We sent our lovable travel and adventure writer, Shane Saunderson, into the depths of Algonquin Park armed with a paperclip, half a squeezed lemon wedge, disposable camera and in a 2019 Ford EcoSport.
Well, we sent him up there with one of the aforementioned.
We really did send Shane up to Algonquin for a three-day solo camping trip and below are his takeaways.
Ontario’s outdoor playground is but a short trek from the GTA, leaving you with no real excuse not to get outside and enjoy the wilderness (except maybe the bugs).
So, if you feel the urge to escape the concrete jungle this summer, do what I did and plan some back country time in Algonquin.
While you’re at it, here are a few quick tips:
Do: Go to Algonquin Park
With something for just about every interest and skill level out there, the most important thing I can say is to not overthink it and just go to Algonquin. If you have any craving for the outdoors, the park can satiate it with either a quick day hike all the way up to a week-long portage through the bush. I was amazed at how fast and comfortable the drive from Toronto was, even on a Friday-Sunday through cottage traffic. Also, as a strong outdoor enthusiast (but by no means an expert) Algonquin was the right mix of rough enough to feel like I was in nature while structured enough to feel like I wasn’t one wrong move away from death.
Do: Consult an expert
That said, once you make the decision to go, caution is not always best thrown to the wind. Were it not for numerous conversations I had with experienced friends, MEC employees, and local park rangers, I likely would have been some combination of eaten alive by bugs, lost in the deep woods alone, and heaving up my insides from something inside unfiltered lake water. There is a lot that can (and will) go wrong on your trip and while you won’t be prepared for all of it, an expert hiker/camper will at least know how to prevent the things that could be catastrophic.
Do: Score a media vehicle from your editor
While we all love rental car companies (please tell me you picked up on that sarcasm), if you have an editor who is able to score you a bright red, fully loaded, 2019 Ford EcoSport, I highly encourage you select that option. The surprisingly roomy interior gave plenty of space for my voice to echo while I talked to myself right up until I discovered that I had Sirius XM and listened to rock n roll from my childhood the whole time. I know nothing about how to review cars properly, but it did what it needed to on the 400 and was a lot of fun to drive through the winding turns of Highway 60 near Algonquin as I made racecar noises with my mouth.
Don’t: Overdo it
Though the experts may have helped me with bears and dehydration, my runner’s mentality did not prepare me well to pace myself for the weekend. I happily run 10ks, halves, and full marathons, however, when you stick a 20kg pack on my back and start throwing me through undulating hills, everything goes a bit sideways. You likely should be hiking about half of what your gut tells you and a good rule of thumb (I learned about after the trip) is to hike between 8-15km per day. Alternatively, you could do 20km+ per day and find yourself unable to walk on Monday.
Don’t: Wing it
I planned this trip in under a week, which was tricky for a few reasons. First, Algonquin books up and even if you’re doing backcountry, you should try to reserve spots. More importantly, there are several things you will likely want to have with you for the trip that, if you realize too late, you will probably just end up not having. For example, if you hum and haw for too long on which hiking shoes to buy, you will instead end up walking 50km+ in running shoes. This isn’t an impossible task, but your feet will look like moon craters and you likely won’t ever use those shoes again.
Don’t (But maybe do) : Use the your media vehicle as a dry rack
By the end of the weekend, you, and everything you’ve touched, will reek of forest-boiled human and suffering. I had the good wits to take a bath in the river at the exit and bring a change of clothes for the drive home, but that didn’t change the fact that my stuff was still damp and laden with BO. While the EcoSport’s hood and roof doubled perfectly as a dry rack and the interior had numerous convenient places to hang things to air out on the way home, I’m still paranoid that I’m going to get an invoice from Ford Canada for having to deep-clean the scent of me out of everything.