Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spirit Rock Staircase and Shoreline

The other interesting part of our hike at Spirit Rock (after yesterday's post on The Corran), was the shoreline on Colpoy's Bay, and the spiral staircase to get down the cliff to see it.  Georgian Bay always looks so good on sunny days, in any season.

There were only 2 or 3 places where you got a view out to the bay from the trail on top of the cliffs as we hiked in, but this is a nice picture looking across to the south shore.  I always love the colour of the water on sunny days.

Then we came to the spiral staircase, and I looked over the edge, unsure of what I'd see.  It turned out to be quite solid, and a quick walk down.  It was entirely steel with steel mesh steps.  It appeared to have been built in place.

Spiral staircases always make interesting patterns.  Do you think this railing would qualify for TexWisGirl's 'Good Fences'?

Once we got down on the shoreline there were beautiful views out across the bay.  Even near noon though, the low angle of the sun at this time of year creates a sharp contrast in the light. 

This is the route of the main Bruce Trail, with the white blazes, in contrast to the blue-blazed side trail up above.  It looked like a tunnel through the cedars, just 20 feet in from the water.

But there were several gaps in the trees that provided a chance for more pictures, here looking out to the far northeast end of Colpoy's Bay.  Skinner's Bluff is on the right, and Malcolm Bluff on the left.  The Bruce Trail follows both of those in a huge curve around the bay, right through downtown Wiarton.

It wasn't a storm, but there was enough wind to form small whitecaps, the wind coming down out of the northeast.  I've slowly learned to include more foreground in pictures like this, and adjust the depth of field for the foreground to be in focus.

Then it was back to that spiral staircase and up the cliff.  We headed north along the trail out to Colpoy's Bay Road where we had left the car.  This was certainly one of my more interesting hikes along the Bruce Trail, with full credit to my hiking buddy for choosing this location.  I think I'll be going back to explore, perhaps with my Photography Group.


We're having a brief warm but wet break in the weather today.  It rained almost all day and the snow is 90% gone, just small patches left.  And it hit 10°C.  Same is forecast for tomorrow.  Left my phone at our daughter's Tuesday, and she shipped it home to me.  It arrived today.  The Post Office now has specific small boxes for shipping cellphones - I guess lots of old fogies like me forget their phones and leave them behind!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Corran

The Corran, the ruined mansion we found in the Spirit Rock Conservation Area, is a fascinating place.  It brings to life a picture of life in the late 1800's here, that is such a contrast with today.  These historical buildings in the landscape that reflect a vanished past always give a deeper picture of what you're seeing today.

This was the original front of the house, facing the cliff and Colpoy's Bay about 100 yards away (but now all regrown in trees).  These steps were the main entrance, and there was a front porch, including a conservatory on the left.

And here's a historic picture, taken from the display board, showing the same view of the house before  it started to go downill.  It was built in the late 1800's by Alexander McNeill, and his wife Hester.  She was really the reason for the mansion.

Inside this wall on the main floor was the library, and on the outer wall are two information plaques, one a floorplan of the house and the other some historical details.  Inside the library was apparently the largest collection of books north of Toronto at the time, according to the plaque below.

The description makes it sound like a grand mansion indeed, with large garden parties, and features such as stained glass, carvings and good china in the house.  Apparently there was an amazing collection of rose bushes on the grounds.

This back part of the house was the kitchen.  Undoubtedly there was a group of servants who allowed the owners to live a life of luxury.  There are a number of places where you can see evidence of old fireplaces or chimneys too.

 I was really impressed with the stonework, parts of which have held together well.  The limestone blocks were quarried on the site, and there would have been numerous stonemasons available to do such work among early Irish and Scots immigrants to Ontario.  In the shadowed part of this picture there was also a grand spiral wooden staircase to the second floor.

As is typical of old buildings on public land where there's an effort to save the ruins, the walls are capped with cement to stop frost damage, and prevent further deterioration.  Most of the old buildings I've seen this on though are old mills, not houses.  The house still had a roof, but was otherwise abandoned and in poor condition by 1974, and then there was a fire in 1976.  You can see how the cut stone blocks were just an outer facing, as we use brick today, with rougher stone used for the interior wall which would have been all plastered and wallpapered.

There's also an old stable block or barn in somewhat poorer condition.

If you look at this, you'll get some idea of how long it's been abandoned, with the trees growing inside it.  At least 40 or 50 years I think.

The stonework of this building is not nearly as carefully done as is the house.  It's much more reminiscent of barn foundations I've seen, whereas the house had that outer covering of cut stone blocks.  For some reason I'm always fascinated by window and door frames in these old foundations.

Out in the parking lot, we found this request for a fee from visitors using the parking lot in the summer.  I've never before seen the opportunity to use your smartphone to pay admission!

Eventually, after my partner thought I had enough photos, we headed back to the main trail and north to the cars.  This was our final view of The Corran through the trees.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spirit Rock Hike

A week ago a friend and I hiked into the Spirit Rock Conservation Area on the Bruce Trail, just north of Wiarton.  We never actually did get to 'Spirit Rock', but we had a great walk and saw some really interesting features of this unique property.

The entrance at the Conservation Area was closed for the season, so we drove around the corner to the view over Colpoy's Bay, where the Bruce Trail crosses the road, and headed south.

We walked in past this beautiful huge old Sugar Maple, and the barn foundation beyond, on an old farm property now owned by the Bruce Trail Conservancy.

We soon came to a small patch of woods that had obviously been grazed in the recent past, not a single sapling or seedling to be seen - even though this is right at the edge of the cliff.  My hiking buddy was really impressed with this big limestone erratic, which he lovingly described as a 'monadnock'.

After a fair walk, we came to a spiral staircase down the cliff!  I'd heard about this, but never seen it and certainly not used it, so it was fun to wind our way down, around two complete circles, to the bottom.  There was still a big chunk of rocky talus slope to work our way down to the shoreline.

The shoreline was spectacular, and the weather was spectacular too, one of the nicest days I can ever remember in November.  The trail follows the shoreline south toward Wiarton, and I got several pictures looking out the bay to the northeast.

Behind us, the limestone cliff towered up against the blue sky.   Spirit Rock is a lookout on this cliff where an Indian maiden is said to have thrown herself to her death when not allowed to marry a warrior from another tribe.

We never got to Spirit Rock because we interrupted our hike to explore the 'Corran', an old stone ruin seen looming through the trees along the trail here.

The Corran was a huge stone mansion, built during the 1880's by Alexander McNeill, and named after his birthplace in Ireland.  As a ruin it has been stablized, and you can wander what were once the rooms of this remarkable house, now standing in the middle of the woods.  I'll give you some details and more pictures tomorrow.

After nearly two hours (my hiking buddy is very good about finding me photographic opportunities), we headed back north to the car, passing by that erratic we saw earlier.  By now the 'monadnock' had morphed into a small field of 'multiple mini-monadnock's' according to my guide (who obviously isn't a geologist!).  But he led us on a great hike, and we'll definitely be going back here.  I still have to see Spirit Rock.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Snow Continues

Yesterday's pictures record just a nice dusting of snow, enough to create some interesting patterns in the meadow and garden.  But last night and today we had more serious snow, from 8-12 inches.  It was hard to deal with because the first few hours were such wet snow, leaving a slushy first inch when I tried to shovel it.  But it brought some beautiful winter pictures!

The meadow out back was covered in snow this morning.  And we had alternating snow flurries as the lake-effect streamers blew over, with sunny periods which allowed for great pictures.

The first heavy snowfall over the meadow leaves an interesting lumpy, hummocky pattern, as the snow starts to pack down the standing weeds and grass.  Eventually it will be all flat.

My favourite summer sitting spot with its winter blanket.  Last year the arms of those chairs eventually disappeared under the snow.

And this is the same view of the old stone fencerow that I showed yesterday, buried under 10" of snow rather than decorated with a dusting.

Hawthorn trees seem to catch the snow better than others, with their fine little twigs and tendency to have horizontal branches.

I don't think I ever noticed this view before, catching the shed between the two metal stands that Clematis grows on.

Another bench I rest on sometimes between bouts of weeding in the garden.

The main garden itself is starting to disappear under the white.

And how's this for a late afternoon snow flurry cloud blowing away to the east!


Spent most of the day either working with the snowblower or snow-throwing shovel, in between taking breaks.  That's one winter chore that I don't enjoy, but it needs to be done.  I'm working on garden pictures from our travels in England, preparing a Life Long Learning Series for this winter.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


I had something else in mind, but since it's been snowing a few hours now, and this is a blog about the seasons, I thought I'd better give you the pleasure of enjoying some snow pictures - especially those of you in sunny climes where you don't get to see this every day for most of 4 months.  So here's a special winter treat, the early hours of our first real winter storm (even though we had an earlier snowfall back in late October).

The early snow on our fencerow outlines all the big boulders in white.  It had only been snowing very lightly for an hour of two at this point.

 The whole meadow was starting to turn from brown to white, epitomized by this dry stalk of grass.

And there were lots of interesting patterns in the garden as the snow started to accumulate, here on the Buddleia, a far cry from its bright blooms attracting passing monarchs couple of months ago..

Every seedhead of the False Sunflowers was decorated with a small cap of white.
And the meadow out back had started its transformation from brown to white, developing a gentle frosty appearance..

I took this comparison shot two hours later, just as the light was starting to fade.  These two are actually taken from the upstairs window; the snow outlines the paths I mow.  But why does this second group of photos have a distinctly blue tone?  I think the light at this season just does strange things.

By this point the snow in the meadow was starting to look a lot more white, like this on the Goldenrods.  It's wet snow that's sticking to everything.

The snow always seems to show off the patterns of the branches in the old Apple trees.    

And the butterfly in our garden now looks white.  The heaviest snow is forecast overnight, and it may continue with renewed lake effect flurries for 2-3 days, so I may get some 'after' photos to show you the accumulation.  Hope you all enjoyed this unique opportunity to see the beauty of winter!


It's the season for Christmas craft sales, so we headed for Priceville this morning and picked up some of our usual gifts - handmade mitts, Christmas ornaments, and this time some wooden toys.  Of course a county sale like this comes complete with the chance to have coffee and a muffin, or even lunch.  So I get to sit at a table enjoying my coffee and relax, while my wife visits her favourite vendors.  (And every now and then I'm sent out to the car with purchases, or to find more cash).  That's my kind of Christmas shopping!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hogg's Falls

A few weeks ago, back in October actually, I stopped by Hogg's Falls to check a geocache, and took long enough to snap a few pictures of the falls too.  I've been practicing using slow speeds to get those nice misty waterfall pictures.

This is the usual view of the falls.  It's an easy short walk from the parking lot, and you can safely stand at the top of the falls to get a picture.  It's a straight vertical drop about 20 feet to the ravine below.

But if you're a little more adventurous, you can climb down a short cliff to the stream below.  It's not difficult, as there are shelves in the limestone to step on, and someone has tied a rope that provides a handhold.

Once you're down there you get a view from below the falls.  I didn't take my tripod, so these are all just handheld, and the exposures are 1/4 seconds long.  I'm practicing holding the camera steady enough to enable that, and it works.

I always take more pictures than I need to, but it's fun nonetheless!  There's some interesting history of an old mill built here by William Hogg in the late 1800's.  I'm going to have to read up on that so I can share that story too.

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