Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

2016 Adventures Review

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Getting back to the end of the year again I thought it was time to look back at some of the adventures and share some of my favourite images. It’s become a tradition after 2014 and 2015

Chippewa Falls

Chippewa Falls is just barely off Highway 17 and happens to be the mid-point of the Trans-Canada highway. A little bit of exploration and a little climb over the rocks gets you this view of the small section of the falls.

Magpie Falls

Known for it’s waterfalls, I finally made my way up to Wawa this summer and of course got some photos having a boxing match with the goose. When you tire of that though, a long, dusty road through a field will take you seemingly nowhere until you drop into the canyon where Magpie Falls sits. The size of the falls is impressive and there’s a great viewing platform – but if you’re adventurous you can find a better view.

Wawa Falls

Meanwhile, just outside of the town of Wawa sits Wawa falls. These falls were only a few feet from the road, but from the top were somewhat boring, but after clambering down off the road and along the side of the falls they look much better from the bottom.

Black Beaver Falls

After exploring Wawa, the next day was a train journey into the Agawa Canyon where Black Beaver Falls sits. Water flow was abnormally low this year, so the falls were a little less impressive than normal, in fact Bridal Veil Falls on the other side of the river was almost non-existent. Maybe another time I’ll take the hike in to get a better look.

Agawa Canyon

Luckily there are other attractions in the Agawa Canyon, although I paid for this one. The train only gave us 75 minutes in the park before going back to Sault Ste. Marie and should you miss it the only way home is a sixteen mile hike out to the highway where you can hopefully hitch a ride. There are two primary attractions, each claiming to need 45 minutes walk to view. I managed to get in both – looking at the waterfalls first, then sprinting up 250 vertical feet to get to this lookout and back before the train left without me.

Aubrey Falls

Out in the middle of nowhere lies Aubrey Falls. The area was quite popular amongst the group of seven and the local tourism board had posted a number of painting reproductions next to their inspiration. Taking a look at these falls and the river they sit on I’ve never wanted more to pack up some camping and art gear and wander aimlessly up river for a few weeks.

Aubrey Falls Trees

On the way back to the Jeep from Aubrey Falls I was struck by this scene and how amazing these trees looked – I had to stop for a photo to remember them by.

Tractor at Sunrise

In September I made a trip up North and happened to run across this old tractor sitting in the field at sunrise. I’ve never spent much time on the farm, but I’ve always been fascinated by the hard work that built this country and love seeing the old equipment, particularly when it’s still in running shape or put to regular use.

New Post Falls

I’d been to New Post Falls before this, but this was the first time that there was a safety net to make finding the top of the falls possible. These falls are massive and the ground here was actually vibrating with the waters rush over the edge and the mist was so heavy that your clothes were soaked through in seconds.

Northern Lights

Oddly enough, in all my years of photography I’ve only once taken photos of the night sky and that was to capture a lunar eclipse. The night that I tried it I just happened to capture both a shooting star and the northern lights all in one go. Sometimes you just get lucky like that.

Bear Run

I had some time in Pennsylvania this year and got to explore this set of dozens of tiny little falls on Bear Run leading it’s way down to…

Fallingwater

Fallingwater. Ever since I learned about the house I’ve wanted to go and take in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for myself and it’s every bit as impressive as it seems in books – assuming you’re a little bit of an architecture nerd like me. Of course, anytime you have a place as heavily photographed as this it’s hard to find a unique view of it, so if you think you’ve seen this before, that’s why.

Biff’s Georgian Bay Road Trip

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

A friend of mine was recently looking for a good local road trip, but there was a lot to share so I thought I’d put it here so it can be tracked down, but also in case anyone else is looking. So Sheryl, here you go:

For the sake of convenience, I’ve started and ended the trip in Barrie and structured it as a pretty basic loop of highways and a series of side trips off the main route so you can customise as you see fit, or easily reverse the route. The basics are as follows:

  • From Barrie, head West on Bayfield Street which becomes Highway 26
  • Keep an eye open for a hard turn to the right in Stayner, and a series of twists and turns in both Collingwood and Owen Sound – they’re all marked but watch for the signs to keep on Highway 26 through these towns.
  • Highway 26 ends in Owen Sound. After the highway takes you around a left turn, look for a right onto Highway 6 or 10th Street – it’s two blocks away and the next set of street lights. Should be pretty obvious but keep an eye open here too.
  • Follow Highway 6 out of town and follow it North towards Wiarton.
  • Take the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island – call ahead and book your reservation, it can be tough to get the sailing you want in summer and weekends
  • Keep North on Highway 6 until the end and turn right onto Highway 17 towards Sudbury
  • In Sudbury, turn right again to go south on Highway 69, which will become the 400 and take you right back in to Barrie

So now that you have the basics, here’s some of the things to check out along the way:

Historic Fort Willow

If you want to take in a little history, make a side trip to Fort Willow. You’ll see the fort walls along with what’s left of the old foundations of the store houses and other buildings along with some interpretive plaques giving you the history. To get there, look for a left onto County Road 43 (Snow Valley Road), follow it through a jog to the right then left, and straight through onto Portage Trail where 43 ends. Fort Willow has a small parking lot on your right just past a sharp 90 turn to the left where the road changes names to Grenfel Road. To return to the main route, go back the way you came, but turn left at the four way intersection onto George Johnston Road – that will take you back to Highway 26 where a left will get you back on track.

Wasaga Beach

Wasaga shouldn’t need any introduction, but if you care to pay a visit along the way it’s only a short jaunt to the East at the first roundabout on Highway 26 (Mosley Street)

Collingwood Arboretum

If you’re looking to get out of the car for a few minutes, Collingwood has a beautiful arboretum with paved and natural trails throughout the park. If you’re looking for a long walk (or trying to avoid one) look for the main trail right near the entrance – it’s an abandoned rail line that to the East will take you back to Stayner or to the West over 30km to Meaford. To get to the arboretum, turn right onto Cedar Street (at McDonald’s) and there’s a large parking lot a block back.

Craigleith Heritage Depot

You’ll pass mere meters from the Craighleith Museum in the old rail station. Inside is also a tourism information booth, though I’ve never been in, there are some great gardens and plaques explaining the history of the station.

Thornbury Fish Ladder

Yes, fish ladder. Early in it’s history Thornbury built a dam and mill on the Beaver River which has been rebuilt over the years – but the Beaver River is also a significant spawning grounds for salmon so more recently they’ve built the fish ladder. Essentially a series of small dams and pools letting the fish jump up from pool to pool until they reach the level of the river upstream. Park behind the town hall on Mill Street and walk past the plaques describing the town history on your way to the crowds sure to be gathered around the fish ladder.

Meaford

Meaford is one of my favourite little towns. Look for Grandma Lambes on the highway coming in to town for fresh apples right from the orchard out back along with lots of home baking and local produce. For a great meal check out the Leeky Canoe downtown, right across from the big apple (you’ll know it when you see it). Take a stroll down Bridge Street to check out the busy harbour. Or take a left on William Street, just past the Dairy Queen, and check out the Meaford Factory Outlet – the place is huge and sells almost everything – it can be fun to explore, but set aside some time.

Owen Sound Waterfalls

There are a number of great waterfalls in Owen Sound that are easily accessible. If you want to check them out, when you reach 10th Street and the street lights where you would normally turn right onto Highway 6 West, go straight through onto Highway 6 South to a right onto County Road 18 and another right onto Inglis Falls Road. There’s a nice little park at Inglis Falls where a part of the old mill still survives as well as a trail leading down to several viewing platforms to check out the falls. To continue the falls tour, go back out to County Road 18 and turn right to continue the way you were going, another concession and a half to the West and Country Road 18 will take a turn to the right at a major intersection, taking you back North to the main highway. You’ll come out to another set of street lights where Highway 6 turns north (straight through) towards Wiarton. Turning right here takes you back into downtown Owen Sound if you need any supplies, but straight through is another information booth, behind which is a roughly half kilometre trail back to Jones Falls. To return to the main route, turn right as you’re leaving the information centre to take Highway 6 North towards Wiarton. There are actually four main waterfalls in Owen Sound, these two are my favourites, but check out this site for information on all four falls.

Sauble Beach and Sauble Falls

Sauble FallsNot as popular as Wasaga Beach, but I like it more, Sauble Beach is an incredibly deep beach right on Lake Huron. The beach stretches for miles to the North and South and is so deep that you can actually park right on the sand (for a fee). It’s always a happening place with lots of small tourist shops along the back edge of the beach. Just to the North is Sauble Falls inside the Sauble Falls Provincial Park. The falls aren’t tall, but their main attraction is that for much of the year the water flow is low enough that you can walk right across the falls without issue. Plan on wading in and even sitting down and relaxing right in the middle of the falls if it’s a warm day. To get there, when you reach the town of Hepworth you’ll come to the only set of street lights in town. The main route turns right, but go straight through onto County Road 8 and follow it straight through until it ends right on the beach. To continue on to the falls, go back out County Road 8 to the main lights and turn left onto Country Road 13 (Sauble Falls Parkway. The park will be on the left hand side. To return to the main route, keep going North on Sauble Falls Parkway and keep an eye open for where Country Road 13 turns right towards Wiarton. Where the road ends, you may want to turn right and fill up on gas in Wiarton as it’s a little ways to the next good chance for fuel. Otherwise turn left and continue North on Highway 6.

Spirit Rock Conservation Area & The Corran

Just north of Wiarton you’ll see a tiny gravel road on the right that takes you in to the Spirit Rock Conservation Area (there’s a sign). Follow the road back to the parking lot near The Corran – a long abandoned set of ruins for a mansion built in the turn of the century along with the barn. I have an aunt who told stories of when the kids in Wiarton used to party in mansion and how amazing the library was until one night it burnt down. At Spirit Rock you can also follow the Bruce Trail a short way South to a great outlook over Georgian Bay. One word of caution, particularly here but for most of the rest of this journey, keep an ear open for rattles as you’re walking – the Massassauga Rattlesnake likes to call this area home.

Cabot Head Lighthouse Museum

Cabot Head LighthouseThis is the most difficult side trip thus far requiring about 10km of driving down a single lane gravel road. At the end of that road though is one of the early lighthouses around Georgian Bay that’s been converted into a rather interesting museum about lighthouses, shipwrecks, and early life that allows you to walk right up to the top of the lighthouse and look out for miles, or stroll the grounds to see all the support structures and hike up to the entrance to Wingfield Basin where ships would wait out bad storms and at least one sank. To get there, not far past the small community of Millar Lake and Millar Lake Road, Dyer’s Bay Road turns right of Highway 6. Follow that to a “T” intersection where you turn right, then take the next left – you’ll still be on Dyers Bay Road. Follow the road through the community and veer right onto Shoreline Drive and then shortly a right onto Cabot Head Road. Cabot Head Road is a long, single lane gravel road, be prepared to sneak past oncoming traffic. Back track to get back onto the main route and turn right to keep going north on Highway 6.

Mermaid Cove

If you’re looking for a quiet escape and beautiful view of Georgian Bay/Lake Huron then Mermaid Cove is the place to be. Just a short drive and stroll away from downtown Tobermory but hardly visited it seems. To get there, turn right onto Bay Street and take a tour through the downtown and Little Tub Harbour, then hang a right at the end of the road and follow that to the end and stroll a short ways down the trail. To get back, take Harpur Drive and Head Street instead of the one way Bay Street.

Big Tub Harbour & Lighthouse

Big Tub LighthouseWhen you think you’ve reached the end of the road, Highway 6 and the ferry staging area are just to your right, but to the left Big Tub Road circles Big Tub Harbour – another common port in storm and has quite a significant wreck mere inches below the water. Once upon a time you could see this wreck from the shore but today it’s all private cottages. Now the only way to get a good look is on one of the glass bottom boat tours. The light house at the end of the road is well worth a visit though and gives a unique view of the town of Tobermory.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil FallsIf you’re anywhere on Manitoulin Island, Bridal Veil Falls is worth the trip – it’s a true must see. Get changed into your swimsuit in one of the change rooms at the top of falls, then take the staircase down to the base where you can wade into the pool at the bottom of the falls or walk right behind the falls themselves. It’s a pretty magical little spot. You can also stroll along the trail down river learning more about the history of the community. And best of all, when you get back to the top – there’s ice cream waiting for you right across the road. To get there, turn left onto County Road 542 and follow that to Mindemoya where you’ll turn right on County Road 551 to go North to M’Chigeeng. Along the way you’ll see a small parkette on the left at Mindemoya Lake – from here you can see Treasure Island which is the world’s largest island in a lake which is on an island in a lake. When you get to M’Chigeeng the road will end in a T-intersection with County Road 540 – remember this intersection for later – but for now turn left and go to Kagawong. There will be a park on the right side of the road downtown. To return to the main route you can return the way you came or when you get to that T-intersection in M’Chigeeng just go straight through, staying on Country Road 540 to go to Little Current where you’ll rejoin the main loop. I prefer the latter as 540 follows the northern shore of the island and I think it’s more scenic, it also takes you right past the Cup and Saucer Trail.

Cup and Saucer Trail

Cup and Saucer TrailCup and Saucer Trail is amongst the best known hiking trails in the province. I’ve only done it once, and even then not the full length, I just went up to the lookout and back, but the lookout is well worth the stop. Remember that Manitoulin is an extension of the Bruce Peninsula and in a large sense the whole Niagara Escarpment – that means a tall, shear cliff made of limestone – and with that limestone comes a warning. Limestone isn’t exactly the hardest, most stable rock, so don’t get too close to the edge, some sections over hang the exposure. But the view is phenomenal overlooking some the highlands farms and Lake Manitou – the largest lake on an island in a lake in the world. The hike up to the lookout is fairly short – took me about 25 minutes I think – but moderately difficult as a few sections take you almost straight up it seems. Bring a pair of good hikers and some water. If you’re coming from Bridal Veil Falls, go straight through the intersection  in M’Chigeeng to stay on Country Road 540 and look for Bidwell Road on the right. There’s actually a large bill board pointing the way to the trail when you’re coming this way. From here I would certainly turn right back at the 540 and follow it on to Little Current to rejoin the main loop there.

Little Current Swing Bridge

Right on the main route is the only land connection to Manitoulin Island. The bridge is only a single lane and was initially built by the railway in 1913. In 1946, Canadian Pacific Railway and the Ministry of Transportation struck a deal to convert the bridge to accept both rail and car traffic and for the first time you could reach the island by car without the ferry. By 1980 the rail line was lifted and today it is an auto bridge only but still a single lane and swinging open for the first fifteen minutes of each daylight hour to allow boat traffic through.

Northern LaCloche Range

From Little Current on, Highway 6 passes through the northern edge of the LaCloche mountain range. The road dips, dives and twists, but keep an eye open to the left and right none the less for some spectacular views of the white Quartzite mountains.

Note to the Main Route

When you reach Espanola, I recommend filling your tank and stocking up on any supplies you need, particularly if you’re going to the Chutes, as you’ll be on a more barren stretch of highway than you’ve travelled thus far. The next good chance for supplies is Sudbury, 70km away if you go directly.

The Chutes

Upper ChutesAt 60km round trip, Chutes Provincial Park is one of the longest side trips on this route, but I’ve grown a fondness for the little park. It’s a pretty commercialised park and camping, particularly RV camping, is the biggest part of the park. However it’s wrapped around a pretty spectacular set of half a dozen water falls in a row known as The Chutes. The largest fall is right at a parking lot with a beautiful and always changing beach right at it’s base. The beach is on an oxbow in the so it’s always changing minutely, but if you take a stroll up the well maintained trail you’ll come across viewing platforms and higher up shallow falls that you’ll be able to walk right into if you’re warm. To get there, when you reach the end of Highway 6, instead of turning right to go towards Sudbury, turn left towards Massey, and then turn right in downtown Massey onto County Road 553 (Imperial Street). The park will be on the right just a few blocks in. Just retrace your steps to get back on the main route and carry on Highway 17 towards Sudbury.

Sudbury

When you reach Sudbury, there’s lots to do. This is the home of Science North and the Big Nickel – but I’m not going to go into any of those – partly because there’s no shortage of information of those attractions just a google search away, and partly because I’ve never been and mostly just treat Sudbury as a resupply point along the way. That said, if you’re continuing on this route, I very, very strongly recommend re-supplying in Sudbury. Beyond here you’ll be faced with some pretty barren stretches of road and though there will be periodic gas stations along the way they are mostly on native lands so they’re not stations you’ll be familiar with and the prices are typically higher. When you’re coming in to Sudbury, take the exit onto County Road 80 and keep right to go into Sudbury. You’ll reach a major intersection between Country Roads 80 and 46 known as The Four Corners. Within a stones throw of here you’ll find gas, a grocery store, restaurants and hotels. To resume the journey from this intersection, go South past the Southridge Mall on County Road 46 which just go straight onto Highway 69 South where you want to be.

The Crack, LaCloche and Killarney

Granite RidgeThis is a long side trip down Highway 637 at 140km round trip (you did fill your gas tank to the brim in Sudbury, right?) but it’s one of my favourite spots in the province. The town of Killarney was inaccessible by road until this highway opened in 1962. As such the town developed in a unique way along the water front, but the area was always visited by adventurous types, perhaps most famously as one of the main areas of inspiration for members of the Group of Seven – it’s the white quartzite mountains that draw us in. Downtown Kilarney offers the best fish & chips I’ve ever had at Herbert Fisheries as well as a few simple hiking trails. Inside Killarney Provincial Park are two trails that I highly recommend (as well as several others I haven’t yet done). The Granite Ridge Trail is right across from the main office at the George Lake Campground – it’s an out and back trail about an hour long total but of moderate difficulty – a few sections seem to go straight up. The magic of this trail is that because of it’s relative short length and the fact that it goes up to two great lookouts over the mountains and of Georgian Bay, with an early start the mountain lookout is an incredible spot to be for sunrise. But the crown jewel of Killarney is really “The Crack.” Part of the much longer (10 day hike) LaCloche-The CrackSilhouette Trail, the hike to the Crack is an out and back that you don’t want to stray from beyond the day hike section unless you’re prepared with several days worth of food. Bring lots of water and some good hikers as the Crack is a difficult hike with several, long, near vertical stretches and the last climb up to the Crack itself literally being a climb over large fallen boulders between the two pieced of the cracked ridge. Many sites I checked recommended not going if it had been raining as the rock can become quite slick and they make a big deal of having to be quite fit to tackle this trail and only do it from an early morning start. That said, I did it with someone who only had a few short hikes to her name prior this and we took about 5 hours hiking time – that said she was shot for the day once we reached the car again. Once you make it to the top though, the view is absolutely stunning – it is so worth the trip to get up there, just be prepared with enough water and take your time. Extra tip: never stop right at the top of a difficult climb else the blood will rush to your head and could even make you feel ill. Once you get up one of those long, steep sections, keep walking, even if it’s super slow, for a few more minutes before resting. If you do get into a jam for fuel while in on Highway 637, Killarney Outfitters has a small, above ground tank of fuel available – it’s expensive and you don’t know who supplied it, but it’s the only source fuel along this entire highway.

The French River and Recolett Falls

Recollet FallsThere’s another small park just on the South side of the French River and it’s worth a stop. Walk out onto the snowmobile bridge to get a good look at the mighty French River, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s a short (about 45 minute) and fairly simple hike to Recollet Falls

Parry Sound Lookout Tower

I haven’t actually made the trip up this tower myself, but it’s on my to do list. Located right downtown is a ten storey former fire lookout tower that gives a commanding view out over Parry Sound the town and the bay. There are some great photos out there of the train coming through town taken from the tower. Exit into Parry Sound on Bowes Street, then just before crossing the river hang a left onto Great North Road and another left onto George Street. The tower and the West Parry Sound District Museum are on the right at the top of the hill. You can retrace your steps back to Highway 400 or go further in Bowes Street to explore the downtown core.

Depot Harbour

Depot Harbour RoundhouseDepot Harbour is the ghost town at the end of the Ottawa, Arnprior and Parry Sound Railway. It was a happening place at the turn of the 20th century hauling lumber out of Algonquin Park and grain from the prairies on to Ottawa. The town was built here by the railway company after they determined that land prices in Parry Sound were too high when they took advantage of a provision in the Indian Act that allowed railways to expropriate native owned lands. At it’s best, there were trains in Depot Harbour every twenty minutes, but by the time a rail trestle in Algonquin Park washed away in the spring melt the rail line wasn’t profitable enough to justify rebuilding. The town slowly faded until World War II when the site was used to store explosive cordite for the war and towards the end of the war the grain elevators exploded destroying the port. What was left of the town was slowly removed and today only the foundations and part of the roundhouse remain, but for those interested in history it’s pretty interesting. It’s pretty easy to find Depot Harbour at the end of Old Tracks Road on Parry Island, however I’ll be a little vague here as there are steps to take before stopping in. Depot Harbour has reverted back to native land and before paying it a visit you should have permission – I’d recommend getting in touch with the Wasauksing Administration Office. If you choose to ignore this advice, at least treat the land and people with respect, remember you’re a visitor at best but can easily be viewed as a trespasser without getting permission first.

Big Chute Marine Railway

Ever watched a boat climb over a rock? It happens daily all summer long at the Big Chute Marine Railway. It’s an interesting invention that consists of a single, very large rail car of sorts that dips right into the water. Boats can then float onto the rail car which then cradles them in giant straps and lifts them up out of the water and up a height of 60 feet of rock past the falls to continue up the Trent Severn Waterway. Also on the site is an observation deck, the old marine railway dating back to the early twentieth century, and a sort of museum in the old hydro electric station. To get there, get off the 400 at County Road 34 (White’s Falls Road) and follow 34 across the highway and short jog back North before turning East towards Big Chute. At Big Chute, Muskoka’s County Road 34 becomes Simcoe County Road 17 (Upper Big Chute Road) and you can either follow that to Coldwater and Highway 12 West to get back to the 400, or retrace County Road 34 the way you came in.

Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons & Martyr’s Shrine

Sainte-Marie is a glimpse into the more distant past – it’s an extensive recreation of a French community and mission built in 1639 right over top of the original community. It’s quite an attraction and a trip here is a ritual for most of the local public schools. Right across the road stands the Martyr’s Shrine – one of only two national shrine’s in Canada built in 1926 in honour of the 8 Jessuit missionaries working in the area in 1649. It’s a massive building and the architecture is quite impressive. If you’re coming here from Coldwater, just keep travelling Highway 12 West. If you’re coming down the 400, exit for Highway 12 West towards Waubaushene and Midland. Both attractions are right on Highway 12 as you first enter Midland, before crossing the river. To get back on track you can return to Highway 400 the way you came, or for a more scenic route, continue following Highway 12 West until it ends at County Road 93 (Penetanguishene Road) and take a left, following that road all the way back into Barrie.

Wanderlust

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

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Wanderlust. It should be recognized as a disease whose treatment is fully funded by worker’s compensation. And recently, I’ve had an awful bout with the disease. Too much time behind a desk wears at the soul and a three day weekend with no commitments was just what I needed for a little treatment.

I had no concrete plans for the weekend, but knew I wanted to go north and that I had a small list of places to check out; mountain bike trails that appeared on a map but I had never otherwise heard of, waterfalls and scenic lookouts that sounded interesting but were just too far off the beaten path to work into most trips, and stretches of highway that I hadn’t yet seen. So armed with my small checklist and some gas money, I loaded up the truck with a little biking gear, some hiking boots and some minimal camping equipment and hit the road. I would keep SPOT on the dashboard or clipped to my waist for the weekend and left a note on crackbook inviting people to follow along and steer me in new directions if they had suggestions along my path.

As with most of my trips – something came up in the morning as I was trying to leave that pushed my whole day back. My landlord asked if my camera and I might be able to hang back a little to document his first harvest of honey. Getting a little fresh honey for myself just sealed the deal, but soon I was off and following the page of a friend who had seen the expedition call on crackbook whom I hadn’t visited nearly often enough recently. A fact that was beaten in to my brain when I pulled up to her “new” house only to find she had moved back down the street to the old one without my realizing. Make time for your friends boys and girls.

I had hoped to steal her away for a quick spin on the bikes since the first mystery trail on my checklist was only a few minutes drive from there but it seems not everyone can get random Friday’s off work. So after a short visit I was twisting the jeep through some poorly marked backroads towards the promising sounding Dead Horse Trail – a long stretch of trail winding right along the edge of Algonquin Park that with a detour onto the nearby Twentyseven Lake Loop Trail and Ridge Road Cycling Trail could be turned into a twenty or so mile loop. With the late start I opted to drive in as far as I could then cycle from that point.

Best laid plans however have their own path and it seems the time and money I had invested into improving the off road abilities of my Jeep turned it into more than enough vehicle to drive the entirety of Dead Horse Trail. My cycling plans had been thwarted for the afternoon but I still enjoyed winding over and around some great terrain and paid visit to a couple bears along the way. It’s amazing how something like a bear sighting on the road can be such a great occurrence miles from town on a sunny day but be such an annoyance when you’re rushing to work in the morning. Almost surprisingly given the terrain I was driving through though, there were no moose sightings today.

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With a quick top up of the tank in South River it was off along some long forgotten roads built around the turn of the century as the Nipissing Road first brought settlers into Ontario’s North. Years of research had shown me much of the history of the Nipissing Road, culminating in a cycling trip with my friend Mat down the historic ‘Road of Broken Dreams’ a few years prior. At one point on that trip we discovered that our Bob trailers loaded with camping gear would float as we waded knee deep through a wetland that had consumed the road decades prior, but today I was discovering some of the roads those pioneers had built around that problem spot and unwrapped another little piece of the history for myself. This trip stayed mostly dry though with just a few stretches of mud as the trees narrowed in around the little used wagon paths.

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By that evening I had made my way over to Killarney and probably the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. Something about being cooked by the fishery likely makes the difference. After an evening camped out in the truck I got an early start and headed up a trail in the provincial park under flashlight. Winding through some low lying swamps and spruce stands before starting up the slopes of the quartzite LaCloche mountains. I’ve always found the white mountains fascinating but was a little surprised by the hike straight up their face. I’m used to park trails claiming to be tough but actually being incredibly sanitized paths ready to race golf carts through. Instead I was racing the mosquitoes while scrambling over and around the rocks – it was a great early morning workout. I reached the top not too long after sunrise – the light was great and the elevation gave a good perspective of the park and town.

From there I made my way around to Manitoulin Island to check out the Cup & Saucer Trail. I’d heard good things about the trail and it offers a view from the highest point on the island. It was supposed to be a moderately challenging trail as well, but given the number of ill prepared tourists coming out of the trail in flip flops I thought I’d be safe with just a bottle of water and go. It was a fun, if short, trail but the lookout was definitely worth the trip up.

In fact the whole ridge running across Manitoulin between M’Chigneeg and Sheguiandah made for beautiful terrain as I drove through the farms towards the Eastern shore. I made that trip after a quick stop at Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong and getting crowded out by the tourists. Another trip to the falls later in the season while it was quieter showed the magic of walking behind the falls and it’s a trip I recommend, but the crowds can be insane and it’s probably best timed for a weekday if possible.

For this trip though it was on to the Eastern Shore of the island and, since there were no spaces left on the ferry, back up across the converted rail bridge and back through the mountains. In the past few years I’d been discovering the La Cloche mountains through Killarney Park but I have to say the views of the mountains along the highway north of the island are incredible right from the car. It has definitely made it amongst my list of the best roads to travel. I want to come back some day soon and try to follow the old rail line weaving around the ponds and bays by bike.

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On getting back up to the ‘17’ the truck was pointed further West to see The Chutes in Massey. The Chutes is a kind of cool park where you can take in a series of waterfalls, walk right into some of the upper falls, and swim off the sedimentary sandbar at the base of the final falls. It’s not a outdoors persons park though, the trail around the falls is short and very sanitized, but still worth taking a look on should you ever find yourself slipping by and needing to stretch your legs.

A more interesting trip in this area though is one I chased down some narrow and forgotten roads into Fort La Cloche and the La Cloche Provincial Park. It’s a long and narrow road that often makes you wonder if you should turn back, that is if you can even find the road through the native reserve after climbing a steep and rutted out trail – it’s definitely not a trail for an economy car to take even if I did see a minivan in there with it’s driver trying hard to rip the undercarriage off it. It’s a nice little park that very few I think have ever seen and it’s a road trippers dream – the journey is worth more than the destination.

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On my way back towards home I had one more adventure to take in – I went looking for a set of water falls that had been into a hydro project at the turn of the century but had long since been abandoned. Some online research had promised great exploration of the old industrial buildings and infrastructure. The problem is all the roads had seemingly changed since the printing of the maps, or maybe the online directions had the falls placed incorrectly. Regardless, after two hours of searching and more than a couple wrong turns and u-turn corrections I had found the driveway. A long and dusty road with little upkeep but a sign pointed the way and promised to find the ruins just a few kilometres up the road. As I came around the corner and saw the first building though there was still one problem. Between me and the falls was a twelve foot high chainlink fence plastered in ‘No Trespassing’ signs and signs pointing out Valé’s security cameras. So it was a minor failure but at least I did find the where to find what I was looking for and found a great new road into Sudbury on the way out.

Some time in the near future I want to do an epic cycling trip through some of the logging roads in this area and see what can be found. Hiccups like this fence are bound to come up along the way and become long detours by bike, but that’s all part of the adventure. The promise of all that land that is barely developed, winding through all the lakes and rivers, it’s just too tempting to ignore.

I went out looking for a cure for wanderlust, but as I’m travelling down the highway late at night on my way back home I have to realize that wanderlust can’t be cured – these trips just keep the symptoms under control. But maybe that’s not a bad thing.

2015 Recap

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

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.

2014 Adventures in Review

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

The other day I read an interesting post by Jill Homer recapping twelve of her favourite images from the past year, one for each month, and giving a little more insight into each image. I thought it was a great idea, but since this blog has been used just for business in the past, I didn’t have twelve months of images to choose from online. But I do have an annual calendar filled with images from my past year that I’m constantly being asked more details about the images – seems like a good fit. So if you have a few minutes, why not take a look at my 2014…

December – Hoggs Falls, Near Flesherton

Hogg's Falls

We almost missed finding these falls. Out on a short waterfall hunting tour, we found the main, larger falls (Eugenia Falls below) that we were looking for, but with time starting to run short before a concert that evening and directions that were a little less than clear, hope was starting to run low. But down a gravel road, a short walking trail, and over the edge of a little cliff one finds these falls. The biggest challenge was trying to hold the camera steady over the long exposure with one hand while using the other to brace myself from falling over the bank and down to the river.

January – High Falls, Near Dowling

High Falls

Appearing on maps as High Falls, the locals know that Onaping Falls gives an amazing show just a short ways from the highway while most drive by without a clue of what’s waiting for them. We came by on a snowshoeing expedition on one of those perfect clear, cold days to check out the interesting ice formations that can always be found near waterfalls.

February – Eugenia Falls, Eugenia

Eugenia Falls

Eugenia Falls started as just a random point on a map with fairly low expectations for what we’d find. We happened to be in the area and had an opportunity to check another set of water falls off our checklist of Ontario falls. Rolling into a quiet little town and cruising through even quieter back streets expectations were low when around the corner there’s a tiny, single lane dirt road – that’s just bustling with traffic coming and going from the conservation area parking lot. All this activity offers promise that something great is just around the corner, and that, in our modern society where no one takes responsibility for their actions, there will be big fences that prevent you from getting too close to something great. Right on both counts; that’s why I think I’ll have to get back another day with more time to find a way into the ravine and back up river to the falls.

March – Torrance Barrens

Torrance Barrens

I’m lucky to have this dark sky preserve just a short way from home – about a forty five minute drive or, thanks to an old colonization road, a forty five minute cycle. One night full of time to spare and interesting clouds I grabbed the camera and tripod to see what the sunset might offer. I think it was worth the trip.

April – Newpost Falls, Near Fraserdale

Newpost Falls

It started by accidentally stumbling over a photo online of a set of waterfalls way up north that was wrapped in a tiny provincial park and thanks to hydro development in the area was about to disappear forever. Newpost Falls only exist in their present form because many years ago someone thought it wise to divert a large river down the Newpost Creek and increase the flow over another big dam along the Abitibi Canyon. But yet another hydro project is poised to divert that flow through a new generating station and return the Newpost Falls to just a trickle once more. This view was the reward for a long adventure to reach this remote, northern park.

May – Last Road Crossing, Otter Rapids

Last Road Crossing

In finding a way to see Newpost Falls, above, I put a lot of research into remote northern roads. One road in particular suited my needs. Leaving behind cell reception, civilization, and the last chance for gasoline at Smooth Rock Falls, my route led due north for 80km of beautiful and abandoned asphalt highway before reaching Fraserdale and the Abitibi Generating Station where you gingerly drive across a narrow path over the top of the dam, trying not to bump the chain link fence keeping you from falling hundreds of feet off the edge of the dam or into the ridiculously expensive hydro equipment inches from your tire on the other side. From there, the private gravel road extends another 50km, passing a rough jeep trail leading to Newpost Falls, the end of the We-Tum Ice Road to Moosonee, and across another even larger and more dangerous dam crossing to the end of the road at Otter Rapids. It’s as far north up the Moose River watershed as you can get by road (until the ice road opens each year) and mere feet before the road comes to an unassuming dead end it crosses this rail line – the last road crossing this rail line makes on it’s way to Moosonee.

June – Abitibi River, Otter Rapids

Abitibi River

Stopping at the edge of the dam at Otter Rapids (the dam is barely a single lane wide and curved so that you can’t see any potential traffic from the ends) and walking your way out amongst all the massive equipment, you can get a birds eye view of the Abitibi River. The scale of this dam, the river, and this whole landscape is impressive and looking North, as in this photo, it’s easy to realize that signs of man are few and far between from this point on. The road extends less than a kilometre past this point doing little more than servicing the generating station and a small rail facility. Beyond that the rail line extends another 140km to the small communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory and little else.

July – Abandoned Tractor, Near Warsaw

Abandoned Tractor Near Warsaw

On a cycling trip without real destinations, I found this old tractor laying right at the edge of the road a little ways north of the village of Warsaw. I always love stumbling across little pieces of forgotten history like this. One can only imagine the thousands of trips across this field the tractor made before being parked here in the corner and forgotten. I wonder just how many other pieces of equipment are spread across this land that fell to the same fate.

August – Warsaw Caves Conservation Area

Warsaw Caves Conservation Area

During the last ice age today’s big lakes were much more massive and between them ran enormous rivers that are but a trickle of their former selves today. One of those rivers flowed here through Warsaw where it ate away at the soft limestone and formed underground rivers. Today the water table is much lower and it has revealed a series of caves that one can explore – in one case so a cave so long that it still holds ice in August. And though the mighty river is now just a gentle stream, it still suddenly emerges from underground and disappears again here in Warsaw.

September – Rosseau Falls, Near Bent River

Rosseau Falls

I had long known about a set of falls in this area that was rumoured to be quite nice, but completely inaccessible because of private property. Well as it turns out that property up until recently belonged to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, but with their sale of the property I was suddenly right next to the mystery falls as part of my job. With a polite request and a hand shake I suddenly had permission to come by one evening with the camera to get photos of the falls that not many get to see. The property is now sold and the new owners moved in, closing off access to these falls once again, but for now let this photo give you a glimpse of what one lucky resident gets to call their front yard.

October – Manitouwabing River, Near Inholmes

Manitouwabing River

I was out one day on a random cycling trip with a friend when we discovered an interesting, antique concrete bridge deep in the middle of nowhere. I have no doubt the bridge dates back to the original settlement of the Orange Valley and the building of the Nipissing Road around the 1890’s. Standing on this forgotten bridge of a quiet, sparsely populated road there wasn’t a sound, save for a very faint sound of rushing water. A tiny gravel road led up the river and I followed it up stream to find these tiny falls not far away. Makes you wonder how many people even know these falls are here.

November – Screaming Head at Midlothian Castle

Screaming Head

Continuing the trip from Orange Valley I found my way over to a small farm I had often heard about but never visited. A local art teacher had transformed his picturesque but unremarkable farm into an interesting work of art with the addition of most famously a series of concrete “screaming heads.” But that’s just the start of what this self-guided adventure has in store as you follow the paths to various metal sculptures, a hand powered ferry across the small pond, and the transformation of a simple farm house into the impressive Midlothian Castle.

December – Oxtongue River, Near Dwight

Oxtongue River

Several years ago I had spent the first night of a three week bike-packing trip on the edge of a set of rapids on the Oxtongue River and driving by this fall decided to share my earlier find. But entering the area from a different direction along a different road we found the beginning of the rapids as they shoot under this snowmobile bridge and make their way over a set of impressive water falls. Just goes to show that even when you think you know a place, there’s always more to discover.

The Calendar is Coming!

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The Pedachenko Media 2013 CalendarEDIT December 11 The calendars arrived last night and they look great – but they’re already more that half sold. Don’t miss out, get yours now at The Gravenhurst Bookstore or by contacting me directly.

It’s a little slower than expected, but the 2013 Pedachenko Media calendar is being printed as we speak and should arrive shortly. This year’s calendar is themed ‘Views from the Road’ and features some hidden gems and forgotten paths in and around Muskoka, all photography and design obviously completed by yours truly.

What’s new this year? I’ve opened up the calendar itself to give more room for your notes, sourced out higher quality printing than past years, and for the first time ever, it’s available for purchase. Now in it’s ninth year of production, this calendar has grown into something that’s in pretty high demand amongst the inner circle who have received them. Now finally, there are a few more being produced for mass consumption.

Want to get your own copy or purchase some as gifts? You’ll shortly be able to find them at The Gravenhurst Bookstore or by contacting me directly. Cost is $15 each.