Backcountry Camping in Algonquin Park: Trip Booked!

I have just booked a back country site in Algonquin Provincial Park for a week in June. The site is at the end of 2 adjoining lakes. To get in to the first lake, there is a 2 kilometer portage through thick woods from the spot off the highway where I will park the car. Once in the lake, it should only take about an hour or two to paddle in to the site. It is a fairly unknown place to camp (at least from what I have read), and because of the effort to get into the site, I expect there to be no-one else on either of the lakes during the trip.

The little boy won't be coming with me, as he is only 5 months old, and cannot yet grasp a paddle in a coordinated manner. The hound dog will be coming though. He keeps the bears and the hippos at bay.

Fishing, canoeing, photography, gathering wild edibles. It's gonna be good!

Algonquin, here I come!

Hope you are having a good day.


A Walk in the Valley at the End of May

This weekend I went for a walk in the valley, for the first time in a long time.

I had about an hour before I needed to get to work on some things around the house, so I figured it was now or never... grabbed my camera, and headed out through the park into the valley entrance.

A few weeks ago we had terrific wind storms and a report or two of a tornado in the Toronto region. Entering the valley, I could see the outcome of these high winds. Trees had fallen across the path all over the place - mostly older, unhealthy trees. Someone had put up a wikiup shelter in the woods - a large elaborate structure.

This gave me a chance to take some pictures of Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus).
"The mushroom's shape and lateral stem make it look suitable for woodland spirits, the dryads of Greek mythology, to ride."
The young polypore (note the pores comprising the yellowish-white underside of the fruiting body) fungus is soft and white on the inside, not unlike a puffball. It is edible, and you can fry it up in butter for a nice snack or bake it and add to a casserole or lasagna. As it gets older (and bigger of course), they get bitter and tough.

I suppose this applies to some people as well... Hopefully I'm immune to this condition.

In some of these photos, you'll see both the older and the younger forms. The younger ones have a more tubular shape, some bifurcating into wonderful looking structures. The older ones are more plate-like. Polypores excrete enzymes that break down the lignin in trees, causing a white rot that slowly releases the tree's nutrients out to other organisms.

Small flowers I saw belonged to Garlic Mustard, Soapwort (I think), Violets, and Johnny Jump Ups.

The river is bounded by banks covered in Horsetail (Equisetum).
"Equisetum is a living fossil, as it is the only known genus of the entire class Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was very diverse and dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests. Some Equisetopsida were large trees reaching to 30 m[verification needed] tall; the genus Calamites of family Calamitaceae for example is abundant in coal deposits from the Carboniferous period."
As I was walking out of they valley, I interrupted an America Robin having a bath. He flew away briefly, but then returned, and generally ignored me crouched on the ground 5 feet away with my camera.

I was out for a walk later on and watched Robins hunting earthworms. They hop about and stop and start and I've always assumed they were listening with cocked heads to the sound of scurrying worms under the soil. But apparently they hunt visually, and not by hearing. Go figure. But then again, if you think about it most worms wouldn't exactly make a whole lot of noise.

Hope you had a nice weekend - I did.



Beginning to Stir from a Winter Slumber

The weather here in Toronto has been cool and windy recently. Warm sunny summer is still in bed, hitting the snooze button.

I started on some lawn work this weekend, mowing and weeding and turning some soil beds over to prepare them for onions and carrots and potatoes. I will wait for another couple of weeks in case a frost hits.

The birds are visiting the bird feeder. I am getting them all fattened up. It might be interesting to catch some of them using a net that I could weave with some cotton twine.

Soon I will be booking my next camping trip - can't wait for it!



Edible Backyard Plants - Legitimate and Otherwise

I have been out in the back garden eating things again today. My wife gives me a look of alarm as I stuff greenery into my mouth, and even more so when I reply that I don't know exactly what it is I've just eaten, but it sure tastes good.

Some of the bird seed from the winter appears to have taken seed in the cracks between the bricks on the back patio. I'm doing my part to weed the patio by eating the succulent leaves.

I ate some mint and some sage that grows by the fence. I ate some Johnny Jump Up flowers. I ate some dandelion leaves - the young ones. I ate some maple seedling leaves. They're not great.

I thought I'd found some wild onions, but they didn't smell like onion or garlic so I didn't eat them because I was suspicious - some poisonous plants look like edible plants.

I haven't seen any mushrooms yet, but I'll keep my eyes peeled.

There is a section of the back garden that I am going to prepare and turn into a vegetable patch. I will rent a rototiller and prepare the ground, and then plant carrots and onion sets and maybe potatoes again this year. Then I'll be able eat more things growing in the garden - more legitimately.

Hope you're all enjoying the spring weather,


Firewood, Cormorants, Arctic Terns, Seagulls, and Canada Geese

After a quick trip out to an appointment, I stopped down at the lake to take a few pictures. To me, taking pictures is a bit like gathering firewood. You have to stand quietly and wait for a little, and then things begin to appear before you. The sticks hung up in the undergrowth make themselves apparent. Behind that log there is a crashed down tree. Along the shore you'll see some dry driftwood.

Well, photographs are like that. I stood for a while and all I saw were a few silly seagulls. But then a Cormorant zoomed past me like a prehistoric Pterodactyl.

An Arctic Tern wheeled above me, feasting on flying insects.

Another Cormorant zoomed overhead, looking like a Vulcan bomber.

Two fussy Canadian Geese flew out to some interlopers and attacked them and then returned to defend what appeared to be a nesting area.

A Cormorant stood watch from the top of the lighthouse.

Seagulls fought amongst themselves.

I'm not sure if they were defending a stretch of spotty concrete or trying to impress one another.

But either way, just watching them all left me feeling refreshed and ready to go about the rest of my day.


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