Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bottle Lake Part 2

Bottle Lake scenery

For the second time in his young life Jake got to go for a paddle in a canoe! When he was just 8 months old I took him for a short ride in the kayak, which he did not like at all. I think it was the life jacket, more than the ride, that he objected to! Earlier this summer I took him for a short paddle out at the Garden Hill pond and he seemed quite happy with that. Isaiah, at the ripe old age of 5 is a seasoned veteran in the canoe and contributes mightily with his own paddle! Sunday, we decided to load up the family and return to Bottle Lake for a day trip. We packed a lunch, our life jackets, paddles, extra clothes, camera, first aid kit, etc. We needed the big canoe for this expedition!! After last week I had no problem finding the place, and the scenery of the drive during daylight was nice.
The big canoe weighs about three times as much as the little one, which meant the carry down to the water was a little rougher. I realize I am getting older when I start dreaming of a canoe that is lighter than the 85 lbs. of this one. I cannot complain, as it is 35 years old and is stable and seaworthy, both good qualities when you have young kids aboard. Today's materials, however make for much lighter boats.
As we pushed off from the beach it was overcast but the rain held off for us all day. We paddled down the lake, and Jake sat quite still on his own little bench for the first while as he took in the sights of the lake. Eventually he decided that he wanted to sit beside his big brother.

The boys!

After shifting things around a bit he was content on the big boys seat. We carried on down to the Sucker lake portage and stretched the boys legs with the short walk across. Had the weather looked more promising we may have carried the canoe over and done some exploring of this lake. As it was it looked as if it could rain on us at any moment so we decided to save that bit of the world to explore the next time. The boys had a great time climbing on the rock at the Sucker Lake end and had fun throwing acorns into the lake.

The intrepid explorers!

Kids just love getting out into nature and these two were having a ball! Eventually however we got hungry and headed back to the canoe. We paddled over to one of the campsites and broke out our picnic lunch.


The campsite was on a rocky point of land, and quite large, and although there was no real areas to put a large tent you could easily set up half a dozen small ones. It did have a fire pit and a picnic table and the fresh air had given us all a good appetite so we dug in to our lunch! After eating the boys did what boys like to do! Climb on rocks! I can't fault them as it is still one of my fave activities too!


The canoe in the bay!

After lunch back in the canoe and a bit more exploring, checking out some of the sandy beaches, and looking at the colours of the trees we decided to head back to the landing before the rain came! On the way we were discussing future plans of returning in swimming weather, coming back for some overnight camping, bringing the kayaks, etc! That is one problem with visiting the wild areas anywhere in Ontario. It always leaves you wanting! Wanting to come back for more, that is! And we will be back! The boys both had a great time and so did Lianna and I!

Fall colours!

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bottle Lake

I have had the itch to go for a paddle lately! Not that that is unusual! Since moving up to the Bowmanville region, I have been interested in the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. It is, approximately, a two hour drive from my house. This park is not operational yet. There are no services and the only camping is in the interior sites, first come, first served. Next spring they will be reserving and charging for, these sites, just like the other parks such as Algonquin and Killarney. I have to admit I am of mixed minds on that. On the one hand with reservations will come some level of maintenance from the MNR. On the other it means planning your trips five months in advance.
Anyways, for a variety of reasons I hadn't made it up to this park yet! Today, I left the house at 5 AM and headed north. There are a variety of access points, but I chose Bottle Lake. Never having been, I didn't find the correct spot until almost 730 AM. When I did it was beautiful!! The weather gods smiled on me today!! I will be back with the entire family!!!

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Migration Time!

Male Monarch Butterfly, Danaus plexippus. The dots on the hindwing indicate the male.

Last night at around 5 PM I was in the yard and happened to look up. The sky was dark, and the clouds were low, looking like imminent rain. Against the clouds were, what I estimate conservatively to be, 200 Broad-Winged Hawks. They were circling and soaring and moving west along the north shore of Lake Ontario. Hawks will not fly over large bodies of open water if they have a choice so here in Ontario the hawks migrate south until they reach Lake Ontario and then fly west. Once past the west end they will turn south again until they reach Lake Erie where they will again turn west. This tends to create concentrations of raptors along the northern shores of the lakes. In a few places such as Cranberry Marsh in Whitby, Rosetta Maclain park in Scarborough, and Hawk Cliff south of St. Thomas, birdwatchers have organized fall hawk counts. If you are interested they will welcome you and point out some of the hawks as they fly overhead. For more info check this document.
Birds aren't the only migrants right now. This morning I took the boys for a little walk to Samuel Wilmot Nature Area in Newcastle. The place was alive with Monarch butterflies. In the hour that we were there I would guesstimate seeing 200 of them. They didn't seem to be actively migrating at the moment, more feeding up, but I imagine as soon as the winds are favourable they will be on there way south to Mexico.
What made it more interesting was the nummber of other butterflies that were about this morning. In one spot I saw Monarchs, Mourning Cloak, Red Admiral, Question Mark, and Viceroy as well as Cabbage and Sulphur butterflies. There were also a few Pearl(?) Crescents around to represent the smaller butterflies.

Question Mark, Pologonia interrogationis

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

As well as all the butterflies there was a tremendous number of large dragonflies flying about. I am afraid I cannot ID the dragonflies but there were blue and green darners as well as a few others such as the one pictured below! There were also 7 or 8 hummingbirds going thru which made for some interesting dragonfly vs hummingbird encounters.

Unidentified Dragonfly

PS did some 'net research' and think the above dragonfly is a 12 Spotted Skimmer.
So this gist of migration time is to keep your eyes up and down and to the side. Heck, just keep them open!!!

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trail Running and.... er... Bears!!!!!

When I turned 40 I took up running again, after not running since my late teens. In the 13 years since then I have run a number of 5K races, a few 10Ks a Ten Miler and a couple of Half Marathons. However I must admit that I haven't been a consistent runner by any means. For many of those years I had a dog, a Weimaraner, which kept me running at least semi-regularily. Our run of choice was the trails along the Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines, where I lived at the time. Since then I have been partial to trail running. As much as I enjoy it I still don't run exclusively on trails for a number of reasons. The number one reason is that I don't have to drive anywhere to go for a run on the roads/sidewalks in my neighbourhood. If I lived at the trailhead I might never run on the roads again or even if I lived a klik away. However the nearest nice trail run to my house is about 6 km away. So when things are right and I have the time I will jump in the car and go for a run in the forest. If you are a runner and have done any trail running you really don't need me to explain why you should try it. If however you haven't here are some reasons:

1. The Scenery

This is the scenery on my regular out the front door road run!!

Here is some of the scenery on the trail I ran this morning! Much nicer!

Solomon's Seal berries

2. The Lack of Cars: enough said!!!

3. The Surface: It is well documented that running on trails is better for your knees and ankles than pounding concrete. Furthermore the topography of most trails are such that there is far more up and down. Roads and sidewalks by definition are as flat as possible!

4. The Psyche: Maybe it is me, I really don't know but running in the woods or meadows, rejuvenates me in a way that beats a road run any day. Sure you feel good after any run but a run in the forest is better! Also, I don't seem to get tired on a trail run. Maybe it is the concentration on your footing, or the scenery, or the surface but 5K in the woods seems easier than 5K on the road any day.

Anyways to make a long story...um ..less long, my running magazine came in the mail yesterday and there were a bunch of articles on trail running. It inspired me to make my run today a trail run. Stephen's Gulch Conservation Area is not far from our house in Bowmanville, about 5.8 km according to Google. The trail here is not long, about 3 and a half K. but it has a fair amount of vertical and it isn't totally gnarly like some trails. You have a good chance of finishing it without breaking an ankle, unlike a few of the trails that I have run. I left the house with the sky threatening rain, and the wind blowing like mad but I thought I would try to get in a run between the raindrops. What's a little rain anyways?? I got to the trailhead and it wasn't raining so off I went. Fifty yards up the trail I passed a man out walking his dog, a Weimaraner! I told him how I had had a Weimaraner as a running companion for 11 years, and he thought I might have another one for a while as his dog followed along with me for a few yards. A little bit of nostalgia for me!
The trail climbs out of the Soper Creek valley and follows the valley south before dropping back down toward the creek and heading north back to the parking area. Along the way it winds up and down and around as all good trails do, with a few wooden footbridges over some small creeks. It's route goes through sandy areas dominated by sumac, deep forest with a deciduous canopy, and, as we near the end, the dark cedar forests typical of the stream valleys in this area. It was a real satisfying run! If you are a runner you know what I mean! Trail runs are like that more often than not.
As I walked from the trailhead to the parking area I noticed a new sign attached to one of the posts!!

Bears!!!Yikes!! 5.8 km from my house!!
Seriously, I was not all that surprised. There was one in Courtice, the next town over, just last month, and there have been all kinds of other sightings in southern Ontario in the last few years. There was even one in London, ON, this summer. Apparently there have been two unconfirmed sightings recently, one in Stephen's Gulch CA, and one in Long Sault CA, a few kilometers north, near Mosport. For info about bears and bear safety check out the MNRs webpage BEARWISE

Oh Yeah! As I drove out of the parking area it started to rain!!

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