by Kyle Smith
October 26, 2013
This is a sunset on Whiskey Jack Lake.
Algonquin Park is a place where one can escape the busy concrete world and find a peace that can only come from the beauty of nature. The park is world renowned for backcountry canoeing and camping. It protects 7,653 square kilometers of breathtaking, wild landscapes. All you need is a canoe, a map, your camera, and a few days to get lost in this magnificent wilderness. The park is so large that it makes it easy to find a location where few people have ever stood before. You will get opportunities to capture moments that are so unique it can never be captured the same way again.
An incoming storm is about to hit Perley Lake.
The park has over 1,900 campsites and over 2,000 kilometers of canoe routes to explore through rivers, lakes, and spruce bogs. This vast wilderness is rugged, remote and challenging. During my three week solo trip I came across only two people. In between the lakes and rivers are portages carved into the landscape by footprints from the natives long ago. While I walk these paths I have silent conversations with history. Some portages can be very challenging leaving you dirty, sweaty, and exhausted, but it’s the adventure and the excitement of what may be next that keeps pushing my feet forward. If a portage has not been walked in a while the forest will slowly consume it with new life. Whether I take an easy route or a challenging one, the park will make me work every bit of the way.
A common loon is stretching its wings on the Petewawa River.
A river is the heart of it all; where life thrives and is around every corner. An evening paddle can bring me face to face with Algonquin’s most vocal and symbolic animal. If the loon gives me the opportunity to get close enough I may just be quick enough to capture this beautiful bird before it dives below the surface in a never ending game of cat and mouse with its prey. At night, when all else is silent, the loon releases a wail; an eerie sound that makes my hairs stand up. It creeps and crawls through the hills and valleys in search of an answer. Moments like these make me feel like I am truly a part of Algonquin.
A group of cormorants rest on a windswept island. I called this island “Misfit Island”.
The landscape in the park changes with every bend of the river. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, it gives me something completely new and exciting. The park is best known for its mazes of islands. On a windy day I found myself trapped on an island occupied by prehistoric-looking cormorants. The bird is a cross between a goose and a loon; cormorants are black in color and are medium to large sized. They are wary by nature, and can easily be startled. Out there time seems to stand still. It gives me lots of time to focus on photography. It gives me the chance to capture these birds before they take off in search of a new island.
I awaken to a misty morning on Maple Creek.
Morning is truly a special thing; it’s the most beautiful time in the day. Life starts to awaken from a deep slumber. First, I’ll hear a noisy squirrel in search of pine nuts. Then, all the birds join in together and create a chorus of chirps. Getting out of my tent to start the day has often left me completely stunned by the scene in front of me. A thick fog can carpet the landscape. I’ve been so stunned by the scene I’ve completely forgotten to pull out my camera to capture what is happening. Before I’ve had time to react, the fog can vanish leaving behind a new day. Feeling the sting of a missed opportunity I’ll often push my canoe into the river and chase the fog, and with that, starts a new adventure.
This is a powerful unnamed waterfall where the Petewawa River meets Cedar Lake.
Off in the distance subtle sounds of something that is moving, something that seems to be growing with every paddle can command your attention. As I got closer I realized the world is falling off an edge. It’s now loud and raging. I realized it was a waterfall. The river that once was as flat as ice is now a torrent of raging water. It is a never ending flow of water that slowly eats away at rock and soil. The park has many falls, and every single one is different, and they all present their own different types of challenges. Once I had portaged around the falls, and put all my gear back into the canoe, I was then able to finally relax and sit to take in the moment. The falls are so loud it drowns out every other sound and in those moments it’s just you and the falls. Later, as I paddled away down the river, the once loud and ragging falls turned slowly into a hum, and finally, faded away into all the other sounds of Algonquin.
On my last day I am blessed with this warm sunset over the Maple creek valley.
At the end of my journey I thought about all the places I had seen. The adventure had taken me through some rugged and wild terrain, through swamp and bog, and up hills and across meadows. It has given me the chance to see the park in its full beauty. It’s something that I have come to respect and appreciate. For every photo captured, I have ten more memories. The landscapes and animals that I had come across are forever imprinted on me. KS.
Kyle Smith is fairly new to photography, but he has come to appreciate the art deeply. He grew up on the east coast of Canada in the capital, and was fortunate enough to have Algonquin Park so close to him. It was there he discovered his passion for exploring the back country and nature photography. He recently moved to British Columbia to pursue his passion for guiding and nature photography. Kyle is on route to becoming a wilderness guide on the coast of British Columbia, specializing in grizzly bear guiding.