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North America

Fall Colours: Algonquin Park

October 7th, and the leaves are just past peak colour in Algonquin Park.

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Lake of Bays, from Bristlecone Lodge, offers a spectacular view at sunrise.

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And the vistas along the Centennial Ridges, 10.4km Trail were, each one, more breathtaking than the previous, all looking west over the crowded park.

Fall Algonquin Park

Fall Algonquin Park

 

Lake Superior and Lake Michigan

When I thought of a beach destination, Michigan was nowhere on the list. Two week car trip with Sean and three kids, five amazing national and state parks later, having discovered the incredible vistas around Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, the word Michigan will, to me, forever have different connotation.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, has an incredibly diverse landscape. At the west end of Grand Sable Dunes just before Au Sable Point is the area know as Log Slide. Easily descended, it can take up to an hour to climb back up. Legend has it that logs sent down the dry log chute would generate enough friction to cause the chute to catch fire. Today the chute is gas the one, but it attracts people of all ages stories still linger.

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The kids did the climb back up in 15mins, having dipped their toes in the clear water of Lake Superior.

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The 10mile (16km) hike, and kids longest hike ever!!!,  took us along a winding path overlooking multicoloured rocks, once in a while offering a glimpse of a rock “castle” or a plateau.

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The Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, located further west on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Superior, is home to the largest tract of old-growth hardwood forests west of the Adirondacks.  With spectacular waterfalls and lakes, 21 miles of pristine beaches, numerous lighthouses it offered too many choices for our short stay. We did manage to hike around the beautiful Lake of Clouds, though the sunny day meant that there were no clouds covering the lake that day.

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Leaving the Up (Upper Peninsula), we drove down to Dells for some waterpark fun for the kids. Then crossing Lake Michigan on The Lake Express High Speed Ferry, 2 1/2 hours later we drove off in Muskegon and kept going towards Silverlake State Park. This one was a mind-blowing playground for dune buggies and boys/jedies who like to pretend they are on planet Tatooine.

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Silver Lake State Park; morning view from campsite.

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Driving another two hours north along the 22 scenic highway we drove into yet another dune wonderland. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was yet another dune adventure.

The incredibly blue and clear lake Michigan water made the 2mile ( 3km) hike over the scorching dunes well worth the effort… even though at times we were close to turning back. The 27 markers along the way were an encouragement and kept us going… only 13 more to go….!!

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Gros Morne National Park

Newfoundland never ceases to disappoint, and having finally made the trip out to Gros Morne National Park; UNESCO world heritage site, I continue to be humbled by the beauty of yet another beautiful place in this incredible province.

The second largest Park in eastern Canada, spanning at 1,805 kmof western Newfoundland , Gros Morne is a part of the towering Long Range Mountains.

Gros Morne

Making Trout River Campground, in the southern part of the park, our base, Sean, Alexander and I explored its diverse landscapes over a few days, juggling hikes and scenic drives, through various weather conditions.

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Tablelands Trail: This 4-km, trail show cases a time when the continents of Africa and North America collided, pushing rocks originally beneath the ocean to their present position on land. Ending at a waterfall you can turn back or keep hiking up the earth’s mantle, to the top of the tablelands for an expansive vista. Adding on another two hours we took the challenge and scrambled up rocks, reaching almost to the last remaining patches of snow.

On the short drive back the campsite, we watched as the setting sun lit up the tablelands giving them a golden glow.

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The constantly changing weather provided amazing clouds that enveloped the mountains, hills and lakes, and just as quickly released them from its hold.

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The lazy day hike was a 3km stroll on a boardwalk over marshes, ending at a dock on Western Brook Pond. There we took a boat between stunning glacier-carved rock walls, on a ten-mile long lake also called a freshwater fjord.

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14km Trout River Pond Hike; one of the least traversed hikes in the park, took us through 4km of low-lying forest and along the lake, eventually coming out onto open, rocky plains and ending at the trail head with a quick lunch before heading back to Trout River Campground.

Trout River Hike Gros Morne

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The Lookout Trail was a steady uphill climb, in parts along a boardwalk, emerging on a plateau with breathtaking view of Gros Morne Mountain from Partridgeberry Hill.

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The North side of the park had a completely different landscape, with a rugged coastline. The 6km return Coastal Trail once connected two small fishing communities: Bakers Brook and Green Point and leads you by cobble beaches, through dense coastal stunted forests known locally as “tuckamore.”

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At low tide the limestone conglomerate at Cow Head is exposed to reveal layers, worn by waves into rugged shelves and cliffs marking the collapse of an ancient tropical reef.

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Ottawa and Gatineau

 

I just caught the last bit of fall colors in Gatineau and although the peak colors had already passed in the park, the ochres and reds still defined the landscape.

Champlain lookout

Champlain lookout

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Gatineau Park

Winding down a road in Gatineau Park after the rain.

Winding Road in Gatineau Park

In Ottawa the colors were changing a little later though and were in full swing.
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Fall colors in Ottawa

 

Tremblant 2013

I just got back from Quebec where I spent Thanksgiving with close friends surrounded by fall colors and 20C!

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Their Laurentian house, located an hour and half north of Montreal, on the Rouge River, in the township of  Brebeuf,  was engulfed by fog in the early mornings. With the newly fallen leaves it was the perfect picture of Quebec autumn.

fall colors

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Quebec Fall reflections

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Fall landscape in Brebeuf

Hiking in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant provided incredible views and vistas, as well as a bit of exercise.

Lac Monroe in Parc du Mont-Tremblant

Lac Monroe glacier valley in Mont-Tremblant Park

Fall vista in Montr-Trembla Parknt

Quebec fall colors

Quebec fall colors

Along the 3.5km La Corniche trail winding uphill to a spectacular view we encountered the “dino” tree and huge boulders; a boys’ dream playground!

la corniche hike in Mont-Tremblant Park

 

 

 

 

Fall at the Toronto Zoo

What a perfect fall day for a visit to the Toronto zoo; 30C, sunny and autumn colors everywhere.

My favorite was the unfamiliar sight of african animals amongst fall foliage.

Where else can you see giraffes munching amongst ochre maples, and unique, rare white lions which have not been seen in the wild in over 15 years, pacing past blood red trees.

 

Newfoundland 2013


Going out to Newfoundland for this year’s show titled Anchor, was yet another amazing and inspiring trip out east. Starting with a great write up in The Telegram , and a successful show, it was followed by unbelievable weather throughout the week…. almost too beautiful; sunny and bright; perfect for hiking. Not quite the moody, foggy landscape that draws me to Newfoundland, but inspiring nevertheless. We visited old friends and met some more wonderful people.


James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove, NF

The Factory - East Coast Trail

Alexander and I stayed at “The Factory” once again; a former cod liver oil factory with the press still in the basement.

We started our hikes on the east coast trail right from our yard, picking blueberries and chanterelles on the way of course, since it was august, and even had a first run in with a moose on one of the inland trails, Finally, after twelve years of coming to Newfoundland I got to see a moose, snap an unfocused photo and turn right around and leave, abandoning our path.

east coast trail

 

Benoir Lake

This august took us to yet another cottage, this time on Benoir Lake, on the southern edge of Algonquin park. The mornings greeted us with beautiful mist rising over the water, while the were afternoons with warming sun.

One of the hikes was a gorgeous walk; the trail following an old road through a Red Pine plantation, then becoming a footpath and a bit of a scramble to a rock point north of High Falls. From the end of the trail we had a view of the top of the rapids upstream of High Falls as well as a view downstream towards the falls… and of course a treasure hunt.

…and our collection of treasures grew.

Mayan Riviera

Alexander and I spent a short but relaxing time in the Mayan Riviera with our friends this april.

The highlight was Ek Balam – “Bright Star Jaguar” in Maya language, a Yucatec-Maya recently (and still only partially) excavated archeological site within the municipality of Temozon, from the Preclassic until the Postclassic period – the seat of a Mayan kingdom. In ancient times, it was a large city, controlling a populous and prosperous countryside. The Acropolis houses the possible tomb of king Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, who ruled from 770 (the starting year of the “height” of this city) to 797 or 802 CE.

  
In this ball court there were a number of discoveries made, among them a collection of burnt stone balls that may relate to the Mayan ball game which we saw in a spectacular show at the Xcaret park.
The Xcaret Park had a numerous animals and a little boy in a red hat weaving in and out amongst the ruins scattered all over the huge park and resort.

The other highlight was a swim in the biggest of Yukatan’s 7000 cenotes. This one: Cenote  Maya, a great natural pool of 80 m diameter with beautiful rock formations and roots reaching down the had a wooden staircase or vines to down into. We opted for the former.

 

Pacific Coast

Alexander and I just returned from a trip along the Pacific Coast of beautiful Oregon. We started out in Victoria where his father picked us up and from there it was a ferry over to Port Angeles and then straight to Olympic National Park.

The idea was to camp and so, along came a borrowed pop up trailer. On the second night we tried to camp close to the beach but as it turned out it was actually a parking lot and so we had to take down the trailer which never opened up after that. It was motels all the way to Portland.

The weather couldn’t be better through the entire ten days; sun lighting up the foggy shores and rock stacks. Trailer or no trailer it turned out to be a good trip. Lots of water;  Pacific ocean, mist, crashing waves, tides coming in, tidal pools, hot springs, gushing waterfalls…. but no rain!

After the rainforest, waterfalls and hot springs of the Olympic National Park, US route 101 took us from one coastal town to the next. In between there were many stops, what seemed like every ten meters for scenic views and short hikes, wave crashing watching, and dodging the low tide waves along the rocky shores.

Of course wherever there was sand, and there was a lot, there was a castle waiting to be built.

Next was Siuslaw National Forest and then the Sand Dunes National Recreation Area. The beach there accessible through the sand dunes went on for hundreds of miles. One of the hikes we did was a grueling climb up and down dunes for about 3kms and then another 3km stroll along the beach to complete the circle back to the trailhead.

Just north of Florence we descended into a sea lion cave which seems to be the highlight of the trip for Alexander. He explains that “the sea lions stay outside on the rocks and only move into the caves to be safe, when the weather gets bad”.

In Willamette national Forest, the fall coloured  McKenzie Pass – Santiam Pass National Scenic Byway –  a windy loop that includes the highest concentration of snow-capped volcanoes in the lower 48 states, took us to a town called Sisters where despite promises of tonnes of motels we found one that was way over our budget and so continued on to Bend for the night. It was a well worth drive down the winding highway with the highest elevation reaching 5325ft, and a colourfull hike to the breathtaking 200ft tall Proxy Falls.

The pass was an unbelievable explosion of volcanic rock …literally.