LOOKOUT, WE’RE CLIMBING AGAIN (Algonquin Provincial Park, Part 1 – Lookout Trail)

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As we strolled along the rocky cliff, we spotted a few young people - well, younger than us, probably college-aged - sitting precariously at the edge, with only the expanse of forest below. Very brave of them, I considered. Tessi and I walked over to take a look. More hunks of rock pushed out, offering steps where feet could rest. The lookout was still too steep, nevertheless, for an unassisted descent. Since it seemed safe to just sit, we joined the gang, so Helen could take a picture of us braving the apparent precipice. Introduction to the Park The four of us (Helen, Missy, Tessi and I) arrived at Algonquin Park late in the afternoon. I’m impressed with how organized the park is. Markers in kilometre intervals are set up along the only highway. The corresponding kilometre for each trail, camping area and store is indicated on park maps. I had reserved a site for us at Kearney Lake Campground, located at Kilometre 36.5. Bears must be a big issue in every measurable section in the park. We received a detailed write-up about the very real presence of them, including what characteristics they may show, and how to react to each one. Plus signs are posted all over. I’ve often camped in bear country, but never anywhere providing such explicit detail about the creatures. All this information generated a bit of fear in Helen and me. We would find ourselves regularly looking over our shoulders throughout the weekend as we explored several of the variety of trails offered. Another Climb By the time we set up camp, we figured we could successfully hike the short Lookout Trail - about a 2 km (1.2 mi) loop - before the onset of darkness. We located it nearby at Kilometre 39.7. The climb was steep, once again reminding me how much I needed to work on my climbing endurance. The park planners were considerate to plant a bench conveniently where the human components of our group became quite winded. Any write-ups about the pathway state it is a difficult one. At the trailhead, I discovered a stack of information booklets discussing the geology of the park. Living in an area of the country not featuring much rock, I’m obsessed with places where it’s prominent. Algonquin didn’t disappoint me. Each trail offers these written guides highlighting a certain aspect of it. The pages are organized into numbered sections filled with details that correspond with numbered posts along the route. Teenagers raced back and forth as we slogged up the slope. Their youthful enthusiasm was catching. I delighted in their raw energy as they livened up our hike. Yet, once we reached the lookout area, I ignored them, as I was enthralled by the magnificent view of the treed landscape opening briefly to a distant vista of Lake of Two Rivers. The rounded outcropping softened what would be a sharp edge; however, it was still steeper in some sections than others. I kept Tessi leashed as per the usual reason - for the presence of wildlife, especially bears, though I imagine all the people around had scared them off. In which case, a tethered Tessi was in consideration for those people. Besides, the rules of the park say dogs must be leashed. We managed to return to our campsite just before darkness took over. Our First Night’s Sleep For the first part of the night, Tessi and I slept well. Then the roar of thunder and the bright flash of lightning shattered the night and our peace. Tessi started whining and I became unsure about staying in the tent. (A recent TVO program I had watched about quirky lightning strikes worsened my alarm.) I listened for any movement outside, but didn’t hear a peep. Even silence emanated from Helen’s tent. So I scooped a riled Tessi into my arms and we cuddled as the storm carried on around us. My fear soon overwhelmed me. I kept thinking about the tall, thin, lightning rod-style pines bordering our site, so I moved us to the car. From what I could see, only I ventured a move to a safer spot. But I felt better for it, though physical comfort was the trade-off for emotional comfort. When the storm finally moved on, we returned to our cloth shelter. (In an article I would read later, I would confirm a tent, surrounded by trees, is definitely not a safe place during a storm.) Morning revealed a few puddles inside. Helen mentioned since she was set up on a bit of a slope, she had spent much of the night repeatedly pulling herself back up from a puddle to a drier section. I piled my clothes up on my blowup mattress, thinking I’d deal with the water later. Thoughts of a coffee and our next hike were distracting me. We came across the Lake of Two Rivers Store, which housed a restaurant blessedly selling coffee. We would enjoy another lookout on our next hike, though we would stay far from its wet edge. Rain would prove to be our next challenge. For More Info

 (c) Cheryl Smyth, 2012

Story continued in Rivulets Only

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