Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Posts Tagged ‘Hiking


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I have not paid too much attention to this Blog since well before January. Not because I haven’t had anything to say (which is partly true). But blogging, to me, becomes a tad boring (for the writer) if the writer isn’t following a personal message or cause or theme. And I, for one, don’t believe in listing or recounting all that happens to me on a regular basis.

brdfest2What I have been doing on a fairly regular basis, though, is posting a blog for the Huron Fringe Birding Festival ( Not because I am birder but because I’m married to one and she is on the Festival Committee and I let myself be talked into becoming their ‘Blog Master’ as they have titled me.

Birders are interesting people, if not a touch obsessed. Actually a lot of them have become good friends. Their varied backgrounds and varied interests make for good conversation and good laughs. The Festival is over now so more time will be spent literally rambling on metropolitanhomesickblues.

So what has been happening over the many months? Sadly our cat of 19 years has left us. 

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Miss Molly was a clawless, long hair “tort” as they say, a rescue cat my wife brought home one day. She does that sort of thing with animals. Molly and I were buddies. When she wasn’t sleeping she was wherever I was, even in the middle of the night. When she walked into a room she walked to me and demanded (in the voice of her people) that I pick her up to carry her on my shoulder or place her beside me in whatever chair I was sitting in…room for her or not.

When she had had enough of her lazy life, Molly told us. She went quietly. She is well remembered.

A short piece of the Bruce Trail became my responsibility over that period.


I am Trail Captain for a length that runs above the Slough of Despond towards Skinner’s Bluff. Its up on the North Bruce Peninsula and it’s a lovely hike. My duties are to inspect the trail at least three times a year and keep it clear and walkable as it varies from gentle to rocky to wet in the spring. Rest assured there will be words and pictures coming your way as summer unfolds.

Of course, who can forget the now legendary Winter of 2014.

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I can’t remember when it started, but it felt like it lasted forever. The Great Lakes were frozen over. The ice never left Lake Huron until mid May. Blizzards, road and town closures, endless driveway snow blowing, shovels and roof rakes were the norm.


 All of that is past us now. Just had to get it all out of my mind on to the page as an excuse to write this blog.


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Not long ago I stood gazing up at the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment rising high and ragged from the water on the far shore of Colpoys Bay. Not long after I found myself on the top of that same ridge marvelling at a reverse angle view of the small, curved sandy beach where I started.


To get to this point, we entered Hope Bay Provincial Park, followed the Blue Blazes of the Bruce Trail Conservancy until the Hopeness Side Trail led us to this impressive panorama. It wasn’t a rigorous a walk up. That was yet to come when we left the trail and cautiously made our way down the cliff face in search of caves.


We slid over leaf-mulched paths, skated down scree, circumnavigated moss covered boulders, traversed narrow slate strewn passages, free climbed short rock faces and fallen cedars while straight below us, through an occasional break in the trees, the crisp blue water of Georgian Bay sparkled in the sun.

In his essay ‘Walking’ David Henry Thoreau wrote, “When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us if we walked only in a garden or a mall?” This ‘walk’ was certainly no stroll through, “garden or mall’. The land set the pace. We had to measure up to it. Recently, though, I have leisurely strolled through fields and woods, taken walks on back roads, shorelines and town lines.


 In fact Thoreau describes me perfectly when he writes, “…with regard to Nature I live a sort of border life, on the confines of a world into which I make occasional and transient forays only…” Living here in Bruce and Grey County country has made these forays all the more possible.


I have read Bruce Chatwin, Robert Macfarlane, Wade Davis, Edward Thomas and others. I have soaked up Robert Frost’s early poetry. I have lost myself in their stories about tracks and footprints, songlines and journeys into wild places, about their visions of the earth as a network of paths dating far back in prehistory.


And I sometimes find myself regretting that I didn’t follow their lead a lot earlier in life. One must, in the cold face of reality, earn a living and live up to one’s obligations.


At the same time it is important, for the sake of sanity, not to forget that there is another world beyond the borders that now hold most of us back.


The therapeutic nature of walking, out beyond the confines of everyday circumstances and into the land, through fields, footpaths and country roads is restorative. A solitary stroll or hiking in the company of like-minded wayfarers lifts your spirit and lets you leave the known world far behind.




Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

July 5, 2013 at 6:00 PM


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The sun is warm on my back. I am sitting at a picnic table at the edge of the Visitor’s Centre of MacGregor Point Provincial Park. It is the day before the beginning of The Huron Fringe Birding Festival. I’m here to help set up the Registration Tent…actually it’s more like one of those large steel-framed-plastic-covered garages that pop up on driveways all over town come fall. What with all the volunteers, though,  it was up in no time.

Now, I’m whiling away the morning until N. finishes with some organizational details for opening day tomorrow.

The Chickadees are feeding out of my hand. They stay in the park year-round and have no fear of people baring food. Actually, they expect handouts.

It is a spectacular day. Cool and sunny. Traces of wispy cirrus clouds are lying high in an unbelievable blue sky. I walk the trails just to waste time. It is forest-quiet except for bird sounds and bellowing bullfrogs. A turtle sunning itself on a log plops into the pond as I attempt a stealth approach. Overhead a red-winged Blackbird chases a crow. They dive, wheel and bank out over the water in tight formation…aerial acrobatics. The Blackbird wins.

Looking down I spot three brilliant yellow Lady’s Slippers. One must tread carefully out here. The spring wildflowers are starting to show.

Over the next two weekends I won’t be looking at birds. I will be spending a lot of  time looking at nature and the land, hiking the Huron Fringe coastline of Lake Huron and the Bruce Peninsula and trying to learn all about nature photography.

If my pictures are any good, I’ll show them to you. And if this beautiful country shows me anything special, I’ll tell you about that too.

Circumnavigating Georgian Bay

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It was not our initial intention to drive all the way around Georgian Bay. Originally our plan was an out and back route. That is, drive to Tobermory. Take the Chi Cheemaun across the bay to South Beymouth – drive through Manitoulin (the world’s largest fresh water island) – head down to Killarney – then take the same route back home. But, things change and you go where the road takes you

This first day of fall was cool and clear. A half moon was still visible in the full blue sky. The drive up to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula was quick on an empty Highway 6.

Whitecaps on the water and high winds off the bay had forced the glass bottom boats to cancel their tours. N. wondered if this was some kind of an omen. But the Chi Cheemaun is so big and heavy with a full load of cars, trucks and trailers, semis, campers, motorcycles, fuel and passengers, it’s not likely to be grounded under the current conditions,

Standing in the wind facing the loading dock one can’t help being impressed watching this craft come in. Even before it settles into its mooring, the bow opens like some giant sperm whale about to devour krill, raising up almost to the bridge to reveal its vehicle deck.  As soon as it come to a stop it spews out vehicle after vehicle, two-wheel, four wheel, eighteen wheel. Talk about a carbon footprint. It empties and reloads in less than 30 minutes then sets sail again.

We climb to the top deck and a magnificent view. The cold wind and whitecaps are more pronounced but the ship is steady. On one side of us is the vast expanse of Lake Huron stretching to the horizon, sparking in the sun. On the other, the islands of Georgian Bay dot the waterscape. It gives you a safe feeling knowing land is close by.

Without clouds to hold back its heat, the sun beats down reflecting off the steel deck. There is warmth in the air behind the stacks in the stern and people stretch out and doze off on the benches. There is still a bit of wind though and those in shorts and sandals take refuge inside. Those of us who stay will be well wind-burned and sunburned in no time.

After two hours we dock and drive out of the belly of the boat into a packed dock. Vehicles for the return trip are lined up and waiting. This is a busy ferry. The conjestion of cars forbids us to dally. We will have been driving and sailing for seven hours by the time we reach Espanola. That’s as far as we’re going today.


The sun rises above the Domtar stacks – 5 of them – spewing white smoke and steam into the skies over the small town of Espanola. All night long, you hear this white-noise drone and when you realize it is the sound of the stack blowing their residue 24/7 you just shake your head. Sleep was fitful because of this and the sound or 18-wheelers loaded with lumber, rolling up and down Highway 6.

The Mill House B&B ( is on Sheppard Street just off the highway but not far enough off to dull down the noise. ‘Jewel’ is the innkeeper. Her husband has worked at ‘the Mill’ for over 30 years. Her two boys work there in the summer. Most everybody in town works at “the Mill.” Another example of a one-industry town living under the fear that if Domtar’s market share fails and their stock goes down – layoffs sit on the horizon.

Interesting thing is ‘The Mill’ has been around for 104 years. Espanola has only been incorporated as a town for 50 years. From 1943 to 1946 Espanola was home to German Prisoner of War Camp #21. The captured soldiers built the road from Espanola to Manitoulin Island. They even tried to build an escape tunnel. But, they were caught in the act.

 We are in the Mercedes room – the only one with an en  suite. It is quaintly decorated with a canopy bed – wicker  chairs – lots of old photos in antiques frames on loan from  the town museum. There are ‘historical’ knick-knacks all  over the place. It is a comfortable room – charming is how    N. describes it. But, it is not quiet.

 Nonetheless, the sound of smooth jazz filters up the  staircase. As we come down to breakfast I noticed the  speakers hidden behind an antique hutch. In the parlor, a  fire (gas) burned in the white painted brick fireplace. The ambiance gives you a cozy feeling. In the dining room the old oak table featured two full place settings, a full coffee pot, sunflowers in a vase, two glasses of juice and on the white dinner ware two orange yogurt parfaits and a flowery card with a hand written message wishing us a “great day.” This wasn’t your typical ‘serve yourself’ B&B breakfast.

‘Jewel’ appeared and served us each a Brie Omelet dusted with shaved almonds, sausage wontons and toasted 7-grain bread. She followed with fresh baked scones and homemade strawberry preserves. All of this was included in the price of the room – $90.00 for the two of us. If you ever have to spend a night in Espanola I highly recommend you stay at The Mill Bed and Breakfast.


Out of Espanola you pick up The Trans Canada to Highway 69. Drive for a couple of hours then turn down Secondary Highway 637 for a 63 km drive through the fall foliage and granite outcrops to the North Shore of Georgian Bay, past Killarney Provincial park, to Killarney Mountain Lodge.

Originally it was a wilderness hideaway for the Fruehauf family. They make 18-wheelers. They used it as a corporate retreat until the IRS in the U.S. got suspicious. The Feds wondered how the company could write the place off as a manufacturing center when there was no road in and the only way you could get there was by water or air.

True. Until 1962 there was no direct road in to the small fishing town of Killarney. It was founded – way back – as a fur trading post by the Voyageurs. The town survived on its isolation and independence. Today it is still small with a population of 250. The grade school only has 9 students. A lengthy inlet provides safe harbour for all manner of crafts, but it appears that there is only one active fishing boat these days.

The lodge is rustic (read old). It will soon need renovation. Still it sits on a landscape of spectacular vistas of rock, water and sky. They say it is “the quintessential Canadian experience on Georgian bay,” and they are right.

We walked through the tiny village. The harbour docks are the main street. A older woman in an SUV was coming out of a small store with a painful look on her face. She was looking for vinegar. She was putting something down for the winter and had run out. Seems there wasn’t a bottle anywhere in town. The only place she could get what she needed was in Sudbury – two hours away – a four hour round trip. That’s what happens in small towns. 

Killarney inflates with tourists and boaters in the summer. Right now is is quiet.  Silent. Absolutely no traffic sound. Just the sound of water, wind, the call of migrating geese and the odd boat moving up the inlet. I thought Southampton was peaceful. Killarney outclasses it for quietude.

Next day we climbed the Park’s Granite Ridge Trail. It took us up steep, exposed granite rock faces. Gave us sweeping views of Georgian Bay and the white La Cloche Mountains. They say these quartzite hills are 2.1 billion years old and the basis of a mountain range that once pushed up higher than the Rockies. They have aged beautifully.

 That afternoon we got a different view of things. We sailed    through the channel into Killarney Bay. The  shoreline, rock  formations and islands were just as breathtaking. But we  were shocked to see one of the  big islands decapitated by  strip mining. Not what you would expect out here. We also  saw large summer  estates on the shore. Americans owned  them all. You can form your own opinion.


 On our homeward leg we were booked to sail back to  Tobermorey at 3:50 PM. That meant retracing our route and killing a whole day driving and waiting – not getting home until well after 7:00 PM. Our GPS told us we could be home by 3:00 PM if we just followed the shoreline south. We did, going full circle around Georgian Bay and getting back to Southampton well before the ferry even sailed from South Beymouth.

The scenery changed after a while. Four-lane highways are like that. But the serenity of where we were stayed with us. It was a six-hour drive. A round trip of 856 km and two hours of sailing later we were home with impressions of Killarney in the fall still on our minds.







Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

September 27, 2008 at 9:19 PM