Visitors to Northern Ontario's Algoma Country will tell of the rolling Canadian Shield that changes character with every season. They will wax poetic about driving winding roads through awe-inspiring landscapes made famous by Canada's Group of Seven. They will try and convince others to visit -- to experience the lodges, the landscape and the friendly communities of the North.
Repeat visitors may even throw the idea around of moving here permanently -- to enjoy the bounty of Algoma Country year-round. Whether we are visiting or lucky enough to call Algoma home, we are presented with a full slate of opportunities to keep our lives rich and full through every season. Algoma is that bountiful.
I'm usually struggling to get in the last bit of ice fishing for walleye by the time the sap starts running. Boiling maple sap into syrup is a sweet way to celebrate Spring and the start of another busy year outdoors. Spring is the time when steelhead return to the tributaries of lakes Huron and Superior, and as leaves emerge from swollen buds, brook trout feed aggressively in inland lakes and rivers.
High water on the rapid-studded rivers of Superior's north shore provide exciting white water canoe trips, and long days and calm waters along Lake Superior's rugged coastline offer the perfect conditions for guided sea kayaking adventures.
Summer is a busy time in Algoma. We swim from long sandy beaches that stretch between rocky headlands and hike up interpretive trails to jaw-dropping vistas of lakes Huron or Superior. A day of fresh air and exercise is followed by being pampered in a fine restaurant or a barbecue and bonfire back at the campsite.
Angling is in full swing with walleye, pike and bass biting in inland lakes as well as lake trout and Chinook salmon in Lake Superior. An angling highlight of any summer is flying into a remote lodge with the family for four or five days of strictly fishing, relaxing and reconnecting. But there are also drive-to lodges and even Provincial Parks where we can launch our own boat into waters with fabulous fishing.
Paddling is a summer priority and we load up the canoe for week-long canoe camping trips down a river or along a series of interconnected lakes. Long warm days of paddling, fishing and swimming end with cool nights and warm sleeping bags.
Algoma's friendly communities are the perfect compliment to the surrounding wilderness. The proximity of urban centres allows us to shop at unique stores, shoot a round of golf and fly fish for trout before winding up the day sampling locally-brewed beer on an outdoor patio.
It's no secret that the Group of Seven were captivated by the Algoma Country landscape. Canada's premier group of landscape artists made regular painting excursions here through the 1920s resulting in hundreds of paintings that would help to define Canadian art. Many of their works portray Algoma in her autumn disguise when the maples are crimson and the land erupts into a tapestry of greens, yellows and golds.
Autumn is a rewarding time to follow in the footsteps of the Group of Seven. Drive-up Highway 17 along the coast of Lake Superior, mirror the Mississagi River along Highway 129 or ride the Algoma Central Railway Tour Train up to Agawa Canyon to experience the landscape that inspired many of their iconic works.
Along with autumn's rich and vibrant colours comes a broad palette of hunting and angling opportunities. Warm days and cooling frost-fringed nights signal the start of the grouse hunt, when we shuffle through the brown and yellow leaves of forest trails in search of wildfowl. These tasty birds are common but a day in the woods also stirs up bald eagles, hawks and great blue herons, as well as fox, lynx or black bear.
Nothing feels more like autumn than being sequestered along the perimeter of a swampy wetland, piercing the still morning air with our imitation of a bawling cow moose. Sometimes they appear in silent silhouette against a wooded rise or announce their presence with the unmistakable ruckus of a thousand pound animal trudging noisily through thick coniferous. Either way, the presence of a bull moose within rifle or archery range is the closest we will ever get to overdosing on adrenaline.
Under cover of the harsh weather of late fall steelhead return to the tributaries of Lakes Superior and Huron. We don waders and warm clothes to spend brisk days on lonely streams casting flies for these tremendous game fish. Smallmouth bass go deep, concentrating at the base of steep drop-offs where vertical jigging leads to acrobatic battles that keep late-season anglers oblivious to the cold.
With the approach of winter come terrific storms when we bundle up and head to the coast of Lake Superior to experience the awesome power of nature's wrath crashing against the rock, cobble and sand of steep shorelines.
A layer of new snow betrays the movements of whitetail deer and softens the step of the stalking hunter. Late-season deer hunting is as much about spending time along the hardwood ridges, snowy creek bottoms and shaded cedar bogs as it is about laying in a supply of succulent venison.
There is no denying the allure of warmth and shelter through winter, but in Algoma Country hibernating is not an option. With a thick blanket of snow, hiking trails become snowshoe trails and cross-country skiers enjoy classic or skate skiing along groomed and wooded corridors. Downhill skiers carve down 750 vertical ft on kilometre-long runs at Searchmont Ski Resort before cosy evenings at the main lodge or slope side chalets.
Winter brings a solid foundation for the ice fisherman. Whether it's snowmobiling narrow trails to walleye and pike lakes or snowshoeing deep into the snow-shrouded wilderness to secluded brook trout waters, getting there is half the fun. Fresh air, exercise and experience the secluded wilderness in her winter disguise is reward enough, but freshly caught trout or walleye cooked up on the ice is a meal impossible to duplicate.
Road trips take on new meaning in winter. A vast network of groomed trails link one snowmobile-friendly community with another. Full-service cities and remote trailside lodges welcome travelling snowmobilers with open arms as well as open restaurants, bars and motels.
Algoma: it's that beautiful and that bountiful. So come on up. There's plenty to go around.