A Walk in the Woods… or… Algonquin Bound Without a Canoe

This week Hubby and I went for a walk in the woods. A couple of walks, actually. Along the trails in Algonquin Park. 


Usually when we walk in these particular woods, we have three or four packs, a couple of paddles, and a canoe. Not this trip. We’ve changed up our routine this year, due to Hubby’s debilitating shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I love camping. And canoeing. But I am NOT going camping with a man who does not have the use of both arms. Nope. That’s because I am most definitely second “mate” on our little green Kevlar ship. 


Booth Lake, Algonquin Park, 2010
This is me above, trying to paddle in the stern during our Algonquin trip one summer. Note the look of concentration on my face, as we make slow and zig-zaggy progress across this utterly calm lake, until we switch back to our normal positions. Phew. So you see, on these trips, I am the helper, the do what I’m told person… when to paddle and on what side, when to move out of the way with my much more puny pack so Hubby can get past me on the portage trail with the canoe and the big pack… I’m sure you get my drift here. Mind you, not all of our camping expeditions involve portaging several packs and a canoe into the interior of Algonquin Park. For our yearly fall camping trip we use our tent trailer. But even though the fall trip is not a wilderness camping trip, I’m unable to set up the trailer by myself, so it was not an option. Not this year. 
So, instead, we rented a cottage on the outskirts of Algonquin Park for a couple of nights. We left the canoe at home, packed our hiking poles, and with the cooler full of good food and wine, we set off to salvage as much as we could of the fall trip we love so much. Our plans were to hike two areas of Algonquin Park that we never usually see. 
On the first day we walked part of the “Highland Backpacking Trail.” This is a “challenging”  trail with 19 km and 35 km loops. According to the warning signs at the access point, the 19 km loop is intended to take two days and the 35 loop three days. We were only planning to hike as far as we felt comfortable doing, and then we’d turn around and head back to the car. What a gorgeous fall day it was. Cool with brilliant sunshine.
hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
We climbed steadily on the way in. This is typical Algonquin scenery. Pine trees, and long, forested vistas. 


hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
And rocks and streams and more trees.


hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
This is where we stopped for lunch.


lunch stop while hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
This is me below… with my two puny packs. And my new Gortex jacket that I bought last winter. As the camera flashed I turned sideways, “See my big pack, ” I said. Hubby snorted. We shed our jackets and rolled up our sleeves shortly after this. The temperature was only about 12 degrees Celsius, but this trail was earning its “challenging” description, and we were both sweating. 


lunch stop while hiking the Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
On our second day of hiking we tackled the “difficult” “Western Uplands Backpacking Trail.” Like the trail the day before, the Western Uplands was designed for backpackers to hike over several days, camping out at least two nights on the trail. And like the first day, we would walk as far as we wanted, and then retrace our steps. The weather was surely co-operating. Sunshine, blue sky, and lovely crisp fall temperatures. Again.
hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
See the pile of walking sticks we found near the beginning of the trail? Normally I’d be grabbing one of these. I love to walk with a stick. But we had brought our own from home, so we left these for other walkers. And I was soon very glad to have my stick. We negotiated lots of uphill sections, and even trickier downhill ones. 
hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
This is part of our route. Or should I say root? See that one in the middle of the shot that’s raised off the ground a bit? There’s just enough space there to insert the toe of a size 8.5 hiking boot, I’d say.


hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
I took the shot below because this is part of the trail that Hubby remembered well. He and a good buddy portaged this trail into Maple Leaf Lake twenty-five years ago. With packs and a canoe. Can you imagine negotiating that bit with a canoe on your head? Me neither. Some people will do anything for good fishing. And I gather that when they arrived at Maple Leaf Lake it was all weeded in and there were no fish to be had. 


hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
When we walked through this grove of maple trees the wind blew and, for a few minutes, it rained leaves. I took several shots standing there as twirling leaves fell around me…. and none of them showed up in the pictures. Pooh. That was disappointing.


hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
Well, except for this one which just “accidentally,” and “conveniently,” lodged itself in my hat. How lucky was that?


hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
This is where we stopped for lunch on day two. There’s no place better for a picnic than a clearing beside a stream with lovely flat rocks, I always say.
hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
Hubby and I love being out in the bush on our own. Paddling, fishing…or like this trip, simply walking. We saw two other hikers all day. Not to sound too smarmy, but I think it’s on days like this that we get back bits of ourselves that get lost in the wear and tear of everyday life. We talk a lot. And begin to see each other the way we always have done. Yep. A good walk in the woods is restorative for relationships, I think. And just what the doctor ordered for us. Especially lately
hiking in Algonquin Park




hiking the Western Uplands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Park
I had planned to end my story about our fall walk in the woods with an inspirational quote. Maybe something from Thoreau? But I thought… nah… too cliché. And then I remembered that Bill Bryson wrote a book named A Walk in the Woods. So that’s why that title was stuck in my head, I thought. In this memoir, travel writer, Bryson and an old college buddy try to walk the Appalachian Trail. And I do mean “try.” I love Bryson’s work. Hubby and I both read In a Sunburned Country before we travelled to Australia. We laughed, and read bits out loud to each other, and then brought the book with us on our trip so we could compare our experience with Bryson’s. And I loved Notes on a Small Island, about his travels in Britain. So why, considering the fact that we love to camp and hike and stuff, have I never read A Walk in the Woods
Well, I plan to remedy that as soon as I can get the book from the library. Read this witty review from The New York Times or this one from the blog The Book Brothel and you’ll want to read the book yourself. 
And in the meantime, check out the trailer for the new movie, based on Bryson’s book, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. I hope the movie is as funny as the trailer. 




We drove home yesterday from our mini-vacation in full sunshine. Stopped beside a sparkling lake near Calabogie to eat our sandwiches. And today dawned cool and rainy. A perfect day to sleep in and write a blog post. And be glad to NOT be walking in the woods. 
How about you. Do you enjoy a good walk in the woods?


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23 thoughts on “A Walk in the Woods… or… Algonquin Bound Without a Canoe”

  1. When I saw your heading I immediately thought of Bill Bryson , he's a great writer & makes me laugh out loud . I read A Walk with in the Woods a while ago . He's a campaigner for rural England here now & is considered something of a ' national treasure ' though he's American of course . Your trip looks wonderful , great colours . We love to walk through beautiful countryside too – though our walks are shorter . After about seven miles of hills I tend to get bad tempered plus one of our dogs is lazy & curls up for a nap whenever we pause to check the map . No , he's not old or poorly – just a lazy Lurcher . Really recommend Barcelona by the way . Wonderful architecture & not just the Gaudi stuff , surrounded by green hills , next to the sea with great museums & shops . Better than Paris for me ( dare I say that ? )
    Wendy in York

    1. I think that seven miles of hills is pretty darned good! We didn't do the whole trail on either day. The walking was slower than our usual pace, very up and down and we often had to pick our way up slopes that had loose rocks and many tree roots. Love this kind of hiking, but not for our everyday exercise. Too hard on the knees! Barcelona sounds wonderful. Even better than Paris…high praise, indeed!

  2. This blog entry takes me back to our many August trips to Algonquin when our kids were tots. We'd go up there with our pop-up camper and canoe and try to spend about two weeks camping, hiking, swimming, sight-seeing, blueberry picking and star-gazing. Sometimes the rain interfered but even that was fun for a day or two. Wonderful trips from 40 years ago for me to remember now that I am 70.

    And "A Walk in the Woods" is laugh out loud funny. One of the few books my husband and I both loved. We listened to it together on an auto trip years ago. I too hope the movie lives up to the book.

    From a Pennsylvania reader who enjoys your stories, most of your books, and lots of your fashion choices (at least on you!)

  3. Leslie in Oregon

    Gorgeous countryside; gorgeous photographs! You clearly are at your most beautiful (and that is very beautiful) when you are hiking in the woods with your hubby. And can you write!–this is my favorite post in the several months I've been reading your blog. You are inspiring me to activate my inner Canadian (my father was born and raised there, and I spent a lot of my childhood there) and spend more time up north (and out east). Meanwhile, my husband and I recently returned from our annual five-day trip out to Wallowa Lake, at the northern edge of the Wallowa Mountains in n.e. Oregon. We too had a trip modified by injuries (mine and one of our dogs), so we took it relatively easy. It was glorious anyway! Looking forward to your next outdoors-with-hubby post, Leslie

    1. Wow. Thanks so much Leslie. That means a lot. Most of the feedback I get on the blog is on the fashion posts. And although they are fun, it's the travel and book posts which I love to write the most. Happy to inspire your "inner Canadian"… and now I'm really curious where it was up here that you spent your childhood.

    2. Leslie in Oregon

      The rolling prairie of Alberta, about 100 miles east of Edmonton (before Alberta became oil drilling and tar sands "heaven"). And of course, we spent time in the great national parks of the Canadian Rockies every time we drove between there and our Oregon base. My time in the eastern part of Canada has been limited so far to stays in Montreal or Ottawa each of the six times I took the transcontinental train (Canadian Northern route, between Vancouver and Montreal), back in the days when it was (for me) the lap of luxury and also the least expensive way to cross the continent. Keep those travel and book posts coming (although I enjoy all your posts), Leslie

  4. Thank you for the beautiful photos and inspiring me to get out! I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed Algonqun without a canoe. It sounds like an exhilarating trip.

  5. It sounds like you had a good trip, despite the lack of water and paddles. I lived in Ottawa many years ago and remember going to Calabogie Peaks on a ski trip. We learnt to ski in Ottawa and unfortunately haven't skied since, but we also did a lot of camping and that we did continue with until a few years ago. Now we get our fun in The New Forest, Hampshire with daily dog walks. Autumn in great this year and the weather has been perfect for long walks.

  6. Oh, you bring vback so many memories of hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. We had a condo there for many years, Out favorite thing to do was hike up to a high lake, eat lunch and then hike down. We went on many challenging hikes and loved every minute. We had secret lakes that no one could get to. Lakes where we had to climb up a water fall. The hikes here in Los Angeles leave a lot to be desired. Do I sound elitist? But once you've hiked those Idaho Mountains…. Yes, I love Bills Books. I read and laugh my way through.

  7. Wonderful post! Being out in nature, even without a canoe, is so revitalizing! I like trails where I can take in the surroundings rather than having to pay too much attention to the ground. My most memorable portage was experiencing vertigo on a ledge in Temagami in a rain, thunder & lighting storm with a canoe partner who was hit by lightning as a kid and was terrified of it. I've got to check out that book and/or film!

  8. As I read this post I was waiting for a but … But there was no but. Glad it all went so well. Sounds like a lovely trip and beautiful photos. Not something I ever do but you make it seem very appealing. Iris

  9. Yes, I love to walk in the hills. I would also love to start camping, in teeny steps. Problem is that with our drought, all the flushing toilets in local campgrounds are closed. Teeny step problem;).

    I so admire your outdoor adventures and your fitness.

    1. Ah well…"teeny" obstacles can be overcome. When the drought lets up, of course. I love my home comforts, and my hairdryer, and mascara…and most of my friends were shocked when I started camping with my husband in my late twenties. Now it's in my blood.

  10. I always enjoy reading about your adventures with hubby in the "great outdoors"! You seem to have such a great time and I m really pleased to see that this trip was a good one too! Some of the places you hike to are just spectacular! Thanks for sharing your photos.
    Have a good week!

  11. Such beautiful colours! Autumn is definitely my favourite season visually, so much to look at! Thank you so much for linking up to the #AllAboutYou linkup last week – do come back again!

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