Bracebridge Resource Management Centre

Yet, another Tuesday dawned with sunshine and warm temperatures, all of it wrapped up in an invitation to head somewhere and soak it all in.

Now, not wanting to decline Mother Nature’s enticing invite, we decided to head north, to the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre(BRMC) on Highway 11, slightly north of the Town of Bracebridge.

Without stating the obvious, it has been a long and cold winter in our little part of the universe this year. So, anytime the sun decides to shine and rise the outside temperature ever so much, you have to take advantage.

It’s these early spring days when the rays of the sun blast out of the heavens, which can penetrate into even the darkest and dreariest recesses of our soul. It is precisely then, that our innermost psyche screams at us; commands us to get out outdoors and set the thawing and renewing of our minds, soul and spirit into action.

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I believe the BRMC property is owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the operation and maintenance of the facility is a joint effort between volunteers, The Town of Bracebridge and the Province of Ontario.

Nevertheless, it offers over 16 kilometres of hiking, groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoe trails and the best part of it all – free of charge.

Leaving the homestead around 10:30am, we took a slightly and far more scenic route to the BRMC, arriving close to noontime.

After collecting our gear and “suiting up,” we give a quick once over the trail map and figured a loop along the outside perimeter adjacent to the Muskoka River might be the best prescription for the day.

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Should make note that, although there are several hills scattered throughout the trail system, none would be what I would consider extensive, long or steep. For the most part, the trails, at least the 7 kilometres we hiked were gently rolling and many flat stretches.

With a plan in mind, off we headed along Trail 1 and looking to see what sights there would be at the small rapids on the Muskoka River known as Duck Chutes.

Getting underway!

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The “Duck Chutes” rapids in the distance on the Muskoka River.

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A few more pictures from here.

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Lynn crawling through the underbrush to get the best shot.

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A short video clip from the “Duck Chutes.”

After leaving Duck Chutes, we continued along Trail No. 1 as it wove its way throughout the mixed hardwood forest until it intersected with Trail No. 2. This was the most interesting find. If you didn’t get a map at the beginning there was another opportunity. As well, there was a guest book to sign, although the pages were only a bit damp. A cute find nonetheless.

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From this stage on along Trail 2, it moves through the BRMC next to the Muskoka River. Interesting to note that at this point in the winter/early spring, the river was not frozen and was flowing freely. It made for a very peaceful and relaxing trek as the sounds of the river and birds chirping merrily in the forest were exceedingly soothing.

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Although not captured so much in this picture, that was a very steep slope covered in a thick blanket of snow and ice. I loved how the water froze around the trunk of the tree.

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Lynn had recently purchased a glass sphere or prism to create different shots when out on adventures. I think the results she gets, adds just another layer or exciting element to what we do. The shots might not be for everyone, but for myself, Lynn has the ability to capture those small, intimate moments or things along the way that hold great and deep meaning to us.

DSC_0209The ball is sitting to top of a tree stump.

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Often getting the shot involves getting oneself into precarious positions. The above is a lovely shot through the trees of the Muskoka River. What the shot doesn’t show is the steep slope down to the water that Lynn was laying on.

This wasn’t so bad.

IMG_20190319_133510524When taking another shot, Lynn was facing completely downhill with me executing a “death grip” hold of the waistband of her snow pants so she wouldn’t slide into the drink.

Another shot of the Muskoka River. I mentioned to Lynn that in warmer weather this would make a dandy spot for a quiet paddle along its still waters in a canoe.

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Which way now? All kidding though, the trails are marked very well. It would take so doing and effort to get lost.

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There are a few uphill portions. Like I mentioned previously, the BRMC is not that hilly and the hills tend to be relatively short.

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Just proves once more, how much snow has fallen this year in the Muskoka area. Yikes. I stepped off the trail at one point and sank up to my waist, however my feet had not reached the forest floor. I’m over six feet tall. That gives some idea of the snow depth. Hopefully, the melt will be slow and steady. If not, there will be a significant amount of flooding and potential damage that has occurred in previous years.

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This is a superior capture by Lynn. There are five distinct layers of colour in this shot. Fantastic!

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There were several information boards scattered throughout the trails, highlighting some aspects within the BRMC. This particular one provides some information about this large boulder referred to as a “glacial erratic.”

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A sign hopefully that spring is slowly inching forward.

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Been a tough winter for hydro poles evidently.

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One last shot of the Muskoka River as we were nearing the end of our time at the BRMC.

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When you come to a fork in the road – take it.

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Proof again that there is and was a lot of snow.

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With any amount of luck, soon this little stream will be flowing mightily, or as mightily as it can with the spring snowmelt run-off.

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Good and proper forest management techniques ensure a healthy forest for animals that dwell in it and for those who come and visit just for a short time.

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We spent a wonderful four hours, give or take, leisurely covering about 7 kilometres of the 16-kilometre trail system.

With that, we left the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre around 4:30 pm and headed north to Huntsville to grab a well-deserved coffee. I should note that when leaving the BRMC, you can only turn right onto Highway 11.

After snagging a coffee, we simply took our time heading home. A slow and quiet drive, giving us that time to relive in our minds as well as verbally, the refreshing and renewed afternoon spent hiking.

I find much joy and solace spending time in the outdoors. Significant research has been completed on the benefits, both physical and emotional, of hiking and spending even small amounts of time in the outdoors.

Here are but a few of the reasons:(from Ontario Parks  – Healthy Parks/Healthy People)

  • a simple walk in the woods can alleviate mental fatigue
  • it can combat stress while improving mental well-being
  • contact with nature lowers blood pressure; strengthens the immune system; helps to prevent disease
  • time spent in nature causes better-coping skills, including self-awareness; self-concept and a positively affected mood
  • a 2-hour walk in the wood is enough to improve sleep quality and mitigate sleep problems
  • the smell of fresh pine has been shown to lower depression and anxiety

A few last pictures as the sun was dipping below the horizon.

Hard to believe, but this was done by Lynn out the side window of the car, along Highway 400 near Port Severn.

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If you’re ever in the area, be sure to check out the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre trail system.

It is easily accessible from Highway 11 northbound and is just a few minutes outside the Town of Bracebridge. There is parking for a fair number of cars(guessing it might be able to hold 10 to 15 vehicles) and there are portable toilets at the trailhead, with several vault toilets located at one or two main intersection points on the trails. My grading of the trails would be easy to moderate in terms of difficulty.

If you had in the spring or summer, be sure to wear a bug net/hat or use an adequate insect repellent. I suspect like most of the Muskoka’s, biting insects here would be as much an issue as at other spots.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit.

 

 

 

—  get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself  —

 

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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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Hatchery Falls – Short and Sweet

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River located a kilometre or so north of Highway 141, has been on our “return -to” list since we visited Fish Hatchery Park at New Year’s.

You can read about that afternoon here.

DSC_0076-EditIronically, we hadn’t planned to get to Hatchery Falls on the Friday we were out. In fact, we really hadn’t planned much. Lynn had been to the Optometrist in the morning and was having some blurriness challenges after leaving the office. So, I suggested heading to Orillia to visit the bakery in the Mariposa Market. Research suggests rich calorie filled baked goods aids in sight and blury vision issues. Okay, so it doesn’t help, but it doesn’t hurt either. After getting $13 worth of massive donuts and muffins, I birthed a plan to head north to Bracebridge to check out a set of falls on the Muskoka River.

After consuming the biggest donut I’ve run across in some time, we headed north on Highway 11 from Orillia. When we arrived at the particular park in Bracebridge where the waterfall is located, we found it closed and the entrance locked.

Undaunted, I suggested to Lynn we should head further north to Fish Hatchery Park and hike along the trail to see if we could make it to the location of the falls. I was hoping it would be a relatively easy time, due to the fact we had our dog Katie who as a senior finds it challenging to hike any substantial distance or a hike with a lot of terrain changes. In addition, neither Lynn or I were really dressed properly to be hiking through the bush of north Muskoka.

But with a bright blue sky and temperatures hovering around or slightly above zero, we left Bracebridge and headed north again on Highway 11 exiting to Highway 141 near Utterson.

Some pictures from the afternoon.

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Fish Hatchery Park looking towards the trail.
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Non-dog tracks on the snow

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Skeleton River
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DSC_0087Lynn had a hard time making sure her pictures were properly composed and in focus due to the fact she was still having issues with blurriness from the Optometrists visit a few hours before.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get many pictures of the falls themselves.

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A few more from along the trail.

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Lynn at the top of the falls.

From a destination we weren’t planning on getting to, but then actually visiting, turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. The trail was well packed even with the snow the area had received the day before.

Often, I find having no specific plans or plans that change mid-adventure can turn out to be a great day after all. I was really taken with this area when we hiked and checked it out at New Years. North Muskoka has a certain ruggedness and beauty to it that I find entrancing. Often we’ll head out in the car after I’m done work in the afternoon in order to unwind a bit and nine times out of ten we’re heading north on Highway 400 as it passes through the western edge of the Muskoka along into the District of Parry Sound.

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The exposed Canadian Shield; the lakes; the rivers and trees seen from the Highway have a magical way of erasing all the trouble, stress and cares of the moment.

Hatchery Falls are certainly impressive, and the plan now is to head back in the near future with more camera equipment and hike to the base of the falls to capture their beauty and majesty as they cascade down the Skeleton River.

If you’re in the area and want to check the falls out, Fish Hatchery Park is located on Fish Hatchery Road off Highway 141, just east of the hamlet of Bent River. From where we live in north Simcoe County its an easy drive of slightly more than an hour.

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There are another set of smaller falls/rapids about 1.5 kilometres from Fish Hatchery Park. Although accessible about 100 metres north of Highway 141, I’m thinking following the Skeleton River downstream the 1.5 kilometres sounds much more fun!

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Be sure to get out and check the sights and scenery in North Muskoka, including Fish Hatchery Park and Hatchery Falls.

Thanks for reading!