Short and Sweet – Algonquin Park Bound

Lynn says and often with prompting from yours truly, that I have many fine and noteworthy traits.

One quality or aspect of my personality which really isn’t so fine, is I often have difficulty making decisions. Deciding what to have for dinner and although it is not necessarily a life altering decision, it can and often leaves me in a somewhat perplexed state. And hungry.

On occasion, the inability to make a decision falls out of my own mental wellness situation during those times. In other instances – who knows.

I can take far too much time, weighting all the pro’s and con’s regarding something I need to decide about, that I never get around to making the freaking decision. In these circumstances, I can often talk myself out of what I may have wanted to do in the first place.

So, why Algonquin Park?

In its infinite wisdom, Ontario Parks hence the government of Ontario(aka “The Doug Ford Dictatorship”) has made it free day use at all Ontario Parks(Monday through Thursday) from May 1 to the beginning of September.

So, if you decide to go to Algonquin Park “with the fam” for the day on let’s say a Sunday, a single one day pass is going to set you back $21 per car. Not much in the big scheme of things, but $21 is still $21.

Seeing as I don’t what to spend $21 on a Sunday, Lynn and I are going tomorrow(Monday when its free) and spend our $21 on something else.

What does this have to do with decision making or lack thereof?

Oh, and here’s a few Algonquin pics…

It took me a long time and much angst to to make that simple freaking decision.

My process to get to this point included these, plus a host of other considerations that are so trivial, I weep thinking about them:

  • what about the weather?
  • what about the bugs?(this is a legitimate concern for June in Algonquin)
  • when will we leave in the morning?
  • you have to work on Tuesday – so don’t be late getting home(not a concern for Lynn)
  • what to bring to eat?(food you dumb ass or buy something or do both)
  • what will we do?
  • I think that’s enough for now

I get that the post seems and has a slight funny/humorous tone to it.

But, my inability to make simple decisions isn’t funny.

Last night(Saturday), I couldn’t decide what get for take-out food for dinner. So, we didn’t have dinner. It felt me feeling exceedingly defeated, depressed and yes – hungry.

Now, I get that where we live, we don’t have a ton of decent restaurants. Other than major chain restaurants and fast-food places.

We got take-out a few weeks back from a locally owned pub/restaurant to help support them during our most recent lockdown – and it was the shittest burger and fries I’ve ever had. It was like they put no friggin’ effort in to making it.

I get that many restaurants struggled and are even now struggling to stay afloat during whatever pandemic restrictions they find themselves under. But, really if you want folks to patronize your establishment, even if it is was take-out during a global meltdown, a bit more effort wouldn’t hurt.

But, that can be another post for another day.

So, on a positive note – we’re Algonquin Park bound for the day tomorrow(Monday).

As much as it is an outing for hiking and exercise. I’m also giving seeing it as a “win” in the mental wellness column.

We’ll let you know how it went!!

— as always with love —

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Sunny Afternoon – Business and Mental Health Roadtrip

Winter in Canada does have it challenges. What challenges you might ask?

Well, freezing cold temperatures; often more snow than one wants to deal with; and every once in a while a morning of freezing rain to make to commute to work, just a bit more adventurous. And these are just the ones that quickly come to mind.

But, every so often the weather fairies(I assume that there is at least one weather fairy), blesses us with a day of decent temperatures, lightning blue sky and brilliant sunshine.

Yesterday(Thursday) was one of those days.

Lynn had a short business meeting in a town east of us, so naturally I tagged along with it being a day off.

With her meeting only taking about 15 to 20 minutes, I sat blissfully in our car, basking in the warmth and sunshine as it enveloped each part of my existence.

Once all was done, we headed out taking a slight circuitous route to get back home.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

At one point, I mentioned to Lynn that simply getting a lawn chair out and parking it and myself in the sunshined forest and reading a book, was definitely a possibility.

I think we all might be(or at least I am) slightly Vitamin D deprived. In addition, we might be whole bunch of other things as well in terms of our mental wellness levels.

But, yesterday went a long way to helping soothe my soul and fill up, even if it was just a tiny bit, my own mental wellness cup.

An afternoon spent in sunshine, warm temperatures and with a stunning blue sky all located within the Muskoka region, was as good as it gets considering everything that is going on.

I trust and pray that you can take advantage of some “me time” as well.

You deserve it.

— as always with love —

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Butter Tarts

If you’ve landed here thinking this will be the end all to be all of “butter tart” posts, unfortunately you’re going to be somewhat disappointed. Sorry.

However, if you’re looking for some encouragement and a tiny suggestion to help get through those rough bumps you come across in life and all it may entail this week….well then read on.

To be honest, I’m not sure if butter tarts ask any questions let alone “silly ones” or if they “simply understand.”

I do know this though, they are damn tasty – albeit a tad sweet at times.

On a side note, if you think butter tarts are just a yummy treat, come to our town in June when it is I swear the world’s largest butter tart festival.

If that Saturday is anything close to decent outside(ie sunny, warmish and no rain), upwards of 50,00 visitors show up to buy thousands upon thousand of butter tarts.

For example, in 2019….. 65,000 people showed up with 150,00 to 200,00 butter tarts for sale.

But, I disgress.

To say that the times we are in right now are uncertain; challenging and often downright frightful is an understatement at best.

Wednesday in Ontario, we exceeded 1600 new COVID_19 infections for the day. Projections released by the government of Ontario(on Thursday) suggest we(in Ontario alone) are on track to be at 6000 new infections per day by mid-December, which would put us on par with the worst hit countries in Europe.

Enough of that though.

We owe ourselves and loved ones time to just simply escape the mayhem and craziness if only for a few hours.

For Lynn and I, escape for us is often a simple day or afternoon road trip in the car.

Yesterday, it was a trip through the Beaver Valley area of Ontario. A time spent just gazing out the window at what often at times to me appears as a much simpler existence – rural Ontario; rural countryside.

I get that farming and living in rural areas has its own special set of challenges and such….but to simply let our minds float in an environment where all that life throws at us….just doesn’t exist and or in reality doesn’t matter at the moment as we’re cruising along some rural county road.

A country market although, often containing wares that are far more than “simple”, these spots do harken us back to a time which was I believe to be way less haggard and rushed.

Yesterday, our road trip, included a stop at the Ravenna Country Market, located near Thornbury in Grey County.

You see, it’s exceedingly vital and especially during these times, to care for our own mental wellness and emotional health, as well as those around us.

The upcoming holiday season will be like none we have ever experienced. For many it will be a time of NOT getting together with family and friends. In addition, there will be a host of other challenges and hiccups that we haven’t even thought of yet.

So, my advice is about as simple and easy as it can get. Take time today; this upcoming weekend and simply escape.

Escape to someplace to renew your mind and just forget if only for a few hours, the issues that swirl in our lives. You don’t need to go far; you just need to do.

Oh… and buy some butter tarts and cookies while your at it.

Perhaps butters tarts….do understand.

We scored this small sampling at the country market in the tiny hamlet of Ravenna.

Thanks

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Short and Sweet – Travel Options

When the conditions for overseas travel aren’t necessarily the best given the whole “worldwide pandemic thing”, here in Canada we will simply often take the next best option available to us.

As Canadians we’ve often said, “when presented with lemons; fuck it – road trip.”

It works.

Looks like a decent trip.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Beaver Valley – Thanksgiving Fall Colour Road Trip

It is that time of year out here in the hinterlands of the colony called Canada. Fall leaf change colours and Thanksgiving.

In fact, the Thanksgiving long weekend is just a few days away.

Turkey slow roasting on the oven, pumpkin pie and a walk with family along a trail out in the woods is just about the norm here.

A blast from the past of October 2018.

So, if you haven’t figured it out as of yet, we enjoy getting out. And we definitely enjoy the Beaver Valley area of Ontario.

The area within the yellow oval generally defines the outline of the Beaver Valley.

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As I’ve mentioned before, it seems Mother Nature has had a bit of a “hate on” for us when we’ve been out leaf-peeping over the past week or so. Naturally, today wasn’t any different.

Leaving our house around 11:30 it wasn’t raining, nor was the sun shining brilliantly high in the noonday sky. For us, however, no rain means a win for our side!

To add to the excitement, a photographer friend of Lynn’s loaned her a couple of lenses to give a go at. Putting all the variables together of tolerable weather; plus fall colours; plus testing new lenses, everything seemed to be adding up for a road-tripping afternoon.

Our first stop is known as the Beaver Valley lookout on Grey County Road 13. The lookout, located in a small parking lot provides a stellar view east across the Beaver Valley towards the Beaver Valley Ski Club.

Old Mother Nature would appear is very fond of games. Mind games to be exact. Just as we were approaching the parking lot at the lookout, little droplets started to appear on the windshield of our car. Then more appeared. Then a deluge of droplets appeared.

Rain and lots of it.

Without boring you into a self-induced coma detailing the weather patterns of our afternoon, let’s just say the rain was off and on and at times the sun popped out from behind the clouds. In addition, the temperature dropped slightly, but just enough to create at times haze and fog throughout the valley.

Between it all, we took pictures at the aforementioned Beaver Valley Lookout, as well as from the top of the Beaver Valley Ski Club, the John Muir(Epping Lookout) and a variety of other spots along the way.

Perhaps it’s best to let Lynn’s pictures speak for themselves.

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Top of Beaver Valley Ski Club

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Beaver Valley Lookout

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From the Lookout exit looking north up the valley

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Katie and me in the background

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Old Baldy in the background. A popular rock climbing location in Ontario

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We helped this little fella to make sure he/she was off the road.

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Fall colours and a barn proudly showing the Canadian flag. If there was only a Mountie standing in the foreground.

We were just at the beginning of a very steep and pretty much one-lane gravel road that twists and turns up the east side of the valley. Lynn took a video on my phone of the trip up. I should try to post it.

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Coming down Scenic Caves Road from the top of Blue Mountain Ski resort in Collingwood.

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With all my complaining about the weather aside, it did turn out to be a really good afternoon. At times the sun did come out, even if it was just for a brief appearance.

As Lynn hadn’t done much shooting in the past with a wide-angle lens, I wasn’t sure how things would work out.

I think things worked out just fine.

I hope that your weekend, whether it was a long weekend or just a normal “two-dayer” was relaxing and time well spent.

Where we live in Ontario, the fall season is one of the best times to get out and experience all that nature has to offer. Even a drive out on the country to stroll through a village and have lunch at a quaint restaurant is far better than sitting at home watching football on a Sunday afternoon.

It’s even better if you can include a couple of trails along the way as well.

Remember: get outdoors; discover yourself; find inspiration

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Road Tripping – Owen Sound and Meaford

Although we love to visit communities of all sizes when we’re out on an adventure, we don’t often make the community the adventure so to speak.

What I mean by that is, we might be hiking or adventuring close by and may stop in an adjacent community for a bite to eat or to put a bit of fuel in the car.

The one thing we rarely do but have done from time to time in the past is “urban hiking.”

One definition of urban hiking I happened to stumble across is this, “Urban hiking might  be defined as, an active walk taken in an urban environment that goes through parks, uses stairwells, crosses intersections, and meanders through the city’s obstacles of life.”

In addition, Lynn likes to shoot every so often, pictures that aren’t normally nature or hiking related. To keep the creative and technical things sharp, she likes to shoot areas or subjects she might not normally spend much time photographing.

Such was the confluence of these two elements in the past few days. An urban hike to photograph something different.

Having a purpose in mind, we simply needed a place.

And what better place, than Owen Sound and Meaford for the day. Just a relatively short hop from the “old homestead” and both being just down the road from the other.

This looks like it was going to work.

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Of the many things we adore about Owen Sound, is its architecture in and around the downtown.

Some shots from here.

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An outstanding feature of the many things that make Meaford a great spot, is the waterfront and harbour area.

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The spookiest tree we’ve ever seen. It was across the road from the harbour and waterfront.

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Urban hiking/walking – is it worth it?

Absolutely it is.

If this type of hike is something that you don’t normally undertake, especially if your exploring time is normally spent out on a trail, having an open mind to what you might discover in my opinion is the best first step. Often larger municipalities have urban walking routes with maps that you might be able to get a local tourist information site.

There are plenty of outdoors types who would never be caught hiking through an urban environment, and I get that. As much as being in nature is to “get away from the noise and busyness of built-up areas”, discovering and seeing new and exciting sights is also part of the mix as well.

So, having an open mind to what might fall across your path, I think, sets a good course for the day. Urban hiking has it’s drawbacks and issues as well. Nevertheless, the same approaches one would apply on a wilderness trail can be applied here. Be aware of your surroundings; don’t head into spots if you’re unsure of. You get the idea.

One of the best aspects of this is, you just might be able to head out in your own backyard for an enjoyable day spent exploring the city you live in. We often live in communities, but never get out and explore what is simply around “the corner.”

Thanks for visiting and hope that you can take an opportunity and explore “the nooks and crannies” in our neighbourhood.

Remember…

 

—  get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself  —

 

 

 

Algonquin Park – A February Day Adventure – 2018

One thing we’ve learned over the years when spending significant time in the outdoors is when given lemons you often just simply need to make lemonade. Adding a splash of vodka doesn’t hurt either. In that, the weather will do what it is going to do, so you can either belly-ache about it and stay home or get out there and make the best of it.

This post is from just about one year ago when we made a day trip to Algonquin in late February of 2018.

A wet and icy day trip.

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. I 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!

Owen Sound and Grey County – Adjustment in Agenda

If you spend any amount of time adventuring in the great outdoors, you’ll have those outings that all seemingly “worked on paper” a couple of days before, but once out in the “field”, you needed to undertake “an adjustment” or two.

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That’s how Tuesday, January 15 unfolded.

With Lynn’s birthday on January 17th, she wanted to head up to Owen Sound and Meaford for a day of adventure and obviously filled with photography.

Our goal was to hike to the base of Indian Falls, located just north of the City of Owen Sound and shoot pictures from the base of the falls. After that, there was the idea of a short hike along the Bruce Trail through Harrison Park and finally shooting the sunset from the marina in Meaford.

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Heading out the door just before 9:00am with coffee in hand and Katie in the back seat, we settled in for the 2-hour drive through Wasaga Beach, Collingwood and across Highway 26 to Owen Sound.

A quick stop in downtown Collingwood at Gabriele Photography bagged an elusive sized lens cap that Lynn had been searching for and as a bonus at a super price. Far better than any larger chain retailer.

After another stop along First St.(Highway 26) for a quick washroom break, we put the “pedal to the metal“; cranked up our favourite podcast and off across Highway 26 we went.

Like all perfectly laid out outdoor plans, there is always something or someone who loves to lurk in the background and dangles the distinct possibility that they and only they will throw a wrench into the equation.

In this case, it was Mother Nature.

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The forecast for the days proceeding Tuesday forecasted temperatures at around zero degrees Celcius and sunshine. Tuesday morning brought us zero degrees Celcius; no sunshine and a mixture of light snow and drizzle.

Mostly drizzle, however.

Now, sensitive camera equipment and drizzle don’t make the best friends at all. Over time, Lynn has hooked up a “shower cap” like device that covers the camera body and lens barrel, but nonetheless, drizzly dampness to camera equipment is like poking a sleeping bear. Something bad will likely happen.

Undaunted and just simply ignoring the drizzle, we arrived around 11:30 at Indian Falls with the grand intention of hiking as I mentioned to the base of the falls themselves. After getting Katie settled into “The Bag”, we headed off down the trail from the well-sanded parking lot.

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Katie’s view of the adventure

It looks like someone tried to girdle a birch tree or at least strip off a good chunk of the outer layer of bark. Why??

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As we hiked along the start of the Indian River Trail, it became obvious that there was a significant amount of water flowing through the system, which had flooded the low lying trail adjacent to the river.

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Those low lying areas had what we thought was a reasonability thick cover of ice over them, but as Lynn gingerly put a boot toe onto one icy patch to test its thickness, a loud crack echoed through the forest and water started to seep up through the ice.

The idea of trying to navigate up and down the steep slopes along the river in order to avoid the flooded areas, all the while with me carrying Katie in “The Bag” moved us to go with Plan B, which was to take a few photos where we could and move onto the next exciting part of our day. As well, the drizzle has started to increase a bit more than on our way up and as such, we thought it prudent to perhaps stow the camera equipment in a dry sack and hope the rain let up.

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Getting back to the car, we took a drive around Owen Sound and to Harrison Park to get Katie warmed up and to dry a bit ourselves. As part of scooting around the Owen Sound, Lynn casually mentioned, “why not see what’s happening over in the harbour by the Grain Elevators?”

So, off we headed to the harbour. Lucky for us, the “Algoma Harvester” was over-wintering in the harbour as well, providing ample photo opportunities.

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Leaving Owen Sound, we made a leisurely drive along the waterfront on Grey County Rd. 15, ultimately coming to the hamlet of Leith.

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The unassuming hamlet of Leith is the final resting spot of one of Canada’s most iconic and well known historical figures in the small Leith United Church Cemetary.

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dsc_0111_hdr-editTom Thomson, arguably Canada’s most famous artist and certainly the most famous since his death in July 1917, survives in greater prominence in his death when compared to his when he sketched, painted and lived in northern Ontario.

The life and death of Tom Thomson and the stories surrounding both seem to grow with exponential magnitude with each passing decade. Like stories of “the big fish that got away”, the truth surround Tom Thomson’s life and legacy gets “stretched” much like “how big was that fish again?”

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Much has been written about Tom Thomson over the past decades. Some of it is fact; some of it is “pure fiction”; most of it is a bizarre combination of both. In fact, if you put his painting and artwork aside, the stories and tales surrounding Thomson’s life and death has become an industry in itself.

Background on Tom Thomson

Tom was born on August 5, 1877, in Claremont, Ontario, located east of Toronto. He came from a large family, being the sixth of ten children. Although born in Claremont, Tom was raised in Leith, Ontario, located near the Town of Owen Sound on the shores of Georgian Bay.

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From an early age, Thomson didn’t really show or display any immediate artistic talent. He did enroll at the Canada Business College, where he learned as part of the courses “plain and ornamental penmanship.” From that, he developed rudimentary penmanship abilities.

He worked as a pen artist at several different photoengraving firms including Grip Ltd. in Toronto. It was there he met most of the artists who would eventually form after his death, what is known in Canada as the “Group of Seven.”

Tom first visited Algonquin Park in 1012. It was here that he took sketching equipment and on the advice and pushing from J.E.H. MacDonald from the “Group of Seven,” Thomson began to paint and capture the scenes of nature.

Typically, Thomson would spend the spring, summer and fall painting in Algonquin Park and return to Toronto for the winter. Although his earliest paintings were not great technically, it is said they did show an above-average ability in terms of colours and composition.

Over time, it was his later paintings that set up Thomson as having a great, if not the greatest influence on the early development of Canadian art and culture. It was his use of various types of composition, vivid colours and thickly applied paint strokes, that paintings such as “The West Wind,” “Northern Lights” and “The Jack Pine” are regarded as symbols of the culture of Canada and are some of the country’s most iconic treasures of art.

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The West Wind

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Northern Lights

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The Jack Pine

As well as his painting ability, Thomson earned a reputation throughout his life as an excellent outdoorsman with a good ability handling a canoe. It was the tragic circumstances of Thomson’s drowning on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park in July 1917, married to his image as an experienced canoeist has resulted in his death entering into the popular imagination and myth.

The circumstances surrounding his death have been of particular interest to many, with unsubstantiated rumours that he was murdered or committed suicide becoming common and persisting in the years since his death.

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After about 20 minutes shooting pictures in the cold, we got back in the car, cranked up the heater and headed back out to the highway heading the 30 minutes or so east towards the Town of Meaford.

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The Town of Meaford with a population close to 11,000, sitting on the shores of Georgian Bay has an outstanding marina and Canadian Coast Guard facility. Having visited in the summer, we thought that the rocky breakwater that protects the harbour and marina might make a superior location to photograph the sun setting over the water.

Unfortunately, with drizzle and no sun to be seen, the idea of photographing the sunset will have to wait to perhaps some date later in the future. Nevertheless, we did manage to capture some great shots from along the shoreline and the marina.

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After getting back in the car one more time, we started the 90-minute trek back home. We detoured slightly passing through the Blue Mountian ski resort to check out things as the lights were being turned on the runs for the night skiing and just because it’s a neat place to be in.

We made one stop at the old grain terminal in Collingwood and captured this shot of Blue Mountain in the distance, just as the lights were being turned on.

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Although the day perhaps didn’t turn out weather-wise as well as we had hoped, it still made for a nice birthday day outing for Lynn. I’ve come to realize and accept that when things don’t seem to go as planned, your adventure can be salvaged and more often than not, end up becoming something even better.

Spending the day with Lynn and Katie, being outside, shooting some photos all the while listening to our favourite Prince Edward Island music show podcast goes in the record books as “a win.”

Why not head on over to Owen Sound or the Meaford area for a day out in the near future. Both communities offer plenty to tempt you for an afternoon or for a full day’s outing. Restaurants, shops, parks, trails and a host of other activities will fill your day with memories to last a lifetime.

Thanks for reading.

 

— get outside; find inspiration; discover yourself —

 

 

 

Fall Road Trip Through Grey County

Being on vacation certainly has its advantages. Now, there’s an understatement if I ever heard or stated one.

But, one nice advantage if you’re not on any specific schedule, is to “go with the flow.” Get up in the morning or decide late the night before, what might be on the agenda for the day.

That’s how it was on the Tuesday of the “old vacation week.”  One thing Lynn and I have talked about for a while, is taking a day trip and actually stop in many of these little towns and villages we pass through while on other adventures.

With almost endless possibilities of places to go, we decided that ultimately we would make it to Owen Sound, but our route would take us through south and west Grey County to get there.

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So, with Katie in tow and coffee in hand, we locked the back door, jumped in the car and were on the road by 10am.

Our first stop was “The Bakery & Cafe” in the community of Flesherton.

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Source: Google Maps

Known or self-proclaimed as the“Gateway to the Beaver Valley”, Flesherton although with only a population of around 700 residents, has a number of quaint shops and restaurants along the main street.

For our stop at The Bakery & Cafe, we scooped a blueberry muffin for Lynn and a lightly spiced Indian samosa for myself. The Verdict – both excellent choices. 

If you’re in the area,  be sure to check out “The Bakery & Cafe.” You won’t be disappointed.

After a quick pit-stop at the Flesherton Community Park and Pond to let Katie go to the bathroom, we headed west along Grey County Road 4.

Lynn’s father’s side of the family comes from and farmed in this area of Grey County albeit further to the west around the town of Durham. This part of the trip was for Lynn a slight jaunt down memory lane.

Our first stop in Durham was McGowan Falls on the east edge of town. 1

McGowan Falls, although very gradual as it flows over the several layers of bedrock, is formed as part of the dam used for recreational and flood control uses with the Durham Conservation Area of the Saugeen River Conservation Authority.

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After about 30 minutes or so, we headed to the main street to check out what stores were still there. Lynn’s grandparents after they sold their farm, bought a small house in Durham many years ago. In fact, that house is only a few hundred metres from McGowan Falls.

I had been to the house many times with Lynn, but we hadn’t been through Durham for almost eighteen years. We were kind of curious about what business have managed to survive in a small rural community over that time.

To our pleasant surprise, things, for the most part, are alive and well in downtown Durham. One spot we stopped at was the “Chicory Common – Natural Foods and Cafe.”

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Source: Google Images

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Source: Google Images

Natural foods, organic products, bakery and restaurant all rolled into one. The menu looked delicious, to say the least. There are only a few tables in the restaurant, but most were occupied by the lunch crowd.

We didn’t leave empty-handed though. The smell of the bakery, while at the same time viewing the choices with wild anticipation of delectable yumminess, resulted in a large oatmeal raisin cookie for me and a raspberry/almond square for Lynn that was so rich, it took her until we got home at night to finish it. It was THAT GOOD!

Leaving Durham, we headed west again along Grey County Road 4, to the towards the Town of Hanover. I find it somewhat remarkable, that with all the road-tripping and adventuring Lynn and I have done, we’ve never really been west of Durham and into this area of Ontario.

We made a quick tour of Hanover and much to Lynn’s surprise(but not really) we made a quick stop at MacLean’s Ales.

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With the idea of picking up some locally brewed suds and after a short consultation with the gal working the counter at the brewery, I left with a sample of “Luck & Charm Oatmeal Stout.” Okay, it was more than just a sample.

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Source: Google Images

As it was getting later in the afternoon, we detoured through town following the simple and straightforward signage to head north on Grey County Road 10 towards Owen Sound. Getting out of Hanover, was one of the most complicated “follow the detour sign” excursions we’ve been on. Yikes.

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Source: Google Images

We arrived in Owen Sound around 4pm and headed straight to Harrison Park in the south end of town. Harrison Park is always one of our go-to spots when we hit up this area.

If you’re not familiar with Harrison Park, it is one of the best municipal parks we’ve ever visited. It’s 100 acres set in an urban environment. Beautiful grounds and facilities. It connects to the Bruce Trail, as well as a short side trail to Weaver Creek Falls. It’s probably best to read about the park here.

At this time of year, chinook salmon leave Georgian Bay and head up the Sydenham River which passes through Harrison Park. The salmon migration up the Sydenham is part of their natural life cycle to return where they hatched in order to spawn and eventually die.

Arriving at Harrison Pak we checked out the salmon working their way upstream, as well as many of the ducks and other waterfowl that congregate along the river as well.

Cormorants resting on a log.

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Salmon working their way upstream to spawn.

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Harrison Park also has a wonderful waterfowl enclosure filled with a variety of ducks, geese and swans. When we arrived, two Great Blue Herons were visiting the park as well. One was strolling along a small tributary in the park, while the other was out in the river.

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A park stroller

The Great Blue Heron that was originally out in the river, decided to fly into the duck/geese enclosure to hunt for food. Over the years, Lynn has worked on getting pictures of a Great Blue Heron in the wild, but it has more often than not resulted in the bird flying away or not being able to physically get close enough to get a decent photo.

So, technically this was a shot of a Great Blue Heron in the wild who decided to feed in a waterfowl display.

Looking for dinner.

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Bingo – got it!5

A few more pictures from the park.

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Trumpeter Swans

The park also has a pheasant enclosure as well, with a variety of different pheasants and other birds. Very cool.

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When I first spied these little guys, I would have sworn they were tiny wind-up toys placed in the pond. Nope – the cutest little yellow balls of fun. Mom would bring them down to the pond every 30 minutes or so; head out for a short paddle, then march the troop back up to their nesting spot. Very neat to watch.

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We left Harrison Park around 5:30pm or so and went to get a bite to eat.

While munching away on dinner, we thought we might be able to make it to Meaford and the waterfront on our way home to photograph the sunset. A quick check of the Weather Network suggested the sun would set by 6:35pm. There was no way we would be able to get to Meaford in time.

I thought the eastern side of Owen Sound harbour that faces west might work and was just a few minutes away. We found a great spot adjacent to the local arena.

A few sunset pics.

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With the sun finally dipping below the horizon, we packed up and got Katie back in the car and started east for the 2-hour drive back home.

A long day out and about, but a super time checking out some parts of Grey County we’ve never been to before.

Looking back, it seems our day was as much as a bakery run as it was a road trip. And we’re okay with that! If someone has to check these places out and sample some along the way, I figure it might as well be us.

That area of south and west Grey County has a ton of things to see and do, as well as neat places to check out. It seems the day turned out to be a reconnaissance trip for the next time we get out that way.

Once again, Owen Sound and specifically Harrison Park made for a perfect stop. The salmon run, a Great Blue Heron, fuzzy yellow balls of fun and lastly the waterfront for the sunset. Not too shabby.

Be sure to check out this area of Grey County. Great places to visit; great restaurants and lots to keep you occupied.

After getting home around 9pm, and settling onto the couch….. it was worth the trip.

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Thanks for reading.

Thanksgiving and Parry Sound

I’m not sure why Lynn and I seem to have a love affair with Parry Sound. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but Parry Sound these days is one of our go-to spots for a day out.

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With fall colours in full swing in the Parry Sound area, we decided last Wednesday to make the relatively short trek up the highway to check the colour explosion out.

Although the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend is traditionally Saturday, Sunday and Monday, I had till Wednesday off work, so my “Thanksgiving long weekend” was a little longer than the norm. I’m okay with that!

As I’ve mentioned before, our leaf-peeping fall colour outings this year, have been met most times with less than perfect conditions weather-wise.

Not this time though. Wednesday was one of those days normally found in the middle of summer. Sunny skies and temperatures pushing 25 degrees Celcius.

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25 degrees C last Wednesday. This morning 6 degrees C. It’s Canada. If you want the weather to change….wait 15 minutes!

Lynn was still road testing a couple of camera lenses, so Parry Sound seemed like the perfect place to give them another road test.

A few pictures from the day.

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This is the Canadian Pacific Railway(CPR) trestle that crosses the valley of the Sequin river through Parry Sound. It is 1,695 feet (517 m) long and 105 feet (32 m) high and is the longest rail trestle east of the Rocky Mountains.

Today it carries westbound rail traffic for both the CPR and the CNR(Canadian National Railway). A pretty impressive sight and very busy to say the least.

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Although very difficult to see with a wide-angle lens on, but while hiking along I spotted a deer(a juvenile – born this spring) across the rail tracks. I then spotted the Mom and another fawn. So, twins.

But, wait for it.

There was but another sibling. Triplets.

A doe having a set of twins is quite normal in a deer population. Triplets occur between 15 to 20 percent of the time. One important point is that triplets are one of the signs of a very healthy deer population in a given area.

The Mom and the off-spring were certainly healthy-looking. Well portioned, not skinny at all, no missing patches of fur. A great surprise to find. They just stood across the rail tracks and watched us for a bit. Once they figured we just wanted to look at them and weren’t a threat, Mom casually kept moving them along, munching merrily on the grass and twigs as they went.

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My favourite picture of the day.

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We stopped and picked up a couple of deli-sandwiches from the local Sobeys supermarket for lunch, devouring them down at the grounds of the Stockey Centre for The Performing Arts on the waterfront.

After getting refuelled we headed over where the railway bridge crosses the Sequin River as it empties into the harbour.14

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One last shot from the car window on the way back home.

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Another great afternoon spent in Parry Sound. I’m sure if we visit any more, well soon have to start paying taxes.

Parry Sound and area is a great spot to visit. Whether it be for a stay of several days or just a day trip you’ll find a ton of things to keep you occupied and entertained.

Check out all that is available at Parry Sound Tourism.

Kind of thinking that for the most part, the fall brilliant red and orange sugar maple colours are behind us now.

But, the yellows of the aspen, birch and tamaracks are starting to reach their full potential. Yea!

Perhaps stay tuned for more pictures and adventures yet to come!

Thanks for reading!