Closer than you think.
Updated: Mar 31, 2021
In an effort to stay active during the cold winter months, my wife and I decided to head out for an outdoor hike. We like to explore new paths (new to us), get our dog Memphis out of the city where she can wander and pick up a couple million new scents.
Hike Location: Algonquin Park
Trail Name: Track & Tower
Length: 7.5 km
Difficulty: Moderate (All Trails)
Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/pLfvMD2iB3p9LEdC7
3 HOURS FROM THE GTA
Today's journey was a 3-hour drive to the south entrance of Algonquin Park. Previously, I've been to the park numerous times exploring it's interior beauty. On one occasion my wife and I were backcountry camping in the park when we had the opportunity to observe a moose (cow) nurse her two calves along the river's edge. It was a memorable trip that I'll highlight in another post some time.
Okay, back to today. As we drove north the snow started to fall, but the road was well cleared and our drive was smooth and enjoyable. Upon entering the park we stopped at the Park Office to touch base with any local updates and/or maps. With Covid-19 in full swing, the park office was closed at the time. However, simple brochures/trail maps were available and an electronic parking meter was handy to secure our necessary parking pass. Additionally, washrooms were available to the public, so we made use of them before heading to the trail.
After only a couple more minutes of driving eastward, the parking lot was marked for the trail we selected for today's journey, Track & Tower Trail.
The description from the Friends of Algonquin Park says, "Track and Tower Trail is a 7.5 km loop featuring a spectacular lookout over Cache Lake, this trail introduces you to some fascinating history." This sounded enticing enough for us, so we slapped on our gear (snow pants, jackets, boots, hats, and gloves - and the same for Memphis our German Short-Haired Pointer) and started down a narrow but well-marked snow-covered trail.
It didn't take long for us to pause in wonder at the beauty we were surrounded by. Tranquillity abounded as we admired the freshly fallen snow and the boughs of trees that were blanked by the same. Throughout the hike, we passed by flowing rivers with ice on their edges and frozen lakes showing signs of travel routes by numerous animals. While on our hike we didn't encounter any wildlife of note, likely due to the fact that we were moving fast and accompanied a spritely legged dog. With wildlife not being the purpose of the trip, we were not disappointed at all as views like the one below more than make-up for it. Here we are approaching a water dam, where a wooden bridge crosses over the water down river. Clearly, a great spot to stop for a few moments and admire your surroundings. You can easily hear the rushing waters below moving rapidly over the dam openings and rocks below.
At one point in the journey, there is an option to hike upward towards a lookout over the lakes. We opted to pass on this trek, as we wanted to get back to our vehicle before our limited amount of daylight elapsed. The final leg of our hike brought us alongside ice-covered rock faces where we spent a few moments admiring the formations and posing for a couple pictures.
This trail is well marked and really gives you the feeling that you're more remote than you actually are. The terrain is fairly even and clear lending itself to novice hikers even on a winter day. While we weren't wearing Yak-Traks (or something similar) they would certainly be handy a day where there was more ice build-up or even iced snow. For those that like to engage is the historical side of these trails there is a great guide available that points out insightful details along your journey (linked here).
Recommendations (beyond typical winter wear)
Winter Hiking Boots
Backpack (Day Use) enough to carry a thermos, water bottle, snacks etc
Things to Keep in the Vehicle
Dry Clothes (for the drive home)
Extra food and water