Algonquin & Beyond

Trip Info

Date: May 5th – 6th, 2023


Last year I had a crazy thought “You know what would be super cool? Being on the front cover of the Algonquin Park Information Guide” I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect for it to happen the next year, but I’m sure glad that it did. I spent several weeks patiently (aka anxiously) waiting for the guide to get published, not being able to disclose that my photo was going to be on the front cover. The moment it got published, I knew that I wanted to drive to Algonquin Park and grab a few copies for myself. How could I not!?

That’s the backstory for this trip. I was told when the guide was finalized and approved. I was told when the guide was sent to print. I was told when the guide was shipped to the park. But when I saw on a Monday morning that it was finally made public, I called the Wolf Den to see if they had any cabins still available. The ice had just come off the water and I didn’t want to risk taking Elo in the canoe with the near-freezing water temperatures. A cabin would be a much smarter and safer choice. 

The “independent cabins” at the Wolf Den were fully booked for the weekend but I snagged the last remaining “bunkhouse”. Spoiler alert: When I arrived, I was told that one of the independent cabins — the Chickadee — was available for my first night, so I decided to stay there and then move to the bunkhouse for the second night. But I ended up leaving after the first night anyways because I felt like I was getting sick (literally sick, not sick of Algonquin Park… that could never ever happen).

Here’s a little bit more info about the Information Guide before I get into the rest of the trip report:

The 2023 Algonquin Park Information Guide, published by The Friends of Algonquin Park, is a free 28-page newspaper filled with information about trip planning, campgrounds, events, and much more. It’s available at all park gates, backcountry access point offices, the Visitor Centre, Logging Museum, and many more locations. Algonquin Park attracts 1 million+ visitors every year and there are a couple hundred thousand Information Guides printed. It’s an honour to be showcased on the front cover and it’s such an exciting feeling knowing that so many people will see one of my photos as part of their Algonquin Park experience.

Day 1 – Arriving at the Wolf Den Nature Retreat

My typical Algonquin Park Day 1 routine usually involves waking up at 4:00 AM and driving in the dark so I can arrive and hit the water shortly after the sun rises. Things were a little bit different this time. I wasn’t going into the backcountry. I didn’t even bring my canoe with me. I was driving up on a Friday so I actually worked for most of the day, and then hit the road at around 3:00 PM.

There wasn’t much traffic during the drive and I arrived at the Wolf Den at around 5:30 PM. I was told that the Chickadee cabin was available for that night, and if I wanted I could stay there and then move to the bunkhouse that I had booked for the second night. The independent cabins are a lot larger, but the main difference that I cared about was the in-cabin washroom. The bunkhouses don’t have washrooms inside the cabins.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through the hassle of moving all of my stuff the next day. Plus, the independent cabins are about twice the cost of the bunkhouses. But the second that I walked into the Chickadee cabin, any doubt I had about staying at the Chickadee immediately left my mind. The cabin was beautiful. A cozy living area, a wood burning stove, a kitchen with a wooden bar feature, a full-height sliding barn door separating the bedroom, a memory foam mattress on the bed, and a modern aesthetic washroom. I wasn’t even going to use half of that stuff, but the cabin was way too beautiful to pass up.

Algonquin Park Information Guide 2023 Front Cover Algonquin & Beyond

Oh, and the cabin also came with a gift for me. Well, not intentionally, but there was a 2023 Information Guide already sitting on the coffee table! That was a nice welcoming sight.

I got myself sorted and brought everything into the cabin. After Elo was finished giving every inch of the cabin a thorough sniff and investigation, we lay down on the bed and relaxed for a short while. I was already feeling drained and tired, but I didn’t think it was ‘sick’ drained and tired at that point.

There were no real plans for the rest of the evening. The park offices were closed, so getting my own Information Guide was going to need to wait until Day 2 anyways. 

At around 7:00 PM I decided to feed Elo and make myself dinner. I purchased a bunch of dehydrated meals during some great winter sales, but one of them came with a short expiry date of August 2023. It was the Happy Yak – Chicken Blanquette And Egg Noodles. I had never tried a Happy Yak meal before, so I decided to bring it with me for this trip. My next trip probably wasn’t even going to be until August!

The meal itself tasted very good, but the portion size seemed to be a bit smaller than some other meals I’ve had in the past. The packaging itself was also a bit more narrow than some other brands, which made it more difficult to eat with a fork when getting towards the bottom. I prefer the Mountain House Meals packaging design… short and wide, aka the most fork-friendly.

Wolf Den Bunkhouse Welcome Sign at Main Lodge 2023
Moose on Highway 60 in Algonquin Park 2023 at the Side of the Road 3
Wolf Den Bunkhouse Sanitation Station Outside 2023
Wood Burning Stove in the Black Capped Chickadee Cabin at Wolf Den Bunkhouse May 2023
Moose on Highway 60 in Algonquin Park 2023 at the Side of the Road 4
Happy Yak Express Chicken Blanquette Egg Noodles Packaging on the Table

After dinner I decided to walk over to the main lodge on the other side of the highway (the independent cabins are on the north side, the rest of the property is on the south side). I was given a notice that a family of fox had set up a den underneath one of the cabins, and that I should keep Elo leashed at all times and be aware that foxes would likely be present. I keep Elo leashed all the time anyways, but that notice got me excited that I might finally get the chance to photograph a fox!

I’ve always thought foxes were one of the most beautiful animals, and for a long time, I’ve wanted to photograph one. I had told myself just a few months prior that this was finally going to be the year.

I was beyond happy that my goal of photographing a fox was crossed off on my very first night up north of the season. The moment I walked over to the main lodge, there were a few guests sitting at a table and they told me the foxes had just arrived back to their den. 

I was especially lucky for the opportunity to photograph a mama fox with her two cubs. They were going in and out of their den underneath the cabin. At one point, one of the cubs was nursing underneath the mama fox. A few minutes later the mama fox grabbed a dead squirrel (I think?) from her stash, brought it back to the cubs beside the cabin, and then stood guard while they ate. 

We gave the foxes plenty of space, but even from a distance the mama fox locked eyes with Elo and there were some intense staring contests. The fox even barked at Elo once or twice! Elo stayed silent, but from her body excitement you could tell she very much wanted to go and say hi to the foxes. Sorry Elo, not allowed.

A quick note: The foxes were being left in peace until they decided to move on when they were ready. All of the photos and videos that I took were taken from a safe and respectful distance with my 24-240mm lens on my crop-body camera (Canon R7).

I stayed and photographed the foxes for as long as they let me, until they decided to take off for the evening. I had been chatting with two other solo Wolf Den guests — Carly and Craig — during the photoshoot. Once the photoshoot was over, the sun was on its way down passing the shoreline, and we all decided to move to the communal Wolf Den fire pit.

Shortly after, a few other guests arrived and took their seat by the fire. Everyone enjoyed some conversation about the foxes, Algonquin Park, and life in general. For most of the time spent by the fire, Elo had her back to me, facing the direction of the cabin where the foxes were. At first I thought she was trying to see the foxes, but I realized later that she was likely facing that direction as a method of guarding / protecting me. 

At one point a guitar was brought out for some fireside singalongs, including a rendition of The Beatles “Birthday” to celebrate one of the guests birthday. It was a full moon that evening, and by my request, Harvest Moon made its way into the playlist too. I borrowed the guitar and played a few songs myself before deciding to call it a night and head back to my cabin at around 10:30 PM.

I felt even more tired and drained and for the first time I started to think that I might actually be getting sick. I was hoping that it was just a long day and that I’d wake up on Day 2 feeling better. I cozied up onto the memory foam bed and fell fast asleep.

Day 2 – Leaving the Wolf Den Nature Retreat

I woke up just as the sun began rising past the horizon. I got a pretty good sleep and was feeling refreshed. I looked over and saw Elo curled up on the bed beside me, it looked like she got a good sleep as well.

Within a few minutes I started feeling off. My throat was a little bit dry and I had that general “off” feeling. I figured I would go for a drive along Highway 60 in hopes of spotting wildlife, then grab an Information Guide from the west gate once it opened, and then come back to my cabin for a nap.

I was driving slowly along Highway 60, keeping my eyes open for moose at the side of the road. There were barely any other cars on the highway. About 5 minutes after passing the west gate I rounded a corner and caught a glimpse of a moose from the corner of my eye. Luckily there were no other cars around so I was able to slow down. There was also a lane opening just a few metres up ahead, so I was able to safely pull over to the side of the highway.

Moose on Highway 60 in Algonquin Park 2023 at the Side of the Road

I left Elo in the car and threw my camera over my shoulder. I had driven maybe 50 metres ahead by the time I was pulled over, so I slowly walked back towards the spot where I saw the moose. The moose was feeding on some leaves a short distance beside the highway, in front of a small stream of water. It was actually a very picturesque moment and made for a beautiful photo composition.

I stayed a very safe distance back and started taking photos and videos. I slowly inched my way closer, while making sure I never got too close. The moose was aware of my presence and was not bothered by me. Still, I knew to keep a safe distance and let my zoom lens take care of the closer inspection.

After about 10 minutes, one other car had pulled up beside me and was watching from their vehicle. Shortly after that, the moose started heading inland, so I went back to my own vehicle.

Front Entrance of the Algonquin Park West Gate Office May 2023

I got back into my warm car where Elo was waiting patiently for me. My throat was definitely feeling more dry and my head more heavy. I drove to the west gate office and arrived 30 minutes before they opened, so I took Elo for a short walk around the grounds. 

I realized that some of the Information Guides were being kept in the vestibule of the building, which was actually unlocked the whole time. I put on my N95 mask just in case I was actually getting sick, grabbed a few copies of the guide, and then got into my car and headed back to the cabin.

After feeding Elo and having my own banana bread breakfast, I went to lie down for that nap I promised myself. I knew that no matter how I felt after the nap, the smartest thing to do was to head home that day. I definitely didn’t have the energy for any hikes or exploration, and I didn’t want to be hanging around other people at the Wolf Den in case I started to feel worse as the day went on. 

I packed up everything inside the cabin and gave it a good clean. I loaded everything into my car and let the Wolf Den staff know that I would be heading out a day early. Luckily, they had a group arrive last minute looking for accommodations, so they were able to offer them my bunkhouse and waive the fee for that night for me.

Before driving home I decided to walk over to the main lodge and see if my new fox friends were at their den. Similar to the day before, I arrived just as the fox did. I hung around for a little while and was able to get some more photos and videos. The cherry on top to end the trip. 

The Aftermath

There isn’t too much that can be written to conclude a one-day trip. I was up north for less than 24 hours, but honestly, it was a pretty amazing 24 hours. 

My stay at the Wolf Den was great and the Chickadee cabin was very lovely. The Wolf Den staff were flexible and accommodating and for my third time staying there, it was such a pleasure like usual. 

I was able to get my hands on the Algonquin Park Information Guides and see in-person how my photo looked on the front cover. I got to meet new people and enjoy their company around the campfire. I had a very special experience photographing the family of fox at their den, which has been a goal of mine for a while. And to top everything off, I had an early morning photoshoot with a moose at the side of the highway. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

For the next few days after I got home, I still wasn’t sure if I was “sick”. My throat was dry, my head was heavy, and I was constantly tired… but that was it. It lasted a couple days and then I was back to normal. Maybe it was a really minor bout of COVID. Maybe my body just needed some rest after a stressful few weeks. Either way, I’m really glad I was able to take this short vacation.

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