The acrid scent of charred wood welled in the back of my throat as we paddled across High Falls Lake. I could almost taste it. Stark contrast to the subtle pine fragrance so familiar on Algonquin lakes.
A swath of charred treetops and stumps spanned the peninsula between the lake’s incoming and outgoing waterfalls. The charred ruins were flanked by dead pines, draped in brown needles.
Oddly, the understory plants that dotted the boulders on the forest floor seemed unaffected. This led us to believe that the forest had burned some time ago. But had it? After our trip, I Googled “High Falls Lake, Algonquin and forest fire” and found news accounts indicating that a fire “in the vicinity of High Falls Lake” had been officially declared out on Sept. 1, the day we arrived there. It had started Aug. 9, caused by human activity at a time when campfires were banned due to dry conditions.
I’m still trying to find out whether this was the same fire.
Fires are common in Algonquin’s predominantly pine forests. I’d love to learn more about how they are detected and extinguished. And whether those responsible for starting them are held accountable.
To be continued (my research and this series of posts) …