Livin’ The Grotto Life.

1 Jul

Bruce Peninsula National Park was the one place on my list this summer I wanted to check out. Kayley or myself had never experienced the area previously and when we we’re living in Ottawa, the trip always seemed so damn far to travel for a couple days of camping. But now being only 4 hours away, we didn’t have any excuses this time.

We chose to hike out and camp at the Stormhaven Backcountry sites for a quick 3 day trip, the hike in was about 3.5kms North from the Emmett Lake, on what I would say is a fairly labour intensive trail, we we’re feeling pretty worked half way through the hike, most likely due to the fact that we went from siting still for 4hrs in the car to having to carry 65lbs for the next 2hrs. The lookouts and high-bearing cliffs along the way made for some stellar places to have a sip of water and recharge the batteries.

Off we go.

Off we go.

The first real look at the Bay!

The first real look at the Bay.

She isn't sure what to do with her hands here.

She isn’t sure what to do with her hands here.

IMG_2912

IMG_2917

Kay’s idea of a break


The site location was well laid out, featuring upper sites above the beach and lower sites which are located just inside the tree-line, essentially on the beach itself. The Park supplies a well-maintained solar-powered washroom and food hangs. Not having to find trees to hang your barrel along with having a nice place to do your business made this camping excursion feel luxurious haha. Our site was the furtherest north (Site 9), the tent pad was perfect for our 2 man tent, giving you enough space to lay out your stuff, to sit, cook food, and to do whatever really.

I had never seen a beach that purely consisted of white, smooth stone, it wasn’t easy on the feet but we found so many damn good skipping rocks!

The remainder of the day was enjoyed stuffing our faces with camp-style pasta, exploring the area, taking pictures and just relaxing.

Our campsite is hiding in there somewhere

Our campsite is hiding in there somewhere

Bringing that body temp down with a quick dip in Bay!

Bringing that body temp down with a quick dip in the Bay!

Homebase views

Homebase views

Dinner Prep

Dinner Prep

IMG_2928

Post-Dinner Exploration

Designated Food Hang Area, pretty key...

Designated Food Hang Area, pretty key!

Goodnight!


Our morning came early, we fuelled up, filled the pack and made our way over to the natural attraction that brings many people to this park, the Grotto. The weather swung in our favour, giving us the perfect weather to enjoy the day ahead.

The Grotto was located about an hour hike from our spot and when we arrived, at first glance, it was fair to say it lived up to its reputation, a real powerful piece of landscape. As we took sight at everything around us, a local informed us of a secret passage, shimmied between two rocks, where a small opening brought us down to the cave. It’s easily the best swimming hole I’ve come across. The water being as cold as it was prevented the thought of jumping in and swimming down to the underwater passage way, but either way it was well worth it to see it up close. We had a few minutes of peace to enjoy this natural wonder before the masses followed us down and took over the area, a signal for us to continue on our way. For the remainder of the afternoon, we hiked to lookouts further north, chilled out at the beach, munched on your typical hikers lunch and took more than enough photos.

Once arriving back at camp, we took off our sweaty shoes, found a good sitting rock, rested our sore legs, grabbed the flask, enjoyed some swigs, gazed upon the blue abyss and took a quiet moment to relax. By the time we had finished our dinner, and cleaned up camp, the sun was beginning to make it’s way down which meant it time to hit the hay. I was able to make it through 3 pages of my book before I was KO’d.

IMG_2935

IMG_2939

View from the Grotto.

Too bad the water was arctic cold or else we'd be swimming in there, livin' the grotto life..haha.

Too bad the water was arctic cold or else we’d be swimming in there, livin’ the grotto life..haha.

IMG_2952

Looking out onto the bay from the secret passage way 😉

IMG_2949

IMG_2987

“hey babe go stand over there.”

IMG_2960

Kay playing with the local crustaceans

Playing with the local crustaceans

IMG_2957

DSCN6113

IMG_2965

Trying not laugh while I take this photo while eating, not an easy task.


The following morning, we we’re yet again lucky to experience another rad day, perfect for the hike out. We threw together a quick breakfast, packed up the goods and off we went. The hike out always goes quicker and smoother than the hike in, we only stopped I think once or twice and they we’re for photo purposes haha.

IMG_2971

A beautiful sight!

IMG_2975

Freaking out on the thought of how high I am.

IMG_2972

IMG_2978

Mac N' Cheesin' it for lunch

Mac N’ Cheesin’ it for lunch somewhere in central Ontario.


I feel that most of the places we’ve been I would recommend to anyone to go and explore but I really mean it this time. The Bruce Peninsula is surreal, unlike anywhere I’ve explored before, it was hard to believe this was a region within Ontario’s boundary. There is something about getting yourself out in the middle of nowhere and gazing out into what seems to be an endless water body that allows you to truly relax and forget the busyness of everyday life. Between the white rocky beaches, the tourist attraction that is the Grotto and the available views, we’d go back tomorrow if we could. Not only is the park worth seeing but the Peninsula is a wonder within itself, worth the drive from wherever you’re coming from! You just gotta Get Out There!

-Chris

Getting Wet in Algonquin.

24 Sep

Kay and I last week figured with a free weekend ahead of us, the fall weather beginning to present itself and the thirst to do some real adventuring, we had better book a camping trip. The only problem was figuring out where….being newly located in Ajax, we had a bunch of Provincial Parks to explore that were relativity close in proximity. After searching online for a couple hours, checking travel times, weather and availability, it hit us! Algonquin Park! We had spent the last 3 years driving through the park, back and forth from Ottawa and Huntsville, always talking about how we NEED to take a real trip through the park. When booking backcountry spots you need to be a bit more cautious and plan accordingly but we aren’t new to the game so we picked Tom Thomson lake which seemed far enough out to give us a good day of paddling and not too long of a portage. I personally have ever only paddled around some of the lakes, and Kay had not explored the area in awhile, so we were both quite stoked.

We set out to Huntsville early afternoon Thursday to go get the canoe from Kay’s mom’s place, grab a short visit with her family along with giving us a closer distance to the park so we could get a jump-start on the day, hoping to snag a solid spot!

6:15am rolled around Friday, feeling rested, we jumped in the Jeep, went to McDonalds for some morning fuel (Kayley was craving her Egg McMuffin Special per usual ;)) and made our way to the put-in. By 9am, we were signed in, canoe packed to the brim, map out (If you are exploring Algonquin Park I strongly recommend you buy http://jeffsmap.com/, the best map I’ve ever purchased), paddles in-hand and away we went!

The weather was stellar, with rain not being called till around 2pm, we knew we had time to enjoy the paddle, and giving us enough time to get to the spot and set up before the wet stuff started rolling in. The map gave us some estimated times, knowing we are pretty decent paddlers, and a short portage ahead of us, we gave ourselves a 3 and half hour timespan.

Couldn't ask for better weather

Couldn’t ask for better weather.


Portage complete!

Portage complete!


With the portage passed us, with the wind at our backs, the paddle was super enjoyable through all the different lakes, and the surrounding views were very rad.

As we turned the corner into the beautiful Tom Thomson lake, we crossed our fingers hoping we didn’t get up early for nothing. We had known from scoping out a map of the lake earlier in the week that there was two island spots, we wanted one of them! The closer to the spot we paddled, the more it looked that it was vacant, and would you know it, it was! I guess that saying ‘The Early Bird Gets The Worm’ can hold up from time to time. You could say we we’re happy! Also, it only took us 2 hours and 40mins for the whole trip, almost an hour under our estimated time, you could call us record breakers 😉 haha

A trusty piece of transportation!

A trusty piece of transportation!


The site was awesome, it had a huge grassy front section, rocky point (good for shore-fishing), tucked in tree cover for the tent, tall rock ledge lookout, and a proper fire-pit! But, first things first, we got our tent ready, tarp strung up (preparing for the coming rain), and did a little island exploration/fire wood hunt.

She walk...I follow...

She walk…I follow…


She start fire...I take picture

She start fire…I take picture


Kayley did what she does best, that being getting the fire started, and I decided to do what I do best…fish haha. I tied on a trust woolly-bugger and threw a couple casts off the point. With little luck at first, the only guy I snagged was a mini perch.

IMG_1532


The rain rolled in before long, the rain gear was worn and by the fire we sat. Although, I then realized fish bite more frequently during rain storms, so back to the point I went hoping for a fish more satisfying than the one before it. Within the first five casts, I snagged what seemed to be pretty big dude…but after a good 5 minute fight he spit it. Determined, I casted back towards the area he let it go…..GOT HIM! Feeling stoked to get this fairly fat Smallmouth.

These guys put out some of the best fights for their size.

These guys put out some of the best fights for their size.


The rest of the afternoon was spent making food, collecting fire wood, trying to stay relatively dry, shooting the shit and just enjoying the sound of the rain on the flat lake water.

The only protection from the cool rain.

The only protection from the cool rain.


Fried onions and beans for dinner!!

Fried onions and beans for dinner!!


 

The evening sun sky poking out.

The evening sun sky poking out.


Feeling tired from the day, along with being cold from the consistent rain, it was time to hit the hay.

Sorry bears, no free food for you!

Sorry bears, no free food for you!


The morning rise came, and would you know it, more rain! But it wasn’t going to keep us from enjoying the day.

Porridge and bacon...that' ll get you hyped on the day ahead.

Porridge, tea and bacon…that’ll get you hyped on the day ahead.


The morning was filled with scouring the island for more dry wood, cleaning up from breakfast and figuring out the plan for the day.

Once Noon appeared, the wind had died a bit, we decided to take a paddle around the lake, check out the other sites and do a little casting off the canoe.

Kayley the Elf Guide.

Kayley the Elf Guide.


I almost hit this gracious bird with my paddle. Sorry buddie.

I almost hit this gracious bird with my paddle. Sorry buddie.


The river entrance to Barrlett Lake.

The river entrance to Barrlett Lake.


We we’re soaked, the wind started to pick up and with no fish luck, it was time to head back to camp and chill out for a little while, and recharge the batteries.

Kay refilling the water supply.

Kay refilling the water supply.


Typical campsite picture

Typical campsite picture.


Before dinner, I said to Kayley, “Hey, let’s go out paddling again, I want to fish that bay we saw coming into the lake”. So out we went, the wind at this point was pretty mellow, but just as we reached the bay, the wind picked right up, I mean it was blowing fucking hard, we both look behind us towards the mouth of the big open section of the lake and there were whitecaps and probably 3-4 foot swells….shit. As we turn into the open section, our site looked as if we were never going to reach it, paddling hard, it felt we were going absolutely nowhere, gnarly would be the appropriate word to explain the situation. Luckily half way through the lake the wind died down just enough for us to make it before our arms gave out…..fuck we were beat, and now extremely hungry!…Dinner time.

Smart planning, we saved our feast for this night….pasta with fried yellow peppers, onion and cheesy spinach tomato sauce! Damn did it ever taste and smell good.

New campstove! Thanks Pops!

New campstove! Thanks Pops!


Food heaven.

Food heaven.


After dinner, we sat on the rock ledge, watched the rain roll by, sipped on some Tequila, and kept each other warm.

Cold, rainy selfie.

Cold, rainy selfie.


We we’re in the tent by 8pm, read for an hour or so, hoping for some sun the following morning. And that is exactly what we got!! My eyes opened as the tent began to illuminate from the sunrise. Out I jumped to one of the raddest views I’ve ever witnessed. The fog encompassed most of the lake, with the dark tree line in the background, it was so quiet and still out, you’d swear it was a painting you were staring at.

This is why you come out to the backcountry.

This is why you come out to the backcountry.


It was that moment where both of us understood that the couple days of rain we’re worth it for this morning view.

Damnnnnnnnnn....

Damnnnnnnnnn….


One of the many resident Tom Thomson Lake Loons.

One of the many resident Tom Thomson Lake Loons.


I might frame this.

I might frame this.


Kay and I admired the view for a good hour or two before the fog eventually dissipated, then realizing we should probably pack everything up. Thankful for the warm sun, since packing your gear in the rain is a brutal endeavour, it didn’t take us long to get everything read to go!

The trusty water vehicle.

The trusty water vehicle.


Saying good-bye to the island that housed us for a couple days.

Saying good-bye to the island that housed us for a couple days.


The paddle back was just as mellow as the paddle there. Being Sunday, there were many other travellers on the water, hellos were exchanged, and we soaked up that warm sun the whole way back to the Put In. We arrived back to the Portage Store at the 3hr mark, happy to see civilization and ready for lunch.

My very awesome adventure partner!

My very awesome adventure partner!


 

I urge anyone who has the chance to check out Algonquin Park to do so, the park is huge, beautiful and peaceful, offering a variety of adventures for the newbies to the professionals. There is always something refreshing about leaving cell service, the comforts of the real world and putting yourself out in the middle of the bush with nature, makes all the stress you hold seem irrelevant. Now….back to the job search….Ugh.

-Chris