Saturday, March 4, 2017

Family Day in Algonquin Park

We made an effort this year to get to Algonquin Park's Winter in the Wild held on the Family day weekend. We didn't decide to go until quite recently so there weren't any yurts available. Instead we booked a room just outside the park. We arrived on Friday night and were very excited to see more and more snow on the ground as we headed north.

Saturday we took in a number of the Winter in the Wild activities. The first was a great talk by one of the park staff about bears. He talked about bears, their habitat, their habits, etc. but he also talked about the research going on in the park about the bears. He showed some amazing pictures showing how the park staff attach collars to the bears so they can be studied. Listening to the talk make me wish I was a biologist so that I could do some of this cool sounding research.

Following the talk we had lunch in the Visitor Centre and checked out the viewing platform. It was a great view. There were a huge number of evening grosbeaks enjoying the bird feeders. We also saw some woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and ravens.

Beautiful View

View from the Visitor Centre
Our next stop was the Spruce Bog Trail for a guided bird hike. The weather was amazing, we saw a lot of birds (including ravens, crows, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and gray jays) at the beginning of the hike and the guide was a wealth of knowledge. We haven't done many guided hikes recently. It was so great to have an expert travelling with us.

One of the Spruce Bog

Ice Formation
Following the hike there were some winter camping demonstrations at Mew Lake so naturally we headed to the campground to check it out. I was amazed by what we saw. There were far more people camping in the campground than I would have imagined. We saw such a variety of winter accommodations. We saw regular tents, tent trailers, campers, a tipi and a good number of hot tents. We visited and toured a number of the tents and also had the chance to meet some of the great outdoor people that we follow online. We talked about winter camping and the amazing community that springs up at MewLake in the winter. It was incredible. A huge thanks to The Camping Family for giving us the scoop on winter camping at Mew Lake. I'm sure we will be back. Also a big thanks to Camper Christina for showing us her homemade tipi.

After checking out the accommodations we headed to the BBQ hosted by Friends Of Algonquin Park. We bought some burgers and hot dogs then made our way to the campfire to eat and roast marshmallows. It had been an action packed day and the youngest among us were exhausted so we skipped the fireside talk and night hike (hopefully we'll make it next time). Instead we headed made our way back to our lodging.

When we got back to our room we began talking about what the next day might look like. We all decided that it would be best to ski in the morning before the snow got too slushy (the forecast high was 9°C). The plan was to ski the Leaf Lake Trail, get an early start, ski to Dee's cabin for lunch and then ski back. Once the kids were in bed it occurred to me that I didn't remember seeing the ski boots in our room. I went and checked the van but they weren't there either. I would have to wait until morning to do a thorough search of our room, but I was feeling pretty confident that we had left the boots at home. Sure enough that's exactly what happened. I was very disappointed at myself for forgetting the boots but eventually realized that it just meant we'd have to come back next year.

Needless to say we changed the plan. We opted to skate at the Mew Lake rink in the morning since the ice was likely to be slushy later in the day. We had a great time. It wasn't very crowded, everyone we did see was very friendly. Our kids were laughing, giggling and just having a great time.

Super Excited to be Skating

Round and Round She Goes

Going Solo

Break Time
Once we finished skating we headed over to the camp fire and ate lunch. It was such a beautiful day we were happy to be taking our time eating and soaking up the sun. We had a couple of campers stop by to chat with us which was great. We asked a lot of questions and there were all great at promoting winter camping.
Lunch by the Fire
With our bellies full and our bodies rested we decided to head back to the Spruce Bog Traill. We hiked to the bird feeder then followed a small path that meandered through the woods. There were a number of suet ball setup along the path and the gray jays would move back and forth between the feeders. They really didn't seem to mind that we were there.

Gray Jay Enjoying  a Snack
After a full day outside it was time to head back to our room, have a bite to eat and get a good night's sleep.

On our final day we packed up and decided to snowshoe the Logging Museum Trial. What a great trail. There was a lot to see and tons of information about logging in the area. We will have to return in the summer to see the museum itself and the displays that are not accessible in the winter. The weather was great, though the temperature was much more seasonal with a bit of a breeze. There were a ton of chickadees around the parking lot so we gave them a snack before we headed out. Some of us decided to snowshoe along the well worn path and others decided to walk (or on occasion run) the path.
Snack Time
Running Free
Checking Out Giant Woodpecker Holes
Small Lake Along the Trail
Alligator Paddle Wheel

Checking Out the Alligator
Log Chute
After the hike we were ready for lunch. We had spotted some picnic tables on the other side of the snowbank across the parking lot so we beat a path through the snow to a table. Although it was a bit cool with the breeze the snowbank offered a good wind break and the sun warmed us up nicely. While we were having lunch the a pair of gray jays thought they'd see what we were eating. They were very interested. One landed on the table and plucked a small piece of bread off one of the kids' plates.

Lunchtime Visitor

Friendly, Feathered and a Bit Heavy
Such Beautiful Birds
Seasonal Bird Feeder
We built a snowman and left some seeds for the chickadees. Then we packed up and headed for home. We had such an amazing weekend. The weather was outstanding and it was great to be able to spend most of the weekend outside. We will certainly be back...hopefully in a tent of some sort.


  1. That sounds amazing. We are actually booking our first winter camping experience ever today. We are still deciding between Algonquin park and McGregor Park (near where Rob and I grew up). There are yurts available at both. I've wanted to do it for years but haven't had an opportunity till now. Its hard to reserve a yurt on the weekend, but being off gives a lot more options for weekdays.
    We don't have skis, snowshoes, or skates but I'm hoping to find a place that rents one of them (snowshoes sound fun - I remember doing it my first year of teaching with students on our reserve up north). Thanks for the added inspiration!

    1. So excited to hear that you're booking your first winter camping experience. It's true that the yurts book up quickly for the weekends. I'm guessing they are booked 5 months in advance.

      Algonquin Outfitters rents gear. They have snowshoes and skis but I don't think they have skates. Some (most?) MEC locations also rent equipment. You could give them a call.

      Have a great time!

  2. Great trip report! We discovered how awesome Algonquin is in the winter at Winter in the Wild in 2016. Can't wait to go back and are already making plans for 2018, since we missed it this year. Your kids look like they had a blast. Makes it all worthwhile to get out there, doesn't it?

    1. It is such an amazing spot. We're very glad that we went. The kids had an absolutely amazing time (as did the adults). You're right, it's all worthwhile especially when you consider how happy everyone is outside.

      Thanks for reading.