If you go down to the woods today
Maybe I’m batty, but it takes me until the fourth kilometre, when I discover the leech latched on to my leg, to understand why my co-workers had asked, “But why are you going alone?”
As I whimper and grab hold of that sucker already bloated with my blood, I finally admit that trekking solo for three days in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario,o, could be perceived as foolish or somehow radical.
Despite the streaming blood and that Circle of Life fe song looping in my head, there is truly nowhere else I dog would days ratherof summer”,be. I am here that in peak what seasonwe call in of Canadalong, warm“the he
m days when Algonquin’s 7635sq km of wilderness is a at maximum accessibility.
I’ve escaped Toronto’s manic pace, driving 250km m north to reacquaint myself with the simple joy of puttingng left foot, right foot, in front of the other. I am hungry to be on my own and outdoors in a season when the earth is dry, leaf canopies are full and lake waters are radiant.
The trail undulates through woods of red maple, black ck spruce, hemlock and aromatic balsam fir. I trudge past white birch, bark peeling off the slender trunks in great curls. I move around fallen logs covered in bracket fungi the size of dinner plates. In this park, the soil is not rich, the waters are nutrient-poor and winters are cruel yet wildlife flourishes, including wolves, beavers, American black bears, loons and, most famous of all, the moose. If the platypus is proof that God has a sense of humour, then the moose confirms God loves a parody. Picture a 600kg beast with a humpback and face that only Mother Nature could love — too much of a nose, those disproportionate ears and antlers, overhanging upper lip, a flap of skin sagging from its throat, the whole package mounted on four skinny stick legs. Yet it is this animal that we Canadians proudly recognise as a national symbol.
The story of Algonquin’s origins is a reflection of the country’s as a whole. Long before it became Canada’s first provincial park, or the nation we know as Canada was founded, men were pushing into the so-called New World drawn by virgin red and white pines more than 40m tall. Lumber fuelled immigration and development. At one point half the population of able-bodied men were working winters in the bush felling trees. Logs were squared by hand and hauled to the frozen lakes until spring thaw, when the rivers would swell and the timber
Algonquin Provincial Park, right; common loon, above; bull moose in the park, below