2015 Recap

Friday, January 22nd, 2016 at 8:16 pm

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Filed under Photography, Random Thoughts, Tales from the Road

Each year I try to take some time to look over my favourite photos of the past year; typically for a calendar but this year there was no calendar. December simply came and went too quickly and the calendar had gotten a little out of hand. This gets back to the original intent of the calendar though, to share some of my favourite adventures from the past year and some of the tales behind them.

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It seems I missed half the year because we’re into the first of July before getting to the first of my favourites. I did make up for it though with several great trips in the second half of the year. This trip started with a very early morning hike to this lookout in Killarney park shortly after sunrise. It took screaming at bears through fields and a couple of steep scrambles up the rock face in the dark, but I think this view was worth the trip.

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Later that morning just before getting back to the truck I stumbled across this car on the trail. I’m curious to know how it came to be there. It sits on a relatively wide and straight stretch of trail quite near the road so my first guess would be that this was actually an early road out of Killarney, but it seems to me the car substantially pre-dates the first official road into Killarney. I had hoped to ask at the park office but was back out before they opened and decided just to push on, but maybe someday I’ll find the history of that car.

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For years I had heard of the Cup & Saucer trail and been curious, but hadn’t been to Manitoulin Island since I was quite young. The limestone of the escarpment always provides for interesting terrain and being on the highest point of the island just adds to the interest.

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After hiking past some of the biggest pines left standing in Algonquin Park one can find the reason why there aren’t more of these big pines – the remains of an old logging camp. It was amazing how much detail of the camp the park was able to pull out of what was left of the remains of a few foundations.

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Hidden in plain sight at the top of the trail was this quiet little branch of the Aux Sables River. There were quite a few people rushing further up river to get a glimpse of the top most of the series of falls at Chutes Provincial Park and in the process walked right over the bridge from which this photo was taken. As nice as it was to relax in the falls further up, this is the photo that sticks in my mind.

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It was almost an after thought after a morning hike with a friend, but finding myself in Huntsville with a little time to kill I thought it finally time to see what Arrowhead looked like without a couple feet of snow on it. After dodging past some campers and playing hide and seek with a couple deer I found the lookout over this oxbow in the Big East River. As nice as the view was though, I just wanted to be paddling down the river.

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This was also the year that I decided to find the abandoned town of Depot Harbour. It was strange driving through narrow, barely even there lanes grown over from years of abandonment and seeing next to you neatly organized lots and house foundations. What was once a bustling community was now almost completely absorbed by the bush, the most significant remains being the stone steps up to the now missing church. Of course though, you visit Depot Harbour to see the round house remains and they don’t disappoint.

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While in the Parry Sound area I also made my way to Killbear Park for the first time. I never did find the ever popular Killbear tree that everyone seems to photograph, but I was surprised by the amount of wildlife. From the bears that greeted me at the entrance to the countless deer that seemed torn between running from the camera or posing for it to the two wolves walking in to the park just after sunset as I was leaving. But the most demanding of photographic attention was this little squirrel that followed me for ten minutes constantly stopping just inches from the camera lens waiting for the shutter.

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After several failed attempts this was finally the year to make it to the top of ‘The Crack.’ I’d heard about this trail for years and always been told it was quite technical and not to be attempted in wet weather as the rock got too slick. Of course every time I made plans to hike it, usually camping overnight at George Lake, it would pour rain all night leading up to it and all day, or at least long enough to ensure that there wasn’t enough daylight to attempt a trail advertised at six hours.

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After about two hours hike and leaving behind a pair of less prepared groups along the way we made it to the plateau. It was rather anti-climatic. The view was nice but not great. And then we made it far enough into the clearing to see our destination, still a couple hundred feet over head. The final ascent wove over the rubble of a rock slide right up the middle of the crack itself, nearly straight up at times over boulders the size of cars between the sheer faces of this mountain split in two. The view made it worth the trip though.

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Just travelling Highway 69 is always an adventure. Checking on the latest in the slow, slow construction project and stepping back in time through the little towns and abandoned hotels and gas bars. One of my favourites seems to be rather popular still as a crack retreat so my stay was brief, but it’s also the home of my favourite character, Graffiti Bot.

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Every year thousands of tourists flock to Algonquin to take in the fall colours, and occasionally I join them. When that happens though I’m always glad that they get suckered in to the easy to reach and obviously named views leaving the best that the park has to offer quieter for those in the know. The fun of exploring though is knowing that there are even better, even less known spots just waiting to be discovered.

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Just as the year was closing, a friend and I made an attempt at one last adventure – an overnight camping trip in the snow. The weather report called for minus one overnight and just four inches of snow – great conditions for the fat bikes. Instead, we woke to fourteen inches of snow that forced us to push the bikes most of the way home. There’s a more detailed trip report here.

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