Gazebo

Now that we have a great new cedar waterfront deck, we were looking for our next improvement project.  Edgars and Santa had returned for the season from Latvia, and Edgars was keen to build something this summer.  He singlehandedly  built the boardwalk to Blueberry Point last summer, and wanted a project for this summer.

So, we are building a gazebo off the back of the deck.  It will be a screened in area safe from the rain and bugs, and it will complete with a couple of hammocks in which to while away the day!Waterfront Gazebo

More Funny Weather

This has been a summer of extremes.  The spring was the wettest we’ve ever had, and now early summer is the driest we’ve had.  It plays havoc with the water levels.  We didn’t get as much snow as usual this past winter, so a wet spring was good for keeping the lake levels where they should be.  But it was also good for the bugs!  Now our hot dry summer has finally killed off many of the mosquitoes, but the no rain isn’t very good for the lake.  We’ve lost quite a bit of water.  Hopefully we’ll get some rain soon to “top off the levels” all around!

This past weekend we thought we’d get some rain since we were treated to a most spectacular light show at night. While we were sitting on our new waterfront deck (and some guests were enjoying the hot tub) there was a huge lightening storm to the north of us.  Frequent flashes of light lit up the sky and showed off the hills in profile.  Very cool to watch, but no rain.  The storm skirted us.

The next afternoon we noticed a thing haze of smoke, so I guess the lightening must have started a fire somewhere.  We took the ATV’s out to investigate but we couldn’t find anything.  I guess it must have been quite some distance from us.

Worker Bee Weekend

What a productive weekend we just had!  It was our annual spring “Worker Bee” weekend, where we invite guests up to help us out for a few hours on Saturday morning.  In return, everyone gets an extremely cheap weekend away up north.  We get a lot of work done in a short time, and everyone has fun doing it.  And afterwards there is always time to go for a paddle in the canoe, go for a hike on our nearby trails, or just have another beer on the deck!  A great way to spend some time in Algonquin Park during the spring.

This spring we had a rather small turnout, but it was quality over quantity!  We got the docks in the water (in our lake as well as the river put-in to High Falls), we chainsawed some trees that fell across our path in the storms of April, we moved canoes from their winter storage location, and prepped the herb garden for planting.  We also built a couple of “muskoka” chairs, flipped all the mattresses, hung the hammock chairs, and put all the picnic tables in place.  All this despite the on and off rain showers we got.  A big thanks to our volunteers!!

When we arrived on Friday night it was threatening to storm, but we managed to walk in before any rain arrived.  The “spring peepers” were  in full chorus!  For those of you unaware of the peepers, they are small frogs (2-3 cm, tan coloured with a distinctive “X” on the back) that “sing” very loudly all night long.  They usually call from the edges of the body of water in which they breed, hidden in the undergrowth.  It can be quite eerie if you don’t know what they are and have to walk along our path in the dark!  But, once you are used to them it is quite a soothing sound, and I find it helps me sleep quite soundly.  Kind of the same way the sound of ocean waves crashing against a beach does.  The peepers are a sure sign that spring is in full bloom, as we are only graced with their chorus during the spring.  Hence the name!  You can have a listen to the Spring Peepers mating call for yourself.

When we arrived at the Lodge, after our 2.5 km hike, we discovered that it was probably time to switch the turbines over to summer time use.  This means turning off one of the turbines entirely, and switching our baseboard heaters from inside to outside.  How did we realize this?  Well, it was 32.5°C inside when we arrived!  We opened all the windows and doors, turned on the ceiling fan, and had a drink on the deck while we waited for the building to cool down.  We didn’t need the sauna on the first night!  After a few hours it cooled down to a reasonable temperature, but calling the electrician to “summerize” us was added to the top of my Monday to-do list!

Knocked Out by George Foreman

This past weekend we went up to the Lodge looking forward to a weekend “off”, with no tourists or friends about.  We walked in to the Lodge after nearly a 3 week absence.  The road was flooded, in the usual spot from the spring melt, so it was a good thing we had cleared the bypass trail.  When we got to the powerhouse we went inside to check it out, as we normally do on our way in.  Well, that was unexpected – the turbines had shut down!

We restarted the turbines without problem, but the damage had been done.  No idea how long it had been shut down, but we had to drain the hot tub, throw out most of the stuff in the fridge, and completely clean the freezer.  Not what I had planned to do on a sunny weekend!

Also disappointing since I had hoped to have the hot tub running for the upcoming Worker Bee weekend.  As it is we had to leave it empty since we couldn’t get the pump out deep enough in the lake to fill it.  In the winter we just cut a hole in the ice, and in the summer we just put the pump in from the end of the dock.  But the dock is not in yet (that’s a job for the Worker Bees!) and the water is too cold to go stand up to your waist for 10 minutes.  We tried the row boat, but we needed one person to row, one to hold the pump, and another to fill the hot tub.  Tucker (our dog) wasn’t to helpful at any of those chores!

On Saturday evening we were making dinner and were using our new George Foreman grill.  Just as we started making the second crab/mango quesidilla the power tripped out again. It may have been the power used by the grill that tripped out the turbines, but it uses less than the electric kettle.  So, a bit of a mystery….  Good thing it didn’t happen in winter when no one was around, otherwise it’ll be much worse than having to clean out a thawed freezer.  Burst pipes, cracked hot tub….  We need to solve this mystery, but so far even our electrician can’t figure out what the problem is.

Podcast Interview

Earlier in March we had a journalist out for a winter visit to the Eco-Lodge.  You can read the article by “The Philosophical Traveller” about eco-tourism and the Lodge, and listen to an interview he did with us on his podcast.

Frustrating Weather

This weather can certainly be frustrating!  Mid-week, before the tourists arrive for the weekend, we go out and track-set our 40 km of cross country ski trails.  Twice this winter we’ve been frustrated by unseasonable warm weather that rolls in just before the weekend, bringing rain.  It messes up our trails by melting some of the track-set and it also makes our main trail in very rough.  Since so many people will be walking in, and we’ll be going out to the parking lot a few times with a machine to get gear, the trail takes a beating.  And then when it finally gets cold again the rough conditions (footsteps and tread tracks) freeze into place.  Without more fresh snow there is nothing we can do.  And it’s particularly frustrating when we know that we spend an entire day grooming the trails and have them in perfect condition but then the weather plays mean.

In the past these warm spells (we usually get one each season) played havoc with our snowmobiles.  The Alpines we use are real work horses, but with only one front ski they are nearly impossible to steer in slushy snow.  And we frequently get stuck on the hill pulling up supplies when we get icy conditions.  The new ATV with tracks (the ‘Tank’) really helps in these conditions.  But, it leaves pretty deep tracks in the wet snow.  We got around that by towing a big 6×6 timber behind us to smooth out the trail.  Still, I would much prefer -20C weather to +2C.

Many people deny global warming exists, but I can tell you that our weather is changing.  We get now what I call “yo-yo weather”.  It’s up and down.  A lot.  It’ll be very cold, and then extremely warm for a few days, then right back to very cold.  And it’ll do this quite a few times each winter.  When I first got involved with the Eco-Lodge we usually got one cold spell of a bout a week of -35C to -40C for a low, and then at some point we would get half a week of weather above freezing.  Snow would melt, streams would flood, but then it’d be back to normal (-25C to -30C at night).  The snow melting didn’t matter too much since it was always thigh deep, and up to our waist at the northern end of our trail system.

Now, the coldest it has gotten in the past 3 years is -31C, and only for 1 night.  Also, the snow is still deep, but it is only knee deep these past few winters.  That means the lakes start off with less water in them after the spring melt.  Don’t get me wrong, slightly milder winters are definitely easier for us humans to handle.  Less firewood burnt, etc.  But, we need a few days of the extreme cold to kill of parasites and invasive insects.  I’ve actually seen earwigs for the first time in Algonquin.  And the warm weather cuts our season short by at least a week.

I’m sure all the people who grew up in southern Ontario can remember building snowforts in the drifts when they were kids.  Not much chance of that now!

OK, I’ve said my two cents.  Now stop producing greenhouse gasses – it’s starting to piss me off!  ;-)

Wolves, Wolves, and more Wolves!

Wow!  What a winter we’ve been having for spotting wolves!  We had another school group up on a winter adventure program last week.  The first night we took them out onto the lake to play some games, and then to do a wolf howl.  Almost immediately we got a response.  It sounded like a lone wolf in the distance to the north of us.  It’s an eerie sound, especially when you are standing in the dark out on the ice.  And the ice is rumbling and creaking beneath your feet….

The next day we took the group on a guided snowshoe hike.  I decided to go follow the river, as we had seen a lot of tracks in that area, and I had heard wolves from that direction only a couple of days ago.  Traipsing through the snow on snowshoes with 17 people behind you is NOT the best way to see wildlife, but we did find lots of evidence.  Scats, tracks, and even the remains of a kill!  All that was left was the stomach lining of a deer, and bits of fur.  Now I thought that this was pretty cool, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for having been able to follow tracks back to find a kill site.  But instead of the response I was expecting of “oh cool – that’s wicked!” what I got was “ewww – that’s gross!”  Oh well, I guess I shouldn’t expect so much from a bunch of 16 year old girls from the city….

The next day while the girls were going dog sledding we decided to check the photos on our trail camera.  No wonder we’d been seeing and hearing evidence of wolves!  This is the first time we’ve got a photo of three wolves in the same shot. The camera is located on our main trail, only about 800m from the Lodge.  The wolves know we’re there but they don’t seem to mind.  But, it’s a very visual reminder of why we can’t allow people to bring their pets.  They may “enter” the food chain, like two of our cats did previously.

If you’d like to see more photos from our trail camera (more than shown here) go to the Eco-Lodge website.

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