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?

 

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

Backcountry camping at Frontenac

May long weekend is an important milestone here in Canada. Many consider it the unofficial start of summer and/or the opening of the camping season. It certainly was for us until we started camping year round and May 2-4 lost its special status. So we had to rethink its purpose and for the past two years May long weekend has become the opening of the backcountry season.

campsite 4C on Big Salmon Lake at Frontenac Provincial Park Continue reading

The Best of 2016

It’s hard to believe 2016 is drawing to a close. And it was quite a year when it comes to outdoor adventures, both close and far. With a three-week road trip all the way to Los Angeles, lots of camping with family and friends, my first solo trip and endless microadventures, it is next to impossible to narrow down ten best. But I’ll still try.

2016 written in sparkles Continue reading

Fall magic in Killarney

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L.M. Montgomery

Last week, I went for a walk in a nearby park during my lunch hour. It was a beautiful day with summer-like temperatures but the first signs of fall were already present: that earthy smell, the crunch of the first fallen leaves, yellows and reds breaking through the shield of green. That’s when it suddenly hit me that it was already October. I did know the date, of course, after all I have a calendar at work but I’d never fully processed it. Ever since we came back from our road trip, I was thrown in the work vortex . Plus with the deadline for a translation project I am working on fast approaching, the month of September flew by. If it wasn’t for a request to record my favourite summer memory for CBC Radio and to write a piece for Parks Blogger Ontario about the best places to see fall colours, I doubt I would have registered the change of seasons.

A lack of nature was beginning to take its toll, so needless to say I was excited about the upcoming long weekend and our trip to Killarney.

view from Silver Peak in Killarney in the fall

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Paddling my own canoe: my first solo trip in Killarney

“Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!”

The Song My Paddle Sings by E. Pauline Johnson

If you read my previous post, you know that for my 40th birthday I decided to go on my first solo canoe trip in Killarney. Or should I say ended up going, because originally I planned backpacking in Algonquin. I even had sites booked on the Highland Trail. Backpacking seemed easier to execute and required less gear – just two feet and whatever fits into a backpack. Then, after our Killarney trip at the beginning of July, it became clear: I love canoeing way more than backpacking, I love Killarney, and hence I should go canoeing in Killarney. So two weeks before the trip I changed my reservation, got in touch with Killarney Kanoes to book my mode of transportation and started watching Bill Mason’s videos on how to paddle a solo canoe. After some deliberation I decided to go with a solo canoe instead of a kayak for a number of reasons: I prefer canoeing to kayaking, a canoe is easier to portage and easier to pack, i.e. you can just throw stuff in. As a bonus, ‘paddling my own canoe’ works as a figure of speech.

canoeing on Carlyle Lake in Killarney

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On turning 40 and travelling alone

“You don’t have to go, you know,” said my husband as I was preparing for my first solo canoe trip in Killarney.

“I know,” I replied, “but I really want to.”

Good thing he didn’t ask why because I am not sure I would be able to explain.

In books and movies, protagonists usually set out on a solo trip because they find themselves at metaphorical crossroads and feel stuck/confused/lost hoping a solution will reveal itself during those solo nature pursuits.

That wasn’t my story. Apart from occasional detours, the road ahead looked clear if not always level or straight. Sure I was turning 40 but I wasn’t losing sleep over it. I made peace with getting older long time ago. Occasionally I would turn around and think, “Where did the time go?” But then I would look at my children, my husband, my friends, think of all the wonderful things I’ve seen and learned, great trips I’ve taken, and beautiful moments I’ve shared with the people I love and knew: that’s where.

Although, I should say, my 40th birthday did have a role to play in my decision. I felt this important milestone required something bigger and more special than the usual sunrise ritual. So a solo canoe trip it was.

canoeing on Terry Lake in Killarney

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