Big Pines Trail
in Algonquin Park
An account of a late fall hike around the Big Pines Trail in Algonquin Park. The trail starts from Highway 60 and leads to the remains of an 19th century sawlog camp on Sunday Creek. The trail is characterized by many large white pines that are about 200 years old.
2009 November 18
The weather during the middle two weeks of November this year has been gorgeous, but unfortunately various domestic commitments have kept us at home. However, we managed to steal a day and sneak away to explore the Big Pines Trail along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park. When we left Point Alexander around 8:00 a.m., the temperature was about -5C with thick mist. By he time we reached the trailhead, the temperature was close to 0C with bright sun. By the end of our hike the temperature was around 10C.
The Big Pines Trail is north of Highway 60 and east of Sunday Creek. At the start, the trail runs parallel to a tributary of Sunday Creek. On the dry (uphill) side of the trail, the trees are mainly birch, spruce and white pine. In late fall, once the leaves have fallen, the bush is very open and one can see things that would be invisible in the summer.
One of the disappointments of the trail were the fences around the nurse log (post 5) and the remains of the sawlog camp (post 6). We understand why they are necessary, but it really detracts from the feel of the place.
It was a beautiful late fall day and we had the place to ourselves. Indeed, all day, we didn't see evidence of anyone else "recreating" in the park; no parked cars and only occasional traffic along Highway 60. According to the trail log book, the previous visitors along the Big Pines Trail had been three days earlier.
The largest tree on the trail has a diameter at chest height of 45 inches. As such, it is comparable to Deep River's largest pine (see Some Large White Pines in the Deep River / Chalk River Area), but much smaller than the pines of Dividing Lake and Crow Lake.
In the initial draft of this page, we referred to the Sunday Creek Meadow as a beaver meadow, but we are not sure. Further, we are curious as to what was the configuration of Sunday Creek and adjacent land when the sawlog camp was operating. Was it a beaver pond, a bog, a meadow (as now), or a stream meandering through a mature (~100 year old) forest? The illustration in the trail guide shows a tanker sleigh in the camp. It is hard to imagine being able to reliably fill a tanker at this location in the modern configuration of the creek.
Dan Strickland (2001), Big Pines Trail, Ecology and History of White Pines in Algonquin, The Friends of Algonquin Park.