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September 1997

Algonquin Provincial Park: Where The Wild Things Are

At the edge of the world, Canada's Algonquin Provincial Park offers a window to the past.

There are places where all of the wildlife that’s supposed to be there, is still there. Where doses of moose, beavers, loons, and even wolf howls are daily possibilities. Where you can camp beside a lake, look north, and know that the forest extends uninterrupted for hundreds of miles. Algonquin Provincial Park is such a place, and it’s only a 3-hour drive from Toronto, Ontario, and 6 hours from Detroit, Michigan.

Algonquin has three primary backpacking trails, each made up of a series of loops ranging from 4 miles to 43 miles in length. The Highland Trail is the flattest and least rugged of the bunch, with loops of 11 and 20 miles. The Western Uplands Trail is longer and slightly more rugged with loops of 19, 33, and 43 miles. The third is the newly completed Eastern Pines Trail, located in a more remote section of the park. It has loops that range from under 4 miles to 9 miles. Of course, this being Canada, all of those mileages will appear in kilometers on trail maps.

Hiking through Algonquin offers remoteness and wilderness without the heart-pounding elevation changes that come with most of the truly wild places in the United States. Trails are rugged enough to keep things interesting without becoming too exhausting.

The main attraction at Algonquin is wildlife. You have a good chance of seeing animals anywhere and anytime, but to increase the odds, find a pond, lake, or marsh at dawn or dusk. Then just pick a comfortable spot, and let the show begin. Soon a ripple in the smooth water might turn out to be a beaver or otter. The wind may carry the laugh of a loon. The crashing and splashing you hear might be a moose.

Algonquin Provincial Park is a window to the past, when the entire Northeast was an endless, unbroken forest. It’s a place where paw prints in the mud belong to a wolf, not someone’s dog. It’s a place where your howl into the pitch-black night might be answered.

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