Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Elliot Lake Vacation 2011

I am going to be doing a solo vacation to Elliot Lake this year. It's been years since I've gone alone. I have taken so many people up over the past few years so now it's time for me to go alone. I will be hiking alone, and I've booked a hotel room at the Algo Inn for a week, just for me :-) BTW, I got the weekly rate at the Algo, which is only about $480. Works out to less than $70 a day, which was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting to pay a lot more for family has a friend that lives there that I stay with when I visit, but she will be away as well. Even if she was in town, I still would prefer to get a hotel room this year, and be completely alone. Some people might not think vacationing alone is fun, but it is to me. Plus it is very healing and a great way to reconnect with myself, with Nature, with God (whoever or whatever that is). Hiking in the Northern wilderness alone is so, so spiritual, whether people even realize it or not. The memories of my solo hikes up there have stuck with me stronger than when I went with a friend or family. And I really need this now.

So I plan on hiking my usual trails, like Horne Lake/Sherriff Creek, Spine Rd. (and this time I am going all the way to Mink Lake. I visited Mink once and the experience never left me. But boy, it's a hike and a half!), Spruce Beach/Westview, Mount Dufour, etc., etc. I doubt I'll make it to Cobre Lake, unless I can get a ride, even though I would very much like to go there...I'm not quite ready or prepared to do an overnight hiking trip alone. If I had the proper gear, I would try. I can probably hike to Cobre in 2 days, then I would need a day there to hike and relax, and another 2 days of backpacking just get back to town...
Someday I'll do it!

You've probably guessed that I don't drive. And I prefer it that way. Driving is convenient sometimes, but I always prefer to go on foot to wherever I'm going. You see more and experience so much more with the ground under your feet and the air and sun's rays kissing your skin...

Anyway, I have decided for a new adventure, I am going to hike as far as I can in a day along Highway 108, towards the 639, and see how far I can make it. It looks like there's either a trail or snowmobile/ATV trail that runs along the highway. I'm going to take a day and just go. And see what I find along the way! I want to try to get to Banana Lake. But it looks like it'll be a 25K day if I attempt to do that (about 11K there and back, plus a few K just for exploring). Though it may not be as far as it appears on a map. So I'm just gonna walk and watch my time and see how far I can go! It'll be an adventure! And I am so in need of something like that. I'm looking forward to discovering the little lakes and ponds and forests that are hidden away in the bush.

Then on another day, I'm going to attempt the same thing but in the opposite direction. I also saw a whole bunch of trails and stuff out in the Westner Lake & Mount Dufour area, so I'm curious about those too...

Anyway, I will post about my adventures when I get there in about 2 weeks time :-)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am disgusted and mad!

I just saw this at the Elliot Lake message board:

It totally disgusts me and infuriates me! This is what I referred to in a previous post -- you make something more accessible to people and you invite in the litterbugs and vandals. I wish the area would have been left as it was. There are just too many lowlives out there who hate themselves so much that they have to destroy anything that is beautiful.

If I still lived there, I would gladly volunteer to help take care of the trails and trees and Nature there! I already do -- whenever I come up for vacation, I am always carrying out bags of garbage and broken beer bottles off the trails and beach. I wish people would see how lucky they are to have such beautiful wilderness at their fingertips. I long for it, feel pain in my heart everyday because I dream about being able to live there, but can't due to financial reasons. If I made enough money off my Ebay I would totally live up there again! Elliot Lake really is a jewel in the wilderness. Damn it makes me mad when I see people trashing it this way!

Ok rant is over. I just needed to get that out!!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Elliot Lake 2010

Well I am late yet again with my posts! Well at least I'm not super-late this time. Just a few months! lol

I went up to Elliot Lake this past June with my brother and 14-year old nephew. My nephew had never been to the North (except for when he was a baby), nor did he ever go on a real camping trip, so I had to take him up to the bush and show him what it was all about.

Poor kid, he broke his forearm/wrist the last day of school, about a week before our planned trip. He almost couldn't come with us because he was to see the bone specialist in about a week's time, and we weren't sure if that meant he had to stay in town or not...It turned out he only had to get his arm x-rayed and get a new cast if needed. So I called the Elliot Lake hospital ahead of time to make sure we could come in and get his cast changed, and have everything looked at, and they said it would be ok.

I have to say, the staff and service we received at the Elliot Lake hospital was excellent. I have never been in a hospital where there were so many nice and kind nurses and doctors. They were also VERY thorough, and did a much better job taking care of my nephew's arm than our doctors and hospital down South. So a BIG kudos goes out to St. Joe's of Elliot Lake!

We had a bit of a crazy trip, in the beginning anyway. We left on a Saturday morning, got to Elliot Lake and went to the hospital pretty much right away. We were told we had to come back Monday, so we spent Sunday driving out into the boonies to look for a camping spot. We visited several locations. We had a topographical map, a backroads map, a fishing map, etc....We were looking for some place secluded. But accessible too. A lot of places that looked inviting on the maps were very hard to get to, unless you had a truck or ATV. We just had a beat-up, old van.

But we did find a spot, which I will not identify, because I don't want people stealing our camping spot! Though I'm sure a few people do go out there. It was a very beautiful place. A special, magical place! A place that I miss so much. I absolutely loved it there. The only downside was the lake wasn't really great for swimming. It was kinda marshy. It was very clean and clear, but the bottom was sandy and very mucky. There are a lot of aquatic birds that come to this place. You could walk out into the water, but you would sink almost ankle-deep in gooey mud. I know it was clean, but still...yucky. And every step would kick up clouds of the stuff, so you wouldn't want to get your hair in the water, unless you wanted tons of tiny mud and duck poop particles stuck in it!

So for swimming, we had to drive all the way to Cobre Lake.

On Sunday we also went on a hike in town. I took my bro and nephew up the cliff that overlooks Horne Lake. My nephew, who is a typical 14-year old video game fanatic and gets most of his exercise by wiggling his thumb on his game controller, climbed to the top, and proclaimed that it was, "Glorious!" I was so glad to get him up there and show him that there is a reward for hiking and sweating a bit...there's always a great view at the top!

We also hiked along the trails behind Horne Lake, and left the area via the Sherriff Creek Wildlife Sanctuary. It had been a couple of years since I was there last, and I was impressed with the boardwalk they built in there. Very beautiful. But me being the hardcore Nature girl that I am, will always prefer dirt under my feet!

But anyway, getting back to the beginning of my story.

So we found our spot, and the next day, Monday, we went to the hospital early in the morning to take care of my nephew's arm. We spent the entire day in there. A good 12 hours easy. It took long because we had to check him in at emergency, and we had to go through all the protocol for emerg check-ins...and because our situation wasn't really an emergency, we were last in the priority list. Which is understandable, of course. But it was a very long and trying day. I have loads of patience for ordeals like that, but my nephew is a typical 14-year old, and that was a very long, hard day for him. But he survived, and like I said, the staff there were just terrific. The doctor down here didn't even put his original cast on tight enough, and his broken bone slipped. But the EL docs put on a really good cast, and he was totally fine from that day forward until he had to get his cast off for good.

So it kinda sucked for him because he couldn't swim or do a whole lot. But he at least got to go up North with us and go camping.

So after the hospital, we went straight to our camping spot to set up the tents and everything before it got too dark. It was pretty much getting to be sundown when we finally got there.

The next morning I was up at about 630. I went for a stroll and took some pictures. (BTW, I don't have any of my pictures ready to be posted online yet.) It was a very beautiful day. I looked for signs of wildlife, but saw no tracks or poop anywhere.

Oh, I forgot to mention--on our previous day's driving trip looking for a camping spot, we were driving down a back road not super-far from our camping location, exploring the area. In this one area I saw a huge mound of bear poop, plus my brother and I saw a partridge, and when we were driving out, I saw German Shepherd-looking animal jump into the road, and immediately bound right back into the bush when it heard us coming. I knew it could not be a dog. I was the only one who saw it, and described it to my brother. He spent a lot of time in the bush in Northwestern Ontario, where we are originally from, working as a geologist. He's had many encounters with wildlife, and confirmed that what I saw was a wolf. Tooooo coooool.
I was thrilled!

Ok, so Tuesday we spent the day doing camping stuff. It wasn't a very hot day so we didn't go swimming anywhere. We just settled in and unpacked our stuff, that kind of thing.

I think it was the next morning, Wednesday, that I got up at 450AM. When I go camping, I always try to get up at the crack of dawn because that's when all the animals are out. There is a little spot I liked to go to, to just be alone and enjoy the stillness. I had to travel along the lake's edge and go around to the other side of it to get there. On that side, the lake opens up and you could look out and see everything that's out there. Our camping spot was more on the sheltered side, where the lake starts out as basically a large pond with marshes and a beaver dam. On the other side, it is more open water, with a few small islands here and there. Anyway, I went over to this spot and watched the mist rise off the lake.

Here is video footage I took of those moments:

This was taken with just my little point-and-shoot. You can't hear it unfortunately, but there were wolves howling in the background. Wow, that was amazing. I still get goosebumps when I think of it...just that one special moment of pureness, being at one with Nature, and I was alone. That experience was just for me, my special gift from Nature. I was thrilled to hear the wolves, and know that I was in wolf country! The wolf I saw the other day was just one forest I knew we were in wolf country. It was awesome.

This lake was warbler central. Every morning the warblers sang their little hearts out. I have never heard so many warblers all singing at once like that. You can here them on the video. It was just awe-inspiring. I can't even describe it. If you're not in tune with Nature, you just don't know the kind of feeling you get from being in a place like that, in the home of the wolves and warblers and other flying and crawling creatures...How many people don't even notice the birds when they sing? I have had people tell me, after I point out a certain bird's call, that they never would have noticed it if I didn't say something. It's like people are asleep...They are completely unaware of the magic that's all around them!

Anyway, so since I was up so early, and had gone to bed late the night before, AND I slept uncomfortably in the van so that I would wake up early enough (if I sleep in the tent, I don't get up early. I have to not be too comfortable if I want to get up at 5AM!), I was understandably tired. It was completely bright out by the time I decided I needed to go back to sleep, about 730AM. But I didn't want to go in the tent...Oh yeah and I forgot to mention how chilly it was. It was only about +5 or 6 overnight...I needed to warm up, so I grabbed my camp chair, dragged it into a sunny spot and just sat and basked in the morning sun. Then I got too tired, and said, "Screw it", grabbed my sleeping bag and laid it out right there on the open ground and laid down for a nap under the sun. I'm not squeamish about sleeping on bare ground. I like it actually. So I napped there and woke up again maybe an hour and a bit later to a loud buzzing noise above my head. I opened my eyes and could see hummingbirds swarming through the short shrubbery just above me! They were so beautiful. I could see the beautiful peacock green of one's feathers shining in the sunlight.

With that pleasant image behind my eyes, I fell asleep again and slept nicely en plein air.

The next day we were out exploring again, driving around. We were kinda hoping to find even more camping spots, particularly one with a lake that's good for swimming. We were going down a pretty overgrown road when I started getting this feeling in the pit of my stomach that we should turn around and not go so far down this road, that something might happen to the van, and then we'd be screwed. I am very intuitive, and when my gut screams at me like that, I know I'd better listen. My brother seemed to pick up on something too, because just as I was thinking it, he said we should probably turn back.

So we got out and were back on the main road again, when of course the battery light starts going on and off...I knew something was wrong, don't ask me how I knew, but I did. And when I'm the bush, my intuition is on high alert. My brother thought that the van would be fine, but when the light started coming on more and more, we decided it was best to drive back towards town...just in case.

It was a good thing we did too, because if we had decided to stay at camp or keep driving around, we would have gotten stranded in the middle of nowhere, where another car is scarce. But luckily, we got stranded on the 639 just past Ompa Lake. And we were stuck there for not 5 minutes when another car came. We flagged him down and he was very kind, helping us out and driving us back to town. So we had to leave the van there and spend the night in Elliot Lake, and get a tow the next morning.

We got the van towed the next morning, no problems. But we had to spend another whole day waiting around as it got fixed...the battery was gone. We got the van back in the late morning, and decided to take a drive out to the dump to see if there were any bears and to just make sure the van was ok. The battery light was coming on again. So back to garage we went. Turns out the diode from the alternator wasn't connecting with the battery...or something like that. The battery wasn't getting charged. So we had to get another alternator put in. We were all finished up at around 2PM, and $600+ later, we were FINALLY all set to go back to camp. And the van was perfect this time.

So we went back to camp and stayed there the whole time, except for one day when we went to Cobre Lake to swim and explore the area a bit. Cobre is beautiful for swimming. Except every time I have to fish broken beer bottles out of the lake. Damn it. Why do people do that? Why go to a beautiful, perfect, pristine place and trash it?? Damn people. Stay in town if you're going to do that!! Grrrr...

Anyway, we spent one day exploring our camping spot. There is an old, what I'm assuming was once a logging road, in the bush across the lake. My brother and I followed it for a while. I bet no one's been back there in years. It was overgrown, but still follow-able. It was neat to be back there, in this "secret" spot. We didn't go far though, because my nephew was back at camp. He didn't want to come with us, and we didn't want to leave him alone for too long. But my brother went off on his own afterwards, and bushwhacked his way off-trail through the forest using old, tried-and-true navigation techniques he learned in the bush during his geology days. He went up a cliff that overlooks the lake. After seeing his pictures, I wished I had gone with him! Next time...

Here are the rest of the videos I took from this camping spot. I won't name the lake or where it is, but people who have been there before will surely recognize it.