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?

 

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

Winter adventures at Silver Creek and Terra Cotta

Those who have been following this blog are aware of my frustrations with the extremely un-wintery behaviour of this year’s winter, at least in my part of the world, and the extent to which we’d been going to find even a little bit of snow. So you can imagine my delight when we woke up to a major snowfall this past Sunday. We knew this winter spike might no last long so we dropped all our chores and headed outside. It was magical.

snowfall 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

Our search for beauty at Eramosa Karst

As someone very accurately pointed out in their comment to one of my previous posts, November is not the prettiest of months. Devoid of colour, without any kind of cover‎, be it foliage or snow, November landscapes stand with all their sharp edges and irregularities exposed, looking vulnerable and lackluster. While this year we’ve been extremely lucky (the planet not so much) with warm weather and fall colours lasting longer than usual, November inevitably arrived undressing the trees and injecting notes of melancholy into the air. Determined not to give in to its mournful call, we set out in search of beauty.

Eramosa Karst Continue reading

We are going on a treasure hunt: geocaching and hiking at Mount Nemo and Rattlesnake Point

People sometimes ask me how we choose locations for our microadventures. Well, there are a number of considerations: closeness to Toronto, whether we’ve been to the place before (although we do like to go back to the same places, especially in different seasons), the number and length of hiking trails, etc. The decisive factor, however, is the number of geocaches hidden around.

geocaching at Mount Nemo

When people hear about geocaching, quite often they reply with “oh, yeah, it’s like Pokémon Go.” Uh, no, geocaching is nothing like Pokémon Go. Well, there are some similarities: in both cases you are looking for something while using technology. But that’s where similarities end. The geocaching ‎website calls it the world’s largest treasure hunt, and that’s how I see it – a treasure hunt where the biggest treasure you discover is connections (and an occasional trinket that you can swap for something of your own). That means connections to the environment as you need to observe various land forms and natural features, be able to use a compass and read clues. Plus each geocache is a real physical object, not a figment of someone’s imagination on the screen, so by locating it you are connecting not only with whoever placed it there but also hundreds of geocachers who have found it before and will find it after you.

For the record, I am not anti Pokémon Go. At least it gets people outside (although I am not sure if it’s even a thing anymore). I just think geocaching is way more fun.

How we headed for Mount Nemo and ended up at Rattlesnake Point

So a few weeks ago we were all set to go geocaching, and hiking, at Mount Nemo Conservation Area in Burlington. We visited Mount Nemo before but that was in our pre-geocaching days so there were 15 still undiscovered caches waiting. Then, on the way to the park our son realized that he’d left his geocaching pack at home. Going back would’ve taken too much time so we decided to put off the Mount Nemo adventure for next week and go to Rattlesnake Point instead. Sure, we wouldn’t be geocaching but there were other cool things to discover.

map of Rattlesnake Point

We visited Rattlesnake Point last year, but this time it looked completely different, way more festive with most of its fall foliage still in the trees, a lot of it still, surprisingly, green.

Rattlesnake Point in the fall

hiking at Rattlesnake Point   hiking at Rattlesnake Point

hiking at Rattlesnake Point

hiking at Rattlesnake Point

Rattlesnake Point in the fall   Rattlesnake Point in the fall

hiking at Rattlesnake Point

We started with the Buffalo Crag Trail, which led us to the lookout over the Nassagaweya Canyon. There is a seven-kilometre Nassagaweya Trail that connects Rattlesnake Point to Crawford Lake ‎Conservation Area but it was too late in the day to embark on that adventure.

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

enjoying the view from Rattlesnake Point

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

fall at Rattlesnake Point

So we retraced our steps back to the Rattlesnake Point lookout and then proceeded onto the Vista Adventure Trail. It took us to the Nelson, Pinnacle and Trafalgar lookouts over the Lowville Valley where we could see Mount Nemo in the distance.

Rattlesnake Point

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall   view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall   view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

view from Rattlesnake Point in the fall

Our son tried a bit of climbing, we took a few photos and then it was time to go back.

rock cliffs at Rattlesnake Point

rock cliffs at Rattlesnake Point   rock cliffs at Rattlesnake Point

hiking at Rattlesnake Point

We took the wrong turn on our way out of the park and ended up touring the campground area. Most of the sites were occupied. They also looked quite spacious and private so I thought with it being only 30 minutes away from Toronto, Rattlesnake Point could be a great spot for a very last minute ‎unplanned getaway.

Mount Nemo, finally

Next week we were back on the road to Mount Nemo, this time making sure we brought the geocaching pack.

map of Mount Nemo

It was an unusually warm November day. The ground was covered with a thick leaf carpet, but there was also lots of foliage still holding on to the trees and with sunlight seeping through the forest was glowing.

fall at Mount Nemo conservation area

hiking at Mount Nemo in the fall   hiking at Mount Nemo

forest in the fall

fall at Mount Nemo conservation area

Albert Camus once called autumn “the second spring where every leaf is a flower.” There were also a few actual flowers scattered between those autumn blooms.

fall foliage

fall foliage   red oak leaves

yellow oak leaves    fall leaves

flowers    yellow maple leaf

flower among fall leaves   red sumac

My favourite part was the birch ‎grove: the sparkling white of the bark against ‎the bright yellows and the geometry of shadows.

fall at Mount Nemo conservation area

And, of course, the views: the checked spread of the  Lowville Valley down below with Rattlesnake Point on the other side this time.

enjoying the view from Mount Nemo

view from Mount Nemo in the fall   view from Mount Nemo in the fall

enjoying the view from Mount Nemo

view from Mount Nemo in the fall

view from Mount Nemo in the fall   view from Mount Nemo Conservation area

view from Mount Nemo in the fall

The park has two loops: North and South. We covered them both, some parts twice, in search of geocaches.

fall at Mount Nemo conservation area

hiking at Mount Nemo   hiking at Mount Nemo

fall at Mount Nemo conservation area

In the end we found seven and also scored a few geocaching firsts along the way, like the largest cache we’ve ever seen.

geocaching at Mount Nemo   geocaching at Mount Nemo

We also met some fellow geocachers. Let me‎ backtrack a little to explain something about geocaching. Somehow our son believes it is a super secret activity. Never mind that it has its website and lots of places, like the Conservation Halton parks, promote geocaching as one of the activities to try. He continues to insist on being discrete, whenever he is looking for geocaches. Which is not always easy with all the people around and it is often our role to provide distractions. So when we came across a couple looking all shifty and pretending they were just hanging around near the spot where a cache was supposed to be, we recognized fellow geocachers. After about five minutes of our two groups circling around the area pretending we weren’t looking for anything in particular, someone had to finally say: “I think we are looking for the same thing.” Eventually we located the cache, signed in and moved on. We kept seeing their nickname on the other caches we found later that day. As I said, connections…