My maternity leave is very quickly coming to an end and we were all feeling a bit down. Kory was once again able to squeeze in a couple days off of work. He came over to me and said, “Want to go to Algonquin?” Um, OF COURSE! This isn’t a camping post, but Algonquin is such an amazing place that I wanted to document this trip – the girls’ first visit to Algonquin Provincial Park! We kept an eye on the weather, and when it promised to be around the freezing mark, we decided to go for it. I basically threw all the warm stuff the girls had into a suitcase and off we went, a mere 609km down the road!
We left early on Sunday morning and were treated by a stunning sunrise over the county roads. I knew taking this trip was the right decision.
The girls did remarkably well in the car, although Lyssa is still a bit of a challenge to feed on the road. She refuses purees and was too distracted to eat solids at the rest stops. She was hydrated and happy though and we pressed on. This was the first trip for Em with her car seat forward facing, and she had a great time pointing out all the sights (although lets be honest here, she was glued to her videos much of the time). We made it all the way there with only 2 stops!!!
Kory had booked us a cottage at Blue Spruce Resort in the Algonquin Highlands region just outside the park. We cannot say enough great things about this place! The owners are so friendly and helpful and the cottage was immaculate (of the utmost importance with a crawling baby!).
This place has a toboggan hill (with lights!), an ice skating rink, cross country skiing and snowshoe trails right on site, a games room, dvd’s and board games to borrow and a cozy fireplace. Hopefully we can return in the future – there is just so much to do!
We unpacked (our cottage had a full kitchen so we brought all our groceries with us) and quickly set off to check out the toboggan hill before nightfall. Em LOVED it! She did a few runs down the hill with daddy before Lyssa and I arrived and was screaming for more!
The girls felt right at home in the cottage and bedtime went fairly well. I enjoyed some knitting by the fire – a wonderful night for sure!
When morning arrived, we rushed to get everyone fed and dressed to head into Algonquin! We stopped a couple times along the highway to check out some birds (see Kory’s trip summary here) and ended up at the Visitor’s Centre for a morning snack. I fed the girls while Kory checked out the bird feeders that the park maintains throughout the winter. Park staff had placed a moose carcass near the centre with a webcam to record the scavengers. In the days prior to our arrival, a fisher had been feeding on the moose. We were lucky enough to see the fisher in person! We spotted a fox as well. Very neat!
After our snack, we crossed the highway and got bundled up to hike the Spruce Bog trail. I wrapped Lyssa on my back in a woven wrap, and Kory wore Em in the Tula for much of the trail. At 3.5 years old, I can’t even remember the last time she wanted to go uppy for any length of time.
The temp was a few degrees above freezing, I think, and we enjoyed a lovely hike along the 1.5km trail. Lots of black-capped chickadees and white breasted nuthatches joined us on the trail. Em says her favourite bird is the chickadee, so it was exciting for one to land right on her hand.
While we have had some snow at home, our winter has been mild, so Algonquin feels like a magical winter wonderland.
Before our last minute trip, I drove to the city to buy a pair of YakTrax. I was concerned about hiking on icy trails while babywearing. While the trails were mostly hard packed snow, I still felt better having the extra traction on my boots. I know I will get some good use out of them in the years to come.
After the hike, we returned to the Visitor Centre for a late lunch. We took our time, enjoyed our lunch and watched the feeders again. We then drove back to the resort and I got to spend some time on the toboggan hill with my big girl while daddy cooked dinner.
Freezing rain was in the forecast for the following day, so after breakfast we rushed back to the park to get in some hiking before its predicted afternoon start. After some discussion, we decided to head right back to the Spruce Bog trail. Kory and I were really hoping to see a Spruce Grouse, a bird that is seen regularly on the trail. No grouse but another great winter hike! The highlight for me was having a Gray Jay (Canada’s National Bird) eat right out of my hand!
Another lunch in the Visitor Centre. Em peered into the spotting scope that the Park staff had pointed at the moose carcass and ID’ed a fox!! Proud parents here!
Thankfully, the freezing rain stayed south of the park and the roads remained safe for our drive back to the resort. No one was ready to leave and we were more than a bit concerned about the possibility of a very slippery drive south due to the freezing rain, We even concocted this elaborate plan involving Kory trying to work from a hotel room. But alas, reality sunk in, and the roads were just fine, so when morning arrived we packed up and drove home (after one more visit to the toboggan hill, of course).
It was an excellent trip. Even though it was a long drive for just a few days of fun, it was totally worth it. Kory and I lived in the GTA for 8 years and it was so much easier to get to the Algonquin area… Returning to southwestern Ontario was a tough decision for us. If nothing else, this trip reassured us that we will still be able to get to “Ontario’s near north” for family trips without too much trouble.