1 January 2015
Thwarted on two previous occasions I was elated when I finally located the grave of Captain John Dennison, an early pioneer who moved his family to Opeongo Lake around 1871 and there established farms, over two decades before Algonquin came into existence. Life was a constant struggle and not without tragedy; in 1877 two grandchildren died and were buried on the property. In June 1881, at the age of 82, Captain Dennison also died after a fatal encounter with a black bear. He was buried close to the children, his grave enclosed within a cedar rail fence and marked with a simple copper plaque. The surviving family members departed in 1882 and a century later a memorial was added by his grave, commemorating the deaths of all three members.
If a tree calls in the forest does anybody hear? If you subscribe to Bell Mobility you should be able to hear loud and clear when you are by Km 7, where at the parking lot and trailhead for Whiskey Rapids you can find a cellular tower disguised as a pine tree. The 97' tall monopine was erected by Environmental Integration in the summer of 2007 and with its 17' branches and realistic looking bark, blends in with its surroundings and fools many passing motorists.
Following the peak of the red and sugar maples along the corridor on the western side there is an encore when the aspens, birches and tamaracks on the eastern side turn gold, a period when the Opeongo area becomes Opeongold. After crossing Costello Creek, a short hike through the bush brought me to a ledge that offered this panoramic view of Sproule Bay, home to Algonquin Outfitters store and the access point for many people heading out on Opeongo Lake and beyond.
Cache Lake was once the hub of Algonquin and during its heyday was the location of Park Headquarters, the Highland Inn and Algonquin Park railway station. The last train to stop here was in 1959, to collect youth campers from Camp Tanamakoon, and the railway ties lifted in the fall of that year. The right of way is still discernable, flanked by forest, the hustle and bustle of a bygone era now replaced by stillness and silence on this winter afternoon. Established as a historic site, a series of five interpretive panels commemorate the past and the role the railway has played in the area and for tourism in the park.
By the end of October most of the deciduous trees are bare, as is the highway corridor of tourist traffic, and all of the lodges, youth camps and concessionaires are closed and winterized for the season, like this humourous sign I noticed and photographed while attending a recent workshop at the Harkness Laboratory.
Every autumn for one or more weekends, a combination of conditions: peak colours, beautiful weather and weekend daytrippers, converge to form a perfect storm. Traffic is chaotic, often backed up at the West Gate entrance and along the corridor drivers have to negotiate gauntlets of parked vehicles and distracted pedestrians, and every scenic trail is packed with people, jockeying for time and space at the summits for photo ops. The best place to escape these aggravations is out on the water as I was when I took this photograph, of Camp Northway's cabin with the vantage point at Post 7 from the Track and Tower Trail above it, crowded with people.