Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Crossing the Frozen Lake!

Crossing the Frozen Lake!


Elliot Lake looking west


Last Sunday, St. Patrick's Day, was absolutely gorgeous! The sky was clear with not a cloud in sight, so we decided to take a hike on the frozen surface of Elliot Lake, from Spine Beach to Spruce Beach. 




Although the snowfall has been of record proportions this winter, the surface was quite solid, the snow having been either blown away by the wind, or packed down by the activity of snowmobiles. 


Spruce Beach, in the distance


Our destination was a small rock, out from Spruce Beach, that is well-known by the locals as a point to aim for when swimming in the summer months. 


Courtesy of https://www.theweathernetwork.com/photos/view/outdoor-activities/having-a-look-elliot-lake/30605220

On our way, there was little, if any, wind - not even a breeze - and so we felt the welcome warmth of the sun on our faces. 


It always amazes us when the sun is refracted by the particles of snow and ice. We could actually see a plethora of colour. This video clip gives a rough idea of what we were seeing, though the colours are not so clear. (Next time, I'll have to hold the camera still, instead of moving it around so much).





No matter how long I live in Canada, I will never cease to be in awe of how much activity there is on the frozen lakes - especially here, up North. We have seen large trucks, safely negotiating their way across to the other side, as well as numerous semi-permanent ice huts that are put in place as soon as it is safe to do so, and removed - usually by the end of March. The first winter we were here, we went to the Winter Fest, at Spruce Beach, and stood watching two cart horses pulling a large cart on skis around the rock and back to the beach. 

Today, we watched as an ice hut was being transported back onto the land. 





We took our time so that we could enjoy the spectacular open scenery from a vantage point that can usually be experienced only from watercraft in the summer. 


An ATV making its way across from one beach to another

St. Joseph's Hospital, Elliot Lake

Spine Beach, in the distance - our starting point

Snowmobile keeping close to the shoreline

Love the silhouette of the trees against the blue sky





Occasionally, our footfall would dig deeper into the snow - almost 6 inches, at times! 


Our normal footprints...


Sinking in!


We remarked upon how brave we had become since our earlier days together! Here's the story...

Back in the early 90's, we were staying at a friend's cottage, near Bancroft, Ontario. It was during March Break, after quite a cold winter. It was my first time venturing out onto a frozen lake and it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I had joined Mark in doing so. Just as we began to enjoy the experience, we suddenly heard some cracking sounds and the ice gave way beneath our feet. Our boots were in water, and we began to think we were going to go under! So, we started to make for the shore, in earnest, feeling more and more insecure as the ice cracked under each step we took. 

When we got back to the shore, we were sharing our experience with Pat, the owner of the cottage, and she explained that there had been a partial melt, and then a refreezing. So, in fact, under a thin layer of ice (that we had punctured), and under about an inch of water that had melted and not refrozen, there was probably 3 - 4 feet of solid ice!  So, we were not in any danger of falling through at all! 

Knowing this, and seeing the amount of traffic on the lake - plus being aware of the extreme cold over a period of time, we find it less disconcerting these days!

When we reached the rock, Mark rushed forward to climb the icy heights. 





Once at the top, he posed for a photo op. The song, 'I'm the King of the Castle' came to mind - and I'm sure he saw himself as such. Those who know him, however, will attest that he is really, 'the dirty rascal'! After all, it is the quiet ones you have to watch!


I stayed safely at the base of the rock! 




On the way back, the wind had started to come up and the stinging on our faces took some getting used to. That being said, it was exhilarating to be out there, moving our bodies, and enjoying the vistas that only winter can provide. 



Our normal picnic area - but not today! Also, you can't see where the beach ends and the lake begins, though you can hear the difference when you are walking on both surfaces

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Addendum:

While we were at a couple of house/pet sits in Southern Ontario from January to March, we had a lot of snowfall. However, when we got back to Elliot Lake, we could not get over how much snow had fallen on our home town. We took this video of  our short journey from Spine Beach to our apartment so that we could share how high the snowbanks had accumulated along the roadside; and this was after so much snow had been carted off, and a brief melt had taken place!




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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

More Fun in the Snow!

More Fun in the Snow!


Today, our second day in Algonquin, we took advantage of the continuing sunshine and clear blue skies, which graced us with their presence for two days in a row. (Sunny days have been rare over the last month - which is quite uncommon for winters in Ontario). 

Courtesy of https://www.traversing.ca/blog/2012/1/11/arrowhead-provincial-park-ice-skating-trail
We were excited to go to Arrowhead Provincial Park, and looking forward to enjoy an hour or so of tubing. Unfortunately, the tubing hill was closed - and has been for most of the winter! So, we decided to forge ahead with our second choice - snowshoeing along the groomed trails. 




Thank goodness there were no other people on the trail at the same time, which was convenient when needing to answer the call of nature! (Don't worry - this video clip passes the test for common decency!!! lol)


Of all the snowshoe trails available, we chose the easier 2 km Stubb's Falls Trail, which runs alongside the river, crosses over via a bridge, and then returns along the other side of the river. It also follows the skating trail along some of its course. We paused our trek to watch some of the skaters on the trail. 


Not being a skater, myself, I am always in awe of the skating skills of Canadians - especially those of younger age. Their confidence seems to abound! 

At the end of the Stubb's Falls Trail are the Falls, themselves. While not as spectacular as some of the falls we have visited, it was captivating to watch the water flow under the snow and ice and continue on its journey to the next lake.




We spent quite a while taking in the beauty of the wintery surroundings and, at one point, we actually felt the warmth of the sun on our faces. 

There were several snow-covered rocks that afforded great viewing platforms... 



... and a deep crevice dividing one section of an erratic. For this pic of Mark, I was actually standing above, looking down at him through the crack. 



The trail ended back on the road, just a couple of minutes from where we had parked. Adjacent to the road bridge, a footbridge crossed the meeting of the river with the lake. It was covered with snow, and had been groomed as part of the cross-country ski trail. We waited for one such skier to cross the bridge and our patience was finally rewarded!



After lunch, in Whitney (at the east end of the park), we hiked one more trail - The Two Rivers Trail. We couldn't remember if we had ever done this trail but, if we had, it would have looked very different in the summer or fall. Once again, we were filled with wonder by the sheer beauty of the Canadian winter scenery. When we stopped to listen, we could feel such an abundance of peace and quiet that took our breath away. The trail took us along a cliff top so we were able to appreciate vistas that stretched out before us. 







We were also fascinated by the fungi on the side of this tree, each one lightly painted white by nature's gentle snowfall. 




This natural arch just begged us for a photo op!



After being out in the fresh air for most of the day, we were quite tired when we reached our hotel, and were glad to partake of a nice mug of warm coffee!

The weather forecast is calling for a couple of overcast days, with some possible snowfall, so we're glad we took advantage of the sunshine while it lasted! 



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Monday, 18 February 2019

Algonquin's Winter Wonderland

Algonquin's Winter Wonderland


Over the last few weeks, Ontario (both Northern and Southern) has experienced several squalls of snowfall, resulting in 3-4 feet of the white stuff that has blanketed the whole province. When faced with shoveling sidewalks, or snow-blowing driveways, or driving through a blizzard when caught unawares, it can be a little daunting - especially when the snow keeps coming!

Alan, clearing the driveway for the 8th time in just under two weeks!

However, when stepping outside the cities, towns, and subdivisions, we can find ourselves in awe of the vistas that reveal themselves in the wilderness that makes up vast areas of our country.

We are currently in the Muskoka Region of the Canadian Shield and enjoying one of our favourite spots - Algonquin Provincial Park. It's here where we found the Winter Wonderland that adorns the forests, lakes, and rocks of the area.

The West Gate entrance to Algonquin Park (The flag poles are actually perpendicular to the ground - it's just the angle of the camera which gives the appearance of leaning poles).


It was around -19 degrees Celsius, with the windchill factor taken into account, but the clear blue skies and glorious sunshine beckoned us outside to brave the elements and enjoy the landscapes.


There are still spots where there is open water!

Sammy Squirrel came to see what we were about


Hoping the snow obeys the STOP road sign!







After hiking the Spruce Bog Trail, we returned to one of our favourite spots - the Algonquin Logging Museum. The trail is just over 1 km long, and traces the development of the logging industry in Algonquin from the time of the earliest European Settlers, to the more recent times. Along the hike, there are various buildings and historical exhibits that represent this historical journey, including a recreated camboose camp, as well as an Alligator - a steam-powered tug that was used to help haul the logs.



The snow on the rooftops was about 4' deep




The 'Alligator' - a steam-powered tug that helped to move the logs


Once again, you can see the depth of the snow on this engine

Mark attempted to call the lumberjacks for their meal, but no-one came! I guess they weren't that hungry, after all! 





We were fascinated by the sheer number of wild birds that landed on us whenever we stood still - even though we didn't have any food for them! We did pick up some seeds from the floor and they seemed happy to take them from our hands. We had chickadees and nuthatches coming to us.








One chickadee even alighted upon the windshield of the car while we were eating our picnic lunch inside! He seemed very interested in what we were enjoying!


We also thought we heard a pileated woodpecker because the rat-a-tat sound that echoed through the forest was very deep in pitch. It turned out to be a  Downy, who settled on a tree right next to us and almost posed for a photo-op! 

Downy Woodpecker


A brief stop into the Visitor's Centre allowed us to take a short detour leading to a little gazebo.



You can see the depth of the snow by the way this bench has been almost submerged!



So glad we have the freedom to visit places like this, and appreciate the real beauty of winter in Ontario.






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