markinthepark seeking solitude

An Early Spring??

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I noticed the temperatures seemed to be fairly mild in Algonquin Park this winter. I should mention that when I did my annual winter camping trip on Family day weekend, our group experienced the coldest trip yet with an overnight low of -42°C one night. Man, that is cold!

Despite the cold trip, I noticed the snow depths didn’t seem so much shallow as the snow itself seemed fresh - There wasn’t very much in the way of compacted snow. This would confirm my belief that in fact it was a mild winter and very little compacted snow exists. With the coming warm spell predicted for the next two weeks in Algonquin Park, I am very hopeful of an early spring as the warming trend will do much to melt what I feel is a weak snowpack this year.

This past weekend we went up for a day-trip to The Park.Traversing my favourite winter trail - The Bat Lake Trail. At 5.6km The trail offers an assortment of terrain and forest to traverse through. The trail starts on fairly flat terrain as it winds its way west through conifers. The weather was great: Temperature near -1°C, no wind and even some sun early on in our trek.

As the trail begins to turn northwest it begins to ascend as it crosses a stream and makes its way up a small valley. It is in this valley that there is short, semi-steep climbs (semi-steep for snowshoeing). It is after one of these climbs that one of the coolest features of the trail comes into view - The icefall.

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By March, the icefall has had an entire winter season to grow and by the time we arrived the view was quite beautiful and worth the hike. It takes roughly 45 minutes to get to the icefall from the parking lot. The trek through the trail was fairly easy as the trail was well compacted. So much so that a few people tackled the trail with boots only. We preferred to go with our snowshoes which was a good call, for foraging for firewood in the bush was only possible with snowshoes.

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Despite the lack of compacted snow, there was considerable powder off the trail. I tried to get further up the ice-fall to photograph a third icefall and had to snowshoe through 1 meter deep snow, most of it fresh powder. It would seem the area had a lot of fresh snow lately.

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Overall, there was 6 to 8 inches of fresh powder with a very thin layer of ice crust and more fresh powder under that. In open areas like the marshes, the fresh powder was over 1 foot in depth.

As the trail ascends past the ice fall it leaves the maples and the valley behind as it plateaus out on the top of a ridge as the trail turns east, entering a hemlock forest. This is my favourite part of the trail as snow depths can be shallower and the trail itself is much flatter and easy to negotiate its winding path. The open forest of the hemlocks provides for extended views through the forest, making the winter setting much more visible and enjoyable.

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About 90 minutes into our trek we reached the lookout. The high point on the trail that has a clearing facing north with a view of Sasajewun Lake. It was 12 noon - Lunchtime. I was hungry, all that snowshoeing up hills and thru the forest loaded with fresh air had worked up my appetite.

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Nearby, off the trail I found some snow covered fallen dead trees. The were so dead that I was able to break off large limbs without the use of my handsaw. The deadfall also provided lots of kindling - Perfect!

We got a fire going and roasted some cheese filled sausages over the fire while sipping on cherry whiskey. After lunch was done and we were preparing to leave another couple came along. I offered them our fire - which they gladly accepted. We departed, asking them to make sure they cover it with snow when they left. Not that there was a chance of a forest fire happening, but rather it is good practise and to keep the view free from clutter for future visitors.

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The rest of the trail is downhill to Bat Lake proper - The acidified pond that is the trail’s namesake. After this it is about another 45 minutes to the parking lot. The rest of the trail crossing and passing a few marshes.

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I love snowshoeing in Algonquin Park. It is good, clean fun. Ultimately though, it merely serves as a diversion as I await my favourite pastime in Algonquin Park to become possible - Canoeing. I am hopeful that I’ll be paddling Algonquin Park earlier then usual this spring. My prediction is that I’ll be paddling on Friday April 11th. Now I just have to wait and see.

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