The Bat Lake Trail in Late Fall

We walked around the Bat Lake Trail in Algonquin Park on a beautiful late November day. This trail visits several widely differing forest ecosystems, including a grove of large hemlock trees and and extensive bog. There is also a lookout with an excellent view.

2006 November 22

We decided to take advantage of a beautiful late November day to walk the Bat Lake Trail off Highway 60 in Algonquin Park. When we left home, it was minus 4C with no wind, and there was a low, diffuse mist that looked more like haze. As we neared the Park, we saw areas of light snow on the higher ground, and there was even more snow in the Park. Lake of Two Rivers was still open, but most of the smaller lakes were thinly frozen over.

As we started our walk, the temperature had risen to minus 1C and the sun was slowly burning off the mist. There were many trees down from the storms of the past summer, but most had been cleared from the trail. Since trail maintenance for the year ends in October, there were a few more recent obstructions, but none too difficult to get around or over.

Bat Lake Trail  first section

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The first part of the trail is relatively flat, providing easy walking through a forest of spruce, balsam, birch and white pine. The sun was still low and the mist had not yet burned off completely, so it felt quite cold in the shade. The muddy spots on the trail were frozen solid, and the wet spots were covered with ice.

Soon the trail drops into a wide ravine with a creek running along it.

Bat Lake Trail in the ravine

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The trail in the ravine. The trees here are mainly sugar maples, and it must be pleasantly shady during the summer. With the leaves down it felt very open and spacious compared to the mostly evergreen bush we had just walked through. As the sun started to come through the mist, we began to feel a lot warmer.

Bat Lake Trail in the ravine

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A creek crossing in the ravine. The small wooden bridges and boardwalks around difficult spots were quite slippery and required careful walking with the aid of a hiking pole. A few steep spots also have steps built into the slope. The flow in the creek was high, due to this fall's abundant rain, and there was ice on the logs and rocks along the banks.

Bat Lake Trail bridge with raccoon tracks

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Raccoon tracks on one of the wooden bridges. It's not just human walkers who enjoy these conveniences.

There are also many wet spots on this section of the trail. The trail mostly follows the creek upstream along the ravine, rising to a fairly narrow place at the top.

Bat Lake Trail  icicles on rocks

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Icicles hanging from rocks overlooking the trail. The morning sun was just beginning to shine on these, causing water to drip and pieces of ice to fall on the trail. We didn't linger below for too long.

Once out of the ravine, the trail runs alongside a beaver swamp through a forest of balsam, birch, cedar and hemlock. Near the end of the swamp, hemlocks dominate the forest, and there are many large trees in an area referred to in the trail guide as a 'cathedral grove'.

Bat Lake Trail  hemlock cathedral grove

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Walking through the hemlock grove. The deep shade and lack of underbrush are typical of hemlock forests.

Bat Lake Trail  large hemlock trees

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Looking up at some of the larger hemlock trees.

Bat Lake Trail  uprooted hemlock tree

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A few of the larger trees have been blown over in windstorms, turning up impressive root mats.

From the hemlock grove, the trail climbs up to its highest point, where there is a lookout. By this time the sunshine and the climb had warmed us up quite a bit.

Bat Lake Trail  view from the lookout

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View north towards Sasajewun Lake from the lookout. The lookout is approximately 80m above both the start of the trail and the lake surface.

We ate lunch in a sunny spot at the top of the hill. Even here, the sounds from Highway 60 were audible, due to the lack of wind.

Bat Lake Trail  descent from the lookout

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A section of the trail down from the lookout. Here the slope is fairly gentle, but it was ankle-deep in mud. Much of the descent from the lookout is very steep, with ice, mud, and some difficult footing.

At least the climb down is fairly short, and the trail soon levels out in a mainly evergreen forest. Eventually we came to Davies' Bog, a wetland area surrounded by black spruce and tamarack. The trail crosses the bog on a boardwalk.

Bat Lake Trail  Davies Bog boardwalk

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The boardwalk across Davies' Bog. It was slightly awash in places, but provided good footing and a chance to get out in the sun. The grass was a beautiful golden colour, contrasting nicely with the dark water and dark trees at the edge of the bog. There were still bits of ice, but most of the water was open, and flowing in places.

Farther along the trail we came to Bat Lake. The edge is boggy, with a lot of sphagnum moss and other wetland plants, including some cotton grass. The trail comes out to the water's edge in two places, where boardwalks allow access without wet feet.

Bat Lake Trail  Bat Lake

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Bat Lake. According to the trail guide, this lake is naturally very acid and does not have a fish population. It was completely frozen over.

Beyond Bat Lake the trail crosses Davies' Bog again, then again passes through a forest of spruce, balsam, birch, and white pine on the return to the parking lot. In this section, there were a lot of blowdowns, some obstructing the trail.

When we arrived back at the car, the temperature had risen to 4C. We sat on the tailgate and had hot coffee from our thermos while enjoying the sunshine and the view of Mew Lake (still frozen) across the highway. Soon we were back on the road, arriving home just after 5:00. Sunset was at 4:30, so it was getting dark and the temperature had fallen to zero by the time we got home.