Geocaching at Rockwood: Adventure with a side of science

The first fall weekend this year felt more like mid-August bringing us two of the hottest days of 2017. I will admit camping was on my mind for most of those two days. But with Great Lakes Water Walk scheduled for Sunday, we didn’t have time to go anywhere. Instead we decided to launch the fall season of microadventures.

Rockwood Conservation Area

We opened our fall season of microadventures at Rockwood Conservatio Area

After some discussion, we settled on Rockwood Conservation Area. We visited Rockwood once before but that was in the middle of the winter right at the beginning of our geocaching adventures. We didn’t have a GPS unit yet so most of our geocaching was based on guesses and clues. We did manage to locate two caches during that visit but there were a lot more waiting for us. A few of those were hidden on small islands scattered around Eramosa River that runs through the park. So some canoeing was in order, and with 30+ temperatures we couldn’t have picked a better day for it.

canoeing at Rockwood Conservation Area

Some geocaches at Rockwood required a bit of paddling

When we arrived in the park, we were greeted with screams of joy and an omnipresent smell of BBQ. The park was buzzing with people and geese. Luckily, the former were concentrated around the beach area: sunbathing, swimming and picnicking. And the latter didn’t bother us too much.

beach at Rockwood Comservation area

The park was teeming with people…

Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area   Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area

…and geese

Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area   Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area

Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area   Geese at Rockwood Conservation Area

We rented a canoe (luckily Rockwood has a large fleet of both canoes and kayaks) and set out in search of geocaches. Before I proceed, I have to warn all geocachers who haven’t visited Rockwood yet: spoilers abound ahead. If you have tried geocaching at Rockwood, we’d like to hear about your experience. Ours was a blast!

canoeing at Rockwood Conservation area

canoeing at Rockwood Conservation Area    canoeing at Rockwood Conservation Area

Rockwood Conservation Area

Canoeing on Eramosa River past limestone cliffs and caves

The first geocache had the highest difficulty level and a cryptic clue about needing all ten fingers and something in your backpack to retrieve the cache, and the bigger that something was, the less time it would take. Turned out it was a long pipe attached to a tree. The trick was to fill the tube with water to get the cache float to the top while keeping the holes at the bottom plugged to prevent the water from escaping. A perfect puzzle for a science teacher so my husband joined our son to help retrieve the cache while I observed from the canoe.

Luckily we had a good size water bottle so the experiment didn’t take them long. Filled with a sense of accomplishment, we proceeded towards our next goal. This one was hidden in a cave close to the waterfalls.

waterfalls at Rockwood Conservation area

waterfalls at Rockwood Conservation Area    wading in Eramosa River at Rockwood

Pretty little waterfalls, a great spot for wading and splashing

We tried to get to it the last time we visited but it didn’t work out well in the winter. The waterfalls turned out to be a pretty busy spot with people coming to splash and wade around. So we ran into a bit of a canoe jam as we tried to disembark. Our son made a foray into the cave but quickly returned chased out by spiders. So his dad stepped in and the cache was successfully located.

geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area   geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area

geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area   geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area

Some geocaches required climbing into spider-infested caves

Our final water cache was not particularly unique except for being located on an aptly named Goose island. Once our son found it, we paddled back to the beach to return the canoe and have a snack.

The final portion of the day was dedicated to collecting land-based caches — six in addition to the three we found on the water. Some were pretty straightforward. There was another geocache tucked in a tube, which required strong lungs to get to. And one that demanded some tree climbing skills.

hiking at Rockwood Conservation Area

The Cedar Ridge Trail was a great place to end our microadventure

hiking at Rockwood Conservation Area  hiking at Rockwood Conservation Area

Some geocaches were hidden along trails…

geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area

…some required strong lungs…

geocaching at Rockwood Conservation Area

…while others called for a bit of climbing

Along the way we also caught some great views of Eramosa River, mill ruins, limestone cliffs and crevices, and, of course, Rockwood’s signature potholes.

view of Eramosa River at Rockwood Conservation River

Rockwood’s limestone cliffs reflected in Eramosa River

view from Lookout at Rockwood Conservation Area   view from Lookout at Rockwood Conservation Area

View of the river and kayakers from a lookout point along the Cedar Ridge Trail

limestone cliffs at Rockwood Conservation Area

Rockwood’s limestone cliffs and tenacious cedars

mills ruins at Rockwood Conservation Area   mills ruins at Rockwood Conservation Area

mills ruins at Rockwood Conservation Area   mills ruins at Rockwood Conservation Area

The Harris Mill Ruins, another of Rockwood’s landmarks

potholes at Rockwood conservation area

potholes at Rockwood conservation area   potholes at Rockwood conservation area

Rockwood is home to over 200 glacial potholes

All in all an amazing start to our fall microadventures. Here is to an even greater season of nature quests. What is your favourite nature spot close to home?


Camping in Gatineau: Caves, ruins and other adventures

Saying goodbye to summer is never easy even if fall promises cooler temperatures, bug-free hikes and a magical display of colours. For our last long weekend of the summer, we headed to Gatineau Park, just outside of Ottawa. We fell in love with Gatineau during our New Year’s trip and decided to check it out in other seasons as well.

Lac Philippe in Gatineau Park

Philippe Lake in Gatineau Park

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Great Lakes Water Walk: #BecauseOfWater

Nibi, Gizaagi’igo, Gimiigwechiwenimigo, Gizhawenimigo

Water, we love you, we thank you, we respect you

Nibi Nagamowin (The Water Song)

We make our way through J.C. Saddington park to the waterfront where beautiful Lake Ontario stretches before our eyes. Bathed in early morning light, its waters glisten and melt into the coral sky.

Lake Ontario in the morning

Lake Ontario bathed in morning light, one of the reasons we joined Great Lakes Water Walk

These waters that feed our bodies and souls are the reason we are here so early on a Sunday morning, on what will turn out to be the hottest day of the year. Because of Water, we are part of the Nibi Mosewin Onji Nayaano-nibiimaang Gichigamiin Great Lakes Water Walk, an Indigenous-led event calling on people of all creeds and ancestries to honour, respect and protect water.

#BecauseofWater sign Great Lakes Water Walk  Water is Life sign Great Lakes Water Walk

Great Lakes Water Walk

We walk #BecauseOfWater

Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island have always believed that Water or Nibi is alive. It has its own spirit, it has memory. Once upon a time the rest of us knew it too. But somewhere along the way we forgot. We gave in to our economic system that demanded everything should have a price. So we imprisoned water into plastic and attached a price tag. We disrespect this precious gift, pollute our oceans with garbage, and turn our rivers and lakes into toxic sludge. Forgetting that if our waters are sick, then so are we. We are almost 70 per cent water after all.

mural in Marie Curtis Park

It’s time we re-imagined our relationship with Water

Fortunately, that memory of the sacred spirit of Water still lives inside us. In all those modern day  rituals that involve water. In crowds that flock to lakes, rivers and oceanside to splash, swim, paddle or simply sit by the edge and listen.

Great Lakes Water Walk

Hundreds of people joined the walk to show respect for and commit to protect Water

It is those memories that brought together hundreds of people to walk with Grandmother Josephine and other elders in honour of the Great Lakes. Water Walks were started by Anishinaabe Elder from Manitoulin Island Josephine Mandamin who in 2003 began her trek around Lake Superior to raise awareness around the need to respect and protect this magnificent body of water. Since then, she has walked around all five Great Lakes and along St. Lawrence River. Her colossal endeavour has also inspired water walks all through Turtle Island. For Toronto, however, this event was first of a kind inviting people to honour the beautiful Lake Ontario and multiple streams and rivers  — the lifelines of our city.

mouth of credit river in the morning    mouth of Etobicoke Creek

mouth of Mimico Creek    Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario and multiple streams and rivers, Toronto’s lifelines

The Great Lakes Water Walk started in two groups in the opposite ends of Greater Toronto Area, collecting water in copper buckets from Credit and Humber in the West, Rouge and Don River in the east, eventually coming together at the foot of Toronto and culminating in a water blessing ceremony and a celebration.

Great Lakes Water Walk

  Great Lakes Water Walk  Great Lakes Water Walk

Great Lakes Water Walk

Two groups of water walkers come together for a water blessing ceremony and celebration

We joined the western group, small at first but steadily growing as we made our way along the 20 kilometre route. Just like a small stream burgeons, eventually turning into a mighty river.

Great Lakes Water Walk   Great Lakes Water Walk

Great Lakes Water Walk   Great Lakes Water Walk

Our group of walkers kept growing like a stream burgeoning into a river 

We walked through parks and residential areas, across bridges and along the waterfront. Lake Ontario never too far away, shimmering, dancing, whispering of other waters near and far.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario, always closeby, whispering of other waters near and far

It whispered of the sweet, crystal clear water in my grandparents’ well. That first refreshing sip I can almost taste. My reflection shimmering in a bucket. Water splashing down my legs as I carry the bucket into the house. Of a lively brook that hugged my grandparents’ orchard. I loved wading through it, my feet numb with cold, picking leaves of mint that grew along the edge, rubbing them between my fingers to release the smell. Of a restless mountain river that ran through the city of my childhood. Of all the powerful, relentless streams around the world that carve rocks and cut through stone.

River Prut in Chernivtsi Ukraine

River Prut, the river of my childhood

Of the awe-inspiring expanse of Great Lakes and enticing waters of their smaller cousins across Ontario. The waters that I have so often explored in a canoe. The waters that have soothed me, wrapped me in their morning mist, and tested my resolve and stamina on more than one occasion. Of the joyful singing of a waterfall in the spring and of crushing waves of the Atlantic. Of the water’s playfulness and its power to soothe and heal.

misty morning on Carlyle Lake in Killarney   early morning paddle at Point Grondine

view of Lake Superior from Sleeping Giant    playing in Lake Michigan

Water nourishes our bodies and souls, heals and inspires us,  brings peace and joy

As we near the end of the walk, I remember the Wave Sound sculpture by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore. We came across it in Gros Morne park, one of the four installed across Canada. These huge cones urge visitors to pause and listen: to the ocean washing the shores of Gros Morne, to the mountain lake in the Rockies, to mighty Lake Superior in Pukaskwa and magnificent waters of Georgian Bay. The Water speaks to us. It’s time we stopped and listened. Time we re-imagined our relationship with Water and showed her respect she deserves.

Wave Sound sculpture in Gros Morne

Sound Wave sculpture in Gros Morne: Water speaks to us — time we listened 

To learn more about the Great Lakes Water Walk and what actions you can take to honour and protect water, visit


Our road trip to Newfoundland – Part II: Life on island time

Welcome to part II of our Newfoundland trip highlights. Part I was all about glorious landscapes, incredible trails and curious wildlife. (If you haven’t read it, you can find it here). But, of course, Newfoundland is no deserted island. Connecting with people who live there and learning about Newfoundland’s human history and culture were among our most memorable moments of the trip.

Salvage in Newfoundland   old boat near Lobster Cove in Newfoundland

Quidi Vidi Village in St. John`s, Newfoundland   fishing village in newfoundland Continue reading

Our road trip to Newfoundland – Part I: Icebergs, whales and trail tales

Here I am again, at the corner of Lawrence and Dufferin, waiting for the light to change. Our three-week trip to Newfoundland seems like a distant memory even though we just came back. It feels as if I’ve never left this intersection. I also feel like I’ve been gone for years. Both. At the same time. Long road trips do that to you. They fly by while also stretching time to infinity.

watching sunset in J.T.Cheeseman Park in Newfoundland

Watching our last sunset in Newfoundland — seems so long ago

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Waterways to solitude and adventure: Camping at Point Grondine

We huff and puff as we make our way down a muddy, rocky path to Mahzenazing Lake at Point Grondine Park. Mosquitoes and all sorts of flies take advantage of our constraints: it’s hard to swat bugs when your arms are full of paddles and dry sacks or if you are carrying a canoe on your back. These feel like the longest 1,200 metres in our lives. The blue of the lake peeking through the trees is the most welcome sight.

But let me backtrack a little.

canoe with reflection in the water Continue reading