If you go down to the woods to­day

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION CANADA - CINDY FAN

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

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