Algonquin winters are magical. If you are lucky to get one of those calm mild nights (between minus 10 and minus 2), the winter campfire is so enjoyable in the quiet evening. It’s even better if it’s snowing just slightly. And waking up to a fresh layer of snow, dusting the trees and landscape, it makes for a very delightful morning.
We headed to the park on the first Wednesday in March with our yurt booked for the next four nights. We experienced a nice variety of weather with the full moon peaking on the Friday. Thursday and Friday morning were quite chilly. Our thermometer limits out at minus 20 and the needle was bowing way below. Our sources said it was more like minus 30 on Friday. The Sun was bright and the skies were clear and blue.
Friday afternoon, temperatures started to ease up providing very comfortable days and evenings. Friday & Saturday nights were perfect conditions for campfires where we could enjoy a few glasses of wine with flakes of snow slowly falling around us.
As we reported in some of our past winter trip reports, each winter Algonquin hosts different species of birds. This year, we did not see any Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Grosbeaks or Purple Finches. Redpolls seemed to be the dominant finches this year. Naturally, the regular citizens were around. The Blue Jays were as vocal as ever, Gray Jays appeared in their local hangouts looking for handouts, nuthatches and chickadees gathered at every feeder and often followed us on our hikes. A Barred Owl was in Mew Lake, but the jays and crows chased it away before we could get a picture.
Pine Martens continue to be the stars of the park drawing small crowds where they frequent. We are pretty sure we heard one prowling around under our yurt late at night. They are so cute; it’s hard to believe they can be fierce predators.
We enjoyed a few hikes. With the gate on Opeongo Road closed at Cameron Lake Road, we hiked all the way to Lake Opeongo. We took in the solitude as the footprints before us only went as far as the bridge at the Rock. The waterfall on the Madawaska River along the trail behind Mew Lake was completely frozen over. That’s the first time seeing it like that. And at the same time, Smoke Creek had open water. We also enjoyed a fresh hike on the Lookout Trail. Winter definitely gives this trail a whole new look.
The Dogsled trails were active this week. We stopped by just as a group was leaving and 5 sleds were coming in. It was a treat to meet the sledders and their amazing dog teams.
One of our favourite times on winter trips is waking up in the park and having our coffees with the birds. The Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Blue Jays and Chickadees were very active. Chickadees remain our favourites. We think the Black-capped Chickadee should be our official Bird for Canada. They are with us all year round and can be found in every Canadian province. The Chickadee is indeed a true Canadian.
With March now well underway, we are looking forward to the spring. On our next trip to Algonquin, we will likely be visiting a very different looking place.