Sunday, December 05, 2010

The trailer for this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival

If the list below isn't quite enough, get a little preview of this year's films, as always with the great voice and inspiring music:

Hey, Christmas is coming and theatre tickets fit really easily into the stocking of your favorite adventure-lover! Get yours today and be taken away to the most enchanting places on earth. 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 of a regularly priced item at Algonquin Outfitters.

Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E. in beautiful downtown Huntsville, on-line at the Algonquin Theatre web site, or by calling the theatre box office at (705) 789-4975, or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The long-awaited film list for the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Huntsville

Let me tell you, it was hard picking this year. There were many good films that got left off our list and it would have been no problem planning three evenings of movies. Do you think the people of Huntsville and beyond would support three shows? Let me know by making a comment below. 

In any case, you will find a wide range of subject matter when the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour stops in Huntsville this year, with everything from fly-fishing in Russia, to skiing in Kashmir, to madmen jumping off cliffs, to tragedy and redemption in the mountains, to cute kids on bikes and even a bit of hair growth! Thanks to Seana Strain and Paul Price of the BMFF for their assistance in planning this year's program. Tuesday night has a total of two hours and nine minutes of films and Wednesday is a bit longer, at two hours and 11 minutes. There will be an intermission and great door prizes! Like last year, I have not consciously tried to pick a theme for each night. There may be one but we will have to wait till movie night and see what develops. There are several ski-related films but that was was mostly because there were more ski films in the line-up.

Go to both nights and save! Remember, if you go to both shows and save your ticket stubs, you can receive a one-time discount of 15 % on any regularly priced item at Algonquin Outfitters in Huntsville or Oxtongue Lake.

Please note that the films are listed in alphabetical order, NOT in the order they will be shown. There is a slight chance that the film selection may change as new films can still be added to the availability list.

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. Showtime: 7:30 PM.
Get tickets by clicking here.

AZADI: Freedom

  • Canada, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by Anthony Bonello
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: Skiing, Mountain Culture

AZADI: Freedom takes a look at Kashmir in the wake of the violent militant insurgence of the 90s through the lens of skiing. The unique role that skiing is playing in rebuilding tourism in Kashmir is explored using cinematography, animation and story of local characters. The film crew explore the future presented to young Kashmiri as they venture into the mountains, backcountry skiing. The world’s highest skiable gondola sits amid the most militarized region in the world, yet the freedom of adventure is drawing foreigners back to this former Shangri-La. Photocredit: Anthony Bonello, from the film 'AZADI: Freedom' 


  • Canada, 2010,
  • Directed by Dave Mossop
  • Produced by Malcom Sangster
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: Skiing
Chimæra refers to a mythological fusion of forms or a foolish fantasy. Shot with a unique camera system capable of shooting over 1000 frames per second, this film slows our perception of reality and offers an unprecedented look at a skier's life. It is an experience that blurs the borders between real and imaginary.

Eastern Rises 

Award at 2010 BMFF: Best Film on Mountain Sports, sponsored by ‘Live out There’

  • USA, 2010
  • Directed by Ben Knight
  • Produced by Travis Rummel
  • Classification: Parental guidance - coarse language
  • Focus: Fly-Fishing, Environment, Culture
The Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East may as well be the end of the earth. Its enormously wild landscape is swarming with bugs and bears and threaded with rivers full of massive mouse-eating trout. In this stunning film, fishing is poetry; Bigfoot lurks in the fog and fishermen risk life and limb in decommissioned Cold War helicopters to explore rivers that have never been fished before. Photocredit: From the film 'Eastern Rises'

Fly or Die

Award at 2010 BMFF: Special Jury Mention

  • USA, 2009
  • Produced by: Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer
  • Classification: General - coarse language
  • Focus: Rock Climbing, BASE jumping, Free BASE
Cutting edge climber Dean Potter is innovating climbing for the future: the Base Free Solo. By combining free solo climbing and base jumping, Dean is on his quest to master the various disciplines that lead up to this bold evolution of the sport. Photocredit: From the film 'Fly or Die'

Kranked Kids - Just down the Road

  • Canada, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by: Bjørn Enga
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: Mountain biking / Humour
A coming-of-age mountain bike parody.

Last Paradise

  • New Zealand, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by: Clive Neeson
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: Human Adventure / Extreme Sports: Surfing, Skiing and others
In the remote wilderness of New Zealand, when necessity was the mother of invention, a maverick bunch of kids concocted a dream which they would one day share with the world. Through 45 years of stunning original footage we relive the journey of legendary extreme sports pioneers on the roads less travelled, to paradises which have long since gone. But for one.  Photocredit: From the film 'Last Paradise' 

Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011. Showtime: 7:30 PM.
Get tickets by clicking here.

A Life Ascending

Award at 2010 BMFF: Best Film on Mountain Culture, sponsored by Petzl 

Award at 2010 BMFF: People's Choice Award, sponsored by Timex Expedition

  • USA, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by Stephen Grynberg
  • Classification: General – no advisory
  • Focus: Ski Mountaineering, Culture, Human Story
Living with his wife and two young daughters on a remote glacier in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia, Ruedi Beglinger has built a reputation as one of the top mountaineering guides in the world. A Life Ascending follows his family’s unique life in the mountains and their journey in the years following a massive avalanche that killed seven people. The film ultimately explores the power of nature as both an unforgiving host and profound teacher. Photocredit: Stephen Grynberg

Life Cycles

  • USA, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by Ryan Gibb and Derek Frankowski
  • Classification: General – no advisory
  • Focus: Mountain Biking
Life Cycles provides some of the most visually stunning images the mountain sports world has ever seen. It’s a beautiful celebration of the bicycle, and is sure to amaze anyone who has ever ridden one. Photocredit: From the film 'Life Cycles'

Rush Hour Dream

  • Germany, 2009
  • Directed and Produced by Kerim Jaspersen and Christian Menn
  • Classification: General – no advisory
  • Focus: Paragliding, Environment
An office worker in Düsseldorf, Germany, falls asleep in the tramway on his way to work and wakes up on a beautiful mountainside to discover that he is carrying a paraglider in his laptop. Photocredit: From the film 'Rush Hour Dream'

Still Motion

  • Canada, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by Jonathan Schmidt
  • Classification: General - no advisory -
  • Focus: Environment / Wildlife
Compiled from the highlights of a whole year of wildlife research, these still images from motion-triggered wildlife cameras to create an intricately sequenced movie-like production of Alberta’s amazing wildlife. Playful fawns, stalking cougars and curious elk take centre stage. The film asks an important question: just who is looking at whom? Photocredit: From the film "Still Motion"

The Longest Way

Award at 2010 BMFF: Best Short Mountain Film, sponsored by Mountain Hardwear

  • Germany, 2009
  • Directed and Produced by: Christoph Rehage
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: Human Adventure / Humour
Time lapse of a 1-year-walk from Beijing to Urumqi. Unlimited growth of beard and hair. Photocredit: From the film 'The Longest Way'

The Swiss Machine

  • USA, 2010
  • Produced by: Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer
  • Classification: Parental Guidance - coarse language
  • Focus: Rock Climbing, Big Wall, Mountaineering
Ueli Steck may be the greatest speed alpinist the world has ever seen. In this film, Ueli tells of his record-breaking ascents in the Alps, accompanied by stunning aerial footage that captures him racing up 8,000 foot alpine faces. When he joins Alex Honnold in Yosemite, Ueli sets his ultimate goal: to take his one-man alpine speed game to the largest, highest walls in the world. Photocredit:
From the film 'The Swiss Machine'


  • USA, 2010
  • Directed and Produced by Anson Fogel
  • Classification: General - no advisory
  • Focus: White-water paddling
When ordinary people share a singular passion, the extraordinary emerges. WildWater is a journey into the mind and soul of white-water, into the places only river runners can go, places of discovery, solitude and risk. It’s a visually stunning feast for the senses, and an expedition into new ideas. Photocredit: From the film "WildWater"

More from the winter wonderland - see what you are missing?

Early morning light on a local pond

Sunrise in the woods - it's a little Group of Sevenish, if I do say so myself

Friday, December 03, 2010

Algonquin Park is in winter wonderland mode!

Don't be standing under this tree when the snow drops!
It is not often that you hear "snow squall warning" and "flood warning" in the weather forecast, but that is what we had earlier this week. After the big snowfall (40 cm in some places) last Friday/Saturday, there was the torrential rain on Tuesday, which washed a lot of the snow away. Then on Wednesday it snowed again, and it is amazing what a difference a little elevation makes. Here in Oxtongue lake there is probably twice as much snow as there is in Huntsville, and I heard a report today that at some higher elevations in Algonquin park, there is up to 18 inches of snow on the ground. Winter is here.

Having said that, the best activity at the moment is still hiking. The ground is very wet, water levels are very high, lakes are very mushy and travel by ski or snowshoes might prove to be more trouble than it is worth. Give it a week or so, we'll get a little more snow, the ground will drain a bit, making a better and more solid base. The weather forecast for the next week is very favourable for firming things up.

All the pictures in this post were taken today, so you can have an idea of what it is like right now. According to some visitors from the south, the snow starts at Gravenhurst!

You might find the trails a little wet...

Oxtongue Lake is about half-frozen
We don't need Christmas lights with colourful kayaks like these
Outfitter Creek is in spring flood mode and the lake is very high

Friday, November 12, 2010

A tale of two poles

Anyone who has attended our annual Winter Fun Day will be familiar with the friendly, hardworking dogs and mushers from Winterdance Dogsled Tours.  For the last few years, they have traveled up from Haliburton to provide the dog sledding experience at our event (which, in case you missed the post below, is on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011).

Last winter, Hank DeBruin, who owns and operates Winterdance in partnership with his wife Tanya McCready-DeBruin, undertook what many consider the ultimate challenge in the mushing world, the famous Iditarod race in Alaska. The Iditarod is billed as "the last great race on earth," and Hank and his team spent over a year training and preparing for the adventure. As you can imagine, an project like this requires fundraising, training, planning and specialized equipment. Algonquin Outfitters helped in a small way by providing Hank with a pair of Swix nordic ski poles. Apparently, the poles had an adventure of their own and Tanya graciously offered to write the tale below.

A big thank you to Gord and Algonquin Outfitters for donating a set of ski poles for Hank to use during the Iditarod.  While Hank and the dogs ended up with some amazing tales of their 700 mile Alaskan journey, the ski poles ended up with a tale of their own.

Having missed the dog truck when it pulled out of Haliburton for Alaska, the ski poles flew on a commercial jet with the kids and I,  as we traveled to Anchorage to meet up with Hank and the dogs for the start of the Iditarod, a 1000 mile dogsled race across Alaska.  Upon claiming the ski poles in Anchorage we noticed a note attached to them which read "Nice poles, love the new design, too bad they are a bit short for me!"  The poles already had admirers.
Hank, wearing bib 45, and the team at the ceremonial start of the Iditarod
They were to be forgotten again three days later, on the official starting day, and had to be rushed to Willow (one of the check points) to get to Hank in time.  He was within minutes of his starting time and the dogs were already being hooked up when the poles arrived. He quickly took one pole and slid it along the outside of his sled bag, underneath a cable support.  The power of 16 Siberian Huskies about to start the world class dogsled race called Iditarod is nothing short of breathtaking. As the team was being moved up to the starting line, kept under some control thanks to 10 volunteers, the ski pole slipped out and the end caught in the snow as the sled went around a corner only feet away from the starting gate.  With the force of the dogs, and before Hank could grab it, the pole got bent to a 90 degree angle in the middle and snapped.  With a sharp end sticking out, Hank quickly pulled it out of the sled to prevent the bag, a dog or person getting injured from it.  He tossed it out of the way, towards the fence that kept the spectators and dogs separated.  Before it even hit the ground though, a boy about 10 ducked under the fence and caught the pole midair, waving it around like the best trophy in the world. That pole is likely now in his home as a souvenir, wherever that may be.
Hank and his very motivated-looking dogs shortly after the pole-snapping incident
With no time to run back and grab the second pole, Hank and the team left the starting gate pole-less.  Mushers use ski poles to pole with one hand, often paddling with their opposing leg in a fluid motion.  It helps the dogs along the trail and also works well to keep the musher warm and awake.  Hank found a stick 70 miles down the trail which served as a rudimentary pole.

If required gear gets lost/damaged during Iditarod, a team's support crew are allowed to ship replacement items to a check point for the musher to pick up. We quickly took the other pole to the US post office and mailed it to McGrath, 300 miles into the race and the first place it would arrive in time for Hank to receive.  As the postal worker put stickers and tags on it addressed to "Iditarod Checker, for Hank DeBruin, McGrath, Alaska," he commented that he had never sent such a strange parcel before.  The second ski pole was placed on board a bush plane and flown to McGrath.  It was waiting for Hank in the checker's hand when he and the team arrived in McGrath, four days later.

That pole was in Hank's hand much of the next five days, along the Kuskokwim River, through the brutal -40F temperature of Alaska's interior gold region of Cripple, and finally out onto the mighty Yukon River.  And that is likely where that pole still is.  About five miles out of the check point of Galena, a small Eskimo village on the Yukon, the ski pole got jammed in a piece of ice and lurched out of Hank's grip.  One rule with running a huge team of dogs is that you NEVER walk backwards from the team, as there is too great of risk that they can unlodge the anchor and continue on down the trail, leaving you behind.  At dawn, with -40F temperatures, being alone with no supplies is a life threatening danger.  Hank stopped the team and looked back at the ski pole standing up in the ice 10 feet behind him, and decided it wasn't worth the risk.  He and the dogs continued on.  That ski pole may still be in the Yukon River or it may be in a house in Galena.  When Hank pulled into the tiny village he mentioned to the checker that he had lost a nice ski pole about 5 miles back. The checker had raised an eye and said "Really?"  Maybe someday if Hank and the team return to the Yukon River we will learn the fate of the second ski pole.

So if you find a pole something like the one above out in the boonies of Alaska, drop Hank a line, I'm sure he would be happy to have it back!

Not resting on his Iditarod accomplishments, Hank has written a book about his Iditarod experience and he and the team are busy preparing for the 2011 Yukon Quest dogsled race. Good luck to Hank and the Winterdance huskies!

Monday, November 01, 2010

This just in from Ontario Parks

In case you don't subscribe to the Ontario Parks Insider,  I've taken the liberty to re-post a very important news flash for anyone who camps in a provincial park in our fair province. As I'm sure many of you will agree, there were a few hiccups in the new park reservation service this summer and the Ontario Parks management folks seemed to have listened:

We have heard from many Ontario Parks customers that our reservation service needs to improve. As of November 1, 2010, we have obtained a new reservation service provider and are taking action to improve the service to the standard of excellence that you have come to expect from Ontario Parks. We expect to have the new reservation system operational in early 2011.

During the transition period to the new reservation service, there will be some limitations with our system.

Here’s what you need to know:

All existing reservations for arrivals between November 1 and March 31 will be honoured and processed when you arrive at the park.

You will not be able to book reservations five months in advance during this period. This means there will be no reservations processed for arrival dates after April 1, 2011 until we go-live with the new service provider. This applies to reservations for campsites, backcountry and roofed accommodations.
Park users will not be able to make a reservation through our Internet or call centre for any car camping or interior sites. All campsites will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis when you arrive at the park. We anticipate plenty of sites will be available.

You may book roofed accommodation at those parks open during the fall/winter period by calling the park directly. Reservations will be accepted for arrival dates up to March 31, 2011 only. Reservations can be made by phoning the park directly, Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The parks that offer roofed accommodation are:

  • Algonquin (705) 633-5572
  • Killarney (705) 287-2900
  • MacGregor Point (519) 389-9056
  • Pinery (519) 243-2220
  • Sandbanks (613) 393-3319
  • Silent Lake (613) 339-2807
  • Quetico (807) 597-5021

No toll free numbers are available. Please note, callers may get a busy signal when staff are servicing other customers. We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding.

For information regarding the status of refunds please contact 705-326-1521.

Please visit this web site for updates on the new reservation service.

We appreciate your loyalty and are making these changes in order to serve you better. Ontario Parks is committed to providing world-class recreational opportunities for our visitors through excellent customer service.

We welcome your feedback.

Adair Ireland-Smith
Ontario Parks

Monday, October 11, 2010

An unsung hero of the Algonquin Outfitters rental fleet

The Compatriot waits patiently for its next paddler
 The humble little red solo canoe in the picture above is a Mad River Compatriot. Unlike the majority of the canoes in our fleet, it will never find its way to the "used canoes for sale" rack. This canoe is over 25 years old, still going strong and has the distinction of being the "most requested" canoe we have. One woman took it on four trips this summer and likes it so much she has even named it "Cherry." Another customer called several times to confirm that the Compatriot was available for his trip this fall and when it was all over, he left us a nice note:
This is the sixth or seventh time I have rented this canoe – and I love it more each time. Thanks!
What is about the Compatriot that people love so much? At 13 feet, it is relatively small, even for a solo canoe. Despite that, it is very stable, has good carrying capacity and is a pleasure to paddle. It is a canoe that will reliably carry you on a solo adventure and let you concentrate on the experience and the landscape, not whether or not you are going to fall out of the canoe if you lean a little too far to one side. This description from the 1981 Mad River Canoe catalog I found in the AO archives (see why you should never throw anything away!) sums it up:
... our Compatriot is a light responsive boat, perfect for the single paddler. Built along the lines of the Malecite, the Compatriot is easy to paddle, designed for lake or river touring. It will carry lightweight gear easily, respond well in tight situations and is light enough to carry along with the gear on portages. Even small children can paddle a Compatriot with ease, enjoying the response of a canoe to their own paddle stokes.
The Compatriot in 1983, in its original brown colour and wood trim

The photo above was posted on the AO Facebook page by longtime customer David P from Ohio. David wrote: "Here's a look back to 1983 when I took a spin in what became a good friend, the Mad River Compatriot, seen here at the Thomson-Littledoe beaver dam. Over the years there were some changes to the seat, thwarts and I recall the clamp on yoke was replaced by a permanent one, but what seems like yesterday are the images of the park. Thanks for all the help and friendliness over the years!"

Sunday, October 03, 2010

OK, so it didn't snow...

But the SUN came out, after what seemed liked an eternity of cloudy, rainy September days. Wind and rain have knocked down some leaves but the colours are still pretty nice and, hopefully, will hang in there for the upcoming long weekend.

Don't forget, if you can't get up to Algonquin Park, you can always see the fall colours 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. Here is a snapshot from today. You can clearly see Lake of Bays in the lower left corner.

The nice red tinge of fall colour across central Ontario, as seen from space

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Snowflakes in the forecast! Woo hoo!

The weather forecast for Huntsville  today - look at those snowflakes!
Here at Algonquin Outfitters, we get excited about winter. It's time for skiing, snowshoeing, snowman building, sledding, skating, snowboarding and, yes, those other fun things like shoveling and winter driving.  So, when this morning's weather forecast showed the little snowflake icons for Sunday and Monday, we all gave a hearty cheer. Some people may not share our enthusiasm for snow. It is safe to predict that Sunday's snow won't last long and "real winter" won't start until late November or so.

And while we are discussing winter, here are a few dates to keep in mind:

AO presents Warren Miller's WINTERVENTION
Friday, November 5

Do you have a skiing or snowboarding problem? Do you always take "just one more" run? If you answered “yes” to either of these, it may be time for a Wintervention. Narrated by skiing icon Jonny Moseley, Warren Miller’s Wintervention is the definitive solution for the snow-obsessed. Wintervention takes riders like Chris Davenport, Jonny Moseley and Lindsey Vonn on a global tour of Alaska, Norway, Canada, Antarctica and beyond, delivering a successful Wintervention for all of us in need. Warren Miller films attract a cult-like following and mark the official start of winter for sports enthusiasts everywhere. Warren Miller premieres are an experience, a party and a phenomenon not to be missed.

Join Algonquin Outfitters for a Wintervention on Friday, Nov. 5 at 7 pm, at the Algonquin Theatre. Admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students. Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office at 37 Main St. E., by calling the box office at (705) 789-4975 or 1-888-696-4255, ext. 2352 or on-line at

For more info on the movie, visit Warren Miller Entertainment.

For a little pre-season stoke, watch the official trailer for Wintervention below:

Algonquin Outfitters presents the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour
Tuesday, Jan. 18 & Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

Algonquin Outfitters is once again bringing the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour to the Algonquin Theatre for two nights. Each evening will feature a different selection of films. Get a taste of wild mountain adventures, and more, as the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour rolls into Huntsville.

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

The tour features a collection of the most 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.

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

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.

For more information on the Banff Mountain Film Festival, visit the World Tour web site.

Algonquin Outfitters presents the 17th Annual Winter Fun Day
Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Self-propelled fun in the great outdoors is once again the theme on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. This free, family-oriented, event takes place at the Oxtongue Lake location, just west of Algonquin Park, on Hwy. 60, about 30 km east of Huntsville. Winter Fun Day is designed to introduce people to self-propelled (or at least non-motorized) winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, skate skiing, kick-sledding, winter camping, ice-climbing and dog sledding, as well as provide a host of opportunities to have fun in the snow. Free cross-country ski lessons are available, thanks to our friends at Ski For Life.

Stay tuned to this blog for more info!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall colours in Algonquin Park are at peak - don't miss it!

"Smoke Creek" by Olaf Schneider
Even when you are lucky enough to live up here, you can never take the fall colours for granted. Every year the colours seem different and every year the "peak" seems to happen at a different time. I suppose you could define "peak" as the time when reds, oranges and yellows are the predominant shades and there are still lots of leaves on the trees.  Personally, I prefer the time just before peak, when there is more contrast with the green leaves that haven't turned yet. That's the stage in areas like Huntsville and Muskoka right now. Once the leaves peak, you still have several weeks of good colour viewing but run the risk of being disappointed if rain and/or wind cause the leaves to fall.

This year, many natural events (like ice-out and bug season) occurred earlier than usual (with a few setbacks), and peak fall foliage colours are no exception. Here is a quote from the Algonquin Park foliage report, updated today:
Fall colour in Algonquin Park is now at "peak". The Sugar Maple canopy is providing the best viewing of the season at the current time. If you are planning a trip to Algonquin Park to view the autumn colours, now is the time!
If you can't make it to Algonquin Park, check out the fall colours report for a provincial park near you on the Ontario Parks website.

I posted the images of two paintings by Olaf Schneider because, a), we like Olaf and his work (next time you visit, ask to see the original Olaf painting that hangs in our "back shop" at Oxtongue Lake), and b), they are good examples of what you can expect to experience in Algonquin Park at this time.

"The Other Side of Life" by Olaf Schneider

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some nice fall photos

During the fall, Algonquin Park is a photographer's dream: the changing autumn colours, fantastic light and morning mist are just a few of the natural events that make it a special season. Photographer Paul Madden dropped by the Oxtongue Lake store the other morning and asked if he could take some pictures at our waterfront. Sure, why not? Paul sent me a few of the images and gave us permission to post them for all to see. I have to admit, when you can look out the office window and see views like this, life seems pretty good. All the images on this post are courtesy of Paul Madden and are protected by copyright.

Time to get on the water

Eerie morning mist and sun
The view from a tent cabin
Coffee and morning paper anyone?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Where did the time go? It's fall!

Well, long time no blog. I humbly apologize to any regular readers, or for that matter, even casual readers. It was a VERY busy summer at Algonquin Outfitters, which is good, but sadly this blog seemed to take a back seat to everything else that was going on.

So on the first official day of fall, let's get back into it by patting ourselves on the back. Late this summer, the Oxtongue Lake location took delivery of a few special canoes. Swift has been selling their new integrated carbon/Kevlar gunwale system for a year or so and we finally decided to test out a few of these very lightweight canoes in our rental fleet. For the moment, we are surprising customers we know and trust by saying, "hey, do you want to test out a new canoe?"  One of these lucky parties, Tony and Lois, are a couple who have been doing an annual fall trip for many years and always ask for "the lightest Kipawa you have." And so, that's what they got. Here is their report. Sadly, it rained for most of their trip and Tony did not have any pictures to go along with the story.

We've been home from our annual canoe trip for a couple of days now (still up to our ears in gear that needs to be washed and dried before storage!), but I wanted to take the time to thank you for taking such good care of us this year.  My wife and I really appreciate having been given the opportunity to put a brand spanking new Carbon Fusion Kipawa through its paces on this year's trip. 

While we keep coming back to AO because we're always pleased with both the products and the services we receive, it was a special treat to be given the chance to experience a canoe as spectacular as this one is.  Same load handling capabilities and same efficient hull design as the standard Kipawa, but so light that I almost looked forward to the portages!

You know you're in the right canoe when a pair of senior citizens (OK, I'm only 58, but my wife is 65) have no trouble cruising by canoes from other outfitters being paddled by 20 year olds! I can assure you that it has a lot more to do with the canoe than it does our paddling technique.

Thanks again for taking such good care of us.

See you next September

Tony and Lois

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The official word on the G8 lockdown

This just in from Calum Rennie, of the G8 ISU Community Relations Group:

Residents of Huntsville can expect security measures to protect the G8 Summit to be put in place on the morning of June 23. They are currently planned to stay in place until June 27. This includes restrictions on traveling on a portion of Highway 60 and roads leading to the  Deerhurst Resort. See the map of alternate routes on our website ( (editor's note: see my recent blog post with map and Google Map of alternate routes).

Additional security measures could be put in place in other specific areas a few days prior to June 23. This includes restrictions on marine activities on Peninsula Lake that will begin on June 20.

There will not be any security-related parking restrictions in the downtown core of Huntsville during the G8 Summit. The Integrated Security Unit will have additional police officers in the area to help with the flow of traffic.

Residents can contact the Community Relations Group at 1-888-446-4047 or via email at or for more information or to relay concerns.
 Here are a few shots I took recently of the security corridor on Hwy 60, around Deerhurst Resort:

Waiting our turn to drive through the fence construction zone

 Entering the security zone. 
The fence to the left goes right through my friend's property

 Inside the fence. Eastbound traffic waits it turn, 
including the mysterious white van with the satellite dish on top.

 Next morning, I was first in line and got to follow this guy. 
Note fence still under construction.

 If you are lucky enough to live along this section of the road, 
this is what your driveway looks like.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Rich Swift on Breakfast Television

We had better be careful or they might make him the host! Our fearless leader, Rich Swift, made another appearance on CityTV's Breakfast Television last Friday. He was helping our friends at Ontario Parks with the festivities in Toronto's Dundas Square, celebrating the start of Tourism Week in Ontario.

Rich and Jennifer discussing the rules of the competition. 
Click here for the full video segment. 

Rich got to assist BT host Jennifer Valentyne and did a great job of coaching the three teams engaged in a tent-setting-up competition. The team led by Michael Chan, Onario's Minister of Tourism and Culture, was the no-contest winner, followed by Linda Jeffrey, the Minister of Natural Resources and BT host Jennifer Valentyne.

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!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Wow! Ice out on Canoe Lake April 3!

Boy, you take a few days off to get knee surgery and the world just keeps moving along. While I was sitting on my deck recuperating after ACL reconstruction on April 1, the combined effects of sun, wind and rain were working away in Algonquin Park. Fortunately, the intrepid reporters at Canoe Lake Ice Out Headquarters are on the job:


It looks like the ice went off Canoe Lake last night before midnight which makes it Saturday, April 3rd, 2010 and blows away the previous record of April 14th set in 1953.

Two of my official field correspondents, Hugh Statten and Charlie Plant, reported that it was "blowing like mad and raining" yesterday afternoon, and the ice was already off Smoke and Joe Lakes and was going out on Canoe Lake as they watched. It was pretty much all gone by 10:00 pm last night and I received confirmation from Charlie at 8:00 AM this morning:

"It is official. The ice is gone. In case there are any doubters I will get an official portrait done today of Hugh Statten, dressed in his chiefly robes and holding a copy of yesterday's Globe in front of the vast expanse of water that is now Canoe Lake."

Another record was set this year in that no one chose April 3rd as the ice out date and so we have no winner. But I am happy to give credit for being closest to John and Sandy Churchill who picked today, April 4th, and also to Doug Yandala who said "Early this year...April joke!" (I hadn't even had time to update system to include  dates before April 6th -- so you don't see them on the predicitons!)

Stay tuned to the web site for more info over the next couple of days.

We have no reports on Opeongo or other interior lakes yet but will update this bog as soon as we do. The satellite images from the last few days are too cloudy to garner any useful information.

Your faithful blogger pondering icing his knee rather than ice on the lakes

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yes, the lakes are still frozen

Acoustic music legend John Hartford sang this about the Mississippi River: "it's too thick to navigate, it's too thin to plow." Lakes in Algonquin Park are in a similar state at the moment.  Despite the fantastic weather forecast, don't plan on canoeing in Algonquin Park this weekend. While there is some open water around the edges and few ponds are open, all lakes are shore-to-shore ice.

The good news is that most of the snow is gone, the woods are dry and open, there are NO bugs and it will be a beautiful weekend for exploring Algonquin Park on foot. The day hiking trails and backpacking trails accessible off Hwy 60 give access to some spectacular scenery and the pleasant temperatures will make for glorious walking conditions.

 Don't believe me? Here's a clip from satellite imagery taken March 30. 
Lake Opeongo is just right and up from centre. Lake of Bays is the 
big, mostly ice-covered, lake in the lower left corner.

The satellite image above shows some interesting things. Clearly, all major lakes in Algonquin Park are frozen. Lakes in Haliburton County, well to the south, are still frozen (look at Redstone Lake and Haliburton Lake in the lower right). This image is "true colour," so I assume that the whitish stuff is snow remaining at higher elevations (then again, it could be unmelted frost). Note that the image is not oriented like a map and the "north-south" is roughly diagonal from upper left to lower right. To the left of Lake of Bays, you can see that Fairy, Peninsula and Mary lakes are open and Vernon has a big pan of ice floating around. In my experience, when the big lakes near Huntsville (like Fairy, Peninsula and Vernon) open up, Lake of Bays follows about a week later, Oxtongue Lake goes  three or four days after that and Algonquin Park lakes follow in another week or so. If that pattern holds up this year, ice out in Algonquin Park is at least two weeks away, if not longer (in my humble opinion).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Opeongo is going to Opeongo this summer!

We like getting emails from customers and friends telling us about heir adventures and what Algonquin Park means to them. This is a great one:

My name is Jessica H----. I met a colleague of yours at the Outdoor Adventure Show in Toronto. He said that I should email you as he enjoyed my puppy. I have attached a picture of my puppy, a border collie, lab, german shepherd mix. I named her Opeongo. I named her Opeongo after Opeongo Rd and lake. I have been coming to Algonquin Park since I was a young child. I first learned to canoe and kayak on Lake Opeongo. I have also been fortunate enough to see a moose rut take place off of Opeongo Rd., feed my first gray jay, see my first wolf and learn to love the wild world around me. It is because my parents took me there as a child that I went on to become a biologist and an avid outdoors-woman. I hope that my new puppy will become a dog that I will be able to take traveling with me in Algonquin Park. This summer I will be bringing Opeongo to Algonquin Park to hike and camp with and also to show her the lake that I named her after. My favorite dog and my favorite park!
Take care,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Winter's last gasp?

The recent span of sunny warm weather has got many people thinking that spring has sprung. Most of the snow has disappeared, I've seen people in shorts, we've had calls and emails from folks thinking they would be going on a canoe trip this weekend and robins have been sighted in Huntsville. On top of that, the big lakes in Huntsville area, like Fairy and Peninsula, will likely be ice-free by the end of this week. Before you get too excited, take a look at today's weather forecast:

Things will be firming up a bit for the weekend! Now take a look at some pictures of Oxtongue Lake, taken this morning. I would estimate that the ice here is eight to ten inches thick and quite solid. Pounding with my foot, I could not break up the edge of ice by the dock.

A little open water where Outfitter Creek flows into Oxtongue Lake

Utah checks out the Quinzee - not even suitable for a dog house!

Even the open water was iced over this morning. 
Where is a dog to get a drink?