It is late morning and I am curled on our large, comfortable bed, sipping black coffee, staring out the window while I type. Braden is playing guitar at the other end of the van. He has made a commitment to practicing more, learning new songs, but with all the hiking and exploring we've been doing, he hasn't had much of a chance to fulfill said commitment. A red squirrell jumps around outside, panicked and alert at the sound of the guitar of which I am sure he cannot fathom the origins. It is likely he has never heard music before, at least in the sense that we know music.
We are camped on Emmett Lake on the interior of the Bruce Peninsula; a wonderful recommendation by a man named Martin, a photographer out of Guelph, who we met in Tobermory while enjoying a shared plate of fish and chips. He was doing some backwoods camping and we asked him if he might know a spot where we could park, undisturbed for the evening. The place is perfect. It is located at the end of a forked road that runs deep into Bruce Peninsula National Park. There is a canoe launch, but without the signs begging canoers and kayakers to wash off their canoes to deter cross species contamination, you would think this place wholly wild; untouched. The road out here is long, perhaps 6 or 7 kilometers, narrow and unpaved. The forest is mainly populated with cedars, their soft looking, light brown bark and fallen leaves creating a supple carpet underfoot. Outside I hear the chirping of birds, a welcome sound compared the the whining chorus of mosquitoes that was the soundtrack of our night here.
The sun is hiding today. So far we have been very fortunate, sunny blue skies nearly every day (albeit some mornings were rainy and cold), and I expect the sun to burn away the clouds shortly; the ground being occasionally dabbled with sunlight through the canopy gives me hope.
The water is very warm in this lake, though I have not yet gone in. Much warmer than Lake Huron, by a mile, although it is not nearly as vibrantly blue. The limestone bedrock around the area has made the waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay seem like water from the tropics, but for some reason, it has not had the same miraculous effect on Emmett Lake. Nonetheless, it is clear straight to the bottom, which is covered with rounded smooth rocks and muddy sand. The stars here last night were beautiful, despite the sky itself being fairly bright. At 1am, the sky was still a light navy colour instead of the pitch black that I have been hoping to see. This far North of Ottawa, the days do seem much longer, and it is often bright until 10pm or later. Today, we will continue to explore the Bruce Peninsula, hiking to a place the locals know as the Grotto, but I think our time here by Lake Huron and in Bruce county is almost at an end. Onward to Lake Superior we will push, where I hope things will be wilder and more beautiful still.
An update on yesterday's post. Braden and I hiked into the Grotto from a point far further from the designated trail. Instead of taking the marked Cyprus Lake trail, we took the Bruce Trail, starting at a backwoods campsite called Halfway Log Dump. From our departure point to the Grotto was 4.4km (a grossly overestimated "3 hour hike"). It took us not quite two hours to hike to the Grotto, and just over an hour back (we were both thirsty and starving, so we put our heads down and ground out the distance). Despite it having took us far fewer hours than the hike's estimated time, it was a grueling march. We must have climbed up and down the cliff face at least three times there and back again. Many parts of the trail were simply rocky footholds to climb up or down to the trail beyond. The views at some of the lookouts were stunning, showcasing the Caribbean like waters far below, and the Grotto was well worth the hike. A beautiful cave carved into the limstone bluffs, water clear as day, with tiny little turquoise bays lining the beach in that area. That being said, we were exhausted when we returned. Our feet were tired from trying to grip stone for hours, our throats parched and stomachs growling at us. Our legs were heavy, desperate for a stretch.
The hike shed new insight on a much more demanding trek that we've only just recently heard about: The Barkley Marathons. The carefully selected participants of this "Ultra Marathon" must traverse a twenty mile loop through mountainous backwoods, facing a myriad of obstacles, and checking in at designated checkpoints (which they have to find on their own without a map), to ensure they've completed the loop. Then, they have to complete the loop four more times (each time in reverse direction; a total of 100 miles. They have only 60 hours to complete the marathon. At the end of our hike yesterday, we mused about the hard as nails endurance the Barkely Marathon winners (anyone who is able to complete the full five circuits) must have. In perspective, we hiked a measly 9 kilometers. If I'm generous, this means that we hiked about a quarter of ONE of the loops in the Barkely Marathon, on a MARKED trail, under no time constraints. I am not suggesting that we are hardened mountaineers - maybe one day - but the contrast leaves me in awe of the human capacity for drive, endurance and grit.