It’s almost hard for me to believe I’ve never been to Algonquin. Growing up, when my family did get away, often it was to Ontario’s north. We had family there and snowmobiled or took day trips along the channels and lakes, stopping to pick blueberries and swim along the way.
So, when my best friend asked if I wanted to join her and some girlfriends for a weekend in Algonquin, I didn’t have to think about it.
After an off-and-on winter, we expected a lot of muddy trails. We were thrilled, and a little surprised, to discover there is still a good deal of snow in Algonquin. Considering all I took for hiking was my Blundstones, I’m relieved there was still snow because I’m sure 11km in mud would’ve destroyed them.
I’m an amateur hiker at best. I’ve never owned much for hiking gear, and often a hike for me is more like a leisurely walk on the Bruce Trail for a few hours, not an entire day. So, when the rest of the group was loading their daypacks, I felt a little silly with my little fundraising prize from the Heart & Stroke Big Bike and was envious of the access zippers at the bottom of their packs.
Luckily, for a day hike off Highway 60 we didn’t need much gear and there was no need for such a cool feature. I also learned several other valuable lessons about hiking, especially spring hiking.
- Always ask the park staff for suggestions. You have to stop and get a permit anyway, so you may as well ask. We had our hike planned and learned that the road wasn’t clear. She also settled our concern over whether the bears were waking up (they weren’t).
- Wear tapered pants. Despite the fact it’s impossible to not find tapered or skinny pants today, for some reason I decided to bring a pair of regular-leg yoga pants for hiking. I don’t know what I was thinking but my pants were sopping wet by the end of the day.
- Good socks are key. Most of our hike we were on packed snow, but a wrong step and you broke through, so even with waterproof boots, our feet got wet from snow in the top of our boots. I was thankful for the Smartwool socks that kept my feet dry most of the day.
- Traction cleats. None of us had them and while we didn’t need them, they definitely would’ve come in handy on the sugary snow and icy slopes.
- Blundstones will work but… I did this hike in my Blundstones. My feet weren’t sore and they were dry most of the hike but they didn’t provide the leg support I needed. The next day I woke up to aching calves. Time to buy some real hikers.
- Spring is far less busy. Granted, I don’t have much reference since it was my first time, but it sure didn’t seem busy. There were only a few other cars at Mizzy Lake and we didn’t see anyone the whole day.
- Dress in layers. In the open, the wind was still cool and cut through you but on the bush trail, we quickly broke a sweat. Good layers, including a breathable windbreaker, and something for your ears is an absolute must. In hindsight I should’ve brought a headband instead of a toque because my head sweat but I needed something for my ears.
Don’t let the uncertain weather and threat of mud deter you from heading out on the trail in spring. The warm sun and quiet park waking up make for beautiful hiking. Dress appropriately and be prepared for a slightly more challenging hike, and it will be a rewarding day.