Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mizzy Lake Trail

Mizzy Lake Trail in Algonquin Park is a beautiful 13 km walk in the northern woods. It's rather rough underfoot with many tree roots and rocks, but there aren't any steep climbs. It travels alongside numerous ponds and small lakes, and if you get there early in the morning, you will most likely see moose and beaver in the water. There are wolves in the area too, but chances are you will never see them as they are quite shy. This trail is noted for its wildlife viewing, but early morning, and early evening are the keys to seeing anything.

It's my favourite trail in the park because it's rather dark and mysterious in those woods, and the trail is very narrow which makes it seem more like you're following an animal trail than one blazed by people. It's also a very quiet trail, and during the heat of a summer's day, you are lucky to hear even one bird singing high in the tree canopy.

Hiking along you are suddenly surprised to see beaver meadows glowing green in the sunshine with soft grasses blowing in a faint breeze. These glimpses of meadows and ponds and creeks are like looking through a window at a beautiful scene.

beaver dam

It was an extremely hot day when my husband and I traipsed through the woods, and all that water was looking more and more tempting, let me tell you!

Halfway around the trail, we follow a short stretch of disused railway track. The track is out in the open and spans a couple of large beautiful ponds. Unfortunately, this is prime nesting grounds for deerfly, and they mercilessly attack you all the way along the open stretch. It's annoying because you want to linger and admire the ponds, and hopefully see some wildlife, but the deerfly keep you moving! This year my husband packed his bug net that goes over his hat. He has a bad reaction to deerfly bites and wasn't taking any chances. I don't mind them so much because I know these flies will dive-bomb you for ages before they finally settle in for the bite. I just kept flicking the back of my shirt every so often to get them off me before that happened. 

People often see moose feeding in these shallow ponds in early morning. One couple we saw said their friend saw a moose here that morning around 7:00 a.m.  We did hear a moose giving a call when we were passing an earlier pond, but couldn't see one. 

One of these ponds (following) is called Wolf Howl Pond since this is where some wonderful recordings of wolf howls were made back in the 1970s.

There is a 2 km side loop that you can walk up that supposedly has some "bear nests" up in the beech trees. Bears will climb beech trees and break down branches to provide a platform or nest. This gives them a comfy spot to munch away on the ripened beech nuts. We had never done that loop before, so decided to give it a try this trip. It's not a very popular path, and is becoming a bit overgrown in places. Not to mention it was a bit eerie walking through the woods to an area known to be frequented by black bears! But on we went. We were greeted at the start of the loop by this inquisitive grey jay. They remind me of giant chickadees with their masked faces and friendly approach to humans (they'll come to your hand for seeds just like chickadees). We didn't have anything to feed him, so he soon left us on our own ... with the bears. 

The bear nests are difficult to see (so said our guide book), and I didn't see any! We did find lots of scratch marks on the trees' soft trunks from bears climbing up the trees, however. I was rather thankful that beech nuts weren't ripe yet, so we didn't have any bear encounters ... maybe in a week or so after our visit the beech nuts would be in prime shape for harvesting. 

My parents had two huge beech trees on their property, and whenever the beech nuts ripened and fell to the ground, you could no longer walk barefoot in that corner of our yard as the nuts have a very prickly shell, and they were littered across the grass!

We made our way back on the return trip, stopping a couple of times to rest for a quick snack and long drinks of water. At the muddy spots in the trail we saw what looked to be very fresh moose tracks (and also someone's bare feet prints!?). We started looking for them in every muddy spot along the trail, until eventually they ran out, and we were back out at a small lake. Two men were sitting at the lake resting (with a bottle of wine), and immediately asked us "Did you see the moose?!" What?! We told them we only saw the moose tracks, but no moose. They told us it was a big bull moose and was just off the path enjoying a munch on some leaves in a particularly leafy section of the trail. Darn it! I knew exactly where they meant as it was super hot through that part with low underbrush on either side, and lots of raspberry canes too. I was concerned about the bears at that point. So we walked right passed him and didn't even know it! I find it amazing that an animal the size of a moose, with enormous antlers, can easily glide through a dense forest and you won't even see him. Oh well.

This is another beaver meadow that you cross over on a boardwalk. It's always extremely quiet in this meadow, and that day it was dead still. It's peaceful for a few minutes, but the longer you stay there, the longer it feels a bit, um, lonely, and far away. But I do love these spaces with real atmosphere, don't you?

We finished the trail having seen one beaver in one of the ponds, a painted turtle, and a grey jay. We heard the moose calling, and saw the tracks, but no moose that day. We were rewarded all through our week with seeing other moose though, and I'll share those next post.

Looking through the forest along the path ... there are probably all kinds of moose in there!
Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Tom Thomson Tour in Algonquin Park

As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband and I spent ten days in Algonquin Park last week and had a marvelous time. This park is my favourite place, and I can't wait to return every year ... it's like coming home to me. We did lots of hiking, canoeing and biking through various sections of the park.

The best part of the trip, however, was being able to see our son a few times as he is working in the park all summer. He left home on June 27 and moved into a residence there with all the other employees at The Portage Store on Canoe Lake. He is having a blast and regaled us with all kinds of fun stories when he came back to our campsite for a couple of days. We did drive up once in July to see him and make sure all was well, but it's a three-hour drive for us, and we couldn't do it regularly. He's 18 and doesn't seem to miss home at all (huh!), although I'm missing him terribly (this is his first long time away from home).

Hard at work ;)

Once we got settled at our site ...

Our beautiful campsite, it was so private and overlooking the lake!
... we quickly drove over to the store to say hello to him. We were surprised to witness him and a few other guys tossing his old friend into the lake for his birthday dunk! So funny ... I quickly grabbed my phone for a photo. Many moons ago I cared for this same young man (and his older sister) in my daycare! We had the best times together back then. We met him in the park last summer when he started working there. One thing led to another and now both my son and this friend are working in the park.

My son works on Canoe Lake in the park, which has an interesting history through the logging days, and he wanted to share some of that with us. He told us to be at the lake early one morning for breakfast, and he was going to take us on a Tom Thomson Tour of all the interesting spots by canoe. Tom Thomson, a Canadian artist (1877 - 1917) spent a lot of time in Algonquin Park, and particularly on Canoe Lake.

Our first stop was on the northwestern part of the lake. There once was a town, Mowat, of about 500 people living and working at a sawmill there. The town is gone now and the area has reverted to wilderness, but there are a few relics remaining. Along the shore there are a few old homes from the logging town that have been converted to cottages. Tom Thomson frequented the Mowat Lodge, which was erected on the site of the sawmill. The lodge had many of Thomson's paintings hanging on the walls, although at that time Thomson wasn't making too much money off his paintings. Now his paintings will sell for over $1 million each. The lodge was rebuilt after one fire, but a second fire destroyed it for good.

This old log cabin is my favourite.

There was another cottage that we saw that was one of the original park buildings, but I didn't realize that until I read it in a book we bought. Next time I'll get a photo of that building too (also a cottage now). The park has a policy that all disused buildings must be dismantled or removed from the park to allow the grounds to return to their natural state. Unfortunately, most buildings with any history have been torn down. I find this annoying because I love to see old places. Even the quaint little log cabin railway stations were demolished. The cottages dotting the entire park, however, are allowed to remain since they are privately owned and the land is leased from the park. A bit of a double standard if you ask me. 

As I mentioned, Thomson spent a lot of time at Canoe Lake throughout all the different seasons. We paddled to one of his favourite areas to camp. We weren't sure if this is the exact location, but it was somewhere close to this (we were following a rather vague map) ...

We also visited the cairn built in his memory on top of a very steep hill. 

My son also showed us the area where Thomson's body had been found in 1917 in the water. There is a whole mystery as to how Tom Thomson actually died, did he drown or was he murdered? When his body was dragged from the lake, there was apparently a blow to his head, and his foot was wrapped in fishing wire. The coroner ruled it as a drowning without even seeing the body. This riddle will probably never be solved now, but it makes for an interesting story.

This is apparently a small cabin that Tom Thomson painted, but I haven't been able to find the painting (yet). The cabin is just before the portage from Canoe Lake to Joe Lake. It too is a private cottage now, but quite overgrown!

My son had us zigzagging back and forth across Canoe Lake a few times. It was a beautiful day with a good breeze making for nice paddling.  It was so nice to have our son by our side again in his kayak, and my husband and I in our canoe. We chatted the day away as we have always done on our canoe trips together. He was a very good guide and kept us entertained!

He saved the most interesting spot for the very last. We paddled back across Canoe Lake and stopped at a large rock along the shore beside the former town of Mowat. Just into the woods we could see old stone foundations that were once part of the sawmill (and later Mowat Lodge). As you can see the forest is happily reclaiming this space, and it was quite dark and very quite under the pines. It's hard to imagine there was a bustling and noisy sawmill here so many years ago.

We then continued on foot through the woods to a narrow one-lane grassy road. This is now used by the cottagers, but at one time it was the link to the rail station further up the lake. From the road we detoured into the woods again along a narrow footpath through thick brush for quite a ways. Raspberry canes scratched at our legs in the sunny spots, and pine branches dragged at us in the shady spots. Until we at last came to this small clearing with an amazing huge birch tree residing as it had for many years over this tiny fenced-in graveyard ...

There were only two engraved stones, and one smaller stone which I think was also a grave marker. Apparently there are only a few graves in this small yard. One is of an eight-year old boy who died of diphtheria ...

The other is of a young man, whose gravestone was apparently carved by a friend at the sawmill. The text is quite faded and now difficult to read on this huge stone, but I wrote out the verse just below the next photo.

"Remember Comrades (when passing by)
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you shall be
Prepare thyself to follow me."

Just outside the graveyard fence is another unmarked cross ...

This apparently is the approximate location of where they first buried Tom Thomson when he was retrieved from the waters of Canoe Lake. His body was supposedly later exhumed and buried in his home town of Leith, Ontario. However, as with the controversy over his death, there was also a controversy over his burial. Some believe the body was never exhumed and that an empty casket went back to his family in Leith. If you want to read a very interesting write-up on Tom Thomson's death and burial, please read this link written by Roy MacGregor. 

Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention in my last post that Roy MacGregor, who I mentioned in this post from last year, was also at my daughter's convocation and given an honorary degree from Trent University that same day. He is a wonderful story teller, and I was thrilled to see him and hear him speak in person. He had some hilarous stories to share with us of his own school days which had the entire audience laughing.

The graveyard was the last stop of our tour, and we were so pleased that my son took us around "his" lake. The graveyard visit was the perfect ending. He told us that one night the store employees participated in a "Tom Thomson Night". In the dark, the 20 or so employees paddled out in their canoes to the spot where Tom's body was found, they also stopped on that same rock and hiked through the brush to the graveyard. Some of the employees dressed up in character as Tom and as his girlfriend. It was raining steadily, so the atmosphere was intense! My son hates horror movies, and anything like that, so I imagine he felt the full impact that night as their guide told them of the mysteries surrounding Tom Thomson's death. 

I'll have more to share on Algonquin Park, but couldn't pack it all into one post. Hope you enjoyed the tour of Canoe Lake as well.

Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Where've You Beeeen???!!!

Something my dear old dad would exclaim when he was made to wait for someone for more than a minute past the set deadline ... "Where've you been?!"  And that's what I hear in my head when I see how long I have been away from blogging. I wonder if anyone even remembers I was here.

All I can say is that summer got in the way ... and four busy daycare kids ... and one of my own who left home (temporarily) ... and my daughter ... and my dad ... and vacations ... well, basically all of that is encompassed in the busy-ness of summertime. Needless to say I'm exhausted every evening, and once I've had a refreshing swim and then supper, I'm ready to chill and read or watch movies before bed.

All summer I've been wanting to share things with my blogging friends, and although I tried a couple of draft posts, nothing got published. I've been on vacation last week and this, and have finally, finally, been able to catch my breath this morning (as it rains!) and chat with my old friends :)

First, I wanted to share some of the crafts I've made with the daycare kids. Nothing too mind boggling, but thankfully, I have kids that just love crafts! From Pinterest I found this simple and fun project of weaving. We made the looms from cardboard, and the older kids set to work weaving various yarns and beads. I think they turned out really well, and it was a good two afternoons of quiet entertainment ;)

The "God's Eyes" are a favourite as well, and the inexpensive variegated cotton yarns work these up quickly.

While down at the beach, we picked up a bunch of boring brown Canada geese feathers. I had an idea in mind ... why not brighten up these dull brown feathers!

With a bit of acrylic paint, we created these pretty feathers ...

I think the geese would be happy to have one or two of these back in their wings, don't you?

We also did some "faux sun prints" which I have written about before.

I forgot to take a photo of the finished products, but you can see how this craft turns out (together with a tutorial) here.

We also made some garden flags with the kids' handprints ...

I have a tutorial here if you're interested.

We've also been working on some improvements in the house this summer. We finally bought some new interior doors to replace our ugly cheapo slab doors that I've hated since we moved here, um, 20 years ago! They look great, and although we have so far installed just the doors in our main hallway, the change is remarkable. I'll share some photos of that soon. Right now there is a huge mess in our house as we tackle another room ... my son's bedroom. His room has not been changed since we painted it after he left his crib. He is a collector of things, and all of this stuff has now been emptied from his room and fills our living room and hallway ... ugh!

This summer my son has been living away from home in the far north working at Algonquin Park! While he's away we decided to paint his room and change it up a bit as a surprise. He did tell us that he wants his room painted in the colours of a Maclaren 675LT ...

... so grey walls with bright orange accents. We picked up the grey yesterday. It was no mean feat trying to choose a good grey! Orange is the "in" colour these days, so we've been finding a few bright orange details here and there. There is some structural change that my husband needs to do before the painting begins. 

On one wall is this handy small closet (above) that my son has used as different things through his life in this room. The cupboard extends a couple of feet to the left and right of the opening. It was originally my sewing cupboard until he was born (it used to have a door covering it). Then it was a play space where he and his friends could climb into and read or play games. We've even used it as an extra sleeping space for overnight guests (small ones!). Then it became his entertainment centre with a TV and gaming equipment. Now we're ripping back the walls on either side of the doorway and fitting in some shelving units to make it more accessible and tidy. We have an electrician coming in today to wire in a new outlet at the back of this space to accommodate all his electronic things. After that we can get to the painting ... can't wait!

And in the spirit of catching up with all my news, my daughter graduated from her four-year university course from Trent University in June. We all attended her convocation, which was held outdoors in the freezing cold weather. It was a wonderful ceremony though, very light-hearted and entertaining, and she looked radiant. We're so very proud of her!

My daughter and her good friend & roommate who also graduated this year (but on a different day).
This is overlooking a portion of the university campus which is situated on two sides of a large river.
The four of us in front of my daughter's first-year residence
We've had a couple of good camping trips this summer ... just returned from ten days in Algonquin Park two days ago. As I mentioned, my son is up there working this summer and enjoying every minute of it! We were able to see him a few times, and he took us on a tour of the lake where he is living and working. It was so nice to see him doing something that he loves for the entire summer. I'm glad he made a break from hanging out with his unadventuresome friends here in town. I'll write about our time in the park in a separate post as this one is becoming a bit long! It's nice to be able to share some things with all of you again ... I've missed you all, but I will be able to get back into a regular routine of blogging again once things settle down again in the fall (but hopefully before!). Rainy day here today ... a bit grim, but gosh we sure needed this rain, it's been a scorching hot and dry summer!

Here's a little sneak peek of our vacation last week ...

Thanks so much for stopping by!