Upon opening my door to spring buds and bird songs and bidding farewell to Almaguin’s winter wonderland, I determine to get outside and take advantage of all that nature has to offer. As my heart bursts with a renewed energy to explore the many beautiful places I dreamt about over the past few months while they lay beneath their frosty white blanket, I strap my 14-month-old son into his car seat and go for a drive.
As we head down the driveway, we are greeted with clear sunny skies and reports from our in-car thermometer of a perfect 25c-degree temperature. It is as though mother nature has extended us a personal invitation to spend the day appreciating our little haven of paradise here in Almaguin. What better way to oblige this summons than to take my family out for a road trip across the region? Even though I have lived here for most of my life, it still astonishes me that there is so much beautiful scenery in so many amazing little spots right here in our own backyard.
We begin our drive in Novar and head north along Hwy. 11. We take the Deer Lake Rd. exit in Emsdale and head towards a lovely little park with a waterfall. A short drive from town brings us to Brooks Falls Park; since tourist season hasn’t kicked in yet, we have this little piece of heaven all to ourselves. We leash up Banshee, our family dog, and set out to hike the path beside the rapids up to the waterfall. Walking along the trail beside the water, we could feel the mist in the air that rose from the cascading water so incredibly refreshing on such a hot day. This was my son’s first experience with a waterfall, and I could see the wonder in his eyes. I made a note to come back and enjoy this spot a little bit more this summer when we can dip our toes in the cool water and have a picnic.
Feeling refreshed, we head back up towards Burk’s Falls, making a brief stop in town for some delicious perogies at Curb Your Appetite, a local favourite. Continuing through town and crossing the bridge that spans the mighty and historic Magnetawan River, we turn left onto Hwy. 520. At the Burk’s Falls Welcome Centre, we stop to walk along the covered bridge and take in all the sights and smells of the rushing water below. A cement sculpture reminds me that there is a world renowned tourist destination just a short drive from here along Midlothian Rd. Screaming Heads is place where you can spend an hour or two walking acres of rolling hills dotted with awe inspiring cement sculptures built by artist Peter Camani, and marvel at the farmhouse he has turned into a castle. .
Back on Hwy. 520, we make our way towards the town of Magnetawan and see a moose beside the road; it is such a rare and welcome opportunity to see one midday like this! Although spring is the best time to see these magnificent creatures out in the open, we share our region with many fur and feathery friends to watch out for while driving our country roads in any season.
Just before reaching the town of Magnetawan, we stop at the historic lift locks. Stretching our legs, we enjoy feeling the rushing water that can be seen through the grated span above the roaring falls. From this vantage point, we can see the Lion’s Park which will soon be a favourite beach day destination once the water gets warmer. Beside the locks there is the Heritage Centre that houses many historical artifacts as well as an authentic settlement-era log cabin and a restored steam turbine that supplied electricity for the town back in the day.
Back in the car with the windows rolled down the and tunes turned up, we follow Hwy. 520 to Hwy. 124 and turn right towards Sundridge. We notice several cyclists who are often seen taking advantage of this long stretch of winding scenic highway with wide paved shoulders. Sundridge is town settled on the shores of Lake Bernard, the largest freshwater lake in the world without an island. Taking High Rock Drive, we seek out the best view of this lake from High Rock Lookout Park.
After spending a few moments of quiet reflection while we enjoy the view, we head back into Sundridge, making our way north along Hwy. 124 on our way to South River. Turning right at the lights, we drive along the main street to the edge of town and the gardens at Tom Thompson Park situated on the river after which the town is named. Strolling amongst the flowers, I see the sun dipping towards the horizon, so we hop back in the car and drove to the nearby causeway to watch the sunset. What a perfectly unique spot to take in the fading sky reflected upon the shimmering water.
Driving home, I realized our road trip had taken us to only a few of the many fabulous scenic spots the Almaguin area offers. From any starting point, in any direction, tourists who need to take a break from the swimming, boating, and relaxing beside our numerous waterways can simply load the family up in the car to take in the heritage, wildlife, and parks that are always just a short distance away.
Author: Courtney Metcalf | Photographer: Ciara Stead