Tom Thomson country (Photo slideshow)

Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters, portrayed the vivid fall colors of Ontario’s wilderness in his unique post-impressionist paintings of 1917. Big bold colors of the jack pine, birch and red maple came from his paint brushes. Canadians revelled in his impressions of the seasons especially in Algonquin Park about 300 km north of Toronto.

The hardwood forests of Northern Ontario make for spectacular fall scenic drives.

Tom Thomson, one of Canada’s famous Group of Seven painters, portrayed the vivid fall colors of Ontario’s wilderness in his unique post-impressionist paintings of 1917. Big bold colors of the jack pine, birch and red maple came from his paint brushes. Canadians revelled in his impressions of the seasons especially in Algonquin Park about 300 km north of Toronto.

In the early 1800’s this area was a prime lumbering area and each winter thousands of men worked in the logging camps harvesting huge white pine timbers for the lumber starved markets in England.

The timbers sometimes 10-15 meters in length, were hewn into square timbers using a broad axe, hauled by horse to the frozen stream or lake and upon spring break up moved by water to the awaiting ships bound for England.

Men would sleep 50 to a cabin and living and working conditions were very primitive and rough. By the mid 1880’s the logging operations had scoured the landscape and conservation efforts needed to be established to save the area.

In 1893 the Algonquin Park was established not to intentionally stop logging but to keep the area as a wilderness while preventing land clearing for agriculture.

Today the parks protects the headwaters of five major rivers which flow from the park which covers 7630 sq. km. There are approximately 2,400 lakes and 1,200 km of streams and rivers in the park. Logging still continues but is managed in a manner that will not destroy the felling of the wilderness park.

Fall is a special time to visit Algonquin Park and recently Duane and Joan McCartney of Lacombe spent several days in this area of central Ontario. Duane, an artistic landscape photographer, found the fall colors of the various hardwood trees spectacular. Even through the rain and overcast days, the brilliant red and yellow colors of the maple trees were awe-inspiring.

“We visited Canoe Lake in the Park where Thomson had painted his famous northern impressions. We had planned to rent a canoe and do some paddling but the winds and rain were too strong” lamented Duane. “There is a cairn at the end of the lake commemorating the death of Thomson who mysteriously drowned in July of 1917.”

Outside the park in the Parry Sound Huntsville area of the Muskoka Lake District Joan found the annual artisans studio tour of great interest. “There were several dozen private studios open to the public on two special weekends and the art forms varied from textiles to vibrant canvases, wood carving, black smith art forms and pottery” said Joan, a pottery collector.

Another highlight of the trip was an afternoon boat cruse in the 30,000 Island out of Parry Sound. The Island Queen Cruise boat, which holds between 500 and 600 visitors travelled among the islands inhabited by cottage owners. Joan pointed out that “Irving Berlin the famous music composer of White Christmas and other well known classics spent may summers vacationing on one of the islands”.

Joan and Duane planned their trip via the Parry Sound Bed and Breakfast and Algonquin Park web site. They found that it was to their advantage to per book their bed and breakfast locations in the Muskoka Lake district and their cabins outside the park gates, as there was an abundance of tour buses and visitors in motor vehicles exploring the fall colours of the area. For the summer camper there are several very large camp grounds and all sorts of wilderness camp sites on the numerous canoe routes in the park; however, pre booking would be advisable through the parks web site or by contacting Algonquin Outfitters.

Joan and Duane both agreed that, “No matter when you go — spring, summer, fall or winter Algonquin Park and the Muskoka Lake District has many attractions to offer.”

If You Go:

For additional information you might check the following web sites:

• www.islandqueencruise.com – for information on the boat cruise

• www.muskokaautumnstudiotour.com – for information on various studio tours

• www.discovermuskoka.ca – for general tourist information

• www.ontariotravel.net – for travel information

• www.algonquinoutfitters.com – for details on canoe trips and renting all your equipment

• www.parrysoundbb.com – accommodation

• www.algonquinpark.on.ca – park and canoeing information

Autumn is a magical time of year when Mother Nature puts on a colourful show dressing the trees in coats of amber, gold, and crimson.

It is a favourite time for many travelers to enjoy leaf peeping on a fall road trip and has become such a big tourism trend in some parts of North America that there are special hotlines and websites devoted entirely to providing up-to-the-minute reports on the best drives and scenic fall spots for visitors to enjoy.

While it’s hard to beat Alberta’s Rockies at any time of the year, the intensity and pervasiveness of leaf colours is usually best in the eastern parts of Canada. Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes are popular spots to take in the show. Here are three great ways to enjoy a fall foliage vacation.

Fall Foliage Road Trip: One of the most economical ways to enjoy the colours of fall is via a Canadian road trip. In Alberta, Banff or Jasper are always good bets. In Ontario, Algonquin Park, Niagara on the Lake, and the Bruce Peninsula are popular. Be sure to see the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. Hot spots in the Maritimes include Prince Edward Island, Fundy Coastal Drive and Cape Breton.

Via Rail’s Fall Foliage Tours: Travelling across the country via train is a wonderful way to see the beauty of the countryside in full autumn bloom. Via Rail’s Canadian Autumn Spectacle allows you to see some of Canada’s most dramatic fall colours in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. For more information, visit www.viarail.ca or call 1-888-730-9500. Prices start at $1559 per person for the six day trip including tours.

Foliage Cruises: A leaf peeping tour aboard a cruise ship or a chartered yacht is about as stress free a journey as one can have. The deck of a ship is the ideal vantage point to observe the beautiful colour palate of fall. Many of the major cruise lines have foliage cruises to New England and Eastern Canada including: Carnival, Cunard, Celebrity, Crystal, Holland America, Nowegian, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Seaborne Cruise Lines. Contact a travel agent for more details. For shorter 1-2 day cruises, consider a journey with a member of the Maine Windjammer Association (www.sailmainecoast.com or 800-807-9463). These historic ships sail along the coast of Maine in September and October for fall foliage trips.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, AB, T4R 1M9.

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