It seems that each day of vacation flows seamlessly into the next one. Which is good in some respect, but bad in others. Bad, due to the fact, I have absolutely no idea which day it is.
Nevertheless, I think it was Tuesday past, after having an appointment in the morning, we headed north from the “old homestead” to do some slow shutter speeds shots of both Brooks Fall, located east of Emsdale and High Falls located on the Muskoka River on the edge of Bracebridge.
We’ve been to both locations in the past and in fact, have made numerous trips to Brooks Falls. I’m thinking this could have been our fourth trip to Brooks Falls in the past two years.
Brooks Falls at the top of the pic and Bracebridge in the middle.
Lucky for you, the reader, not much to text needed to explain the beauty.
This first picture was taken last October, while the second picture was shot back in the late fall of 2017. They give you some sense of the falls themselves.
However, during our recent journey to Brooks Falls, the sun was shining directly on the falls themselves making the lighting and exposures tricky at best. The surrounding bush was in total shade. It made capturing the images of the water very difficult. Shots Lynn did get, weren’t for the most part up to her standards, so we didn’t include those ones.
But, we have these wonderful shots of the area slightly downstream.
This is a shot of the falls I did with my phone. Difficult shooting conditions with the sun shining directly of the falls themselves.
Someone has been working very diligently.
Brooks Falls is, for the most part, a small park. Vault toilets are located near the entrance and there are a few picnic tables and benches scattered around. From what we can gather it is popular with people living nearby, who come for a quick cool-off dip in the water downstream, as well as vacationers who may be in the near who come to take a peek at the falls.
If you are ever in the area, it is worth it to take an hour and check out Brooks Falls. Take the Deer Lake Road exit from Highway 11 northbound. It is the first exit north of the exit for the Almaguin Highlands Information Centre. Head east on Deer Lake Road for about 3 to 3.5 kilometres. You’ll see a sign for Brooks Falls at the entrance to the park.
This is Lynn’s favourite wildflower the “Lupin.” As far as we knew, it was found for the most part on Prince Edward Island. Apparently not. Seems we’re seeing them all over the areas north of us. Guess in the past, we weren’t paying much attention!
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at finding a suitable “chip wagon”, we continued our adventure and headed south on Highway 11 in the direction of Bracebridge and High Falls.
High Falls – Bracebridge
High Falls can be accessed from a picnic/rest area directly off Highway 11 southbound at Cedar Lane. A short walk takes you to both High Falls and what I think is called the Lower Falls or something like that.
Again, we had been here on several occasions and is a wonderful spot to check out.
The falls at the top of the picture is High Falls. The ones peeking out in the upper right are the lower or smaller falls. Still pretty though.
All in all, visiting Brooks Falls and High Falls made for a wonderful adventure. Both are easy to access and well worth the effort if waterfalls are your thing.
Having easy access right now is a blessing, as day time temperatures have been hovering around the mid 30 degrees Celcius for the past while. Hiking in those temperatures, while doable can make for a challenging time, especially if you’re deep in a forest with absolutely no breeze or a chance of a breeze. It can get sauna-like and stay sauna-like all day long. In fact, as I’m writing this today(early on Friday, July 5), temperatures with humidity are expected to approach and stay at or above 40 degrees Celcius for the next 36 hours.
Even if waterfalls “don’t float your boat”, there are plenty of other activities and things in the area that would most certainly fit the bill. All it takes is a simple stop at a local travel/tourist information centre in the area, or a few minutes spent online and you’ll have enough things and places to go, you may need to stay for a few days.
Which isn’t so bad after all.
Here are a few links to help out on creating your own adventure.
In 2019 to this point, our trips north to Algonquin Park have been a winter wonderland of snow, ice, sun(at times), but nevertheless, time well spent and a good investment in easing the stress and strain of life.
We usually try to make a trip north on the May long weekend, or at least a day or two after that. This year, stomach flu and medical appointments seemed to creep into the mix, so our “Mayish long weekend” trip was delayed for a week.
No big deal, though. We figured the park would still be there, bugs and all.
Having recently placed all my faith in the “weather prognosticators” from both Environment Canada and the Weather Network, the Sunday following the long weekend held a promise of warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine.
Leaving the “old homestead” at a relatively early time for Lynn, we headed north on Highway 400 and across Highway 141 to Highway 11 and then east on Highway 60 to Algonquin.
After stopping for gas and a short “pee” break in Huntsville, we arrived at the Park around 10:30am.
Our first destination was the Beaver Pond Hiking Trail.
Beaver Pond Hiking Trail
The Beaver Pond Trail is a two-kilometre interpretive trail that winds through the rugged Algonquin terrain giving excellent views of two beaver ponds and providing an introduction to Algonquin’s fascinating beaver pond ecology and the influence, presence and activities of these creatures.
A few shots from along the trail.
Overall, the Beaver Pond Trail was a fun and enjoyable 2-kilometre hike. It is given a rating of “moderate difficulty” by the park. There are a couple of steep climbs along the route, but as well, there are several locations where stairs have been installed to help get up and down some of the steeper areas.
There is a great lookout location located near the end of the trail, that commands a sweet view across the beaver pond you would have crossed near the beginning of your hike.
If you’re in the Park for the day or on more of an extended visit, be sure to check the Braver Pond Trail out.
It’s located at kilometre 45, measured from the West Gate.
Our next stop of the day was located just to the west of the Beaver Pond Trail, that being the Lookout Trail.
Located at kilometre 40, the Lookout Trail is a 2.1-kilometre steep loop trail that rewards the hiker with a grand view of hundreds of square kilometres of Algonquin Park. In addition, the guidebook discusses the geology of the Park.
The actual trail itself, although steep has been well maintained and graded along its entire length. It makes for much easier going, other than the uphill climb to the lookout area.
On a positive note though, once you “gut it out” going uphill to the lookout, it is all downhill from that point.
A few pics.
A short downhill breather before the last uphill part to the lookout and the superior views of Algonquin.
The rewards of going uphill…….
After spending a few minutes admiring the view from the top, we started the downhill trek back to the parking area and our car.
You never know what you might find, if you just keep your eyes open.
Although the climb along the trail to the top is steep, the trail itself has been graded over time and we visited it was well maintained. That does make the uphill going a bit better.
The trail is rated as “difficult” by the park, which I assume is due to the steep climb to reach the lookout area. This would be a great hike in October during the fall colour time for sure.
Nevertheless, it is worth the effort to get to the top. The views are magnificent and worth the energy. The scenic lookout at the top is exposed and on a cliff, so if you’re hiking with children, best to keep an eye on them.
We moved along at a fairly decent pace, taking 45 minutes from start to finish which included time stopping for Lynn to snap pictures.
The Lookout Trail for sure is must stop hike if you’re in the Park.
As Lynn had been injured earlier in the spring, as well as recovering from a slight flu bug, we decided to keep things on more of a “level or flat” hike and thus we headed on over to Mew Lake to hike through the airfield and down to the falls on the Highland Backpacking Trail.
After a pit-stop at the Lake of Two Rivers Store, we drove to the parking area for the Two Rivers Trail, crossed the road to hike through the Mew Lake Campground to the airfield and down to the falls on the backpacking trail.
By this time, the sun was out shining brilliantly and actually making the Park warmer than it was at home.
The trail through the campground and along the waterfalls is flat, well marked and a perfect way to end our time in Algonquin. Not quite as snowy as when we visited here back in the winter.
From this trip….
On the return back to the car.
All in all, it was a perfect day out.
Great weather and the right location made the day do it was supposed to do.
We covered between 7.5 to 8 kilometres hiking, which I thought was really good for Lynn seeing as the upper leg/muscle issue had put her on the sidelines more or less since Easter.
She didn’t have any pain throughout the day and was fine the next day, so things are looking good.
The best part of all of it, although the black flies were out, they weren’t biting. And as anyone who has been in Algonquin Park in the spring, black flies and other biting insects can make for a miserable adventure.
But, not this time.
All the while on our way home, we started planning our next hiking trip north to the Park and as well a camping adventure when I’m on holiday in late June and early July.
Thanks for taking the time to visit and tag along with us.
— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —
Over the long weekend here in Ontario, we took the Sunday to head over to the Owen Sound area to check out Indian Falls, located just north and west of the community.
We had been here twice before. Once in the fall several years ago and once this past winter.
In the past, we always thought that it would be interesting to hike along the bottom of the ravine in which the Indian River flows to get to the falls from the bottom.
Leaving mid-morning from the “old homestead” we arrived in the parking lot at the Indian Falls Conservation Area close to noon. Sort of forgetting it was the long weekend, I had made the assumption that it wouldn’t be that busy with people hiking out to see the falls.
It was plenty busy.
Nevertheless, we packed up Lynn’s camera equipment and trotted off down the trail.
When we were here back in 2017, the trail at the beginning followed the river bed over a rock-strewn trail to reach a short set of stairs and then continuing on towards the actual falls. In 2017, we found it, not that difficult as we had our dog Katie with us.
I’m assuming that high water levels over the past while have caused people to by-pass the rocky and now water covered trail and to create a new path along the slope of the river bank.
Now it as a challenging path slick with mud and difficult to navigate.
So, if you visit be prepared for a challenging go of it prior to reaching the stairs that traverse up the slope to the top of the ravine.
After watching several families with small children slip, trip and slide along this slick new path, Lynn and I scrambled along the river bottom to get to the base of Indian Falls.
We have had a fair amount of rain throughout the spring and combined with snowmelt that would still be moving along in watersheds and river systems, there was still a significant amount of water flowing over the falls. In the summer, that falls can be reduced to a mere trickle.
We made our way out into the middle of the river to set up on a flat rock.
While we were there, I kept hearing this chirping sound that seemed close to us. It was coming from this little fella.
He had obviously become separated from his mom and siblings and was desperately swimming around and scrambling along the river bank calling and searching for them. For the time we were there, unfortunately, we didn’t see any other duck or ducklings that might have been his family.
Hope things turned out all right for him.
What started as a glorious and sunny afternoon, soon however turned into an afternoon of thunderstorms and rain.
And with the start of rain and cracks of thunder, we started to make the trek back to the car.
Not wanting to take the muddy and now even muddier and slicker route back, we found a scrambling route up through some rocks to the main trail at the top of the ravine. We followed the trail to the steps down to the bottom of the ravine.
At this point, we sort of looked at each other and decided, “we’re wet now, so let’s hop and jump along the “old river bottom path” and avoid that sketchy new path.”
By the time we had got back to the parking lot, the rain had stopped(sort of). As a side note, Lynn and I both wear a brand of quick dry outdoor clothing and using just our own body heat, our pants and shirts were dry in less than an hour.
As I knew that thunderstorms and bad weather would be with us for the rest of the day, we decided to head over to Harrison Park located on the south edge of Owen Sound.
Again, with it being the long weekend, Harrison Park was very busy with families enjoying the sights and sounds of the park.
A few pictures from there.
As Lynn had been recovering from an abdominal and upper leg muscle injury, plus just getting over a touch of the flu we decided to go on the side of caution and call it a day.
Good thing too.
Not long after leaving Harrison Park, the heavens opened up once again with heavy rain and high winds.
Nevertheless, even though Mother Nature wasn’t cooperating the best, it still made for a wonderful day out.
Owen Sound and this area of Bruce and Grey counties is one spot to put on your “to do/must visit list” for the summer. Great hiking opportunities, shopping, restaurants and parks all provide the basis to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Thanks for reading.
— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —
It grieves me to even write this, but the last time Lynn and I hiked the west side of the Beaver Valley along the Bruce Trail to any great extent, was back in the summer of 2017.
With this unfortunate revelation having reared a disappointing head, we felt it was outstanding, and I must say, a brilliant idea on my part to head back out to where we had left off back in 2017.
So, with the goal in mind to pick up where we left off in 2017, we exited the “old homestead” last week and west towards the Beaver Valley.
If you are a regular follower, you often find a “Google Map” screen capture like the one above, giving a reasonable, albeit not a complete detailed representation of how we arrived at our destination to begin our day’s adventure.
The area in the yellow circle was more or less our target for the afternoon. It’s not the exact location, but close enough that you get the idea of where we were headed to.
If you are at this moment wondering “why the yellow circle – that’s not very accurate,” I’ll explain all of this and my reasons behind it in a future post I’m working on.
Leaving all this mystery and intrigue behind us for the moment, I need to point out that in our area of the country, it has for the most part been a wet spring, as they usually are. Notwithstanding that, we have had some wonderfully warm and sunny days, but not enough to dry things up, especially the mud!!
We pulled into the trailhead, I’m guessing about 12:15 pm. Getting ourselves organized, we loaded our stuff up and headed off down the trail.
After only a few steps, we soon came to this remarkable or perhaps unremarkable conclusion. Our afternoon would be spent gingerly stepping around the low areas in some misguided thought that doing so, we would avoid the muddy terrain now attaching itself to the soles of our hiking boots, thus making them weigh 5.2 kilograms each.
We soon found this to be a battle we were losing and ultimately a war we could not win.
So, with that devastatingly foregone conclusion, the afternoon became a slugfest of “when, the hiking boots and the steps became heavy and slower – stop and scrape.”
We didn’t go too far along the trail before all I could hear was the sound of running water. In fact, it was the sound of a significant flow of running water. With that, we soon found what was generating all that noise.
Now, Lynn and I have a sort of mantra we often recite when outdoors. It goes like this, “if a difficult way to get to something is right in front of us, we’ll take it.” Another way of stating it is, “why attempt to do something the easy way, when doing it a more difficult way is a heck of a lot more fun and exciting.”
After several repetitions of the aforementioned or similar mantra, we scrambled down a steep, muddy and tree-strewn slope to the bottom of a stream bed.
The first picture was one I took on my phone. Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t adequately capture the height of the waterfall. As Lynn so expertly said, “there needs to be something of scale in the picture to help provide an idea of the height.”
That one large ice formation in the centre of the picture would be about twice my height. I’m just over six feet tall. That should give an idea of the height we’re talking about here. Perhaps, forty to fifty feet to the top of the waterfall.
A quick video from the stream bottom. Sorry for the poor quality. But you get the idea.
I’m thinking we spent an hour down here, with Lynn happily snapping away taking pictures and myself climbing over rocks and fallen trees, to see if there was anything else to see that I hadn’t looked at over our time there.
I can say, I pretty much saw it all.
A few more of Lynn’s pictures.
Upstream from the top of the falls, was in Lynn’s words a photographers dream. I referred to it as the “stream that just keeps on giving.” It was simply a series of small rapids and tiny waterfalls as it progressed and flowed down the escarpment face.
The trail eventually crossed the stream and lead us to a magnificent lookout, east over the Beaver Valley towards Eugenia Falls.
After a few minutes spent on the lookout, we reluctantly decided to start back to the car. Lynn had been experiencing a few upper leg muscle issues in the days prior, so we opted on the side of caution and not to push or overextend things.
A few final pictures from the trek on the return.
My favourite picture of the afternoon.
All in all, it was a great outing.
Despite the mud and overcast skies, any time spent outdoors is a good time and time well spent in my opinion.
We didn’t cover as much distance as I had hoped, but as I said to Lynn, it is just another reason to get back there and “knock that remaining bit off.”
Now, there is just a small section to complete from where we left off on this outing to connect with an adventure from last summer near Hogg’s Falls. Once we’ve done those few outstanding kilometres, that will have completed the west side of the Bruce Trail through the extensive Beaver Valley section.
Thanks for taking the time to trudge along with us
Since we have been home from this outing, Lynn has been sidelined and out of commission with an excruciatingly painful muscle pull and spasm on her upper leg which radiates out across the lower back.
Unfortunately, this has all the appearance of keeping Lynn on the injured list for the foreseeable future.
— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —
A sub or secondary title to this post might be, “Why We Won’t Be Going Back to McCrae Lake Anytime Soon.“
But, let’s leave that for the moment.
Wanting to get out and view fall colours closer to home, we decided to head over to the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve located about 35 minutes from our house in north Simcoe County.
Over the past week or so, we’ve travelled to the north and west of us, diligently checking out fall colours and waterfalls. Some days have been good, others not so good.
As I wrote about in my last trip report post, timing is everything when it comes to leaf peeping, including the weather. Seems each time we’ve gone out over the past little bit, Mother Nature hasn’t been cooperative. In fact, she’s been downright miserable. Rain, rain and to be different – mist.
We’ve been to McCrae Lake a couple of times in the past and have always found it to be a great place to get to. For many people, it is:
relatively close to southern Ontario
a remote feeling
For this excursion, we didn’t want to invest much distance in the car, seeing as we had driven hundreds of kilometres over the past few days. In addition, I have been having some issues in my right knee lately with pain and swelling. A symptom of ageing I guess.
So, a short hike up to the McCrae Lake waterfall and bridge seemed to be the order for the day.
Arriving around noon, there were only one or two other cars in the parking lot. During the weekends the parking lot, access road and highway on/off ramp can be filled with the parked cars of people accessing the conservation reserve.
Heading out along the trail until it crosses a snowmobile trail, it is a short but easy hike up to the bridge and waterfalls.
Not as much water flowing through the waterfalls/rapids as when we were there in March.
We spent most of our time in and around the bridge and waterfalls. Scrambling over the rocks in order for Lynn to get a variety of shots of the water(albeit less of it), as it tumbled down the rocky spillway.
Some pictures from the bridge and waterfalls.
As well, we also hiked along the two trails to the north checking out one of the designated campsites along the way. I must admit, the site was quite clean and well maintained. Being relatively close to the highway, truck and car noise would certainly be an issue if you camped on that one.
Looking north from the site.
A couple more shots from McDonald Lake just before entering the rapids.
The next three pictures are the reason we may not be returning anytime soon.
Many wonderful pictures, Facebook notices, Pinterest images and blog write-ups get posted about McCrae Lake. I’m sure people have created some wonderful memories of canoe and hiking trips to this area.
But, there is also a dark side to McCrae Lake; a messy side.
And part of it has to do with:
For many people, it is:
relatively close to southern Ontario
a remote feeling
And because of the above-noted reasons including others as well, the following happens far too many times:
Although hard to see at the top of this picture, they tried to hide two or three large green garbage bags in the scrubby cedars.
All this was on one site, immediately to the right of the snowmobile trail(going northbound) just before heading down the hill and crossing the bridge.
I didn’t include pictures of their “toilet facilities” located about 20 feet away for the fire pit.
Multiply the toilet paper and waste in this picture about 15 times and you may be close.
Needless to say, both Lynn and I felt sick after stumbling across this.
This was the one time we didn’t have any shopping or larger garbage bags with us. If we did we would have cleaned up what we could have. Unfortunately, one small plastic shopping bag or even a large green garbage type, wouldn’t have made much of a dent in the mess.
In addition to the garbage, we found what I would describe as a number of “unauthorized campsites” located throughout the area. In just one area north of the bridge, I figure I counted 6 to 10 fire pit rings within a radius of 100 to 150 feet scattered along the shore and into the forest. A pretty significant impact on the environment in such a small area.
A search of Canadian Canoe Routes(CCR) website, forum posts regarding issues surrounding McCrae Lake dealing with garbage, noise, vandalism, all combined with little to no rule and regulation enforcement, go back to at least 2003.
I understand that the above generally isn’t the norm. In fact, most people; the vast majority of people enjoying the outdoors practice “Leave No Trace(LNT)” principles to some degree.
Let me state emphatically, it would be my guess that the vast majority of people who canoe camp or backcountry hike at McCrae Lake also practice some level of LNT. All who do practice LNT or at least do “carry out what you carry in” need to give themselves a big “pat on the back.”
So, there you go.
I’ve been around “the track” far too long to think that you won’t find garbage of some description or another when out camping, hiking, canoeing. Some places you don’t find much of it(if any), while at others….see pictures above.
I don’t know much about McCrae Lake other than what I can find by doing a Google search and from the few times we’ve been there. I’m not sure how much, or if any enforcement by Conservation Officers(CO’s), Ministry of Natural Resource staff or the Ontario Provincial Police takes place at McCrae Lake. Perhaps more needs to occur.
Even the parking area isn’t immune from the “this use the area as our personal dumping ground.”
Lynn picking up garbage in the parking lot from last May.
There is a “Friends of McCrae Lake Group” to my understanding that does on occasion, if not every spring, a weekend cleanup out there. I believe the group is pretty informal, but nevertheless a great job cleaning up after a long year of usage.
After 40 plus years of trips to Algonquin Park, combined with countless other outdoor pursuits, I’ve pretty much seen it all. But, this was some of the worse in terms of garbage.
The reality is this was nothing more than a house party brought to the bush. During the winter the same destruction would more than likely occur in the living room or basement of someone’s home.
Remember what I wrote above?
relatively close to southern Ontario
a remote feeling
I’ve read that those four items or similar descriptions are some of the main contributing factors to the issues that McCrae Lake faces.
Jokingly I said to Lynn that, maybe we should go back after the Thanksgiving long weekend and collect all the beer cans and returnable booze bottles that get thrown away. I would be able to retire after collecting the bottle and can deposits.
But, all joking aside and in the end, I’m not sure what to think.
I pray what we saw, was just an isolated incident. I think that it likely was in terms of its scope. But, the reality was every site we visited had garbage, broken glass and beer cans strewn throughout to some degree.
Along the trails, any time we’ve hiked at McCrae Lake glances into the bush would reveal discarded water bottles, tissues from “the call of nature”, beer cans and food wrappers/containers to name just a few items.
Maybe it’s the same everywhere?
Perhaps you think I’m naive and need to get my head out of my a$$. That I need to get over it and I certainly need to get off my high horse. That this is just the way it is out there in 2018.
You might be right. But, I don’t think so.
So, what’s the answer or the solution?
Is it education or more education that’s needed? Enforcement or more enforcement of rules and regulations as they pertain to the outdoors may be the answer.
To be honest, I don’t know what the answer is.
In fact, I’m not sure that there is an answer, Human nature is what human nature is. And changing human nature and what we do or what we should do, has been an uphill battle since the dawn of time.
And I think it is just getting worse as each year passes.
Nevertheless, I’ve been rolling around in my mind that I might contact the Province, local MPP’s and such and share my concerns. What will come of it?
But, at least I would have the satisfaction of knowing I tried. Tried something.
Should McCrae Lake become a provincial park and as such patrolled and subject to regulations in terms of usage. Don’t know. Not even sure it could happen. Have heard it suggested though.
Should it be patrolled by MNR staff or Ontario CO’s, especially during peak times, Perhaps, and it might already be patrolled on a regular basis. But, money always seems to be tight and resources can be stretched quite thin within the Ministry. There are always far too many items that need addressing and never enough dollars to address them.
A few more fall picks on our way out.
So, the big question.
Will we go back?
After returning home last week, I would have should no. We won’t.
But, after steaming about it for a few days, thinking now…maybe we will.
But, to be honest I’m still not sure.
I have the Wednesday off after the long weekend. Perhaps, we’ll take a drive up with a few garbage bags and see what we can find.
I’m sure filling them won’t be a problem But, there is the slight chance that it may take a while.
I hope it does take a while.
Not holding my breath though.
McCrae Lake has a long history. As much as it contains a history filled with many great memories of those who have visited, it also has a history that isn’t so stellar.
So, fall is here. Officially, it arrived on Saturday, September 22.
Along with the tradition of fall fairs, pumpkin pie, harvest festivals and Thanksgiving, there is the long undertaken custom at this time of year of fall leaf colour viewing. Around our area, those who partake in this time-honoured institution are referred to as “leaf peepers” with the action of leaf peeping.
All joking aside, this is the best time of year to head for your local parks or favourite hiking trail to be surrounded and soak up the blazing display that especially sugar and red maples give to us free of charge.
Lynn and I have had two problems this fall getting out.
The first is a major, at least for us, a construction project on our back laundry room/rear entrance to our house. Frost heave over the years, combined with beam and column rot necessitated jacking up the room and constructing new columns and beams. Not an easy project when there are less than 2 feet of clearance under the floor.
But, that job is done.
The second issue of which we have no control is the weather.
I know, your thinking, “brilliant deduction there Sherlock.”
As in much of life and as in leaf peeping, timing is everything. You want to view the change when the colours are at their peak. Again, “another brilliant Sherlockian deduction.”
Around where we live in north Simcoe County, the leaves are not at their peak yet. Last Sunday(September 30) in the Beaver Valley west of us, the leaves I would say are close but not yet at their peak. Perhaps 5 or 6 more days.
North of us, in Algonquin Park, a world-class leaf viewing destination, the leaves(Maples) are at their peak. Yes, a world-class viewing destination. Tour companies from all over the world operate excursions to Algonquin Park at this time of year for the explosion of colours along Highway 60.
For us like many people, getting out is usually limited to days off(weekends) or at this time of year the Thanksgiving holiday long weekend.
Often, the weather doesn’t understand the concept of weekends. Seems my days off corresponds to Mother Nature deciding to fill the days with rain, mist and fog to varying degrees.
Undaunted, we decided yesterday(October 2), to head north with Katie to check out what we figured would be near prime viewing in the north Muskoka and District of Parry Sound areas.
With a plan of hitting up Mariposa Market in Orillia for “a few desserts” and then heading north to Bracebridge, off we went.
Being hugely successful, we left Mariposa Market full of optimism and calories.
We also left with rain. Lots of rain. Not the torrential downpour type, but the annoying “it’s raining enough to be a miserable type and I don’t want to expose my camera equipment to this type of rain.”
North we went and arriving at High Falls in Bracebridge – rain.
North we went again figuring now to get gas in Huntsville and then returning home cross-country via Highway 141 through Rosseau. Upon reaching Huntsville – rain. But, we also looked at each other and simultaneously thought, “let’s go north a bit further and see what Brooks Falls outside of Elmsdale might be like.”
And with that, we arrived at Brooks Falls and with Mother Nature having a moment of indecision, the rain stopped.
A few pictures of our time out.
Mother Nature cooperated enough for us to spend maybe an hour or so at Brooks Falls.
We ended up driving much further than we had anticipated, but as it happens in the outdoors plans at times need to be adjusted or more often than not, plans evolve as the day moves along.
The sun never showed its face and for the most part, the day weather-wise was dull and wet.
Still, leaf peeping is still leaf peeping regardless of whether the sun is out or not. Or if it is damp and overcast.
Getting outside in nature during the fall time presents a totally different set of sensations. The forest smells different, looks different, feels different. The cool and damp air combined with the visual explosion your eyes and mind see can’t be replicated.
It simply needs to be experienced.
Get out now and let fall and everything about it permeate throughout your body; let it marinate in your soul.
Even if it is just a drive through the countryside.
Even better to get out and walk around in it. Open your eyes and all your sense to what is around you.
Believe me, winter will be here soon enough.
Remember – get outside; discover yourself; find inspiration.
I’m not sure what constitutes a tradition. How long does something need to happen for it to be considered a tradition? If it happens two years in a row, is that considered a tradition?
We can leave the whole “what makes a tradition” debate for another time.
Last year in late September for our anniversary, we decided to make yet another excursion(#4 for the year) up to Algonquin Park to check out the leaf colour change. Unfortunately, a wet spring and a very unseasonable hot spell in early September slowed or even stopped the leave colour change in its tracks at that time. Even though the Friends of Algonquin Park website said, “the leaves were at their peak.” Go figure!
Seeing as this colours were muted, dull and not very brilliant, our trip consisted of a driving through the Park and having french fries at a chip wagon in Whitney, just outside the park’s East Gate. The french fries were pretty good though!
Fast forwarding to this year, we know that the colours will be brilliant. It is simply a timing thing at this point.
Wanting to see how the colour change is progressing in the areas north of us, last week for our anniversary we did a road trip up through the north end of Muskoka, through Sequin Township hitting the communities of Burks Falls, Magnetawan and Parry Sound.
As the saying “timing is everything” seems to define fall leaf colour viewing, let me reiterate that “timing is everything.” Although there were patches of colour here and there, the true peak is about a week away. In the Algonquin Park area, peak colour should be just before the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend or during it.
Undaunted through we made the best of the day that was in front of us.
We remembered that just outside of Burks Falls, there is an art installation generally known in the area as the “Screaming Heads.”
“Screaming Heads” to my understanding isn’t well-known in terms of being published in tourism or travel booklets/brochures. In fact, we couldn’t find any signs indicating turn here or there to find the place. Good thing for Google Maps and a quick internet search. Nevertheless, the word does get out about it.
This is certainly an interesting place to visit. But to be honest, I sort of got a weird vibe there. When we visited there was an organic farmers market on which is fine, but the strange bit for me where the number of tents pitched throughout the site of people camping.
It might be me, but it felt slightly unnerving walking throughout the grounds and waiting for someone to stumble out of their tent and say “hello.”
Nevertheless, it was worth the side trip to visit. Would we go back? Maybe – need to think about it through. Most pictures I’ve seen are from the pieces installed in the fields on the opposite side of the road from where we were. The side we were on felt like we were intruding in someone’s personal space.
But, if you’re in the area check it out. It certainly will spark conversation. Either that or everyone will be stone silent.
We headed back out on the pavement towards the community of Magnetawan, where we stopped to let Katie out to the bathroom and to have a bit of picnic lunch in a park along the river. We only stopped for a short time, but Magnetawan is a neat spot. Think we’ll head back and check more of it out next summer.
After lunch, and as we headed along Highway 124, I happened to glance and see a waterfall/rapids off the road. Turning around we headed back, found a place to park and Lynn, for the most part, was as happy as a clam shooting pictures of the falls and rapids.
Not being much of a photographer, but not wanting to feel left out, I snapped a few with my phone.
My artistic attempts of taking a picture of Lynn taking a picture.
After about 45 minutes to an hour, we piled back into the car, heading south on Highway 124 to Parry Sound.
Since mid-summer, this has been our fourth trip to Parry Sound and the surrounding area. You can check out our last trip here when we came for a famous Georgian Bay sunset.
A few shots Lynn captured in and around Parry Sound.
So, a good or a disappointing day?
If based on fall leaf colour viewing, I guess it wasn’t the best day. But, based on everything else we experienced it was a superior day!
We’ve learned over the years to make lemonade when finding lemons.
The point is, we could’ve turned around after the first hour and gone back home with our tails between our legs feeling like it was a waste of time and a waste of good money putting gas in the car.
However, the day turned out to be better than we hoped.
We now know or think we know when the peak leaf viewing should be; found a great waterfall/rapids we will definitely return to(little secret – the other side of the falls.rapids and downstream I think have greater adventure opportunities) and we think we’ve found the spot for the ultimate sunset shot. So, stay tuned for that.
Plus, who can forget the “Screaming Heads?”
Not every trip turns out as planned. And not every trip is deserving of a half-hour slot on an outdoors TV show.
So what – who cares!
Don’t get sucked into the belief that all outdoor adventures need to be better than the last; needs to be National Geographic worthy. They don’t and they shouldn’t be.
Outdoor adventure just needs to be – outdoors. Adventure can be any definition you want it to be.
Remember – get outside; discover yourself; find inspiration.
Over the past while, or maybe since we’ve been together, Lynn has been trying and achieving only moderate success in getting me to “live in the moment.” Not exactly sure what the true definition of “living in the moment” really is. For me though, one component is not falling into the same routine day in and day out.
Two Saturday’s ago at work, I sent a text to Lynn suggesting she charge her camera battery because we were going to head over to Eugenia Falls in Grey County after I got home, to take pictures of the sun setting across the falls and Cuckoo Valley.
Throughout the day, my imagination was filled with images of a blazing sunset over the falls and behind the hills surrounding the valley.
Unfortunately, given time constraints and having our elderly pooch with us, the location wasn’t necessarily the best in terms of what my mind had envisioned. Still amazing though.
Nevertheless, Lynn did manage to capture some pretty stunning shots.
Eugenia Falls is located just off Grey Road 13 in the village of Eugenia. We’ve been there at other times, but being the middle of summer the water flow was slightly slower. However, regardless of the amount of water flowing, it is still an impressive 30-metre plunge into the Beaver River.
Eugenia Falls Conservation Area forms one of the many parks and attractions that are part of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. The Bruce Trail runs past the falls, which are just a short hike from the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority parking lot.
This concrete wall along the main trail provides several good vantage points in which to view the falls and across the Cuckoo Valley. However, once reaching the end of the barrier, the trail continues and follows along the top of the cliff face with complete exposure to the gorge edge and the valley bottom. This is one place you don’t want to trip.
Although the evening might not have turned out sunset wise as I had anticipated, it ended up being an outing that was just a good.
Many times adventure is like that. Things might not have been as planned, but the end result was just a memorable or even better.
We sometimes set such high and unrealistic expectations on trips and even day outings, that if they don’t achieve the level we hoped, we can feel the outing was less than successful. Going with the flow or living in the moment I think provides us with the leeway in these situations to appreciate the adventure in front of us.
Lynn and I had a great evening out. She managed to capture some pretty super shots and we added a couple of other adventures to our ever-growing list of places and things to check out in the future.
Have you ever set a high level of expectation on a trip or outdoor adventure that wasn’t achieved? How did you deal with it?
A somewhat longer, but more appropriate title might be “Why Do Things The Easy Way, When A More Difficult Approach Is A Lot More Fun.”
The hiking gem of south/central Ontario is the Bruce Trail. Stretching from the Niagara River in the south to the tip of Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula in the north, it forms the longest and oldest marked hiking trail in Canada. The main trail is more than 890 kilometres long and in addition, there are over 400 kilometres of associated side trails.
Lynn and I spent a considerable amount of 2016 and the spring of 2017 hiking vasts sections of the Bruce Trail in and around the Collingwood and Beaver Valley areas. In addition, we managed to hike a couple of sections in Dufferin County as well.
Unfortunately, in the latter part of 2017 and the first half of this year, other planned outdoor adventures kept us from getting out and exploring more of the Bruce Trail than we had hoped.
However, there are those times when you just need to do it. Last week was one of them. We particularly enjoy the Beaver Valley section of the Bruce Trail for a number of reasons. Challenging sections to hike most often resulting in exceptional views across the Beaver Valley.
As well, this area of central Ontario is ripe with quaint restaurants, brewpubs and cideries, villages and hamlets with a vast array of retail stores to tempt the adventurous and non-adventurous traveller alike.
Hogg’s Falls is located on Lower Valley Road, slightly east and north of the village of Flesherton, ON.
The smallish parking lot may hold 10 cars or so. In addition, there are a couple of information boards detailing the history of Hogg’s Falls and a map of the trail system in the vicinity. Hogg’s Falls forms part of the Boyne River system.
After arriving mid-morning and getting our stuff together, we hiked south with the intention of connecting to the point where we had ended hiking on the west side of the Beaver Valley in 2017.
Staring out on the trial following the white blazes on the tree trunks through a cedar forest.
As the trail came out to Lower Valley Road, we found this sign indicating that this spot was the most southerly point of the Beaver Valley Club’s section of the Bruce Trail. It also gave the distances to the northern end, in Tobermory, and the southern terminus, at Queenston, in Niagara.
A quick right turn at East Back Line and a short walk over the Boyne River and then another quick right back into the forest.
Although there is a ton of information on the sign, the part that stands out to me that unfortunately many don’t GET, is the part where it states “Hazards Exist – You Are Responsible For Your Safety.” A wise message for each one of us to be careful when out there.
From where the trail re-enters the forest on East Back Line, it was a steady but manageable uphill hike to reach the top of the escarpment face.
After about 700 to 800 metres, the trail dips down the escarpment getting close to the top of Hogg’s Falls.
This is where the “Why Do Things The Easy When a More Difficult Approach is Way More Fun” begins.
Most pictures of Hogg’s Falls have been taken from viewing spots along the trail heading north from the parking area.
Our route put us on the opposite side of the falls. Being the far less travelled side, there are no worn visible paths that leave the Trail and go down the steep remaining part of the escarpment slope to the top of the falls.
However, wanting to get to the falls, we felt that a bushwhack down the slope was not out of the realm of possibility, so down we went. I didn’t take any pictures or video for this attempt. Let’s just say it was steep, slick, and covered in a tangle of brush and rocks.
A few pictures from the top of the falls. This is on the opposite side to where the developed and easily accessible viewing areas are.
A short video clip from the top.
After spending some time at this location, we clambered back up the slope and continued north along the Bruce Trail with the idea that we might be able to find a way to access the bottom of the falls.
At this point, the trail moves on a slightly northern direction moving further away from the Boyne River and the falls. We decided to hike a bit longer, continually looking for a route through the dense brush that might give access to the bottom of the river bed and the falls.
I found a thin natural drainage slope that seemed, at least from what I could tell, to provide the potential to scramble down the slope. Not so lucky it seems. Where Lynn is in the picture was a wall of almost impregnable brush sitting atop a rocky ledge which dropped vertically.
The picture didn’t capture how steep the slope was. Apparently, my photography skills need a bit of work capture those elements.
Meeting the “impregnable wall of brush”
Undaunted, we backtracked a bit on the main trail and made a second attempt a little closer to the actual falls themselves. Success!
After all the cuts. scrapes, slips and insect bites, a few pictures from the base of the falls.
We spent some time at this location soaking in the sights and especially the sounds of the water cascading over the rocky ledge.
It is unfortunate, but as happens in many popular outdoor areas, you find the prevalence of garbage. I told Lynn to watch where she was sitting and putting her hands because of the shards of broken beer bottles. They blended into the rocks and sand making them almost invisible. A totally preventable incident that was just waiting to happen.
Eventually, we decided to head back up the slope. Were we going to hike back the 2 to 3 kilometres to our car, following the way we came, or we were going to attempt to cross the water at the top of the falls and walk 200 metres to the parking lot. (guess which we chose… lol)
After cutting across the old dam section at the top of Hogg’s Falls, it was a quick walk along the trail and back to the car…Just before scrambling across the logs though; Lynn had a battle with some mud …..and lost.
A couple of pretty moths found on the way.
Finally, a well-deserved and hard earned sandwich.
This ended up being a great day spent along the Bruce Trail and at Hogg’s Falls. It was like re-connecting with a long lost friend when it has been far too long between visits.
Lots of hills, flat sections, waterfalls and rivers. All of this gets wrapped up into a few wonderful hours spent in the south Beaver Valley area.
Why not take a couple of minutes and check out the Bruce Trail Conservancy website. The ‘Featured Hikes” section contains a number of day trip options to discover some of the unique features found along the trail.
Any day is a great day to be outside and go on a hike, paddle a canoe or just sit, relax, and soak in your surroundings.
Don’t let age, capability or other excuses hold you back from time outdoors. Often nature and the outdoors can be just what “the doctor ordered.”