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Bog-Logs in Algonquin

Bog-Logs in Algonquin

It's hard camping at the usual campgrounds. Maybe if you live in the city it feels like you are 'getting away from it all', but when you live out in the boonies, like outside Kerwood (pop. 200), you don't want to go to a bush where you are forced to be 20 feet from other grumpy people's tents and conversations. So for the second year, we headed up to Algonquin, where you canoe away from facilities, roadways and plug-in coolers.

It's a good 5-6hour drive up there (not so great with 2 kids in the back...), and Thomas our boy had a developed a fever. Ugh. So instead of heading out into the lakes ASAP, we stayed the night in a 'civilized' campground at Tea Lake. While dipping cold cloths in a dish and laying them on my kid's head, I began to wonder if it would be better to go out in a quiet canoe than have him delusionaly listen to the music pumping from our neighbours truck.

It's not all bad- the sunset was calming once Tom konked out and I had my first glance at what I thought was only a strange moss in the dim light, but was really a fat clump or sundews on a log, of course out of arms reach in the water. The next morning I waded in for a closer look.

It's hard to explain, but this is what I live for. Juicy, small plants that like a bit of water. I'll blame Fred and Boots Case for this fascination. Trips to their place as a kid, playing alongside their many different kinds of ponds, their experiments with bog growing plants, HUGE knowledge...the word 'bog-trotting' thrown about, a large painting in their living room of Sarracinia, Boot's Tupperware with salamanders...what kid couldn't be fascinated?? And that just stayed with me, never to be outgrown. Neither of my parents care for 'wet stuff', so we never did go 'bog trotting' - just for day dreams.

So seeing these droseras made me want more, of course.

At daybreak I asked Thomas how he felt. "Oh GREAT. Just fine!", he says, trying not to show any sickness. Right. Still a hot head. But this statement was more than enough to convince his dad it was all a clear go. I held back, waited a few hours. Then with a bit of anxiety, Thomas throws out, "The fresh air in the canoe would really be good for me..". So we packed up, rented a canoe, loaded and headed out across Smoke Lake (a big lake, not so fun, about an hour of intense paddling with a full canoe, and not very calm waters). The portage took us another hour to get everyone across and all our gear, and although not that long, it was straight uphill for most of it. Clara said she didn't really think she wanted to take anything - "you can take it, mom". Had to tell her she must pack it, or she wasn't really doing a portage - just faking it. It worked.

Since we were fighting the water at noon, the last stretch was getting tiring. It was another hour of paddling to get through Ragged Lake (beautiful, but occupied), and into Parkside Bay. You just paddle up, see if anybody is in the camp, and if you like it, then unload. Ours didn't look that great from shore - no wind-blown rocky spits, but we were looking for more shelter anyway, and we found it!

Set up camp, jump off the this nice big rock for a swim, perfect, eh?

About 10 minutes had passed since we went for a swim, and Tom and I just went back out to the jumping rock, looking at the view, the water, relaxing after the canoe paddle. Then this thing starts rising towards us in the water. Tom's boy instinct says "BIG fish" in his head. It took me a few more seconds to realize that we were staring at a big snapper, exactly where we had been swimming 10 minutes ago. Stuns us for a second, then of course I run and grab the camera. He just floated up to the surface like a beach ball, stuck his little nose in the air, took a good look at us as if to say, "oh, so you were the guys making so much noise over here", and then slowly dove back down and carried on with his day somewhere else . This would all have been the END of the trip....but now we had to get our nerve up every time we wanted to go for a swim off this rock. Believe me, there was a lot of intense looking into the water before anybody leapt.

Another tiny little guy I found is this frog. I can't figure out what kind he is- any ideas? I'm wondering if he is lacking any distinctive markings because he is so small, a juvenile? Seemed to have the sticky pads of a tree frog too. Very cute and fragile.

Parkside Bay is supposed to be where you look for moose. We never saw any, and to tell you the truth, never really tried. My eyes are on the ground, that's why I find puny frogs and not big moose. I'd take the amphibians over mammals any day. Something like the 'wet plants', 'wet animals' have my fascination too.

We took a day trip and portaged into two Lakes. One was affectionately called 'Pond' and the other, 'Claude L.'. So you'd think that the one with the actual name would be more interesting. If you want to fish, yes. If you want to see plants, no. I could have stayed at 'Pond' all day. I told my husband to just drop me off on one of those bog logs. He thought I was joking. Thomas said, "...No, I think mom really wants you to". If I wasn't so paranoid about snappers I would pursued this and just waded in.

'Pond' was shallow- and covered with long winding stems of white waterlilies which gave the appearance of jellyfish tentacles floating up to the canoe.

Then there were what I call the 'bog-logs' near the shore. You can clearly see the progression in how these little micro-habitats form - fascinating.

  • First Stage of Bog. Just a fallen tree in the water with a couple sundew sucking up the water. No Moss on it yet.

  • Second Stage of bog-logging. It's almost like a submerged wooden trough. You can still see the log, but the growth on top is getting thick.

  • Third Stage. It's hard to tell it was even a tree, it is so spaghnumed. But you can see the shape and length of the tree that fell into the water. It was hard to leave this bog - there was so much in it. Wish I could take it home...

Looking a little closer (not close enough, canoes tip...) here's what's growing on these logs:

Sarracenia purpurea

Oh what is this?! Without quick, identifiable flowers, I have a sinking feeling that some year I'm am going to have to be brave and prepared and come back in the thick of mosquito season to see that spring/early summer bloom. Inevitable.

Horned bladderwort (Utricularia cornuta). Apparently the roots have tiny bladders attached, which trap and digest small invertebrates. Yum.

Pipewort (Eriocaulon septangulare), a funny little plant that looks compact at the waters edge, but when it is stretched under several feet water, all you see are the 'hat pins' poking out of the water. Apparently it isn't fazed by floods.

And the clumps of Drosera intermedia, loaded with seed...

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