Autumn, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Autumn (or fall) is my favourite. It’s no secret, everyone who knows me, knows that. The crisp air, the incredible colours, the anticipation of winter, all make for a photographic smorgasbord that’s impossible to resist. That’s why I was so glad to be able to be in Algonquin Park during the “peak” of the fall glory this year, to experience the park from a different perspective.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve camped the interior of Algonquin in the fall, but this time, for a variety of reasons, we decided to experience the park from a day-tripper’s perspective, taking advantage of one of the campgrounds along the highway 60 corridor. We weren’t disappointed.
Our campsite, in the Mew Lake campground, was extremely clean and remarkably flat, with lots of options for our tent placement. It was a new experience for us not to have to manage food storage and preparation, but with so many excellent choices nearby, we embraced it readily. In particular, the Lake of Two Rivers store was a short walk from our site, and had not only groceries and supplies, but a great snack bar including excellent burgers and fries that served as our first dinner in the park. With marshmallows and hot chocolate in hand, we returned to our site for campfire and s’mores.
The morning light delivered a misty sunrise over the lakes, and we drove out to a spot that we had scoped the day before just for the purpose of photography: East-facing, easily accessible, with some nice foreground elements and of course a background that speaks for itself. I must say, being able to have my full photography kit, including tripod, completely accessible in the back of the vehicle is definitely something I appreciate about this type of camping versus canoeing!
The luxury of swapping lenses without having to worry about items dropping overboard into the lake was one that came in handy when we spotted this beautiful moose in a marshy area beside the highway. She was very cooperative as we pulled over and I prepped my gear, switching from my “morning sunrise” wide angle lens to my longer “wildlife” zoom lens. The low light of early morning made this capture somewhat challenging; a little trick I like to do in such situations is to purposely under-expose the shot using the camera’s EV+/- setting. This will give you a faster shutter speed, but you really need to keep your eye on the histogram to make sure the graph doesn’t “bottom out”, otherwise there’ll be no recovery of the shadow areas in post-production. That, combined with a higher ISO setting and optical image stabilization gave me a very comfortable exposure, not to mention a rather flattering portrait that I’m sure she would have approved of if I’d had the chance to show her.
In addition to some of the smaller hiking trails accessible from the road, one of our main goals for the day included checking out the old railway bike trail that was accessible, conveniently, right at our Mew Lake campground. Even more conveniently, we were able to pick up some excellent rental mountain bikes from the same trailhead, through Algonquin Outfitters’ bike rental shop, directly adjacent to their store and snack bar.
The bike I got was in fantastic condition, and the trail was just what I was looking for: wide, flat and very well marked, taking us right through the incredible scenery that we’d come to expect.
I’m not a serious mountain biker, so I certainly appreciated the lack of technical elements to the trail, which allowed me to crank it as hard as I wanted with no risk of injury. In minutes we were well away from the highway sounds and other visitors, enjoying the interior of Algonquin in an exhilarating new way. Regardless of your level of experience, the old railway bike trail is a definite must-do activity if you have the time.
Of course no trip to Algonquin in the fall would be complete without getting some paddles wet, which is just what we did on our final day in the park. Algonquin Outfitters on Lake Opeongoe was quite busy when we got there, but their staff were both friendly and efficient in getting us equipped, and we were on the water in minutes.
Instead of heading out onto the lake with most of the other day-trippers, we instead headed in the opposite direction to the south. This was a more technically challenging route through sometimes narrow, constantly winding and often marshy and shallow water. Our efforts were rewarded as we quickly left all of the other canoe-bound visitors behind, and even came across this great blue heron who was enjoying a day of fishing on the water.
It was a relatively short trip, but enough to satiate our paddling itch at least for a while.
For our first weekend spent along the highway 60 corridor it was an incredible trip and accomplished everything we hoped to: wildlife sightings, mountain biking, canoeing, hiking, campfires and camaraderie, all while surrounded by the glorious fall colours at their peak.
If you must pick only one season to experience the park, please do yourself a favour and let it be the fall.
Useful Autumn Links
- Fall in Algonquin Park
- Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report
- Mew Lake Campground
- Algonquin Outfitters Lake of Two Rivers Store, Cafe & Bike Rentals
- Algonquin Outfitters Bike Rentals
- Algonquin Outfitters Day Trips
- Costello Creek Day Trip
- Algonquin Outfitters Lake Opeongo Store
Photographer / Educator
“I’m just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.”