Short and Sweet – Take A Breath

Today apparently is the big government announcement of yet another provincial wide lockdown to last 28 days. There is also much rumbling that schools here will close for those days as well.

The last two lockdowns really didn’t do anything and since then the government has dithered and talked a good story, but in essence has done nothing in terms of lowering COVID cases.

The new variants have taken hold and the vaccination roll-out here has been abysmal at best.

But, for today I’m trying to focus on two things.

First, is to simply stop and breathe.

Secondly, things will get better.

This third wave of the pandemic was completely preventable in our province. Yes, we the citizens need to take some responsibility.

But, we take and make our commitments based on part from what the government does.

However, when they have been so wishy-washy and vague in responses, action or anything concrete, we’ve come to the point where the government has lost the moral authority to govern. No one is listening to them.

But, alas…

  • simply stop and breathe
  • things will get better

— as always with love —

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Wilderness Art – Hiking Boardwalk Pencil Sketch

We’re somewhat blessed(not bragging here or anything) to have a plethora of places to hike and generally enjoy the outdoors all within about a hour’s drive from the “old homestead.”

One place that Lynn and I have quite enjoyed in the past is “Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Reserve.”

Over the past few years, I’ve done a number of posts on it, like this one – Torrance Dark Sky Reserve.

The above pencil sketch was taken based on a picture Lynn took of her foot, while hiking along on of the several boardwalks located within Torrance Barrens.

The last time we were hiking there, many of the wooden boardwalks appeared to be in dire need of some repair.

Unfortunately, (due to COVID_19 and people not being able to travel out of province much) and like many hiking trails and natural places located within close proximity to the Greater Toronto Area(GTA), Torrance Barrens it has become overrun with loud and unruly weekend party campers, dumping of garbage and general “bad stuff happening”, including gun fire.

Too bad.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Wilderness Art – Mew Lake Sunset

On our trip to Algonquin Park in the second week of July, we were privy to some awesome sunsets across from our campsite located on Mew Lake.

Often they were simply a muted and hushed tones of pink and blue as the sun dropped behind the trees across the lake.

A couple of nights however, the result was this golden blast of sun that peeked through the trees on the opposite shore, bathing the waters in front of us with a golden glow of better tomorrow.

The above watercolour was an attempt to capture those moments as the sun started to leave us on one of those evenings.

It is also the very first watercolour that I had ever completed.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Wilderness Art – Black Eyed Susans(Bruce Trail)

One of our favourite hiking adventures is to take a day and pick a section of the world famous Bruce Trail to hike.

The wonderful part is that large portions of the trail are literally within a 45 minute drive from the “old homestead.”

With the Bruce Trail being close 900 kilometres in length and stretching from the Niagara River in the south to Tobermory(Bruce Peninsula) in the north, there are endless possibilities to get out hike for the day.

The picture above is/was inspired from a hike last year, where we passed by a massive patch of “Black Eyed Susans” somewhere along the Bruce Trail.

It was my first attempt at an abstract “Black Eyed Susans” in watercolor.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty good.

Yup – not bad for just finishing my second week of picking up a paint brush.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Wilderness Art – The Beginning

A few days ago I posted a piece entitled “A New Avenue Of Creativity”

So far, this new avenue of creativity is feeling pretty satisfying.

As I mentioned to Lynn when I got home from work yesterday, “we have an art studio in the back – I’m heading out there to use it.” The art studio came with the house when we moved here six years ago. The lady we bought the house was an artist and had the studio built in the backyard.

As I mentioned in that post from a few days ago, I have no formal training or any type of anything that remotely might resemble training or instruction.

But, that’s works fine for me. Things will progress and improve as the universe dictates.

Anyhow, at this point I’ve just been pencil sketching and one watercolour painting of places that Lynn and I have trekked to, mostly in Algonquin Park.

This is a fast watercolour I did late yesterday afternoon, before the heat and humidity drove me from the art studio, back into our air-conditioned living room.

Mew Lake at Sunset – Algonquin Park (2020)

As you can see, it’s still taped to the painting board.

I have a couple of small add-ons I think to finish it off.

But, the more we stared at it last night, the more we liked it. I sent a photo to our daughter Sara, who is the art and graphic design guru. Hope she is gentle in her take on it.

We’ll see!!

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Algonquin Park – Part 1

As I sit here poking away a the keyboard, it is hard to fathom its been a week.

In fact, just slightly more than a week since Lynn and I headed north to spend four nights and five days in our beloved Algonquin Park.

In fact, it’s downright and almost depressing.

No, let me change that to – it is very depressing.

You may be asking yourself, “why so depressing when you said it was your beloved Algonquin?” Didn’t you have a good time?

We did. In fact, we had a great time.

The depressing feeling or emotions I think stem from the realization that this trip or any outdoor adventure we might have pondered over during the past number of months kept being put off.

Either put-off; delayed; cancelled or not even planned out. Not much in terms of outdoor events was appearing on the old radar screen.

In other words, the one thing that keeps and has kept us grounded as part of our existence, we simply chose to ignore or even worse not make a priority in our life over the past few months.

Not all was of our doing. Without a doubt, at times the government dictated what we couldn’t or could do because of restrictions. But, on the other hand, I think it was just easier at times to sit at home. In a bizarre, yet nefarious way – it was easier to do nothing at all.

And I get that life happens. Work and other priorities that we ALL need to deal with – we all get that.

But damn it.

Given the world we currently are saddled with, doing the things or activities that keeps one sane and on a somewhat even keel should have an even higher importance than ever before.

As much as there has been more written on all of the physical concerns relating to COVID_19, there has also been a pretty wide swath of information and public service bits over the past while, with regard the necessity of looking after one’s own mental and emotional wellness during these times.

I know for myself that in the days and weeks leading up to our trip north, I was feeling stressed and exhausted. More mentally and emotionally as compared to physical exhaustion.

Having spent the previous four to five months as a front-line worker during the height of the COVID crisis at work, my body was telling me, that I was more than ready for some time spent in the woods.

So, as much as masks, physical distancing, limiting gathers to X number of people and all that other “stuff” – please don’t neglect your own mental and emotional wellness during these times.

Believe me – it is beyond easy to do.

If you haven’t already -starting right now/today – make your COVID_19 mental wellness a priority.

Nevertheless and in order to remedy some of that, we made a second week of vacation trek north to Algonquin Park from Sunday, July 5 to Thursday July 9.

As our plan was to be in Algonquin around 3:00pm, we headed out the door of the “old homestead” somewhere around 11:30 or so. We took a slightly different route to this time to Algonquin, heading north up through the quaint village of Rosseau and ultimately out to our usual way of Highways 11 and 60 to get to the Park.

The bonus was given it was Sunday afternoon, all the traffic was heading in the opposite direction.

After arriving at the park somewhere around 3 or slightly after, we got things set up and settled in for a quiet, albeit very warm evening around the campfire.

Or so we thought.

I know full reason(s) why, I don’t go to the casino. I don’t do well at all with the odds. In fact, how could you when the odds are entirely on the casino’s side of things.

See that circled part that say “risk of a thunderstorm?” Also, see the arrow where it says “POP 40%”. It also goes to reason that one could make the jump and say, “if there is a 40% chance of a thunderstorm, there is also a 60% chance it won’t happen.”

Apparently “Mother Nature” doesn’t work that way, based on those odds.

After some thunder rumbling in the distance, the skies opened up and it rained fairly well for about 45 minutes to an hour – ending just before 7:00 pm.

However, after the deluge was all over and the thunder rolled off to the east, the evening turned out to be perfect.

We had a few visitors show up….

It was the easiest thing in the world to sit back and watch with awe as the sky was becoming a “real time” painting before our eyes – a masterpiece.

And of course ……… the staple of all camping trips…………the evening fire.

So, after what was a longish day; a couple of chilled adult beverages and a satisfying start ot our time in Algonquin, we doused the fire until it was completely out and headed off to bed, with expectations that Monday would unveil something wonderful.

Stay tuned for Algonquin Park – Part 2 The Adventure Begins.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Algonquin Bound – The Return

Never in the history of mankind, has four nights and five days slipped by that quickly.

It seemed like we just arrived and before we knew it, we were exiting the park and heading back, rather reluctantly to the “old homestead.”

My one of many responses to Lynn on the way home yesterday was we should have booked at least one more night.

Hot and as crazy as it does sound – it was almost too hot at times during the day.

The one shocking element for us, were the unnerving and somewhat eerily absence of the dreaded spring and into summer time Algonquin deer flies, black flies and mosquitoes.

There were a few, but never ever enough to cause any type of minor or major mental and or physical calamity.

In other words – a bonus and a score!

But, a word of caution – the whole area is exceedingly dry. In fact, dangerously dry.

Many areas, when we exited the park were under a no burning at all type of fire ban. So, unless the Algonquin area gets some significant rainfall in the coming days, I suspect the Park may be under some sort of fire ban as well.

So, while we get ourselves unpacked and such, a few pictures to wet the old appetite.

Algonquin sunset after an Algonquin thunder storm
Foggy Algonquin morning – early morning
Iconic Canadian symbol – Canadian Loon at night

We had a pair of loons that spent their entire days and nights just off our campsite. If there was a sound that represented what Canada was all about, it would be the bone-chilling and haunting call of a Canadian loon.

A daily visitor

A few of many, many pictures.

We’ll get some more in-depth posts in the next few days. Seems like we’re just a bit too tired this morning.

Vacation is exhausting!

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Bruce Trail – Duntroon to Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Nature Reserve

I’m not sure why, but for some reason our hiking and outdoor adventuring this spring hasn’t been as aggressive as in previous years.

I do think COVID_19 has played a major part in it. With many facilities currently operating with limited services, finding a washroom along route can be an issue.

Having spent so much time in the past years(and it has been a lot of years)exploring within a four to five hour radius of the “old homestead”, we kind of know where washrooms are strategically located, plus the towns and villages that have those restaurants we like to frequent.

In addition, Lynn has been far busier with her own business during this time and I’ve actually been working far more hours per week since the whole global meltdown started.

Probably the main reason, was that Lynn was having some serious back and upper hip issues in late April and into early May. So the idea of hiking and scrambling over some rocky talus slope along the Niagara Escarpment, perhaps simply wasn’t the best plan at that time.

Nevertheless, those are no excuses. Although, they are the best I can come up with.

We did triumph back in late May, with a relatively flat hike to see how Lynn’s back would hold up along the Bruce Trail, just west of the Village of Duntroon.

Here’s a short little post I did the day after the hike – Yesterday Was The Day.

There were a couple of reasons for choosing this location. As noted above it is generally flat through here and would be a good test for Lynn’s back.

Secondly, there was a short side-trail that visits an old limekiln on property owned by a doctor who treats people suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Funny enough, Lynn worked with in a clinic with this doctor when we first moved to the area about 30 years ago.

A small world I must say.

Leaving the “old homestead” about 11:00 am and after a drive of about an hour, we arrived at a small “Bruce Trail” parking area on County Road 91.

After getting organized, we starting our day be hiking east a couple of hundred metres east on the Frank’s Kiln Side Trail, arriving at the Frank’s Lime Kiln site in just a few minutes.

Records from the area, indicate the kiln was operated for many years by Joseph Gosnell and family. Kilns like this were common in the 1800s, but were replaced in the 1900s by large industrial operations.

There were many locations along the Niagara Escarpment where lime production was a big operation in the 1800s, due to the abundance of both limestone and firewood.

Lime was the bonding ingredient in plaster, mortar and cement needed by a growing province(Ontario) back a 150 years ago or so. The process to get the lime, involved filling the kiln with limestone pieces piled in an arch over a wood fire that was burned for 3-5 days.

In order for it all to work out, constant attention was needed to maintain the proper temperature. The heat from the fire drove off carbon dioxide and converted the limestone(know as calcium carbonate) into chalky, white lime(calcium oxide) commonly called quicklime.

A few pictures from the kiln.

After a short, but interesting stop at the kiln, we retraced our steps and headed north out along the main trail.

As I mentioned earlier, much of the Bruce Trail through this section or at least the section we completed is relatively flat, with only a few sections that have any grade to them at all. This was one of the two reasons I picked to hike here, to give Lynn’s back a workout, but not a huge challenge with a lot of elevation changes.

We hiked north to (Sideroad 26 & 27 Nottawasaga) at which point we crossed it into the Nottawasaga Lookout Provincial Nature Reserve. We continued north, eventually stopping at the intersection of the main trail and the Singhampton Side Trail.

A few shots from along the way.

All in all, it was a great first time out.

Warm temperatures and a mostly flat trail made for pleasant, but much needed outing. And the bonus was at the time we went…..NO BUGS.

Up until this time, COVID_19 pretty much closed down most hiking trails, provincial parks and conservation areas in southern Ontario, including the Bruce Trail. For many people, opportunities to get outdoors and escape the virus, if only for a few hours seemed to be fleeting throughout much of March, April and into early May.

The mental health of many Ontario folks, as well as those from all over took a major hit through those months. And in many respects, mental health impacts from a variety of COVID_19 related aspects is still occuring and I guess will keep occuring for the foreseeable future.

As much as we all practice or should practice good physical safety aspects concerning COVID_19, our mental health and wellbeing of those we love needs to be attended to as well.

Each one of us needs to figure out what we need to do and employ on a regular basis to ensure we still as mentally fit as possible during these challenging times.

What that may look like, may be and likely will be different for each one of us.

I would encourage you if possible, get outside to a local municipal park or something further afield and let the sights and sounds of nature strip away the stress or at least some of the stress we all find ourselves in during these times.

Time spent in nature is always a good investment.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Short and Sweet – Pet Friendly Hotels In Canada

Many of us have pets.

And when I think pet, I think usually of a cat or dog.

On the other hand, it may very well be something else, like a bird, fish or a hamster.

Although not a huge challenge finding a “pet friendly” hotel or place to stay when travelling, it can be a concern for some.

Questions like, “will they charge extra for kitty?” or “do you think we can sneak poochy in without them noticing?” can come up from time to time when planning your trip.

Travel and Tourism Announcement

If you are ever travelling in northern Ontario and figure to stay in The Airlane Hotel in Thunder Bay, they are pet friendly.

Just not bears though.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —