for some reason, is spelled blogg across the pond) with photos, captions and some much appreciated comments about how nice the people at Algonquin Outfitters are.

Uisdean M. sneaking around the big water. Most of this group paddled solo.
Note the bug shirts being worn by all three paddlers in the picture!

Portaging along the old rail line.

Rollway Rapid in mid-June. Woo hoo!

Uisdean running Rollway in fine style.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day with Mr. Canoehead

Kevin Callan and Bailey with the maple leaf canoe.

Well known guidebook author and stand-up comedian, Kevin Callan, dropped by our Oxtongue Lake store for a visit yesterday while en route to another Ontario park on his summer tour. We were really impressed with his new maple leaf motif canoe, specially commissioned to celebrate National Canoe Day. After some pictures of Kevin, his dog Bailey, the canoe and me, we retreated inside and forced him to sign some books.

Your humble blogger, Bailey and the canoe

The "Centre Ice Toonie" laminated inside the canoe

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nice day for a Canpaddle!

For the last few years, Algonquin Outfitters has been outfitting groups from the UK for whitewater training trips on Algonquin Park's Petawawa River. There is an surprisingly high level of canoeing culture and activity in the British Isles but they just don't have the extended wilderness river trips that we do. The "Canpaddle" crew below is a group of top-level BCU instructors and instructors-in-training getting set to do a day trip on our local Oxtongue River before heading out tomorrow for the Petawawa. Martin, second from the left, is on his second trip with us, check out his blog and great pictures from last year's expedition.

Expedition Canpaddle is ready for the river
Sorry about the blur - it must be a cloud of mosquitoes!

Monday, April 28, 2008

A little blast of winter

Rick, Steve and Bernie are in good spirits despite the new snow!

Rick is the Canadian distributor for the famous EGB brand of trout lures. They decided to warm up at our Oxtongue Lake store before heading back into Algonquin Park for more product testing. The weather is expected to improve tomorrow. As you can see, early season canoe trippers should be ready for anything!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Opeongo ice report

This just in.

As the park's report from Friday has indicated, most small to medium sized lakes in Algonquin Park are open. As of 3 pm today (Sunday, April 27), you could get as far as the East Arm Narrows. Currently the North Arm and East Arm are inaccessible by boat. After wind and rain yesterday, plus more wind today. Conditions are changing hourly.

If you are going to Opeongo Lake this week, the best way to get an up-to-the-minute report is to call our Opeongo Store directly: 1-888-280-8886.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ice from the air

Current conditions, based on info from park staff:
  • Streams and rivers are open. Water levels are very high and still rising.
  • In general, all interior lakes are frozen solid up to the shore.
  • Several access roads are impassable due to washouts and/or snow.
  • Check the Algonquin Park spring ice update for more details and safety messages.
  • Check the NOAA satellite images for big lake conditions
The good news?
  • Conditions are changing VERY quickly and the warm weather is continuing. Many smaller lakes will open in the next few days. Mew and Brewer Lakes, for example, are almost ice-free and we expect Costello to open today. There is open water in front of the Opeongo Store.
  • Park staff are planning another flight on Friday morning and will report on conditions by early afternoon that day.
Here are some images from yesterday's helicopter fight over Algonquin Park:

The East Arm of Opeongo Lake, looking west

The north end of Lake Lavielle

Happy Isle Lake, looking towards Merchant
(the dark area is cloud shadow, not black ice)

Pathfinder Island, on Source Lake

Crooked Chute, on the Petawawa River (yikes!)

The Natch. Nice place, if you could get there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Black ice, peepers and invisible moose

I drove through the park last night on my way home from a last blast of spring skiing in Vermont. Small ponds are open but all the big lakes you can see from the highway are still covered, with maybe a canoe length of open water around the shoreline. The good news is that the ice is very black, so clearly the hot sunny weather is having a dramatic effect. What we really need now is wind, to get the ice moving around, and rain, to dissolve it further. The forecast is calling for continued hot sunny weather, so regardless what else happens, there is a very good chance that many lakes will be open by the weekend. Hopefully all access roads will be too! Believe it or not, there is still patchy snow in the woods. Stay tuned and don't forget to check the Algonquin Park ice report.

While driving, I turned off the radio, opened the sunroof and was treated to the glorious sound of spring peepers. I also slowed down and kept a very watchful eye for moose. They are hanging out near (and on) the road. At night, moose are virtually invisible until one appears in your headlights. Even knowing the road and knowing the usual "moose zones" doesn't help. On my way through park very early Friday morning, I came as close as I ever have to hitting a moose at the Smoke Creek Bridge, one of the last places you'd expect to see one. The danger doesn't end at the park boundary either. Both moose and deer are commonly seen on Hwy 60 both east and west of Algonquin Park.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rays of hope and ice lore

Jerry Schmanda, our Opeongo Store manager, and I went to the annual Algonquin Park contractor's meeting yesterday. I was an interesting meeting and also gave me a great opportunity to see the ice situation first hand as we drove to and from the Algonquin Visitor Centre.

The "rays of hope" are the warm sunny days we have been having lately. Ice is deteriorating quickly and this morning it was clear that Fairy Lake, near Huntsville, will go out soon. Lakes in the park typically go out 10 days to two weeks later.

The interesting bit of ice lore we learned yesterday may give early season canoe trippers additional optimism for an more seasonal ice-out. According to Craig MacDonald, long time park staffer and guru of wilderness travel lore, "good ice" goes out faster than "bad ice." Good ice is that solid clear blue stuff we all dream of skating on. Bad ice, or "snow ice" is a multi-layered mix of ice and snow. The crystal structure of good ice absorbs heat and "candles" very quickly. Candle ice is a special phenomenon only experienced on a few days of the year.

The bottom line? Still too early to call but current indications are that ice may go out earlier than we thought. Algonquin Park staff are planning a fly-over on Tuesday or Wednesday of next. They will update the park's ice report as soon as possible after the flight.
Tea Lake as seen from the Smoke Creek bridge on Hwy 60, April 16

Fork Lake, seen from the deck at the Algonquin Visitor Centre, April 16

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Algonquin Park's ice report

The official word from Algonquin Park on the ice situation is now up and running.

Ice pictures from April 14

Hmmm. Three inches of new snow fell in some areas of Algonquin Park this past weekend, including Opeongo Lake. Staff at the Harkness fisheries research lab claim that with the sun and wind last week, at least 5" of surface ice was lost on Lake Opeongo. Of course, that leaves only about two feet to go. The good news is that daytime highs of 20 degrees are expected all over Algonquin Park later this week, so that should get things rolling. Thanks again to Jerry Schmanda, pictured at right, standing on his favourite lake, for taking the photos.

AO's Opeongo Store, as seen from the lake on April 14
As you can see, rental canoes are out and ready to go.
Note the snow on the roof!

Lake of Two Rivers - pretty much the same!

Snow on the Rock Lake Road
Apparently there are some big washouts from the January floods,
so many access roads could be in rough shape

Smoke Lake, seen through the power lines off Hwy 60

Hey! Open water! OK, it's beaver pond but it's a start...

Cow moose and two calves seen from Hwy 60.
Keep a watchful eye for deer and moose if you are driving!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ice pictures from April 10

Welcome to Algonquin Park.
Would you like to ski? Snowshoe? Canoe...not!

These pictures are a few days old but I'm sorry to report that things haven't changed much. Local river levels are VERY high right now, so lakes like Rock and Two Rivers should have some significant open leads at the river mouth. The Oxtongue River has opened a long lead into Oxtongue Lake but the rest of the lake is solid and white. All photos taken by Jerry Schmanda on his recent journey from Oxtongue Lake to Opeongo Lake. Hopefully we will have more images on Monday or Tuesday - stay tuned!

Smoke Lake, as seen from the landing

Canoe Lake, from the beach by the permit office
(beach, what beach?)

Cache Lake, looking towards Bartlett Lodge

Lake of Two Rivers, looking east to the Centennial Ridges

The cliffs on Costello Lake, near Hwy 60

Jerry's first view of the Opeongo Store this season
(hmmm, opening April 25?)

Canada goose looking for open water on Costello Creek
(and maybe thinking about heading back south...)

Sproule Bay on Lake Opeongo, looking north

The south end of Lake Opeongo, at the access point