Short and Sweet – Too Many Pictures

In the overall scope of things as we know and experience them, this isn’t one to get your “knickers in a twist” over.

But, it is one of those that happen when you have far too many of something and that is in this case – photographs. However, it is not far too many in a bad sense, but a good sense of the phrase “far too many.”

As you know or perhaps don’t know, Lynn and I spend and have spent a significant amount of time over the past 30 years exploring the great outdoors.

From Alberta and British Columbia out west, and all the way to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island on the east coast of our great country. And obviously with great deal of time spent in in central and northern Ontario.

And through each adventure(big or small as they might have been), Lynn documents them through her photography.

And for the most part, Lynn can tell by simply looking at the picture, where and when she took it. Even if she took it ten years ago.

I on the other hand, can’t remember where I was last week, let alone remember a random shot taken at some point in the past.

Okay, so perhaps my memory isn’t that bad, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where and when the above photograph was taken.

Nevertheless, I love the moodiness of the capture Lynn took.

The late fall of year, and the rocky strewn stream as it winds and twists itself through the wilderness all adds up to someplace, I’m sure I enjoyed immensely.

Too many adventures and too many photographs.

A dilemma for sure.

But, a “get your knickers in a twist over” dilemma?

Perhaps not. But, I do wonder where that picture was taken.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 5.19.52 AM

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

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

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

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

A few pictures from Weavers Creek Falls.181

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

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

22

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

elsies2elsies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8

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

11
Hogg’s Falls from the base

12

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

And another from the top.

13

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

109

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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.

IMG_20180509_085603649
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.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 5.59.37 AM

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.

41

1

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.

7

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.

1011

A serene location for sure.

9

A few more pictures.

13

12

14

15

16

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.

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 4.32.45 PM

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

19

23

25

18

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.

21

24

22

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

20

26

27

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

32

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.

IMG_20180509_122219623

28

29

30

31

44

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.

47

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

A required ‘selfie” from the top.

48

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.

33

37

38

34

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.

35

Trilliums were just starting to bloom.

39

40

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.

43

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.

 

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Chains That Bind(Or Do They?)

There are things that seem obvious to most people when they look at them or at least they should appear obvious. “Thoughts From The Wilderness” is my perspective; my slant if you will; my feelings of how life, living, our struggles and our successes can be illustrated by looking at how nature and the great outdoors reveal those tiny mysteries of life to us. The best part of this whole deal is I’m extremely fortunate to have Lynn and her innate ability to capture those moments in time that allows “Thoughts From The Wilderness” to exist. Honestly, she brings to the table the superior ability to capture the seemingly insignificant details, which are the significant memories of our adventures. I am one lucky guy.

On a recent afternoon at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park Lynn snapped a pic of the canoe/kayak racks down at one of the beach areas.

DSC_0174

In most instances, I might blog and go on for 700 words or more about how the chains and locks on the canoe rack represent the chains and locks we forge throughout our lives. Those chains and locks that bind us and keep anchored into a place we may not want or choose to be.

That would be the obvious entry.

But, let’s not focus on the chains and locks in the photograph. What else is there in it? Well, we see, dirt, a bit of grass and leaves and the racks themselves.

Here’s the “light comes on moment” in the blog.

What does or could the rack represent beyond simply holding watercraft?

When I sit back and ponder the photo for a bit, I see the racks patiently waiting. Patiently waiting to hold the memories of another summer of fun and new adventures that await a family as they make their first foray into camping and canoeing.

Don’t they also represent that first step or opportunity to get just a tiny bit outside of someone’s comfort zone? How many people got that first addictive taste of backcountry canoe tripping by having someone help them slip a canoe off the rack at a provincial park, summer camp or at a canoe outfitters establishment for the first time?

Close your eyes for just a second and picture this. Parks staff help them lift the canoe off the rack and lug it down to the beach. They outfit the parents and child in PFD’s and them load them into the canoe; give them a few lessons on what to do; then a gentle push and off they paddle and fumble around in the sheltered bay on the beachfront at Six Mile Lake. It isn’t very pretty, but that hour or afternoon spent figuring out how to make the damn thing go straight or even get back to the beach was enough to ignite a flame for camping and ultimately backcountry canoe tripping that sees that family wilderness canoe tripping in places we yearn to get to ourselves.

But, one the other hand, maybe it was just a simple afternoon paddling around and nothing more came of it. Just creating memories of time spent together camping, laughing and being a family.

Yup, sometimes the obvious isn’t obvious at all. Perhaps the obvious isn’t really obvious depending on how we look at. What is the tint of the glasses we use to view the world around us?

If your glasses result in seeing all as negative, then I guess you were anticipating or worse, choosing the “chains that bind” blog entry. But, we can choose the opposite. I chose to see the positive; the fantastic positive memory creating element the picture can represent.

We pick and choose to see what we want to see and ultimately believe. I’m sure there are scores of you out there, who live and work in environments that are toxic and negative to the “nth degree.” Something occurs that we see as positive, most others choose to see the negative.

Much of life, living and the way we see and react to it is a choice. I wish people would try seeing the positive in something for once. Just try it once! I bet people would be shocked at the result. Wow, a positive and wonderful memory we just created.

Shocked; surprised and bewildered, but in a positive way.

What colour are your glasses?

Just a few random thoughts.

 

 

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

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

DSC_0002

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

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

Being clear and colourless, the raindrop covered glasses really didn’t stop me or cause me to not know where I was, it just simply distorted the imagines I was seeing. Just enough not to see clearly.
wipers

Barring the use of some crazy eyeglass wiping system, the simple solution was to stop every once in a while and dry the moisture off the glasses. Pretty obvious, at least to me that if you wear glasses and plan to spend any time outside and it’s raining or snowing, your glasses are going to get wet.

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

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

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

There might be three trails that we could head down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geez, it’s just water!

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

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

Geez, it’s only water!

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

Just a thought.

McCrae Lake Rapids- There and Back Again(A Late Winter Hike)

Backyards can be a magical spot. Just ask any six-year-old who spends a morning rummaging around through the grass, dirt and leaves exploring and looking for insects and whatever else might capture the imagination of such young explorers and scientists.

The same is true for those of us who spend any significant amount of time in the outdoors. Much like a six-year-old explorer or scientist, sometimes you don’t know what’s in your backyard until you get out and have a good look.

map
McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve

I’d heard of McCrae Lake and the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve for I don’t know how long. The ironic part of this is, for the last twenty-plus years or more we’ve lived less than an hour away from it. I bet we’ve driven by the Crooked Bay Road exit on Highway 400 dozens of times since we’ve put down roots in this area. We’d drive three hours to hit up an adventure north of us but never bothered to check this area out. Go figure!

Last fall Lynn and her photography club planned a Saturday outing to this area and specifically the McCrae Lake Rapids. Since then, Lynn and I have been talking about getting back so we could hike the trails and photograph the area and the rapids.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve is a 2,039-hectare area of Crown land in the District of Muskoka. It is a very popular destination with a wide variety of outdoor pursuits available including, camping, canoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, and photography to name a few. The area is defined as McDonald Lake(next to Highway 400) in the east, westward to Georgian Bay and north to the Gibson River.

So, last Friday we figured it was time to head on out. From where we live it’s about a 30-minute drive to the McCrae Lake Parking area just off Crooked Bay Road and the southbound Highway 400 on-ramp.

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 6.21.26 PM

Screen Shot 2018-03-04 at 6.59.06 AM

The day dawned with temperatures hovering just around 1 to 2 degrees Celsius and cloudy, but with the sun peeking through from time to time. Leaving our home and arriving at the parking area around 10:45am, we collected ourselves and head off down the marked McCrae Lake Hiking Trail.

IMG_1128

The start of the McCrae Lake Hiking Trail is on the “west side” of the parking area. If you take the trail which commences at the most northern end of the parking lot, it is the start of the portage to the put-in on McDonald Lake.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 7.55.00 AM

Once you head out the McCrae Lake Trail in order to reach the rapids you make a right turn when the hiking trail interests with a local snowmobile trail. However, before reaching that point, we thought that the area off-trail looked pretty interesting and worth exploring a bit more. We left the trail at a top of a ravine close to the snowmobile trail intersection and bushwacked through the forest, ultimately connecting with the snowmobile trail near its southern end.

off trail
The yellow line indicates where we bushwhacked south from the hiking trail connecting with the snowmobile trunk route.

With all of the mild weather and rain we’ve experienced in recent weeks, it was very interesting to discover much snow was still in the bush and how deep it was. Even more interesting was how densely packed and crusty it was. For the most part, I was able to walk on top of the snow without post-holing through. Lynn had no issues at all. However, on those occasions I did sink in, it was at times up to my waist.

Once on the snowmobile trail, it was an easy hike up to the rapids separating McDonald and McCrae Lakes.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

pic 15

pic 16

pic 4

A bit more of an edited or stylized shot of the above picture.

pic 3

pic 5

pic 18

pic 6pic 7

pic 8

pic 14

pic 2

pic 9

pic 11pic 10

A rough day around the campfire making dinner.

pic 25

pic 26

pic 12pic 13

pic 21

pic 22

pic 19

pic 24

pic 20pic 23

What a super place to get out to. Relatively mild temperatures, good trails and although a bit icy in sections, it still was an excellent day out. The McCrae Lake area to my understanding can get exceptionally busy during the summer with backcountry canoe camping due to it’s relatively close proximity to the GTA and with it being Crown Land, the camping is free.

I know there have been issues in the past with excessive noise, partying and garbage being left at the campsites. I’m not sure if that is still an issue or not. I suspect it could be. Certainly going in the shoulder seasons, or perhaps during the week, there wouldn’t be as many people. Again, not sure.

If you want to learn more about the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve, this link takes you to the Province’s policy statement for the direction, protection, development and management of the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve.

Our short time spent there provided an excellent overview of the area, and we are already planning to hike the rest of the McCrae Lake Trail to the “Eagle’s Nest” area to investigate to cliffs and the views to the west across McCrae Lake.

It’s also my understanding the trail continues on from this point going around the south end of McCrae Lake and crosses the waterfall between McCrae Lake and Georgian Bay. Various reports suggest the distance from the parking lot to this point is between 6 and 7 kilometres one-way. We’ll be checking that out as well.

All in all, it was one of those afternoons that was desperately needed. Sunshine, fresh air, nature at its finest, refuelling of the batteries. All of this I got to share with Lynn.

You know, it doesn’t get any better.

Kind of glad we decided to check out what we could find in our “backyard.” Maybe this weekend you should do the same. You’d be surprised what you might find.

Thanks for reading.

 

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.

DSC_0108

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!

Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 7.33.56 AM

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.

pic 1

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

DSC_0002

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.

pic 3

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.

pic 2

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.

pic 5

A view of the hills in the west.

pic 12

pic 10

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

pic 11

A view looking west and the North Madawaska River.

pic 9

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

pic 7

pic 8

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

pic 6

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!

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 6.36.00 AM

property-protection-signs-caution-parking-lot-may-be-slippery-l6266-lg

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.

pic 13
View from the Observation Deck

 

pic 15

pic 17

pic 16

pic 14

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.

pic 23

pic 20

pic 21

pic 22

pic 18

pic 19

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.

pic 25

pic 24

pic 26

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.

pic 27

pic 29

pic 30

pic 28

pic 31

pic 32

pic 33

pic 34

pic 35

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.

slip

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.

15937202_295248717544391_3197858293815399570_o

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.

DSC_0040
Frozen waterfront of Georgian Bay

1
Patiently waiting for a mid-summer night’s sunset

DSC_0044
Foggy ski hills in the background

2
Waiting for another summer’s evening

3
Smallish Condo’s

6
Where “old fishing lures” go to retire

4
Old Railway Bridge – Georgian Trail Thornbury

5
Old Railway Bridge – Georgian Trail Thornbury

7
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.

DSC_0039-Edit
Let’s go….what’s holding things up?? I might be older but I can do this!!

DSC_0082-Edit

DSC_0053DSC_0063-EditDSC_0066-Edit

pic 5

DSC_0034-Edit

pic 6

DSC_0030-Edit-Edit-Edit

Next two pictures – same location.

DSC_0507-Edit-2
Late fall

pic 2
Mid- January

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

pic 4

pic 3

4

A final few pictures from our afternoon.

DSC_0067DSC_0064DSC_0080DSC_0065

DSC_0045-Edit
Sun setting over the horizon

DSC_0056-Edit-Edit-2
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.