Thursday, November 30, 2023

Ski Season is Coming!

We drove to Collingwood the other day, to have lunch with a cousin who faithfully visits twice a year.  We ate at the Eggsmart restaurant, a breakfast and lunch spot that closes at 2.30.  It was a great visit with good food!  On the drive back from Collingwood, a few of the ski runs on Blue Mountain become briefly visible, and they were making snow, reminding me that ski season will soon start.

Here they are, right in front of us.  You may be able to see a bit of blurry snow in places; that's where they have the snowmaking going.

The big resort here, out of sight to the left, is Blue Mountain.  Next come the Toronto and Craigleith Ski Clubs, and then the runs you're seeing here for Alpine Ski Club.  The last one, in the picture below, is Georgian Peaks.  Thus 'Blue Mountain' conveys two different meanings.  First it refers to the entire bedrock outcrop that creates this long north-easterly slope, with its five ski destinations, but second it refers in a more restricted sense to Blue Mountain Resort or just 'Blue'.  'Blue' is the only public ski area; the others are private clubs, with very substantial initiation fees.

You can see the snow-making guns blowing like mad in this picture of 'The Peaks'.  All these clubs as well as the resort work hard to have snow cover in time for Christmas.  The holiday week that follows is their busiest week of the year, and contributes enormously to profitability.

Those of you used to the mountain ski areas of the west, or even the Appalachians, will see these slopes as mickey mouse - but they're all we've got!  The bedrock layer that creates Blue Mountain is the Manitoulin Dolomite formation, a layer at the top of all these slopes; the easily eroded Queenston Shale supports all these (mostly) gentle ski runs.

Looking the opposite direction I managed to get a shot of Georgian Bay without trees in the way.  Here the shoreline you're looking at consists of the very flat layers of the Lindsay Formation. home to many fossils of the Ordovician era, 440+/- million years ago.

Ski season no longer means much to me, though I can still relate to the thrill of swooshing down the hills.  But it means a great deal to the thousands who come here during winter months to enjoy those slopes!

Monday, November 27, 2023

Trout Hollow and John Muir

This hike took place in May 2016, but I'll include it here to round out the story of John Muir at Trout Hollow.  A few months after learning all about the power plant here from my friend Glen, I went on a public walk with Robert Burcher, local author of 'My Summer of Glorious Freedom', the  story of Muir's time in Ontario.  

Bob told us the story of Muir's time in Trout Hollow and pointed out relevant spots as  we walked.  Here he's showing us a map of the valley, including the location of the cabin where Muir stayed, and the sawmill itself.

We walked down through the woods on the same trail as before.  The new beech leaves tell you it's spring.

We came out to the river where you can see the remnant concrete wall of the old dam  on the left.   Muir's cabin was in the forest above the riverbank on the right of the photo, down and to the right of that high bluff.

Here we are in the small spot where the cabin once stood,

If you're wondering how we know this story, Muir himself left a sketch of the cabin, and letters written to people he knew in Meaford.

There has been an archeological dig which revealed shards of pottery from the time.

This would have been the approximate view Muir would have had out through the trees to the passing Bighead River.
And this depression full of tangled trees was the location of the Trout Sawmill.

Bob talked about Muir's plant collecting too, showing us an illustration of his specimen of the rare Walking Fern.  Muir grew up in an intensely religious family, and came to Canada as a conscientious objector during the American Civil War, but his real interest was botany.  The short online biography by the Sierra Club simply leaves out these years.

We came out along the shoreline of the Bighead where we found a beautiful specimen of Serviceberry in full bloom.

Then it was back through the woods and up the now overgrown old road to our cars.  Needless to say I found the walk fascinating and promptly bought a copy of Bob's book.  I knew the story of John Muir of course, as I'd taught environmental science, but I never knew about his time in Ontario.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Favourite Fall Hikes II - Trout Hollow

Just a few days after that last hike, we hiked the Trout Hollow Trail right here in Meaford.  The Trout family sawmill was the place where the famous American conservationist John Muir worked for a year or so in 1864-5, designing a lathe to make broom and rake handles.  The site of both the old sawmill and the cabin he lived in is along the Trout Hollow Trail.  It's also the location of a local hydro project that came 30 years later, in 1904.  There's more tangible evidence of that project than of John Muir's visit!

On our hike we walked in from the 7th Line along an old concession road that once went to the mill.  Eventually we dropped down over the edge to the floodplain below and found this old car.  It hasn't moved in a long time!

We came out to the rapids of the Bighead river right where the old hydro dam ruins stood,  This is a second story from history, superimposed on the story of the Trout family sawmill, and in almost the exact same location.

Glen White, a good friend and a volunteer for the Trout Hollow Trail, was our guide.  Sadly Glen has since passed away, but this hike is one of my best memories of him.  This is one side of the old hydro dam.

Here is Glen showing us the old gates for the hydro holding pond, my best picture of him.

This flat ridge through the woods carried the aqueduct from the hydro holding pond to the power plant.

And this is the big elbow pipe at the end of that aqueduct, forming a big S-shape drop down into the power house.

And here is the one wall of that old powerhouse that is still standing, now in the middle of the forest.

We hiked further along the trail and up a hill to come out at a lookout over the Bighead.

Looking down at the river as closely as I could, this is the channel and all the rocks!  This is not the river you want to canoe, even in high water!

Georgian Bay Milling and Power Company was a private hydro company, which operated from 1904-1923.  It only provided street lighting in Meaford, but lost out to Ontario Hydro when the government subsidized it to provide electricity to rural Ontario. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Favourite Fall Hikes I - Spirit Rock

We're getting to the time of year when I don't get out enough to have current things to post about; yes, 'wheelchair winter' has begun!  But I've got hundreds of photos and great memories of past hikes.  This year I'm drawn to those so I'll be using some of them when I don't have more current things to write about.  Hope you enjoy them. 

It was 9 years ago that I went up to  Wiarton with a friend to hike into Spirit Rock Conservation Area along the Bruce Trail near Wiarton.  Looking back I realize that November and even December were favourite hiking times for me .  I quickly came up with 10 past hikes that I could share with you, so here goes.

 This big tree marked the start of our hike, and beyond it the old barn foundation which we'll revisit later.

It was a typical mid-November day, cold and clear, the trees leafless but the ground covered.

A highlight of this property is a spiral staircase down the cliff!  It's sort of dizzying looking straight down, but one step at a time it's an easy and safe way down the vertical cliff.  And this is the Bruce Trail, marked by that white blaze.

When we got down there we got this spectacular view out Colpoy's Bay, Wiarton out of sight to our right.  This is the narrowest and deepest bay on the east shore of the Bruce Peninsula; you're looking out a good 10 or 15 km..  We walked down the shore trail a fair distance before turning back to that spiral staircase.

Back above the cliff we found the other unique feature of this conservation area, the ruins of the Corran.  Built in the 1880s by local businessman Alexander MacNeill, it was quite the mansion in its time.  

Now it's a ruin, but stabilized so visitors can see it, it reminds you of an earlier era.

Eventually we made our way back to that barn foundation near the start of our hike.  The Bruce Trail has benefitted from many large donations which have allowed the purchase of properties for the trail.  To recognize those donors they erect small plaques like these.  The Peninsula Bruce Trail Club has chosen to group a number of these here beside the old foundation.

The legend of Spirit Rock is that a native maiden fell in love with an enemy chief.  Shunned by her family she leapt to her death from the cliff to the rocks below.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Sloop Glen G

The sloop Glen G is in harbour again for the winter, tied up at the side of the dock beside Richardson's Marine.  Owned privately, it is used as a 'floating cottage' during the summer, based in Collingwood where it attracts some interested visitors.  But it sits here during the winter season, waiting patiently for next year.

I got these pictures a few weeks back, but was remined of them when I got down to the harbour Thursday.  I love the tiny cabin on the old tug. wooden door and all.

The steel-hulled tug was built in Ohio in 1909 as a fishing tug (it's a tug not a sloop if we're going to be accurate).  The steel hull can withstand the winter ice here in the harbour, unlike modern fibreglass sailboats.

Note the big smokestack behind the tiny cabin.  Originally steam-powered, it has long since been converted to diesel.

I took a few photos just for interest.

Green for starboard, red for port.

It has a small aluminum tender.

Block and tackles have always fascinated me.

Thursday was a fabulous day, hitting 15°C, warm enough for me to ride downtown myself.  The floating docks had all been lifted out at the Sailing Club, stacked onshore.

A number of sailboats were up in their winter storage right across the harbour.

It may be some time before we see another warm sunny blue-sky day like this!

If you want to read a little bit more about the owner of the tug Glen G, google "Little tugboat with big adventures", a nice article in Collingwood Today. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

In Search of Those Elusive Sandhill Cranes Again!

Mrs. F.G. saw another Facebook post reporting a Sandhill Crane sighting west of Owen Sound so we went for a drive in search of Sandhill Cranes, our 4th trip this year.  As Mrs. F.G. said, we're just spoiled after seeing about 1000 of them in a field east of Collingwood at this time of year and 500 in a field west of Owen Sound last year.  She's hoped for the same ever since!

We headed for a small crossroads west of Owen Sound, now a roundabout, and drove north.  Soon there was a small flock flying over.  Mrs. F.G. got the first and ultimately the best shot of a small group feeding, heads all down.

There were more feeding in a ploughed field nearby, and in some nearby pasture.

Driving a few nearby concessions we searched for the elusive larger flock, seeing a few small groups, but ending up back at the same spot.  A few threatening clouds along the way!

Right across the road was this enormous cattle operation, with five huge silos and two enormous barns.  It's cattle country all right!

Looking west we counted about 100 altogether, here with a small flock of three birds joining them.

They are a long distance away and don't stand out very well, but there were quite a few.

Friends have asked how to recognize them.  Well, they're huge for a start, about 5 feet tall and with a 6.5 foot wingspan, about the same size as a Great Blue Heron.  They're grey in colour, with a striking deep red patch on their head.  I think of them as a fat Blue Heron.  But their call is unique, a low clattering sound that you will never mistake once you've hear it.  Google the bird and listen to it!  They nest in single scattered pairs, but gather into huge flocks prior to migrating south.

We left the cranes behind and headed home, but were surprised to see a small flock of swans,  These would have been the native Trumpeter or Tundra Swans, also gathering to migrate, here gathered around a low wet depression in a harvested soybean field.

Too far away to even get a clear picture, let along identify which species, but nice to see.

We drove through Kilsyth again on our way home, passing the old general store where my dad grew up.  A very successful adventure, even if we only saw about 100 cranes!