Indian Head Lighthouse – Summerside

The Indian Head Lighthouse located at the entrance to the harbour in Summerside, PEI was one of the two main items on our agenda when we visited during our second, albeit whirlwind visit in October 2017. However, stormy seas and some misinformation regarding tides made it impossible or exceedingly difficult to adventure out to either of these spots.

As such, we vowed to make getting to these two Island landmarks a priority when we visited this June.

Indian Head Lighthouse – Wednesday, June 20

As these following two pictures illustrate, the ocean was a bit of a nasty temptress on our October attempt.

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Indian Head Lighthouse was built in 1881. What makes this lighthouse design unique is the lighthouse keepers residence was actually built into and part of the lighthouse structure itself. Not a separate dwelling as we see in most cases. The octangular base of the structure was the keepers’ home. Above the octagonal keeper’s residence is a two-storey tower topped by a red iron lantern. A railing encloses the lantern on the observation deck.

Although not normally found today, this unique style of the lighthouse, with the octagonal keeper’s dwelling on the ground floor, and a tower above, was once a common practice in areas where it was difficult to construct a separate dwelling house, such as on rocks.

Indian Head Lighthouse can be reached more or less three ways. Walking along the ocean floor at low tide on the harbourside of the breakwater or by scrambling across the one-kilometre rocky pier. Or thirdly, by kayaking out across from Summerside.

This picture I had found when doing research on reaching the lighthouse that suggested going at low tide was a suitable and achievable objective.

lighthouseSo, from the tide table below for Wednesday, June 20, the first low tide would occur at 11:12 am. We planned to start out towards the lighthouse around 10:45 am, noting the ocean should be mostly out by that point making an easy 1-kilometre trek to the lighthouse itself. Or so we thought.

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Now, there are a number of factors however that affect tides heights including the time of year and the relative location of the earth to the moon. When we arrived on Wednesday morning, we found although it was just about low tide, the ocean wasn’t as low on the harbourside as the picture portrayed above.

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Low tide on the harbour-side to the right of the break-wall

Seeing as defeat isn’t part of our vocabulary, we made the decision to scramble across the one-kilometre length of the rocky break-wall.

Getting started and as you can see, Lynn was having a challenging time getting excited and motivated!

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Hopefully, Lynn’s pictures captured the overall magnitude of the boulder sizes. These weren’t small chunks, although they existed. Most of them were a metre or more in height which at times resulted in an easy walk for 20 seconds, usually followed by a hands and knees approach, perhaps then with a 10-metre stroll along the ocean floor and then usually back to the hands and knees approach.

The one-kilometre trek out to the lighthouse took us over an hour to make. Lynn suggested that much of the time issue was due to her having to be extra careful due to her camera slung around her neck.

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Me starting out across

About half-way. The last few hundred metres seemed to take forever to complete. It was like the lighthouse kept moving further away from us, just to make the rock scrambling just slightly more “enjoyable” than it already was.

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And finally, Indian Head Lighthouse. The octangular portion sitting on the concrete base was the keeper’s residence, while the light proper sits on top of the two-story tower. Although the lighthouse is still functional, it is fully automated. It is however in a slight state of disrepair. From looking at the outside of the structure, it is in dire need of some upkeep.

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If ya gotta rest, ya gotta rest!

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As we were approaching the lighthouse, the rocky point it is situated on is apparently the top sunning spot for the local cormorant sea-bird population. As we got closer, they decided to “fly the coop” and settled just off in the water.

A few more shots of the lighthouse.

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A slightly stylized one

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After 30 minutes or so, we decided to start the trek back. The tide had started to come back and the wind was starting to pick up a bit as it usually does in this area as the day progresses. We weren’t terribly enthusiastic about the possibility of strong winds blowing most of the Northumberland Strait up and over the rocks on our return trek. That exact thing did happen later in the afternoon we observed while eating ice cream along the Summerside harbour waterfront.

In order to pick up our time heading back, Lynn decided to pack her camera in my knapsack, thus freeing her hands and not having to worry about her camera jostling around.

The tide has mostly moved back in along the left side of the break-wall.

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When we trekked out across the break-wall earlier, we knew there was one spot in about 20-metres in length that was considerably lower as compared to the rest of it. Going out, it didn’t pose any real concerns other then gingerly hopping across the stones.

Kind of had a feeling this might be an issue on the return though. On the way out, you could walk across this section by just being careful and you wouldn’t get your boots wet. Not so much on the return trip.

So, up to our knees in water, we went. And let me say, it wasn’t exactly warm water.

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And you think your feet are wet now?

With wet feet and great memories made, we arrived back at our car around 1:00pm. A round trip of about two-half to three hours more or less.

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You bet it was!

Lynn and I would head back out to scramble across those rocks again in a heartbeat. Upon getting back to the shore, we kind of did a mental “high-five” towards each other. When we first arrived, we had two options. We could have wimped out given the tide wasn’t low enough or “pull up our socks” and head out across the rocks.

We pulled up our socks and chose the spirit of adventure and the rocks.

It was a good choice.

I would encourage you, that if you’re in the Summerside area, get a map or ask someone and take a trip out to have a look at the lighthouse. You might not be able to physically walk up to it, but on the other hand, if the Spirit of Adventure shines in you…well you just never know.

Thanks for reading and look soon for the rest of that day’s adventure as we headed north to the Darnley area of the Island to hit up Thunder Cove Beach and the “Tea Cup.”

 

 

 

McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve – McCrae Lake Trail

Having patterned my life to a large extent by the principle that “the yard work which surrounds you will still be there tomorrow” – the last of my weekend days off dawned sunny, warm and inviting. Not so much inviting in terms of there is wood and brush to cut and gardens to tend, but more of the “there must a trail or two in our neck of the woods to explore” kind of invitation!

Waking up as I usually do at 5:00 am(even on my days off – don’t ask), I was pleasantly surprised to find this on the kitchen counter.

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I must admit I’m pretty lucky!

I had a couple of ideas of equally great spots that we could head off to and explore.

Over the past couple of years, we have explored large sections of the Bruce Trail in the Beaver Valley and Grey County area but missed smaller parts along the way. My plan was to start to fill in some of those missing bits. I was thinking that we head on over to Metcalfe Rock in the Kolapore Uplands and hike east from that point. Getting to the Kolapore Uplands and Metcalfe Rock is about 1.5 hours or a bit less from our house.

My second and equally sweet option was to head up and hike the McCrae Like Trail in the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve, which is located about 30 minutes from our place in north Simcoe County.

As our dog, Katie is getting up there in years and not wanting to leave her for extended periods of time and seeing as we hadn’t lined up our favourite dog sitter for the day, we opted to for the McCrae Lake option which is more or less just up the road from us.

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The McCrae Lake Trail is approximately 2.6 kilometres from the parking lot off the Highway 400 SB on-ramp to the cliffs referred to as the “Eagles Nest.” The trail continues further west towards Georgian Bay for about another 4 kilometres ending at the small waterfalls that separate McCrae Lake from Georgian Bay.

Arriving at the parking lot just after 10am, I was surprised that there would be that many cars parked on a Wednesday morning. Guess I’m not the only person with an “irregular weekend” schedule. From the few people, we did see, most if not all were portaging over to McDonald Lake and over the rapids to McCrae Lake for a bit of backcountry camping.2

The start of the trail from the parking lot and Lynn with her gear and ready to go.

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3The trail heads up a slight incline at the beginning before levelling out for a bit. For the most part, the trail is well-marked with yellow blazes located on trees or painted on rock outcroppings.45 It descends into and crosses a small wet area before climbing a small hill on the other side. In just a few metres the trail intersects with a trunk snowmobile trail that traverses through this area. It’s more or less 500 metres from the parking lot the intersection with the snowmobile trail.

Looking left or south at the snowmobile trail intersection.6Looking to the right or north at the same location. If you were to turn right here and follow the snowmobile trail, you would end up at the McCrae Lake Bridge and Rapids, a popular day hike destination.

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Bridge and rapids from our adventure in the winter.pic 14pic 8pic 11 Unfortunately, as with most outings, thoughtlessness and carelessness in terms of garbage is still the norm. Oh well, our family is now 10 cents richer.8 Hiking a bit further we came across this small pond adjacent to the trail. Although you could hear at times the heavy transport traffic zooming up and down Highway 400 located a kilometre or so in the distance, sitting there and completely letting your mind disconnect was exceedingly soothing. After all of my years’ teaching, I developed the ability to tune out the extraneous noise in the classroom and to only focus on those sounds that were important. That ability came in handy today.

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A serene location for sure.

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A few more pictures.

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A short video clip from this location.

Although the black flies were certainly out in force, they weren’t biting. I’ve read from a variety of other posters and bloggers that at this point(May 15) the “little devils” are out but not really biting yet. However, rest assured black flies will eventually do what black flies do best……bite and be exceedingly bothersome. And if you’re lucky, it will all be just in time for the May long weekend!!

 

After a bit of a water break and Lynn taking a bunch of photo’s along the shore, we headed back along the trail towards Eagles Nest and the cliffs overlooking McCrae Lake. By this time we both had noticed it was getting considerably warmer than even we anticipated. I think the screen capture from my phone definitively answers that question.

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After a few more steps along the trail, we came upon this lovely beaver pond, complete with a couple of engineering marvels.

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It amazes me how solid and structurally sound beaver dams can be. This one was about 2.5 to 3 feet in height.

With the warm temperatures and the sun shining brilliantly in the noon sky, seems everyone was out basking in the warmth of the noontime rays.

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One or two more pics that Lynn expertly and exquisitely captured that illustrate the beauty of the area,

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Leaving the beaver pond, we continued on a short way to the cliffs overlooking the expanse of McCrae Lake.

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As you can see the view from the top was worth the effort. Blue skies, sun and wispy clouds made for a pretty spectacular vantage point.

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From what I’ve been able to read, this area is a great destination for rock climbing enthusiasts as evidenced by the bolts and anchors secured into the rock face.  49

And here as a top anchor.

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A short video clip from around the top of the cliffs.

A required ‘selfie” from the top.

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After spending 45 minutes to an hour at the top, we started to head back towards our car at the parking lot, following the trail along the same route we headed out on.

A few pictures of the return trip back to the parking area.

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I mentioned to Lynn that this looked like some sort of prehistoric lizard or something. In actuality, it’s just the base and trunk of a fallen tree. Good thing though.

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Trilliums were just starting to bloom.

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I had carried a grocery bag back from the cliffs picking up bits of trash along the way. Lynn took the bag at the parking lot and within 30 seconds had it full. Good for her, but a still sad commentary nonetheless about “taking out what you bring in.” I guess there will always be those careless and irresponsible ones that see the wilderness as their personal dumping grounds.

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Just after 4 hours from when we started out, we were back at our car. We totalled a distance of about 5 to 5.5 kilometres. Not lightning fast by any means, seeing as we stopped at every pond along the way and spent a good amount of time admiring the views from the cliffs.

I would highly recommend checking out the McCrae Lake Trail if you’re looking for a great day trip. Easy access off of Highway 400 and more than enough parking during the week. The parking area can get busy on the weekends with backcountry canoe trippers accessing McCrae Lake.

The section of the trail we covered out to the “Eagles Nest” area, I would consider easy to medium in terms of hiking difficulty. There were a few large trees that had fallen across the trail in several locations that required either going around or climbing over them. In addition, the trail crosses a number of small streams and low wet areas. Most have crude log bridge crossings, but none that posed any concerns or difficulty.

I think that we’ll head back in the next few weeks before we head out to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in June. Following the trail to its final destination at the rapids were McCrae Lake joins Georgian Bay would make for a fine adventure.

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.

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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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Skeleton River

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!

 

 

 

Good Friday Afternoon at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park

Confession time. You drive by a location a hundred times since at least 1990. In 2014, we move and this place is less than 30 minutes from our house. I’ve uttered to Lynn more than once, “Gee, one day we’ll have to check out Six Mile Lake Provincial Park.”

Well, we finally did and we’re glad we took the time and checked it out for a couple of hours on the afternoon of Good Friday.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park is located less than 2 hours north of Toronto with convenient access to and from Highway 400 via the White Fall’s Road exit.

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 5.35.20 AMIt’s a very popular car camping destination offering six campground locations through the park in a variety of settings.

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This link will take you to the Ontario Parks website for Six Mile Lake.

The afternoon of Good Friday arrived sunny and cool. With a turkey cooking away in the oven filling the house with a delicious holiday aroma, we grabbed Katie and headed off to hike around the park for the afternoon.

We’ve been out on a number of adventures since New Years and with the mild temperatures we’ve experienced at times over the past three months, many of the backcountry trails we’ve hiked have been icy. I mean VERY ICY. In fact, ice covered.

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A day of freezing rain in Algonquin. Everything in the picture was covered in ice including the trail, the trees and the rocky slope.

Like most outdoor enthusiasts, we prefer being in the backcountry away from the hustle and bustle so to speak. Not that this is a huge issue for the most part, but we’ve had to kind of pick and choose the trails we think might not have been well used, hence not as packed down and slippery.

I guess the point is, although we all love and strive for the ultimate backcountry expedition each time out, in essence, it does it really matter in the big scheme of things? Just getting out, whether it be in the backcountry of North Muskoka or a hike through a local Provincial Park really shouldn’t really be a concern. Being outside, soaking up the sun, watching the squirrels race around and listening to the wind as it gently blows through the forest and not having to worry about life and its challenges for just a brief few hours was and is perfect. In fact, it’s always perfect. It’s a good day when you’re main thought and concern is, “Did I remember to buy cranberry sauce to go with the turkey in the oven?”

At this time of the year, the Park is closed, but you can leave your car on the edge of the road that runs adjacent to the park entrance and simply walk around the entrance gate. When we visited there were three or four other vehicles parked as well.

I assume that some Ontario Parks staff work there during the winter months as many of the roads within the park and the parking areas surrounding the park office, store and maintenance buildings were plowed.

Six Mile Lake and the Park itself is exceedingly picturesque and it certainly delivers that Muskoka feeling and setting. But, a couple of things if you’re considering visiting and camping.

First, the Park is adjacent to Highway 400. Considering it was a holiday afternoon with not much traffic and certainly not much transport truck traffic, it was still loud on occasion when transports were roaring up “The 400.” It might be somewhat more tolerable in the “Maples” section which is located farthest from the highway. So, traffic noise might be a concern if you’re wanting more of a quiet setting. But having said that, I did find that after a bit, I tended to “tune out” the noise from the highway in that it just became part of the background sound. It was like that for me, but it might not be the same for you. So, beware.

Secondly, Six Mile Lake is a big lake and dotted with hundreds of cottages. In fact, when you look out from the beach areas in the park, you’re looking at cottages. If you come with a canoe, or a small boat thinking you’ll have the lake to yourself, you might be in for a surprise.

Nevertheless, as I mentioned it is a strikingly beautiful spot with two well-maintained beach areas including one with a children’s playground.

There is a very extensive boat launching area with what appears to be reservable dockage slips on a first-come, first-served basis. A quick call to the park when they open in May would confirm how the dockage system works.

There is also a dog play/beach area, canoe; kayak and SUP rentals, as well as a fully equipped Parks Store. In addition, there is also a small Interpretive Centre and three small hiking trails.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

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Beach area looking out towards Six Mile Lake
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“Buoy oh buoy” – waiting for summer
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Patiently waiting for spring to come and for family and friends to enjoy an evening campfire. How something so simple can hold and create so many memories.
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Alien landing site? Perhaps not. Hope nothing or nobody went through.

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Katie checking out potential campsites.
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A great site(large and very level) with super access to the water. The area might be busy next to boat slips and is also on the main park road. But, I bet the site is booked all summer though.

Part of the reservable boat dockage slips.

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With a little help and encouragement, hopefully, we’ll be ice-free soon in this area. But, considering when I’m writing this(April 5), winter came back with a vengeance(April 4) in the Central Ontario area.

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Would look much better full of canoes and kayaks waiting to be rented on a warm summer afternoon.

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Six Mile Lake also has a number of “walk-in” sites. Although not located too far from the main park road, these sites do provide an additional measure of privacy or remoteness as compared to the sites in the remainder of the Park. Numbering about six or seven in total they are more or less situated together on a level area half-way up a short incline. In this picture, you can see the main roadway below. I’m about 30 feet or so from the tent pad area on Site 17 in the “Lakeview Heights” section. You park your car down just off the roadway below.

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This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this. Located near one of the beach areas, what a great idea if you came for a day visit and used a charcoal bbq.

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All in all, we really enjoyed the afternoon we spent hiking and walking around Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. Despite its location close to the Highway and having to share the lake with cottages, the park is nonetheless located in a very quaint and scenic setting of South Muskoka.

Granite outcroppings of the Canadian Shield combined with a variety of pine and deciduous trees are about a nice as one can get. Having both non-electrical and electrical/serviced sites, Six Mile Lake Provincial would be a great spot to either pitch your tent or park the trailer for a weekend or longer.

Assuming you’re not stuck in traffic on Highway 400 coming out of the GTA on a Friday afternoon, a 2 hour or less trip is really a great feature. Take a half day off on a Friday; leave by noon and you’re set up on your site with a cool drink in your hand by 3 or 4pm.

Not bad.

So, now is the time friends to get planning for the summer camping trips whether they be a front-country excursion in a car to an organized campground or a backcountry canoe adventure with family and friends. Why not take some time and look at the Ontario Parks website for some great ideas on where to head out for a night, weekend or longer camping.

While you’re at it, make sure to check out all the information for Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. It has a lot to offer and would make for a great destination I’m sure.

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Close

Every once in a blue moon, something pops up or you stumble upon an image that in reality has no effect on your life or even your ultimate destiny. But at the time you see it, it opens a curtain on the windows to the universe and explains much of our existence within the cosmos.

Last October, Lynn and I spent a few days on Prince Edward Island. Although just about every town and village on the Island is charming in their own right, we decided to drive again through one of the prettiest towns on the Island. That being North Rustico Harbour. When we first visited in June, North Rustico was the first spot we really spent any time in taking pictures and soaking up the ambience of the Island.

This time around, however, the town was much quieter than just a few short months before. In fact, most of the fishing boats were up on blocks around the harbour waiting for the fishing and tourist season to start again in the spring of 2018.

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As we were casually cruising through the waterfront area, the universe aligned for only a moment. I swear a beam of light shone down from the heavens, illuminating the object in front of me. A chill passed through my body. The perfect name – “Byte Me.”

Seeing such a breathtaking name and experiencing something almost biblical in nature, I immediately spun the car around and had Lynn snap a quick picture of it.

My rather energetic yet passionate response to Lynn was that if I/we were ever fortunate enough to own and Captain a boat, that’s what we would christen it “Byte Me.” I did go one and elaborate that they were remarkably close to getting the spelling correct. Just one letter away from it.

I don’t need to “spell it out”  in any grand detail what that one letter is. I’m sure most of you can guess and figure it out.

The reality is that I would never name a boat with my “corrected spelling.” That particular use of the phrase “Byte Me” has a rather negative connotation attached to it. At least it did when I typed it into Google; pressed enter and read what the “Urban Dictionary” defined it as.

After reading that, I wished I hadn’t gone to the trouble. It’s going to be weird and really awkward when fellow workers bother me with something ridiculous and well, just dumb. Looks like I’m going to need a new response. “Byte Me” I’m thinking just isn’t the best phrase anymore.

However, I do think that the owner and captain of this particular vessel got it just about right.

The funny thing is that the use of “Byte” in the boat name is incorrect. Byte, as defined in the dictionary, is “a unit of computer information or data-storage capacity that consists of a group of eight bits and that is used especially to represent an alphanumeric character.” 

Oh well, perhaps the use of “Byte Me” is correct after all.

I wonder how often a conversation like this happens?

“What’s the name of your boat?”

“Byte Me.”

“No need to be so rude!”

Regardless, what a super name for a commercial fishing boat.

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.

The Hike That Wasn’t Supposed To Be – Beaver Valley

Sometimes things work out WAY better than you might have planned even a mere few hours before. It doesn’t have to be a major WAY better thing, it just needs to be ……….. well ………..BETTER.

Late in the fall last year, Lynn and I hiked a section of the Bruce Trail out in the Beaver Valley area of Grey County, checking out some waterfalls located in a truly spectacular setting.

You can read about that outing here.

Heading back from that adventure while chatting about our afternoon, we immediately concluded, “This would be one super spot to come back to and check out in winter.” 

About a week or so ago, we decided one afternoon to get out of the house and in the car with Katie, and head over the area to see if the Bruce Trail parking area we used in late fall would be accessible in the winter. That small parking area provides really good access to the trail, although it is located on fairly busy county road.

What we wanted to know was the small parking area open in winter, as parking on the shoulder of the county road might not be the safest alternative.

That was about the essence of what the afternoon was to entail. Go and simply check it out. Just an afternoon out.

Once we got there and found the parking area was plowed and completely accessible, I said, “why not hike down the trail a bit and give Katie a bit of exercise.” I didn’t think we’d go very far, since Katie is in her senior years and can’t hike very far with us anymore.

With the sun shining and the temperature were fairly warm, off we went.

A few pics from the afternoon.

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Let’s go….what’s holding things up?? I might be older but I can do this!!

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Next two pictures – same location.

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Late fall
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Mid- January

This is what we’re striving to get back to photograph, hopefully covered in snow and ice.

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A final few pictures from our afternoon.

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Sun setting over the horizon
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Hidden in the forest

After time spent in the sun which blazed it’s glory in the afternoon sky and it’s resulting warm temperatures, everyone felt invigorated and thrilled to be outside once again. We hiked through a relatively flat scrubby field area, into a younger mixed hardwood forest and down into the bottom of the creek valley.

We only went a far as a bridge that crosses the stream. The waterfalls are located a bit further upstream from that point and would have involved climbing out of the creek valley which for some reason is much steeper and challenging on the other side; crossing another stream and traversing some additional tricky sections.

We knew Katie who was a real trooper to this point would likely get tired on the way back and I didn’t feel like having to carry her back to the car. Although I would have – just sayin’.

It appears the Bruce Trail from where we parked to the bridge is a very popular winter hike. The trail was well packed down making it a easy hike to that point. However, at the bridge crossing I kept looking on the other side of the valley for indications of the trail, which I know has several switchbacks up a very steep slope.

I had a hard time locating the trail, which suggests to me the section of the trail passing the waterfall doesn’t see a lot of traffic during the winter, making that part a bit more of a challenge.

So, this end up being the hike that wasn’t supposed to happen. What started out to be a lovely afternoon car ride to simply check something out, turned into an hour and a half spent in the sunshine; hiking though the beauty of the Bruce Trail and the Beaver Valley.

And really, you couldn’t ask for more.

Simple; unplanned and soul-satisfying.

I hope you’ve had or soon well have those outings that start as one thing, but end up being an adventure that was far better than you anticipated.

WAY BETTER even.

 

 

 

North Rustico Harbour, Prince Edward Island in Pictures

We visited many beautiful and spectacular places during our adventure on Prince Edward Island back in June of 2017.

One spot that stands out for me and for Lynn too, is the village of North Rustico and North Rustico Harbour. It left such a strong impression in my memories of our time on the Island.

Here was truly the first spot we had to relax with a great meal and unwind after a full day of air travel and driving.

It gave us something like a welcoming gift to the Island; a simple, but beautiful present wrapped in the opportunity to walk around one section of the harbour area. To start soaking in what we were to discover as the Island’s splendour and charm, including the first of the many lighthouses which the Island is known for.

When I reflect back to that first evening strolling around the harbour after dinner at the Blue Mussel Cafe it seems like my senses went into overload from the sights, sounds, colours and atmosphere that enveloped me.

I hope the following few pictures leave you with that same feeling.

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