“Hello,” I called. “Anyone there?”
I was beginning to lose hope I’d ever find the Algonquin Eco-Lodge. It was as dark as a coal mine on the thickly wooded trail, the temperature around -25C. A sign about 15 minutes back said it was a 2.5km walk from the parking lot. There had been a few forks in the path and now I thought I might have taken a wrong turn. My phone had no signal – par for the course in Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, thousands of square kilometres of wilderness 234km south-west of Ottawa and 18km from the nearest town. Fortunately, I was dressed for the occasion — ski pants over long underwear, thermal socks, proper winter boots, and several layers under my jacket.
Another five minutes of walking and still no lights. I called out again, anxiously. Nothing. I continued on my way, talking aloud to myself as I trudged along – telling any passing wolves or bears to please stay clear. Then, up a short rise, there it was! A beacon of light in the winter darkness.
Algonquin Eco-Lodge is a ramshackle cabin built in the 1970s, its rustic wood-panelled walls adorned with vintage skis and other cottage paraphernalia, and fitted with a woodburning stove, two shared bathrooms, and a micro hydro generator powered by the river. During the three days I spent here, the generator, engineered by wilderness guide and lodge owner Robin Banerjee, produced electricity, but little in the way of heat, leaving me and the 26 other guests constantly vying for spots in front of the stove and permanently attired in slippers, thick socks, big sweaters and long underwear.