A Tea Party – Thunder Cove Beach and the “Tea Cup”

The “Tea Cup” rock formation located in the Thunder Cove Beach area along the north shore of Prince Edward Island near Darnley and Cabot Beach Provincial Park is a natural shaped sea stack. Like all sea stack formations, the rock around the bottom of “Tea Cup” has eroded more quickly than the “Tea Cup” itself, leaving the sandstone sea stack alone in the water.Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 5.45.29 AM

Last October when we visited the Island for a couple of days, we ventured out to Thunder Cove Beach to see what the Tea Cup was all about. High winds combined with high water levels made getting around the point to the Tea Cup difficult, to say the least.

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Last October

What I remembered from last October was jumping gingerly over rocks between wave crests to check out some neat eroded parts of the sandstone cliffs.

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Last October
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Last October

This year, those rocks seen in the above pictures at the base of the openings in the rock face are completely covered by sand. In fact, there are hardly any of those rocks visible at all.th cove

I commented to Lynn that I had a hard time recognizing much from just 8 months prior.  It’s amazing how much sand had blown up onto the beach covering the rocks and other openings that formed part of the landscape such a short time prior.

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But, back to this year. We visited Thunder Cover Beach on the same day we adventured out to Indian Head Lighthouse in Summerside. You can read about that here.

After spending most of the afternoon with friends in Summerside, we made the short trip north to Thunder Cove Beach, with the intention of hiking across the beach and around the point to the “Tea Cup” and with any amount of luck snapping off a few pictures of the formation with a magnificent PEI sunset as the backdrop.

Arriving around 6:30pm we collected our stuff and headed out from the car and along beach proper. From where we parked our car, it would be about a 600-metre hike along the smooth and peaceful beach at Thunder Cove to reach the rock formations.

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There are no formal parking area or beach facilities in terms of washrooms at Thunder Cove. Most people park along Thunder Cove Road and access the beach through a path and opening down the slope to the water. All the property in this area is privately owned and dotted with “No Trespassing” signs. The only other way I know of accessing the “Tea Cup” is from the Twin Shores Campground further west. I’m sure there are other ways to get here, but this is the way explained to us last year. So, be respectful of people’s property when in this area.

On the beach and heading to the first point in the picture. The “Tea Cup” is more or less around that point.

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After coming around the point, there is an opening in the cliffs and then the “Tea Cup.”

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Lynn with her camera at the ready.

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A bit closer shot. I wonder how long it might be before the bottom part gets eroded away by the ocean and the “Tea Cup” topples over?

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The next picture I found in a tourism article of “The Most Stunning Rock Formations in Canada.” Looks like the “Tea Cup” has gone through some changes over the years. I believe this picture might have been taken around 2004.

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A pano shot with some ominous weather in the distance.

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While there, we hiked a bit further down the beach and climbed up to check out the Malpeque Outer Range Lighthouse. Apparently, the lighthouse is still active but is in need of some repair and upkeep.

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Only the shadow knows for sure.

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A short video from the base of the “Tea Cup.”

That ominous weather starting to roll in with rain off in the distance. Didn’t seem to stop Lynn though.

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I guess we spent a couple of hours here, taking shots of the “Tea Cup” and the cliffs and beaches within the vicinity. It is a great spot to visit and I would imagine that on a summer’s day, this would be a very busy spot, to say the least.

I’m glad we made the effort to come back. Not our typical adventure, but it is a popular attraction within the Island nonetheless. I was surprised in some aspect how something as simple as wind, sand and water can erode rocks and change the landscape in a relatively short span of time.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get that fantastic shot of the “Tea Cup” with a blazing sunset backdrop that PEI is famous for. Rain decided to show up and put a slow and drizzly end to our evening at Thunder Cove Beach. Seeing it was close to 9:00 pm, and with an hour and a half drive back to Montague ahead of us and a full day planned for Thursday we reluctantly trudged back to our car. It was wonderful to think back that this was the only rain we got on our entire time spent on the Island.

If you’re visiting the Island, be sure to put a trip to Thunder Cove Beach and the “Tea Cup” on your list. A beautiful spot to come and check out for sure.

Thanks for reading.

 

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia – A Mixture of Emotions

We’ve all been there at some point. You’ve arrived back home from vacation; a vacation that was wonderful in all aspects, but there is this lingering, nagging inner conflict or turmoil you just can’t put a finger to.

We’ve just returned from 5800-kilometre adventure spent driving to, around and from the Maritimes. Next to lugging back a mound of dirty laundry and exquisite memories, seems I’ve also conjured up the ingredients necessary to create somewhat of a medium sized kettle of emotions that have been swirling around inside me pretty much during our vacation and most assuredly since we’ve returned last week. Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.00.29 AMNot that I’m complaining or at least I’m not trying to complain, but for some reason that perhaps only elements of the universe can explain, this trip was very reflective and somewhat of an emotional roller coaster at times for me.

2Much of this trip has been planned since we went out to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia last summer and again in October. In fact, since that time we’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Prince Edward Island is where we plan to retire to in the next few years.

If you read our trip reports from last year, each day was pretty much of a “peddle to the metal” trip comprised of long days, many adventures but little sleep. This trip east was supposed to much more relaxing and it was now that I’ve reflected back a bit.

But, back to this trip, it seems I’m struggling with “unpacking” what the time away meant.3

1Perhaps it’s the realization that our daughter for this chapter in her life, has chosen to stay in Halifax with her roommate and create a life for herself there. I think back to when I was her age, and there was no way I would have been mature enough to strike out on my own right after college graduation with no job and only an apartment found online and head across the country to a city she and her roommate knew little or nothing about.

But, she did it and has settled into the daily routine of work, relaxation, time out with friends, paying bills, doing laundry. They’ve found a new place which they will move into in September. It is only 3 or 4 minutes away from where they currently live, in fact, it’s on the same street. Nevertheless, I’ll miss the “Old Elmwood,” such a great structure with a rich history and tapestry of tenants all coming together as one in a wonderful location in downtown Halifax.

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“The Elmwood”
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“The New Place”

But, change and the components that comprise it are part of life and living and I’m slowing getting a grip on the idea that there isn’t much I can do about it and that I might as well embrace it and go along for the ride.

Isn’t life and our existence at times a precarious balancing act of driving towards our dreams and goals, but counter-set against the day to day trials, tribulations and successes of living.

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Lynn often tells me that I need to live “more in the moment” and not get so involved in planning everything down to within an “inch of its life.” Maybe, that is what I’m struggling with is that we spent the best part of seven or eight months thinking, dreaming and planning for this vacation and thoughts of moving to PEI, that there was no way the actual time out there could ever live up to the level of anticipation we forged in our chemistry lab of planning.

I’m starting to have the scale fall off my eyes to understand that just taking a step or two without knowing the full picture takes “a healthy set of nards” all mixed in with a decent dose of faith is perhaps the right and best thing for a person to live as they are supposed to live.

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We had the wonderful chance to stumble upon this sandwich shop in the village of St. Peter’s Bay. The owners originally from Ontario, exemplify the “healthy set of nards” principle in my opinion. After visiting the Island in the fall, they decided to change direction in their life. They signed a leased on the unit; went back to Ontario sold their house and quit their jobs; bought a place just down the road in the next village; completed renovations and are now open as a soup and sandwich restaurant. As one of them said, “I gave up my high-stress healthcare job to make sandwiches and homemade soup; gave up social media for the most part and now instead I sit and write my friends letters. It freaks them out, but I couldn’t be happier.”

Although planning in life is necessary to some extent, perhaps we go way too far and plan the “crap out of everything” that the concept of “carp diem” or seize the moment vanishes. The exhilaration of just making a decision and going for it, whether it be a decision that changes the direction of your life, or simply a decision to get in the car and go where the wind takes you.

5Although life can be fraught with stormy skies and swirling seas….8

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…life also has those times of peace, tranquillity and magnificent vistas.

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The reality is, perhaps the moment we’re in right now is all that we really have. Life moves along most times like a bubbling brook, other times like a raging torrent of water cascading through a rocky river gorge.

Overthinking things; over-analyzing life in essence just steals the spontaneity and exuberance of the moment. There are a time and place for those overthinking and over-analyzing endeavours, but just not on vacation, or the days after.

Carp Diem – seize the day.

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Weaver Creek, Inglis and Hogg’s Falls – A Mother’s Day Adventure

The first question one might start to ponder about is, “why am I writing about a Mother’s Day adventure in the first place?” A very good and reasonable enquiry from you the reader. No, the adventure didn’t occur on the traditional Mother’s Day Sunday and to answer the second question should it come up, our daughter wasn’t there in person to partake in what has become Lynn and Sara’s traditional Mother’s Day excursion.

Since our daughter had been essentially living away from home since her second year of college, while working part-time at an upscale restaurant, Mother’s Day has been always a busy time to try to get the day off. Given Sara’s work situation, she and Lynn would take the next available day and both of them would out for the day, which usually involved lunch and tripping throughout Wellington County and the Grand River Valley areas of Ontario seeking photo opportunities.

This year, however, with Sara permanently living in Halifax I stepped into the void and filled to the position of “surrogate daughter” for the day. After a few texts between myself and Sara, we devised a plan that saw her calling Lynn on Mother’s Day, as well sending me some money to take Lynn out for an adventurous day photographing waterfalls and lunch in the Owen Sound and Grey County areas.

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With the day of adventure upon us, and leaving home between 9 and 9:30 in the morning it was about a 2 hour trip to Weaver Creek Falls in Owen Sound which was the first stop of our “Mother’s Day Adventure(MDA).”

Weaver Creek Falls is located in the south end of Harrison Park, a City of Owen Sound run facility. If you’re ever visiting Owen Sound, it is worth your time to come and explore Harrison Park. It has a wonderful playground for children, a waterfowl display and enclosure, a small campground, a swimming pool, the Bruce Trail, a restaurant and of course access to Weaver Creek Falls.

You can give this link a quick click to learn more about Harrison Park.

Access to the falls starts at the south end of the park, near the swimming pool. It is a short hike on a flat and very accessible hard packed trail with a wooden boardwalk. From the start to the falls themselves, it might be a couple of hundred metres. Technically, the actual falls are on private property. From the Grey County Waterfall Brochure – …“Note: The boardwalk leading to the falls is in Harrison Park, but Weaver Creek Falls itself is on private property. Please be respectful when visiting.”

A few pictures from Weavers Creek Falls.181

A couple of feather visitors who decided to join up on the adventure. Well, at least for this part.21720214317

Katie viewing the proceedings thinking that it must be time to head back to the car for a well-deserved drink of water and a tiny snack.

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After spending about an hour along the Weaver Creek Falls trail, and as part of our MDA, we decided to head over to “Elsie’s Diner”, located in the north-west part of Owen Sound on Highway 6.

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It’s a “50’s” style dinner that takes you back into a different era for sure. The food is comprised of burgers, sandwiches, wraps and such, and you do tend to get a large plate of whatever you order. We had been there once before last year.

Seeing as we had Katie with us and it was getting pretty warm out, we ordered takeout and headed back to Harrison Park for a picnic lunch.

After finishing our burgers, Lynn had spied some flowering trees along the street that leads into Harrison Park. So, heading out, naturally of course, we needed to stop to take a picture or two.65

After leaving Weaver Creek Falls, we thought let’s just go more or less around the corner to Inglis Falls located on the southern edge of Owen Sound. Inglis Falls forms part of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority holdings.

We’ve visited Inglis Falls on numerous occasions over the past couple of years. For those so inclined, a great little excursion is to park and leave from Harrison Park and hike the Bruce Trail south to Inglis Falls and then return via the same route. Round trip totals around 5 to 6-kilometres. We did that particular route back in 2016.

We didn’t spend much time here on the MDA, seeing as we’ve been there several times in the past. A few shots though.7161415

The falls are very impressive, to say the least. When we hiked there from Harrison Park back in 2016, we found an opening in the escarpment face that with some tight scrambling allowed us to get to the bottom of the valley and bushwhack up to the base of the falls. Unfortunately, I can’t find any of our pictures from that adventure.

The always required “group shot.” Katie does not like waterfalls nor the sound they make. Let’s say she was not impressed with our choice of photo location.23

After leaving Inglis Falls, it was our intention to head back home. We started home south on Highway 10, passing through the communities of Chatsworth and Flesherton. After turning east on County Rd 4 in Flesherton, I mentioned to Lynn it might be fun to head along the East Back Line and Lower Valley Road to come out near the Beaver Valley Ski Club.

Seeing as we would be passing by Hogg’s Falls, we thought “okay, maybe one last photo opportunity.” Stop number three on the MDA.

However, we did find this Canadian version of a “Tardis” located near the village of Markdale.

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Hogg’s Falls is located on Lower Valley Road, about 3 or 4 kilometres from the Village of Flesherton. The falls themselves are on the Boyne River and the Bruce Trail passes the right beside them. There is a small parking lot that could hold about 10 cars and is located a short 5-minute walk from the top of the falls.Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 8.08.30 AM

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Hogg’s Falls from the base

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A couple of short video clips from the base and the top of the falls.

And another from the top.

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A couple of shots upstream from the falls near the parking lot.

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After leaving Hogg’s Falls around 5pm, we casually made our way home, pulling into the driveway around 6:30 or so.

Throughout the day, Lynn would fire off a text or a text and picture letting Sara know what we were doing and helping to make sure that she felt part of the adventure if in spirit only. It was unfortunate that Sara couldn’t be with Lynn this year, but according to Lynn when she spoke with Sara later that night, it was a good day nonetheless.

As I write this, we are just a few short weeks away from pulling out of our driveway early on a Sunday morning to head to Nova Scotia to visit Sara and then back to PEI for a variety of adventures, including fishing on a commercial lobster boat.

Over the past number of years, we’ve visited most, if not all of the waterfalls located throughout Grey County. All are reasonably accessible and make for great day trips, and as well many can be combined if you only have a day to visit. This is an excellent resource from Grey County Tourism on the waterfalls located throughout the area.

If you get the chance, why not head over to Grey County and the Owen Sound area for the day or even a couple of days. There are plenty of outdoor adventures and activities just waiting for your discovery.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Hatchery Falls – The Return Trip

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The last few weeks have been a whirl-wind of life-related activities so to speak. With everything from photography related business stuff on Lynn’s side of the equation; to family commitments; ice storms/poor weather and just those day-to-day undertakings that take up time and way more valuable energy than required. So given all that, we haven’t had the opportunity to get out as much as we would like or as much as we need to. That doesn’t even take into consideration the hours that dreaded “9 to 5” work deal gobbles up out of the week.

Seems as well, I haven’t had the motivation or inspiration to tackle much from the “Thoughts From The Wilderness” posts either. I guess all of us at one point or another go through those creative dry spells.

Nevertheless, last Friday as temperatures rose to way above zero and looking like spring was finally making a long-awaited appearance, we decided to pack up the camera gear and head back to Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River located near the hamlet of Bent River in the north Muskoka area of Ontario.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 7.06.06 AMBeing slightly over an hour from our home in northern Simcoe County, it makes for an efficient and quick drive up Highway 400 and across Highway 141. There are countless advantages of living where we do. One that occupies a coveted spot near the top of the list is, it’s usually just a “reasonable jaunt” in any of the four cardinal directions to find an adventure to keep us occupied for a day.

However, if the “right adventure” gets dropped in our laps, we’re more than willing and usually very excited to tackle it or at least give it the “old college try” even if it requires us to make an “unreasonable jaunt.” Enter driving over 5000 kilometres in six days last fall, including a couple of days adventuring across PEI. It’s one of those “put in the effort – reap the reward” kind of approaches. For the most part, it almost always requires putting in long and every once in a while exceedingly exhausting days. Seems I’m NOT a sit on the beach kind of adventurer.

So, go figure – it does work for us though.

We have been to this sweet part of Muskoka three times so far this year, with the last trip only a couple of weeks before. You can read about that adventure here.

After getting our gear together and packing some water and a couple of Clif Bars we headed north towards Fish Hatchery Park.

It’s hard to believe that there has been this much change in snow cover in just under three short weeks.

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Snow up to your ????
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Not so much snow.

After heading east along Highway 12, north up Highway 400 and finally east along Highway 141, we arrived at Fish Hatchery Park about 11:00 am. We quickly collected our things and set off to photograph in greater detail Hatchery Falls, located less than a kilometre from where we parked our car.

I was amazed at the sheer difference just a couple of weeks made in terms of the overall look of the area. Two weeks prior everything was still covered in snow, much like it was at New Years when we first visited the area. Now, near the end of April and after only experiencing a few precious days of warm temperatures much of the snow in the open areas and a significant amount of the forest was melted.

With the sun shining and the light filtering down through the tree canopy, I knew that this was going to be a great outing. One of the things I love about early spring is the textures created by the sun weaving its way through a spruce and pine forest and reflecting off the snow that remains scattered on the ground. Days like this make it worth-while to be living and enjoying being outdoors.

The trail is well-marked with white blazes on trees as it passes through the park area.2

Still a fair bit of snow in the bush, but with the warmer weather that is being predicted it won’t be around for much longer.

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The trail was well packed down, but there were many sections that were ice-covered and very slick.

A short video of the snowy approach to the top of the falls.

I shot the short clip using my phone, so I apologize for the rather poor production value. Seems in getting our gear together, I forgot to pack the camera I’ve been shooting video with. Must be old age creeping up on me.

A couple of shots upstream of the top of the falls.

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Hatchery Falls. The angle of the video doesn’t present the magnitude and size of the falls very well. The published height of Hatchery Falls is seven metres with a three-metre crest.

A few still shots of the water cascading down the falls.

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We actually spent a fair bit of time at the base of the falls. It is a steep and tricky slope down from the top of the trail to this location. All of this was compounded by ice and frozen ground.

More shots from the area both up and downstream.

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After spending considerable time photographing and investigating around the base of the falls, we climb back out of the river gorge with the intention of slowly and leisurely making our way back to the car located about a kilometre away.

That is until I spied this up at the top of an adjacent slope.

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Although the perspective of the picture doesn’t capture it precisely, the ice formation on the cliff face is about 2.5 metres in height and at the top of a rather steep snow and ice covered slope.

This was something that must be explored. At least that was my sense!

Once we started to scramble up the snow and ice covered slope, this was the feature that caught our attention. An opening through the ice into a potential cave.

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I zoomed in using the camera on my phone for the above shot. That opening in the ice was about two feet higher than me and located at the top of an extremely slick and steep ice slope.

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The above picture illustrates to some extent the steepness of the slope. If I was to lay along the slope with my feet against the tree in the foreground in the picture and stretch my arms out, I would just reach the opening in the icefall.

However, as things were melting the face of the icefall was unbelievably slick. But, all was not lost. I did manage to capture a picture of one of the most elusive animals found in the north Muskoka area.

The hibernating “pretium extrema” – photographer extreme in a cave opening.

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The “pretium extrema” waking up.

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A couple of shots from inside the cave opening.

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A few shots from along the base on the icefall.

143231Can still see a little bit of blue in the ice. But, great contrast in the textures of the ice, snow, trees and rock that Lynn captured. Great shot!131637

Anything to get in the right position to realize the shot – I guess?

3934We actually spent an hour or more scrambling along and over the base of the icefall without slipping and hurtling down the slope to the trail below. Much fun!

 

 

It was a great late morning and afternoon spent adventuring in this beautiful and fascinating area of north of Muskoka. A day with the sun shining; warm temperatures; dazzling scenary and landscapes and good company doesn’t get much better. Lynn and I both felt it was one of those “we need to get out” type of exploits.

And don’t each one of us needs those types of days? To get away and forget about the trials and tribulations that life throws at us. To remind ourselves that life is meant to be lived and experienced. The more and varied the experiences – the better.

Lynn and I are no fans at all of the whole “living to work” paradigm. Careers, jobs and such can be “here today – gone tomorrow.” Guess over the years we’ve become devotees of the “working to live” point of view. However you may choose to define it, life is meant to be lived. So, stop putting off getting outside and into nature. Get out there; there is a whole world to explore. Some of it is in your own backyard.!

This has been our fourth trip to this specific location since the beginning of 2018. A little bird keeps whispering in my ear there is another adventure on the horizon sooner than later. This one involves bushwhacking to a location in this general vicinity that I managed to discover and do some sleuthing on.

So stay tuned for that.

Remember, get outside this weekend or even today and explore something in your part of the world. Keep at it – “cause you never know what’s around the next bend.”

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Thoughts From The Wilderness – It’s Just Water – Get Over It.

Water, the building block of life. Two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Complex yet simple all in the same breath.

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Something so simple; so clear and colourless can cause such a distortion of viewing the world around us when it lands as tiny raindrops on our glasses. Or if you’re taking a picture through the windshield of your car on a recent rainy late winter day-trip to Algonquin Park. A little distorted; a bit out of focus, but you still know where you are.

On our recent day-trip to Algonquin Park, I spent a considerable amount of time outside trekking along hiking trails with a somewhat distorted view of the landscape around me. Not due to some unresolved emotional issues, but entirely due to raindrops on my glasses.

Being clear and colourless, the raindrop covered glasses really didn’t stop me or cause me to not know where I was, it just simply distorted the imagines I was seeing. Just enough not to see clearly.
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Barring the use of some crazy eyeglass wiping system, the simple solution was to stop every once in a while and dry the moisture off the glasses. Pretty obvious, at least to me that if you wear glasses and plan to spend any time outside and it’s raining or snowing, your glasses are going to get wet.

So, why get exceedingly bent out of shape over it? It’s just water! Deal with it. Stop for a minute; collect yourself; pull out something to dry your glasses off and keep moving on. A simple solution to a simple problem. Not a complex problem requiring a Ph.D. level solution.

Isn’t it ironic that life can be at times like wearing glasses that have raindrops on the lenses. We can still see where we are or what the situation is, but it’s not a clear as it should be. Our view of life can be distorted by something so simple, that many times we may not recognize it as simple.

So, what do we do? Or what “should” we do?

There might be three trails that we could head down.

The first one would be to search for a complex solution to a very simple problem. “I know the problem is insignificant and not a big deal, but I’ll spend four days worth of time, focus and energy to get to a solution.”

The second one is to assume the issue is complex and serious(it isn’t) and spend days or weeks dealing with it. This is while all those around you watch in amazement thinking, “why not just dry your glasses off?”

The third trail to hike down might be the best one. Stop for a moment; pull out a tissue and simply dry your glasses off in order to see better. That being, stop and simply assess the situation. See the situation or issue for what it is.

I’ve been around for a fair amount of time or have made “a few laps around the track” might be another analogy. But, after all those laps I’ve found out this. Much of life, living and how we cope with it at times involves simply “stopping, wiping the raindrops from our glasses” to see just a bit better.

Of course, there will be those big issues that come up. The ones we never want to deal with. But, most will be the ones the “dry off your glasses type.” Nothing to get bent out of shape over. Just dry them off and move on.

If you’re going to spend any significant amount time in nature, it’s going to rain at some point. Perhaps just for a few brief moments, or maybe for a couple of days in a row. In fact, some of the best times and most memorable adventures Lynn and I have had involved rain and stormy weather. Real stormy weather. Now, we could have hidden in our tent until the rain stopped; not gone out at all. But, what fun is that? Just put on some rain gear; dry off your glasses and keep moving on.

Geez, it’s just water!

Life is the same way. If you’re going to live life, it’s going to rain on you somewhere and at some point. Don’t let a little drizzle get you all freaked out. Life is far too short to get freaked out about, especially if it is just a little drizzle.

Simply wipe off your glasses; have a look around and move on.

Geez, it’s only water!

Save the big freak-out for that big rain storm; the torrential downpour. That’s the time when that complex problem is going to require that complex solution.

Just a thought.

Algonquin Park – A February Day Adventure

This adventure has been in the planning since Christmas.

Note, I’m using the word “planning” here in the broadest possible definition. The idea of “planning” only consisted of me mentioning to Lynn that I wanted to hit up Algonquin in and around the Christmas holidays.

But, as we all know work, life and other important or perhaps not so important things pop up from time to time. But, with decent weather in the forecast(or so we thought) and someone to come in during the day to look after Katie, the plan was set in motion.

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All this was sounding and looking extremely good on paper. However, given all this planning or lack of planning, the one thing we couldn’t control was Mother Nature.

We woke up to a forecast in Algonquin Park of freezing rain in the morning and changing to rain in the afternoon. The whole weather issue and specifically the freezing rain part is going to play a major role in the narrative so to speak. But, not in too bad of a way. Let’s just say, rain gear and a positive attitude over-comes much hardship and wet weather!

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But, putting the rather poor forecast aside, any time spent in Algonquin is always a time that is well invested. In fact, most experts if they’re any type of expert at all, will tell you it’s one of the best, safest and most secure investments one can make. It’s entirely an investment made in oneself.

Given poor weather; good weather; or weather that falls somewhere in between; any time be it a day, week or longer spent in Algonquin is usually just what the “Doctor prescribed.” On that note, I should check to see if fees associated with Algonquin are covered under my drug and benefits plan at work.

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Leaving home and after an uneventful 2.5-hour drive, we arrived at the West Gate to get our Day Pass around 10:45am.

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Our plan for the day was to hit up a couple of the interpretive hiking trails, then head over to the Visitors Centre, plus whatever else piqued our interest during our time in the park.

With the rain now slowing changing to freezing rain, we decided to check out the Two Rivers Trail.

Although we didn’t take a picture, the parking lot would have been easier to get across with skates versus trail boots. Nevertheless, there is an old saying Lynn and I go by, “enjoyment of an outdoor adventure is only limited by clothing choices.” Undaunted by the weather conditions we gathered our gear together, locked the car and headed down the rather hard packed, but even icier trail to tackle the adventure before us.

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Almost immediately, I spotted a Ruffed Grouse in the bush just ahead of us, who seemed for the most part unphased by us intruding in their part of Algonquin and was quite happy strutting along through the bush oblivious to our presence.

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The trail winds its way through a mixed forest slowly climbing towards a cliff edge with views of the North Madawaska River and hills to the west.

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A view of the hills in the west.

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A slick and icy cliff edge. Not the spot for a miss-step or “next stop – bottom of the cliff.”

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A view looking west and the North Madawaska River.

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An icy and somewhat precarious location. All the rocks were coated with a thin, but a slick coating of ice.

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The trail leading back to the parking area from the cliff edge.

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Link to a short video clip of the icy and crunchy approach along the trail to the cliff edge.

Descending the trail, we made it back to the car to find the parking lot now a virtual skating rink. The “rather slick underfoot” conditions were to be the norm for the rest of our day in Algonquin. Ignoring the odd stone that might be peeking through the ice, it would have made a grand spot for a spur of the moment pick-up hockey game.

I think you get the idea!

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Since we were just a few metres away from Mew Lake Campground, we decided to take a drive through to see if many people were winter camping. The short answer to that was No. A big resounding NO. Each campsite we came across was either fully or partially submerged in water; a complete ice sheet or a non-campable combination of both.

In addition, the roads throughout the campground were a virtual ice trail. Let’s just say, turning the car around was an exercise of sliding, stop, reverse, sliding, stop, forward, sliding and so on.

We did see one late-model camping van with a sawdust trail for traction leading from the van to the fire pit and one poor cold tenter with their tent perched rather lopsidedly on their site, trying to find that one high point that hadn’t been assaulted by water or ice.

After leaving Mew Lake, we headed over to the Visitors Centre to check things out there. Having been countless times, including back in the summer of 1993 when it first opened, it’s always fun and educational to take a walk through the exhibits and dioramas. During the week in the winter, the kitchen isn’t open, although the seating area is. However, the restaurant provides coffee, tea, soft drinks, juices, snack foods and some limited choices of microwaveable items on the “honour system.”

Yup, the honour system. All the items have a price listed. Pick what you want and there is a container to drop your money into. You can also go to the bookstore and pay there as well I believe. A pretty neat and innovative way of providing a level of service to those visiting during the week.

The bookstore is my “go-to stop” in the Visitors Centre. Always something interesting to pique my interest and lighten the load in my wallet. Again, during the week in the winter the Bookstore may or may not be open. There is a buzzer you can ring and staff will come out and open it up if you want to in and have a look at things in the store.

A quick walk through the exhibits and a couple of pics.

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View from the Observation Deck

 

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We also took the time to visit the Algonquin Room that has on display until the end of April the works of artist Gene Canning. This is from the Friends of Algonquin Park website:

On the Trail of Tom Thomson, 100 Years Later by Gene Canning

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson’s time in Algonquin Park, artist Gene Canning paddled and painted the same rivers and lakes as Thomson, completing 150 paintings along the way. This exhibit shares with us Gene’s adventures and experiences in art and travel in Algonquin Park.

This link will take you to the artist’s website and the specific page describing in detail his three-year odyssey in completing “On The Trail of Tom Thomson.”

We spent some time on the observation deck taking pictures of the activity around the bird feeders on the ground below. Unfortunately, mist and drizzle kept Lynn’s time and focus to a minimum on the deck shooting pics of the birds below.

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Lastly, we decided to head over to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail across the road from the entrance to the Visitors Centre. By this time in the afternoon, the freezing drizzle and rain had done its damage so to speak. After sliding the car completely through the parking lot, we gingerly stepped along the edge at the bottom of the plowed banks and onto the trail.

Similar to the Two Rivers Trail, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk was a mixture of hardpacked snow and icy sections. Mostly icy sections for those wondering.

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This little red squirrel decided he wanted to be part of the adventure as well. He would follow us for a bit, then dart out from the trees, sort of look at us wondering where his “snack was” and then scamper back into the trees. A minute or two later he would re-appear and perform the same routine again. He did this three or four times until I guess he figured out we didn’t have anything for him.

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Having gone the whole time in the Park without having a “falling or slipping mishap”, I made it within 10 feet of our car when the inevitable happened.

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Need I say more?

Once Lynn finished laughing hysterically at my tumbling routine, we collected ourselves, skidded and spun the tires to get out of the parking lot and headed back home around 4:30pm or so.

All in all, and despite the rain and icy conditions, it was a perfect day. We’ve learned over the years that most of the time our adventures and outings tend to be “mind over matter.”

If your attitude is positive and weather conditions don’t matter, then a good day will be had. This was no different. Like I mentioned, “enjoyment of an outdoor adventure is only limited by clothing choices.” 

Don’t let rain, cold, or not so favourable weather conditions or forecasts keep you from getting out and enjoying all that nature and specifically Algonquin Park has to offer. Rain just presents yet another side to the beauty that is out there.

Back in the summer of 2015 on the Free Ontario Parks Admission Day, for those who remember it was pouring rain in Algonquin. Rain teeming down in sheets at times might be an appropriate way to describe it.

No one wanted to venture far from their campsite and no one wanted to come up to visit the park for the day it seemed. With rain gear in hand, Lynn and I had the Track and Tower Trail to ourselves for the entire afternoon. No cars in the parking lot when we arrived; no one on the trail and no cars in the parking lot when we finished. It was one of the best days of hiking we’ve had. A moody environment; mist and low cloud covered vistas from the lookout areas. Would have missed all of that if we let the poor weather keep us in a tent.

Get out there. Nature and the outdoors are waiting.

Thanks for reading!

A Winter’s Afternoon In Thornbury

It has been a week or two since we’ve been on a hard packed trail or knee-deep in snow hiking to one of our favourite spots somewhere in the Beaver Valley or in North Muskoka, or anywhere for that matter. Life and its day-to-day happenings which always get in the way of outdoor pursuits, well they seemed to keep getting in the way. Although, we did manage to hit up Huntsville, ON for the Banff Mountain Film Festival back on January 24th. That ended up being one pretty awesome evening at the Algonquin Theatre.

Last Friday, we headed over to Collingwood to meet with a young lady who is purchasing this particular photo that Lynn captured last year. The picture, which I think is mighty spectacular, ended up being the winner of the “Experience Collingwood’s” 2017 photography competition.

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To our shock and somewhat pleasant surprise, the lady has decorated and designed her living room with the concept that this photograph will become its centre-piece. Making a long story short we’re looking at creating three-panel photo totalling 60 inches long by 20 inches in height.

So, after finishing up in Collingwood, we decided to head on over to Thornbury and Meaford to hike and explore the waterfront.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

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Frozen waterfront of Georgian Bay
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Patiently waiting for a mid-summer night’s sunset
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Foggy ski hills in the background
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Waiting for another summer’s evening
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Where “old fishing lures” go to retire
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Old Railway Bridge – Georgian Trail Thornbury
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Old Railway Bridge – Georgian Trail Thornbury
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Old Railway Bridge – Georgian Trail Thornbury

So, when life got in the way and to keep sanity or insanity levels to something manageable, an afternoon hiking along the Georgian Bay waterfront did the trick. And life does get in the way. It gets in the way for all of us. And when it does, getting outside to give ourselves a much-needed mental health break and body re-fueling at times requires being diligent, determined and focused. For many people taking an afternoon to hike a few kilometres on the Bruce Trail or spend a couple of hours walking along something like the Georgian Trail would be unthinkable. We all know that someone who needs every waking hour to be productive with some sort of measurable results or else their day seems wasted.

Nevertheless, warm temperatures, a sun that filled the sky and few hours outside made the world of difference.

Every outing doesn’t have to or need to be an epic adventure worthy of being on the National Geographic channel. Nope, sometimes they just need to be ………………………an outing.

Thanks for reading.

Island Lake Conservation Area – Orangeville

Back on Mother’s Day of this year, our daughter Sara and Lynn headed out for a day together adventuring and such down in the Erin and Orangeville areas. It was one of those days of just hanging out, taking pictures and generally doing what Lynn wanted to……..isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about.

The plan was for me on the other hand was to hold down the home fortress during the day and then to head down to Orangeville and get Lynn in the early evening. This would save Sara the long return trip back to our home, since she was in school in Kitchener at the time.

One thing Lynn had always wanted to do, and this comes from driving north on Highway 10 numerous times and always seeing a wooden bridge as it crosses the western part of Island Lake Conservation area…………… was to …………….. simply check it out.

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Unfortunately for Lynn and Sara, this blew in and put a damper and quick stop to checking out much of anything else for the day.

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So, after our return from Price Edward Island and still having a couple of days vacation left, we decided to take a day trip. Tour down and around the Orangeville area; make a quick stop to check out this bridge that had captured Lynn’s attention on countless trips along Highway 10 through Orangeville; and then continue on our merry way for the rest of the day.

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We parked in the Home Hardware parking lot at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Highway 10. The great thing is that are a number of designated spots in the part of the lot adjacent to Fourth Avenue and Highway 10 for visitors to the Conservation area. What a super partnership!

After parking in one of the designated spots, we simply crossed Highway 10 at the lights and entered the trail system at this point.

If you want to check more out about Island Lake Conservation Area – click here.

Now, I must state two things at this point:

  • I asked my beautiful wife, “it’s just to check out and take some photos of the bridge; nothing else…….right Lynn?
  • Her response, “yes dear…….that is what I would like to do”

Once we where on the trail outlined in red on the picture above, I knew at that point we weren’t just going to take a few pictures the wooden bridge in question.

So off we went.

The trail we hiked along is exceedingly well maintained with information boards, viewing platforms, entry points, and washroom facilities scattered along its length.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

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The trail meandered though meadows bursting with wild flowers; wooded areas and across bridges that connected the many small islands that dot Island Lake.

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We also came across this fella along the trail. Didn’t seemed too happy to have his/her picture taken.

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And just a few final pictures…..

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I guess we may have been there around 2.5 to 3 hours in total and covered a distance of about 8.5 to 9 kilometres.

The trail we hiked was marked as 8.2 kilometres. But, with a few side detours and checking some other smaller trails, I would guess we likely added about another kilometre to the afternoon.

They have a very extensive rental program for canoe/kayaks and boats with electric motors and a pavilion available for rent as well.

The whole conservation area has been built to be very accessible. The trail we hiked is wheelchair accessible; generally flat with small rolling sections combined with a surface treatment that would make using a mobility device very easy.

In addition, they have a number of fishing pier’s that are wheelchair accessible as well.

They also have a newly constructed amphitheatre that sits in a slight bowl formation. Seems like it would be a super spot for a concert on a warm summer’s evening.

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Now, not to take anything away from Island Lake Conservation area, but this isn’t normally a destination that we would make just to go hiking. However, having said that I was pleasantly surprised and quiet pleased that we had made the journey around the perimeter of the lake.

It provided a  super location for a hike free of distractions with enough of a “wilderness feel” to make it a good afternoon adventure.

We visited late June before school was out and it was during the week as well.

Not many people there at all. In fact, for the whole afternoon, I bet we encountered more people who worked there than people using the park. I guess, it would be much busier on the weekends in summer, but given the size of the conservation area it might be easy to find locations less busy.

If you’re in the area and looking to take a few hours and hike the perimeter trail, find one of the active transportation access points; park your car; get out and get hiking.

Thanks again for reading.

 

 

 

The “Drive-By” Tour

I like to drive……….in fact I don’t mind driving just about anywhere. Anywhere I say!!

When our daughter was an infant…..she never napped. I mean never…..ever……at all……..except ……….in her car-seat.

Due to this “napping only in the car-seat syndrome”……. Lynn and I know all the main roads, secondary roads, county roads, back-roads, dirt lanes and several off-road circuits in north Simcoe County and south Muskoka.

Given that simply driving around has become part of our DNA, it isn’t unheard of for us to simply say at some point during the day, “hey let’s go for a drive.”

Sometimes we start out with a specific destination in mind…..other times its more like “if we turned right back there, then we need to make our next turn a left one.”

Funny thing is ……well maybe it’s not that funny……..but the funny thing is it’s something we enjoy doing together. We’ve found so many neat places along the way. Little villages and hamlets; quaint shoppes; small family restaurants; trails; waterfalls. The list goes on and on.

Many people we know and you now might be one of them, think “what a waste of time and gas for the car.” The only response I have is “yes it does take time and yes our car does run on gas.”

But, really if you think about it logically for even just a brief moment in the long history of the existence of the universe, doesn’t any hobby or thing you may enjoy doing………cost some time and money?

I think the issue here is people can’t wrap their heads around the concept of someone spending so much time locked up in a car with their spouse. I doubt it’s that, but I needed a paragraph for this spot right here.

The whole “going for a drive scenario” fits perfectly in just about any situation. Obviously, it fits in some better than others. Like, “let’s go for a drive and look at Christmas lights” is a classic example. One that might not be quite so glaring and obvious is your anniversary. It might be if part of the “let’s go for a drive” was to eventually stop at a quaint country B&B for the night or a romantic dinner at an out-of-the-way bistro in a small northern community.

So……seeing that the whole driving thing is part of our existence on Earth and coupled with it also being our anniversary, it lead us to the only logical conclusion available that an anniversary drive in late September would reveal a blaze of exploding colours throughout the Muskoka’s.

Thus, we uttered that famous phrase almost simultaneously, “hey let’s go for a drive.”

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After we kind of got ourselves somewhat headed in a northerly direction, we thought Kearney might be a great spot to check out……….because……..we’ve never checked it out before.

It was and is a great spot. And it also makes perfect sense at that point to conclude, “gee we’re here now we might as well drive out Rain Lake Access Road to check out the Rain Lake Access point.”

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If you remember back to the fall of this year, the leaf colour change started very weird and there wasn’t the vibrant explosion of reds and oranges in the Muskoka’s as one would expect. Much of this was due to the very warm and unseasonal temperatures we experienced in September, which I understand stalled the change in the leaf colour.

They did get back up close to their usual blaze of colour later one when the temperatures started to drop in October.

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Undaunted, we headed back to Kearney and figured that Algonquin Park would be the next perfect spot for our anniversary northern leaf colour extravaganza tour.

Unfortunately, at that time the colour change was noted at peak, but the colours were very dull and somewhat washed out oranges and yellowed inter-mixed with a few reds here and there.

Disappointed, Lynn put her camera away for the drive through the park.

Not wanting to our anniversary outing to be one that was remembered as a failure and a waste of time and gas……………we figured stopping to get something satisfying for the “old tummy” was likely a great next chapter in the day.

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So……….nothing speaks of an anniversary dinner better the fries from the chip wagon in Whitney.

And……..when you’re there ya gotta check out……..

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Source: Google Images

The rest of our “drive” took us through Bancroft, Haliburton and eventually coming out on Highway 118 north of Gravenhurst.

The point of all of this is not an elaborate trip report of a day’s adventure, but more of do what brings you and spouse joy.

Simply ………do what YOU like to do.

Do we like to go out for a nice dinner or a night away at a quaint log cabin for our anniversary? Sure we do.

But, having said that we’re also not ones to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a day, just because that seems to be what everyone else does.

For us, celebrating our anniversary is more of “what can I do or give to my spouse that has meaning or value to them.” For Lynn, the perfect anniversary day is to get out someplace and be able to shoot pictures to her heart’s content. And the perfect thing for me is to be able to give her that.

So…….this isn’t a trip report detailing out anniversary. Nope, the anniversary drive was perfect to deliver this message………..

Do what you want to do………

Do what brings you or you and your significant other joy………..

Don’t worry so much want others around you think. They’re probably jealous of what you’re doing anyway.

If people around you are always questioning you on……

  • why do you camp so much
  • why do you spend all summer in that canoe
  • why do you hike every difficult trail in Ontario
  • why are you outside all the time
  • why do you drive around the countryside

Simply tell them “why not” and that maybe they need to get outside “go for a drive!”

 

 

 

Epping Lookout and Beaver Valley(west side) Part 2

If you read Part 1 of our hiking on the west side of the Beaver Valley, you know we stopped at the end of Grey Highlands SideRoad 16C.

This is where I started my adventure for Part 2.

But, if for some unexplainable reason you haven’t read Part 1, by golly you should and you can right here, Part 1 – Beaver Valley west.

Lynn was on the disabled list this time with a sore back and a general achy feeling. She had been very sick through the end of March and into the first few weeks of April, so neither of us didn’t want to chance an injury or her getting that sick again.

So, between 7:00 and 7:15am, I set off by myself with another coffee in my hand for a day of adventure.

As you can see, traffic was an issue along the way!

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This may be my favourite picture of all time. Okay, not really! Stuck behind a manure spreader. Thinking about it, that is likely an object lesson about living and life in general. I see it now, “My Life-Stuck Behind a Manure Spreader” coming to a bookstore near you. Also available on Amazon!

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Undaunted, by the horrendous traffic snarl and the whole “manure is life” issue, I finally arrived at the starting point for the day.

Now, in Ontario throughout April and into May, we have received way more rain than usual. In fact, just before heading out on this adventure, it had rained more or less consistently for several days causing major flooding and damage in many areas of Ontario and Quebec.

Now, there is the general rule that accompanies rain as it relates to gravity. This is it: “Rain generally flows downhill and will seek each and every low spot to settle into. This includes the Bruce Trail.”

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Off I went starting out through a wonderful hay-field, that surprisingly…. was wet. I did mention above about the rain – right?

At this point, I had yet to clue into the whole rain downhill concept.

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The trail entered into a grand hardwood forest, and that gently undulated up and down through small ravines. It included a lovely bench built by supporters of the Bruce Trail. In fact, these benches and other structures including platforms and lookouts are often found at strategic viewing locations along the trail.

A big shout-out to the members of the various Bruce Trail section groups that work tirelessly to build, maintain and look after this magnificent hiking trail.

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As I continued along the trail I could hear the sound of running water. Nothing draws me in more to get off the trail and explore, than the sound of running water. That sound is so addictive, that I always need to search to find out where it’s coming from.

This was taken from the base of a small rock face about twenty metres off the trail. There was no obvious creek at the top. My only conclusion was that there was an underground stream someplace and this is where the stream spilled into the open at the based of this rock face. Very cool indeed!

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Did I mention the wet thing yet?

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The trail eventually worked its way out to the edge of the escarpment face, providing some sweet views across the Beaver Valley to the east.

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And a bit of a drop from the top to the bottom.

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Did manage to take a shot of my Vasque boots and new trail/hiking pants.

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I particularly like trail pants that zipper-off at the knees to become shorts. And look at what they did for me. They came with little instructions attached to the zippers so I wouldn’t spend hours trying to figure out which was the right and left parts when re-attaching them.

I also figured this would reduce the amount of laughter from Lynn that I might be subjected too when trying to re-attach the bottom parts in her presence.

But, moving from this point onward, the trail descended down the escarpment face into the valley for several kilometres before climbing out of the valley at the rear of the former Talisman Ski Resort.

The following are a few shots descending down the escarpment face and along the valley floor. The trail from this point really changed from the gentle hardwood forest setting to a more rugged rock-cut; boulder field look. I personally love this type of hike where you have to climb over rocks; are surrounded by rocks, and generally look at rocks and rock faces. I like rocks!

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Although this picture might not show it, this steep hill started the slow and arduous climb from the bottom of the valley floor.

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Eventually, I came across a ladder/stair combination that brought the trail to the top of the escarpment and the rear of the old Talisman ski resort.

I did a bit of research about Talisman and I guess it had been abandoned several years ago due to excessive debts and essentially left to rot.

From what I’ve able to read, it was purchased a few years ago with the intent of turning it into a spa and golf course.

These are a few pictures taken from the back of the old resort.

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The village of Kimberly and Old Baldy off in the distance from the top of the old resort.

I eventually stopped at the rear of the resort where the trail crosses Grey Highlands SideRoad 7A.

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I spent a few minutes taking a break and pounding the mud from the treads of my boots and me before heading back. The one-way distance to this point was about 7 km.

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In addition, a good adventure should always include having new learning experiences. So, during the break, I was having…..I learned that when you text someone and say “merci” as a joke, you receive a text back in French that keeps you occupied for the rest of the afternoon working on the translation.

I hadn’t mentioned it yet, but the trip to this point was a challenge, to say the least. All that rain we had experienced turned much of the trail and especially in the low points into a sea of unescapable mud and wet. The only way to describe it is “think dry-wall mud” when doing dry-wall. Thick; sticky and slick.

Each foot placement down the escarpment face, along the valley floor and back up the escarpment was an exercise in caution and frustration. It generally went something like:

  • take a step
  • slip
  • recover(maybe)
  • take a step
  • slip
  • grab a sapling to keep from falling
  • repeat and repeat
  • for the next several kilometres

And the beauty of it was, I got to do it again for most of the 7-kilometre return trip.

I sort of make light of it now, but at the time it was a painful “pain in the a$$.”

Why you might ask?

On the return trip, each step resulted in the muscles in my calves and upper thighs getting tighter and sorer due to all the unnatural movements caused by the mud(slip, slide, stretch). These unnatural steps, led to a lot of severe muscle cramping when heading back down the escarpment face; across the valley floor and back up the escarpment again to were my car was parked.

But, slow and steady prevailed in the end.

No harm was done and other than being a bit muddy; we survived to tell the tale.

The total distance was about 14 kilometres. Taking about 5 hours in total. Not a fast pace, but just the right speed to make sure I stopped to “smell the roses.”

It was all in all a perfect day. The temperature hovered around 9 to 10 degrees C all day long

If you haven’t figured it out yet, we really like hiking the Bruce Trail throughout the Beaver Valley. So much history; scenic vistas and beautiful countryside to be found. An excellent go-to area of the province.

As I’m writing this, we’re coming up to the May long weekend here in Ontario.

What a perfect time to get out; dust the cob-webs away that have accumulated over the winter and get out for a hike or whatever outdoor activity “floats your boat” so to speak.

I know from chatting with many other bloggers and outdoor adventurers that’s exactly what they’re doing!

So….join them. They’d love to see you out there.

Thanks for reading. Be safe this long weekend!!