An Overnight Trip To Algonquin Park
My wife and I wanted to get out and get one last hiking trip in before winter really hit. But at the same time, we wanted to have some “couple time” which meant it had to be an overnight trip. After some discussion, we decided that we’d go hiking in Algonquin Park which is the largest Provincial park in Ontario (as in 2,946 square miles). We’d then stay overnight at a local resort and drive back to Toronto the next day. Our vehicle of choice would be the 2017 Mazda3 Sport GT that I am reviewing this week. I’m also bringing along the ZTE Axon 7 smartphone to snap pictures with and to keep in touch. Though the latter proved difficult as mobile phone service is spotty at best within the park.
Now, from this picture, it looks like that my wife and I don’t pack light:
The fact is that each of us have a change of clothes, our hiking boots and toiletries in each overnight bag on the left. On the right is a backpack that we were going to use to carry drinks for the hike, and behind that is my Tylt backpack with my MacBook Pro. So really, the bags are big, but we don’t have a lot of stuff. Having said that, all of it easily fit in the back of the Mazda3 Sport.
First up is getting to the park. From Toronto we drove via Highway 401, then up Highway 400, followed by Highway 11 and finally across Highway 60 to the Western Gate of the park. That’s about a three hour drive. One thing that I recommend is that you leverage the OnRoute rest stops on highway 400. There are two of them and my wife and I stopped at the second one at Barrie Ontario to have a bio break. From there we made a slight detour into Barrie to stop at Starbucks for some coffee and it was back onto the road. The reason for that is that not all OnRoute rest stops have Starbucks locations in them.
Now normally, my wife would take over the driving responsibilities at this point. But I drove the entire way because the Mazda 3 Sport GT was so easy to drive. I can thank the radar based cruise control and the fact that it was really smooth on the highway for that. When we arrived at Algonquin Park, we needed to get a day permit which would allow you to use the park facilities such as the hiking trails. A day permit costs $17 per car and is good until 10PM in theory. However, the park staff typically want you off the hiking trails an hour before sundown. For us, that was 5PM. We entered through the western gate of the park and this is where we got our day permit:
They also had this for you to read:
So once we got our day permit, we drove another 25 KMs to get to our first stop of the day which was the Track and Tower Trail which is almost 8 KMs of up and down hiking:
One thing that I should point out is that this is moose, deer, and bear country. There are signs on the roads reminding you of the former, and these trash cans that can only be opened by humans that are directed at the latter:
Now this is a trail that has lots of uphill and downhill. The first couple of kilometers has this sort of scenery:
If you look closely at the second picture, you’ll notice the blue dot on the tree. That’s the trail marker. Follow that and you’ll be fine.
Your first stop will be this lake:
Which then leads to lots of uphill hiking. Starting with these stairs:
Then for the next couple of kilometers you go uphill for the most part until you get to these stairs:
Unless you’re in tip top shape, you’ll likely be a bit out of breath at this point. But it’s totally worth it when you get to see this view (click to see this panoramic shot in full size):
It’s a stunning view that makes the climb totally worth it. From here you head back down to go past a second lake:
And from there you spend the next few kilometers hiking up and down to get back to your car:
Total time from start to finish: Just under 3 hours. From there we had some time, so we decided to do a second hiking trail. This one was called the Peck Lake Trail which is just over 2 KMs and it was a 10 minute drive from the last trail that we were on:
Besides being much shorter, it is also allegedly much easier as it simply goes around the lake. I say allegedly because the day that we were there, I slipped on the wet ground and fell twice. I should also note that some of the trails are really narrow and you really have to watch your footing. But here’s a couple of pictures of the sort of views that you get:
Total time from start to finish: About 45 minutes.
One thing that I should point out is that my wife and I hike a lot and we are reasonably fit people. So don’t use our times as a guide as to how fast you should be able to do these trails. The first trail that we did is rated for four hours and the second one is rated at 90 minutes. One plus about hiking at this time of year is that there were no bugs.
From there we had enough of hiking. One thing that we appreciated was the fact that the Mazda3 Sport GT had all season mats in them to keep the mud from our hiking boots at bay:
Consider these mats to be a must get.
The next stop was the resort that we were staying at for the night which was the Hidden Valley Resort in Huntsville:
Now this is a resort that bills itself as being upscale, and for the most part it is. We had dinner at the resort as well as a breakfast via a buffet and it was very good.
Here’s the room that my wife and I stayed in:
It wasn’t extravagant by any means but it did have enough room to allow me to set up my MacBook Pro to answer e-mail and start writing this travelogue:
You’ll also note the ORICO 20W Universal Power Plug Travel Converter & Adapter to the left of the MacBook Pro which allowed my wife and I to charge our respective smartphones. You’ll also note that there is no power adapter that is plugged into my MacBook Pro. Seeing that I was away for one night and I have gotten as much as 10 hours out of a charge, I figured that I would leave the power adapter at home. I used it for a couple of hours to post some pictures for this post as well as start to write this entry and check my e-mail. I then put it to sleep to shower and go to dinner for just over an hour. I then woke it up and worked for another hour and then put it sleep for the night. The next day I woke it up, checked my e-mail and put it back to sleep while my wife and I went to breakfast for an hour. I then put it into my Tylt backpack while packing up and left it there until we got home. By then I had 3.5 hours of battery life left. Thus proving that if you’re on an overnight trip, a modern laptop will likely have enough battery power for you to do what you need to do. Assuming of course you fully charge your battery before you leave home.
You also get a balcony, but not much of a view. Which is fine with us as we were not paying for a view:
So, was there anything that I will criticise?
Ignoring the fact that there was a boy’s hockey team that were running up and down the halls and making noise for several hours into the night which was extremely annoying, there was this:
Ignoring the fact that the clock radio was unplugged, this is yet another place that I’ve stayed at that has a device that uses a 30-pin dock connector. Keep in mind that Apple hasn’t made a device in years that uses a 30-pin dock connector. Thus this is another situation where the 2000’s are calling to get their technology back. Upon closer inspection, it did have a USB port on it. However, it was only capable of having an iPod Shuffle plugged into it. Thus this is a double #fail.
At least the WiFi is free and speedy.
The next day we headed back to Toronto. We made two stops. One to refuel on Highway 11, and another at the OnRoute on Highway 400 south of Barrie to leverage the Starbucks at this location:
Here’s a view of the OnRoute from the inside via a panoramic shot (click to see it in full size):
You’ve got eating areas as well as some “comfy chairs” that you can sit at and relax. You get free WiFi access and you can see the choice of food that you have access to. It’s very bright and clean. My wife and I spent about 30 minutes here before getting back on the road to finish the drive home.
So, at the end of this trip, my wife and I really only scratched the surface of what Algonquin Park has to offer. We’ll have to return to see more of the park as it is a very beautiful place to hike through and drive through. We’d recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the outdoors in Canada.