It’s been a trying year to say the least. Lockdowns, restrictions, cancellations, disappointments, even changes to things as simple as ordering food. I went to a local take-out place recently, only to be told that no more than 2 could be inside the take-out order area and that once my order was placed, I had to wait in a pre-marked parking area, in my car. Businesses and people are adapting. I have to admire how well we are adapting. But it still sucks. And on top of it all, my blog host, WordPress.com, decided to completely replace the blog editor I was familar with. Hence no posts for the last two cycles. An old dog can learn new tricks, but it sure takes a lot longer. I decided recently that I needed a break from it all, and with restrictions in place, took a trip north to two parks.
I am not a camper or a hiker, but I enjoy the outdoors as much as anyone, particularly when the weather is cooler and the insects are gone.
The drive to my destination was beautiful. Suburbia gave way to farms, which gave way to winding roads, woodlands, forests and fall colours. Small towns dotted the landscape, and provided a stopping point for refreshments. I was pleased to see that everyone took precautions. I guess it made sense – when your livelihood depends on people wanting to visit, you will do what is needed to make people feel comfortable.
Unlike many that head north, I wasn’t planning on camping. Second to “cottages”, my part of the world is big on hauling mobile accommodations behind your vehicle, ready to set up at any of many secluded campsites, many with electricity and access to nice facilities. That’s not me. I stayed in a lovely motel, geared especially to visitors like me, there to see the rustic woods, but not there to live in them.
I could see the colours from the roadway, creating a mosaic of coverage that was beautiful, even if it signalled the end of vital growth for the year. This year was muted compared to others. The extremely dry weather had caused most of the red-bearing trees to drop their leaves very early, stressed by the months of summer. So I found orange, yellow and everything in between. Even the brush was a golden colour.
The closer I got to my destination, the more brilliant the colours, and of course, the more dense the trees. I am always amazed at the density of tree cover in Canada, also realizing that we have removed so much of it below that imaginary boundary between north and south Ontario.
I spent three days travelling the area around the south end of Algonquin Park, not having a particular plan in mind, but only a general direction for each day’s journey. A drive would lead to a stopping point, and possibly a short hike. Exactly what I wanted.
I found that the most amazing colours were often off the beaten path, down a dirt road or away from the most “tourist” areas. I didn’t hesitate to turn down those roads marked “No Exit”.
Second only to trees is the amount of fresh water Canada contains within its boundaries. It was everywhere. From just outside my motel, to all along the routes I was driving. I stopped as often as I could, often limited by the fact that there was no place to stop along the roadway. A couple times I did anyway, and hoped that no big transport truck would come barreling over the hill to find me just edging the roadway. I don’t like run and gun photography – I prefer to enjoy my surroundings first, then shoot. Couldn’t do that along these roadways. Still, I stood silently and took a few deep breaths when I could.
I did a couple of excusions into the parks themselves, seeking out trails that could accommodate my lack of hiking skills and still provide something scenic to see. I was incredibly surprised to find many others had the same idea, despite the cool, cloudy weather. Younger, older, we all enjoyed spending the time outdoors, even if the parking lots and trails got a bit crowded at times.
I guess I should mention my camera and gear. I shoot Canon mirrorless now, and continue to be amazed at the quality of the captures and the ease of use of the camera itself. I did however run into some issues with filters, finding that a high-priced Canon variable ND filter leaked some type of lubricant between the two halves of the filters, making any images taken with this filter useless. There is always a decision when hiking about how much gear to take, and I thought a variable ND would give me more flexibility and less physical weight than a series of fixed ND filters. Not this time.
I also carried a small video recording setup hoping to chronicle my adventures. Look for that a bit later.
This trip was about relieving stress, getting away from my computer and experiencing some new surroundings. Although some of the walks were arduous, most were pleasant and the stress melted away. There were granite outcroppings, babbling brooks and of course, the leaves.
I was incredibly happy with the experience, although it would have been better with a group of friends. I did not see any moose, deer or bear, although they were supposedly stirring in the parks. Forest birds, yes, and the sound was wonderful.
I wanted to get one killer colour shot and I think this is the one. It was taken on one of those sideroads. I almost missed it, and had to drive backward on the highway for a short time to get back to it. But something caught my eye just briefly and caused me to stop. It was what I want to leave you with today.
Make sure to get out and experience the fresh air and beauty of your local surroundings. It does wonders for your wellbeing. I understand why people want to live out here and why they seem so much more healthy and happy than me. But I still think the convenience of municipal services in the middle of winter is better for my wellbeing, especially as we move further into cold weather and, yikes, the next wave of Covid.