Travel Options – Revisited

Courtesy of Parkbus

Courtesy of Parkbus

Travelling to any Provincial Park is difficult if you don’t have a car at your disposal.  I’m one of those people who rely on other forms of transportation when it comes to getting into Algonquin.  Even though we don’t have the option our ancestors and Tom Thomson did years ago when it comes to getting into Algonquin Park, there are still a few options available to those who don’t have a car.

  1. Park Bus:  The Park Bus is THE BEST travel option.  Since I posted about it in 2012 the Parkbus has gone on to expand to a variety of parks and their schedule takes you in almost whenever you want to go.  The Park Bus takes you to various points through out the HWY 60 corridor.  This is the schedule and stops that the Park Bus makes:
      TORONTO – ALGONQUIN
    T1 York Mills   7:00 am
    T2 30 Carlton Street 7:30 am
    T3 Dufferin and Bloor 7:45 am
      ALGONQUIN – TORONTO
    A6 Lake Opeongo 1:30 pm
    A5 Pog Lake 1:50 pm
    A4 Lake of Two Rivers 1:55 pm
    A3 Canoe Lake 2:10 pm
    A2 West Gate 2:25 pm
    A1 Oxtongue
    Wolf Den
    2:35 pm
  2. Ontario Northland:  Since I’ve posted this you are only allowed to take the bus now to Huntsville.  You can then take a cab into the park from there…be warned it is an expensive option unless you have family/friends in the area.
  3. Greyhound:  You can take the greyhound to Maynooth which is at the south east tip of the park.  There is an outfitter there (Algonquinbackpacker.com) that offers daily shuttles into the park.

Overall the Park bus is your best option.  You are not able to take Canoes on the bus but it does stop at Algonquin Outfitters on Opeongo Lake where you can rent canoes as well as the Portage Store.  The bus will also drop you off at two campgrounds: Pog Lake and Lake of Two Rivers.  Two Rivers has a store on site so you can grab any groceries that you need like your perishable foods.  I hope this helps you try to find the best way into the park this summer…I plan on riding the Park Bus again this summer!

~Enjoy your trip

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WhaSUP?

With paddle boarding (SUP) increasing popularity every season it’s a difficult market to stand out above the rest!  Yet there is a paddle board company that is starting to do just that!  We’ve all heard of BluWave or SUPLove…those names are big here Ontario.  The problem with those boards (not that it’s a big problem per say) is that they can be hard to transport.  You need a vehicle in order to carry them to and from your campground or have someone else drive you.  This is where whaSUP stands out above the rest.  Their boards are inflatable and portable!  Don’t believe me?  This is their paddle board…

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And this is their paddle board folded up….

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Yup that’s it!  It’s folds into a backpack the size of my Eureka Dry Pack!  Inside that backpack is your SUP board, your paddle, your leash, the pump, and a guage.  For those who travel by Parkbus to the Provincial Parks…this is your answer to how to transport something like this up…this will fit easily under the bus!  Live in downtown Toronto but can’t take your SUP board onto the subway to get down to the lake?  Just throw this on your back and away you go.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t work for the company…but I know an ingenius product when I see it and I want to share it with you!  I’m looking forward to testing one this summer!  In case you’re interested…the price point is about half compared to other companies.  They are only $750 for the model that I showed you…which is a show special right now and it includes the taxes.  Plus you get everything I told you about!  If you are still set on getting a regular hard SUP board they also carry ROGUE paddle boards!

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Next week I’ll be chatting more with Scott and Peter from whaSUP about their product while at the Outdoor Adventure Show!  If you want to find out more about them visit their website: www.whasup.ca, follow them on Twitter: @whasupboards, or check them out on Facebook: www.facebook.com/whasupboards.

~Enjoy your trip!

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Trip Report August 5-9, Kearney Lake

It was a wet but enjoyable week in the park!  I really enjoyed the break from work and everyday life.  There’s just something about being up there that recharges you and gets you relaxed before heading back to reality.  Even if the campground was noisy or it rained most of the time.

My week started off in Toronto at a Hostel for the night before heading up the next morning on the Parkbus.  It was the Neill-Wycik Hostel.  In the school year it’s a dorm but during the summer it’s a hostel.  In the female dorm you get 1 room in a 6 room dorm apartment.  It includes a full kitchen and two bathrooms.  It’s a pretty nice and comfortable stay for 25 bucks a night.  The best part is that it’s a 5 minute walk to Yonge and Dundas Square.

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I was the Parkbus Ambassador for Monday’s journey up to Algonquin.  It was great to get to know some of the passengers and talk to them about their trips.  I met dad at Opeongo so that he and I could set up in Kearney.  He was only here for the first night.  I camped on site 135 for the week.  It’s a gorgeous site!  It backs on to a marshy area which provided viewing opportunities for frogs and ducks.  The firepit was pretty close to the marsh too so you could watch the sunset.

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I spent the rest of the week by myself which was heaven!  I took advantage and read some books.  How many books?  Lets just say I almost read the entire Harry Potter series (I was in the middle of book 7 when I boarded the Parkbus).  Reading by the campfire every night was so relaxing.

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Wednesday was very wet!  We were under a severe thunderstorm watch all day.  I spent most of the day reading under the tarp.  By dinner time it had cleared up and I was able to have a nice campfire.

I didn’t do anything that week and I really enjoyed that.  I love alone 90% of the time but I find that being in the city I don’t want to sit still…I want to be out and on the go.

I headed back to the city Friday which in a way was a drag but it was still a nice vacation.  Next up…TedxAlgonquin in September!  Speakers include Kevin Callan, Preston Ciere (portageur.ca), Jeff McMurtrie (Jeff’s Maps), and more!

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VOLUNTEER NEEDED!

Hey folks!

Parkbus is in need of a volunteer this Friday to Monday to cover my run that I was scheduled for.  You would meet at York Mills Station in Toronto at 6:40am on Friday and then head to Algonquin returning to the Toronto area by 6/6:30 Monday night.  As a volunteer you are responsible for pick ups at the three locations in Toronto as well as drop offs within the park on the way up.  On the way home you are responsible for the pickups in the park and drop offs in Toronto.  As well you will be administering a survey, answering questions, and raffling off prizes.  You need to book your own site…there are a few left at Kearney for sure (223 is my old site so I know it’s available) or you can take a chance and hope that a non-reserved site is available.

If you can do this trip please email Alex: alex@parkbus.ca

Thanks!

Jenn

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Being Bear (and critter) Proof

Over the last couple of trips there have been signs at almost every campground regarding the fact that there is a bear in the area.  Yes you read that right…there are bears wandering around the campgrounds.

DON’T BE ALARMED.  Bears are actually more scared of you than you are of them.  As well, if you take the proper precautions then you won’t be seeing a bear on your site anytime soon!  Unless your neighbours don’t read this post and leave their food scraps around.

  1. Pack all food away when you are finished, going to bed, or leaving your site!  Obviously this is common sense but hey there are still people out there who don’t do this!  Last year I was next to a group of campers who left EVERYTHING on their picnic table.  How they didn’t have a visit in the middle of the night is beyond me.
  2. Keep your site clean!  Again, it’s kind of a no brainer but you sometimes need to be reminded.  Don’t leave that empty milk carton or that empty cheese wrapper on your table thinking you’ll put it away later.  Do it right away and then enjoy the rest of your day!
  3. Put your garbage in the Molock containers at the end of each day!  I get criticized sometimes for this but I’m a very clean camper so I try not to have any traces of food around at all.  I’m also the type that has to throw out that bag of garbage even though it may only have a small amount in it.  I’d rather be safe than sorry.
  4. Hang your food bag/barrel!  This is for those in the back country.  There are still bears out there.  They and the raccoon’s will still eat your food if you leave it out.  Hang it up high and away from the tree trunk.
  5. Don’t hang fish from a clothes line (or any food) to attract bears!  Yes folks…I’ve seen this happen.  The campers wanted to get a picture of the bear.  I’ve also seen people put honey on their hands to get a picture of a bear licking their hands.  For your own safety don’t do this!  Bear’s are not Winnie the Pooh….they are not toys.  You will get hurt.
  6. Bring a cooler not a full size fridge!   Again…seen this happen.  A full size fridge is not going to stop any animals if they want your food.  Even if it’s padlocked.  Bears are pretty smart!  Bring a cooler that you can store in a vehicle.

One issue that can be controversial is whether to burn garbage while out canoeing.  I buy environmentally safe products but if I have paper plates I will burn them.  That being said DON’T BURN ANY PLASTIC PRODUCTS!  It’s not good for the environment.  I know people who do and that’s their choice but if you think about the carbon footprint and the effect that the chemicals in plastic have on the environment then you’ll think twice about it.

For those who take the Parkbus up to Algonquin there are bear proof food lockers available at the campgrounds that Parkbus stops at.  For a small deposit ($25) you can use it for the duration of your trip to store food and toiletries so that they don’t attract wildlife.

On a side note: This summer marks 30 years of visiting Algonquin Park for me!  The first campground we ever camped in was Pog Lake!  I was three at the time :).

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~Enjoy your trip!

 

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Crossing Into The Unknown

I’m a born and raised car camper who has dabbled in yearly canoe trips.  That being said…I usually have said car with me.  Well this summer I’m crossing into the world of camping without a car.  Because I’m taking the Parkbus up a couple of times this summer I’m limited to what I can carry on my back.  It’s not like I’ll have a trunk to pile everything into.  I also have to carry it through a very busy subway station and Go Station.  This makes it even more tough.

What am I going to do?  I’m going to pack dehydrated meals and the bare essentials.  Basically I’m going Ultra Light!  My hammock tent weighs 3 pounds so that’s not a big deal.  My clothes I’m bringing are probably minimal.  The only real weight I have to worry about is my cooking gear and my food.  I’m looking at bringing a small stove like the Broadstone at Canadian Tire:

0762648_1This single burner stove is big enough for a frying pan and pot, but still weighs less than a traditional campstove.  I also plan on taking dehydrated food.  I’m looking at making my own spaghetti sauce, chili, and other pasta dishes.  I’m a pasta lover so this isn’t hard to imagine me eating.  I’m also looking into getting some other dehydrated meals for me to try.  The beauty of the Parkbus is that there are now bins in the campgrounds where you can store your food…so I don’t need to worry about finding the right tree.  I can also pick up any fresh food that I want at the Opeongo store of Algonquin Outfitters like bread and buns.

It’s an adventure I’m looking forward to and it should be something that pushes me into solo canoe tripping in the future because if I can handle this…I can handle that!

 

~Enjoy your Trip!

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Trip Report – June 21-23, Kearney Lake Campground

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As far as trips go, this was probably one of the best.  It started off early but was worth every second!  I took the Parkbus up to Algonquin Outfitters from Toronto and met my dad.  You can see my review of the trip here.  We got to AO around 11am, which was fine because it still gave us most of the day to set up and do stuff.  After shopping around AO & Swift Canoe we headed out to our site.We had a great site right on the water.  For those who may want to camp there it’s site 129 at Kearney Lake.  We had the whole loop to ourselves pretty much.  There were a couple other people but they were far enough away that we didn’t hear them or even notice them.

1010240_10151700579521203_745319935_nWe were able to put in our canoe and paddle the lake that night.  The canoe we brought with us this time was our handmade Cedar Strip.  I love this canoe!  It travels swiftly down the lake and doesn’t take a ton of effort to portage.  The rest of the day was spent curled up in front of a campfire.  I ended up reading while in front of the fire.  The books I was reading was The Kane Choronicles!

 

1017101_10151700584021203_909136884_nSaturday was rainy so after breakfast we went out and looked for moose.  It’s like this big guy knew it was my birthday because he stuck around for a bit and let me get some good pictures.  Is that a smirk I see?  He was the only moose we saw all weekend….however we did see a ton of turkey’s running around.  I don’t know if I’ve just missed them in the past but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember that many turkey’s running around before.  We also did the Logging Museum and went into Whitney for a bit.

988604_10151700587061203_1685579377_nOn Sunday we packed up in the morning and then headed to do a hike.  I decided I wanted to do the Big Pines trail as it’s one of my favorites.  If you want to learn about the history of some of the logging in the park and see some of the tall pines then I highly suggest this trail!  Overall it was a great trip!  I love spending my birthday in the park for a couple of reasons.  One – its my favorite place to be.  Two – it’s always so quiet that week before school gets out that you can relax fully and truly enjoy the park without a lot of people around.

I’m going again July 26-29th for Logging Days and the Wakami Wailers.  As well I’m a Parkbus Ambassador for a few trips!  If you have the time off and want to come along I’d love to chat with you on the bus!  I’m doing 3 trips with Parkbus: August 5th – 9th (5th to the park, 9th home), August 16th – 19th (16th to the park, 19th home), and September 7th – 8th (7th to the park, 8th home).  I’d love to have my readers join me!  Both trips in August I’ll be staying at Kearney Lake.

~Enjoy your trip

 

 

 

 

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Parkbus Review

This weekend I had to travel to Algonquin via The Parkbus from Toronto.  I was beyond impressed!  Typically I travel up north via Ontario Northland…it used to be by train but now they only use busses.  The trip is so long and not that comfortable.  Parkbus however is the exact opposite.

First off, finding your stop isn’t very hard.  They have three within Toronto to make it extremely easy.  The stops are York Mills, Carlton & Yonge, and Dufferin & Bloor.  I got on at Carlton & Yonge which is right outside of the Holiday Inn.  When the bus pulled up we were greeted by a bus volunteer named Norman!  He was organized, polite, and made sure that everything was taken care of.  After we got out of Toronto (which took a while due to construction) it was a peaceful and relaxed ride up to Webbers where we stopped for Tim Hortons.  During the trip Norman chatted with passengers about their journeys and made you feel welcome aboard!.

The second half of the trip was just as nice and comfortable!  I really enjoyed learning about people’s trip plans, talking about the park history with first time trippers, and learning about the other passengers.  The trip was versatile so you were pretty much able to be dropped off whereever you needed.  On the way there I got dropped off at Algonquin Outfitters and on the way back I got picked up at Canoe Lake.  It was refreshing to be able to travel with other people who share the same passion and desire for the park and the outdoors that I have.  Parkbus has also added on to their experience by putting food bins in each of the campgrounds in Algonquin for those who take the bus and have no cars to store their food!

Norman was a great volunteer!  He really knows his camping stuff and his knowledge about ultra light camping was impressive!  He is very knowledgeable about backpacking especially when it comes to the backpacking in the States!  He got to know all the passengers and found out about their trips and made sure any questions they had were answered.  On the way back he raffled off a bunch of stuff like Parkbus shirts and a couple of Jeff’s Maps!

Overall it was a great experience and I look forward to riding it again.  Who knows…maybe I’ll get a chance to volunteer this summer :)!

~Enjoy your Trip!

Frequently Asked Questions

Over the course of the last few years I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding a large variety of topics.  This post is dedicated to your questions.

1.  Where in Algonquin can I get basic supplies?

If you are looking for the basics like bread and milk or condiments then you have a couple of options within the park.  You can go to the Two Rivers Store or the Portage Store.  If you are in the park for an extended stay then you can go to either Whitney on the east end or Dwight/Huntsville on the west end.

2.  Can I rent a bicycle in the park?

Yes you can!  You can rent a bike directly from the Two Rivers Store.  The store is located at the end of one branch of the bike trail which makes it easy to get to.

3.  Is the park open year round?

Yes!  If you wish to camp then you can camp at the Mew Lake Campground.  The campsites are first come first serve basis unless you wish to use a Yurt which you need to reserve.  You can use the interpretive trails and the backpacking trails.  The Visitor Center is also accessible during the winter.   Algonquin also has two ski trails that you can use.

4.  I camp by Parkbus is there a way to get around?

If you came by Parkbus and you are camping along the corridor you have very little options for getting around.  If you feel up to it you can bike along Hwy 60…be cautious however because the Hwy is very busy.  The other option is by calling a cab from Whitney.  Be prepared as this will cost you a lot of money.

5.  Best time to see wildlife?

A camper once asked a ranger (at my campsite) what time they let the wildlife out.  Without missing a beat the ranger looked at his watch and replied “Oh in about 5 minutes”.  The camper ran back to their car and took off.  Though the wildlife isn’t let out at a certain time, there are a few good times to see wildlife.  First is during the spring run off.  The wildlife is drawn to the side of the road for the salt from the roads.  Early Summer at dusk and dawn is another good time to see wildlife.  Most people go out for a drive at dusk while camping to “moose watch”.  The other good time to possibly see wildlife is the fall during the rutting season.  

6.  Are there restaurants located in the park?

The park has 6 restaurants located along Hwy 60:

  • Killarney Lodge – Lake of Two Rivers
  • Bartlett Lodge – Cache Lake
  • Portage Store – Canoe Lake
  • Arowhon Lodge – Joe Lake
  • Two Rivers Store – Between Mew Lake Campground and Two Rivers Campground 
  • Visitors Center – Across from Spruce Bog Boardwalk

7.  Is there any lodging available for those who may not be into camping but wish to enjoy the park?

If you aren’t into camping and want to stay somewhere with the comforts of home you have a few choices both in the park and outside the park:

  • Arowhon Lodge
  • Bartlett Lodge
  • Killarney Lodge
  • Couples Resort (Whitney)
  • Blue Spruce Resort (Oxtongue)
  • and many other options.

8.  Can I get a canoe rental at my campsite?

Yes.  The Portage Store offers rentals at all the campground beaches.  Check your beach bulletin board for the times.  As well Opeongo Outfitters (not affiliated with Algonquin Outfitters) will also deliver canoes to the campgrounds.

9.  Are there ATM’s located within the park or is there interac service.

Both!  There is an ATM at the Visitor Center and at Two Rivers Store.  The park also has Interac available.

10.  Is there internet or cell phone survice within the park?

Surprisingly the internet question is one of my more popular ones.  There is no wifi service within the park except in the Visitor’s Center.  There is however cell service.  The cell towers have about 3km of service so you may have really good service in one part of the park but then in another part you have a dead zone.  

11.  Are the beaches in the park patrolled by lifeguards?

No.  You swim at your own risk.

12.  How will I know there is a fireban?

You can check out the Friends of Algonquin Website (www.algonquinpark.on.ca) as well here on my blog.  You can also follow the friends of Algonquin Park on Facebook.

13.  What are Radio-Free Zones?

Radio Free Zones are a section of a campground where radios and pets are not allowed.  You are allowed personal mp3 players or radios as longs as they have headphones.  

I hope these answer some of your questions as you think about booking your trip into the park!

~Enjoy your trip

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Travelling to Algonquin: Parkbus Style

Algonquin Park is an outdoor paradise that is loved by a lot of people.  There is one issue however.  Those without a car cannot access it.  It used to be that you could catch a train from Toronto up to Algonquin….of course that stopped in the 1940s/50s.  You can take a bus to Huntsville or Maynooth but even then you need to find alternative transportation into the park.  This is where Parkbus comes in!  Alex and Boris give us some insight into why Parkbus started and the services they offer.

Alex Berlyand and Boris Issaev - Parkbus Founders

Boris Issaev and Alex Berlyand – Parkbus Founders

1.        Why did you start Parkbus? 

My family lived in Toronto without a car, so I didn’t get to go camping until I turned 18 and 19 and started driving. Realizing what I have been missing all these years, I teamed up with my high school friend Alex Berleand, whose experiences were similar, and we started this as a private initiative.

2.       What was the initial response?

Initially we approached MEC in Toronto, asking them to conduct some surveys in the store. They agreed, and survey results (showing overwhelmingly positive response) helped us approach Ontario Parks and other partners and we conducted a small 3-weekend test pilot in the summer of 2010. We consequently formalized the initiative under the umbrella of Transportation Options, non-profit organization, which was founded back in 1992, and which is dedicated to developing sustainable tourism and transportation in Ontario.

The initial response from everyone was overwhelmingly positive. At the same time, there was a fair share of scepticism, as many people felt that going to Algonquin buy bus won’t work, except for rare cases of single travellers for whom car rental would be too expensive. As our experience showed, however, single travellers are definitely a minority – most people come in 2s 3s and larger groups.

Courtesy of Parkbus

Courtesy of Parkbus

3.       For readers who may not be familiar with Parkbus can you explain how it works? 

Parkbus is simply a bus network which connects Ontario cities (Toronto/Ottawa) to campgrounds, canoe access points, backpacking trails and lodges/motels in and near provincial and national parks in Ontario. By dropping people off right where they will be spending their time, or starting their trip, we are eliminating the need for a car completely when it comes to accessing parks, making park visitation experience greener and more equal. We are also bringing new segments of population and new tourist dollars to targeted areas. Finally, our Parkbus Ambassador Program, with volunteers riding the buses and providing guidance and advice to campers with less experience, is another important aspect of the program.

4.        I see you have recently expanded into Ottawa, congratulations!  Do you think there will be even more expansions in the future? 

Yes, Ottawa will start off as a new pilot service this season, with the hope of making it as regular as the rest of our routes based from Toronto. We are doing our best to expand and improve the service each season, based on the overwhelming feedback we continue to get from our passengers and general public. We certainly have many other destinations in mind, and would like to gradually offer people the opportunity to explore all the beautiful parks and outdoor destinations we have in Ontario.

5.       What, if any, are the chances of the bus running earlier in the season for people like myself who may not have access to a car but still want to enjoy Algonquin in the winter time?

Some of our passengers have also expressed interest in winter service, and that is something we are looking into for a potential pilot next year. As with every new run, we need to make sure there is enough interest focused on one or two winter runs in order for us to make them happen.
6.       Tell us where else Parkbus travels to from Toronto so that my readers are aware of other outdoor opportunities.

Parkbus currently provides service from Toronto to Algonquin, Killarney, Grundy Lake and French River Provincial Parks. This year we are also starting our newly added regular service to the Bruce Peninsula, with stops at Bruce Peninsula National Park (Cyprus Lake Campground), Lion’s Head as well as the town of Tobermory, where passengers can connect to Manitoulin Island via the ferry.

7.       For those who are thinking of taking the parkbus, what restrictions are there when it comes to gear?

We are fairly flexible when it comes to gear allowance on board the bus. Each passenger can take a reasonable amount of the necessary camping equipment. We also allow a limited number of bicycles on each bus. If you would like to bring a bike, please call 1-800-928-7101 before booking your tickets to make sure the space for your bike is still available. Canoes and kayaks are not allowed on the bus, but are available for rent from outfitters in the park, and firewood is also prohibited due to the firewood importation ban.

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