I used to camp all the time growing up: every year I’d go for at least a week long camping trip during the summers. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until last weekend when I made it out to Algonquin Park. I did a quick planning post here.
I chose a campsite close to Ottawa: it was about a 3 hour drive from Ottawa plus it’s another 3 hour drive from one side of the park to the other!
We left Friday after I finished work, stopped for some food for the weekend before leaving the city. We wanted to get there quickly so we could set up our tent before nightfall. We had directions on our GPS from Ottawa to Achray but you have to stop at the park entrance to register and they gave us easy directions to follow from the Entrance Office to our campsite.
Achray is a developed campsite so they had toilets (BONUS) and running tap water. There are about 40 campsites in the campground, and is right next to a backpacking trail AND it’s where the Jack Pine painting by Tom Thomson was done.
We set up our tent and spent the evening by the campfire ($7/bag kindling at the site) loving being in nature (but hating the mosquitoes and black flies that wouldn’t leave us alone). My friend supplied the tent and blow up mattress and I brought 5 blankets and a pillow for myself (I do not currently own a sleeping bag and didn’t want to buy one for the weekend). I also wore my onesie and wool socks and night and was just warm enough!
Saturday we woke up early to catch the sunrise (don’t you just love waking up in a tent?!). It wasn’t as spectacular as Saturday’s sunset (see below) but the early morning is so quiet and serene so I wasn’t complaining. We went back to bed for a nap (because we could!) before getting started on our day.
We stopped in at the Achray Campground Office to grab a few things: I needed a toothbrush (realized after the office closed that I forgot one!) and we rented a canoe for the day ($40 for the day, as long as you bring it back before the office opens the next morning). We then did a quick 1.5 km loop for the Jack Pine Trail which took us to a private beach with a great view of the Grand Lake.
After the hike we packed up our canoe with snacks and set out with the intention of canoeing to High Falls: a water slide and waterfall where you can swim and spend the day. We were in the lake for about 5 seconds when we realized there was NO chance the two of us could make the canoe trip to High Falls. It’d been over 10 years since I last stepped in to a canoe and just as long for my friend! We were having a difficult time steering and getting the canoe to move: we later realized that we were paddling the boat backwards (i.e. using the front of the boat as the back, oops). Once we figured out that we were paddling wrong, we had a much easier time with the canoe but still didn’t feel as though we could make it to High Falls and back. So, after a bit of canoeing, we went back to our campsite to pick up our books, more food and water and spent the rest of the day out on the lake. (It was also a great reprieve from the mosquitoes and black flies that were eating us alive on land!! Even with bug spray and citronella candles they were unbearable).
We stopped at the beach for a bit to rest after canoeing for the afternoon and to wait for the sunset.
Saturday evening we set up the campfire and spent the evening enjoying the warmth from the fire and lack of bugs (can you tell how annoyed I was by the bugs???).
Sunday morning we slept in and returned the canoe to the office and were hoping to do a shorter hike to High Falls: there is a “cheater trail” for those of us who can’t do the whole trail/don’t have time BUT the park ranger said it was flooded so no such luck! Instead we packed up and drove to Barron Canyon to do the short 1.6 km hike, which takes you right along the cliff of the canyon.
After the trail, we made our way back towards Ottawa and stopped at Whitewater Brewery for lunch. That Milk Stout and salad were to die for!
Next time, I’d like to do the Lookout Trail in Algonquin Park next: it’s a 2.1 km loop with an amazing lookout of the provincial park. It’s still a 3 hour drive from Ottawa, (more south than Achray) but I’m planning on heading back in the fall where the foliage will be perfect.
How about you? Have you been camping yet this season?!