Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Vacation in the Bruce Peninsula

Our first of two weeks off this summer led us up to the Bruce Peninsula area for some sightseeing and hiking. It was my first time in this region, and wow, what a gorgeous part of the province! Tuesday, July 10th we took the leisurely drive all the way up Highway 6 to the Bruce National Park. The weather was hot and humid, but it was a gorgeous sunny day. We entered the park and found our way to a picnic area on the shores of Cyprus Lake and had lunch. I was wishing I had my bathing suit on because the water was so calm and clear and inviting.

Cyprus Lake

After lunch we drove to the head of the trails to embark on a walk through the woods that would lead us to the shores of Lake Huron and a spectacular landscape like I've never seen before.

Indian Head CoveThe Natural Arch

The main attraction at the end of this hike is the Grotto. These caves were carved from the rock face by centuries of waves beating on the porous dolomite of the cliffs. At least two underwater entrances lead into the Grotto from the Bay.
The GrottoAfter taking in the view and having a rest, we headed back down to the shore where we hiked across 'Rock Hell' - a path along the beach that is all boulders and rocks. I was a little leery because it looked really rough, but it was very beautiful and because we had proper hiking shoes, it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.After leaving Rock Hell, we got on the Horse Lake Trail that led us back to where we parked. Tired and hot, we headed in to Tobermory to check in to our motel and shower before dinner.

Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory

Lighthouse at Big Tub Harbour, Tobermory

After a good night's sleep at the Peacock Villa, we headed to the harbour Wednesday morning hoping to catch a shuttle to Flowerpot Island. Unfortunately, it was extremely windy and the water was very rough so all tours and shuttles were canceled for the day. We walked around a bit in Tobermory and saw the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry approaching the harbour and made a quick decision to get the car, get on the ferry and head to Manitoulin Island. The ferry experience was really cool - driving right into the open bow of the boat was amazing.

The waves and swells in Georgian Bay were huge which made for a very rocky crossing. I felt quite seasick, but was OK as long as we stayed outside on the deck. We braved the wind and spray and sat outside for most of the 1 h 45 min crossing.

Not having a plan or knowing where to go, we consulted the Manitoulin Island visitor information we had gathered on the ferry and set out for an exploratory drive. It truly is a gorgeous and natural place. The island is very sparsely populated and the absence of commercialism and large chain restaurants and stores is refreshing. We were hungry and found a really cute little picnic area on the side of the road so we stopped for some lunch.
Roadside picnic area
Scenery along the highway
Big Lake

We then headed north towards Little Current to do some hiking. Our brochure lead us to Cup and Saucer trails - apparently one of the most popular hiking trails in Canada. We took the 'Blue Trail' which started out as a nice leisurely walk through the woods below the cliffs. The leisurely walk promptly came to an end when we were faced with a very steep climb up the rocks to get to the top of the cliff edge to join the White Trail. I was really nervous and wasn't sure I could make it. Jason WAS sure I could do it and lead the way. To seasoned hikers, I'm sure this wasn't a big deal, but it was straight up and to a novice scrambler like me, it was a real challenge. I did it though and when we got to the top, I felt great! The pictures don't do it justice, but believe me, it was kind of scary and very steep!

We were faced with another steep uphill/up rock climb shortly after completing this one, and I was nervous again, but I managed. I made good use of my new hiking shoes and my hands, and kept my centre of gravity low. After this second climb up the rocks, we were at one of the highest points on Manitoulin. The view was unbelievable!! I can't even describe it. We could see for miles around, including the lakes, the bay, and tree tops. We walked around the trail a bit and then got a picture of where we were standing. The outcrop above is where the other pictures were taken from!On the way back down the trail, we got to a look out point and took this photo - the highest point you can see here is where we had hiked up to and where the photos were taken from. Unbelievable! The climb down was a bit scary too - I am just not used to the way it feels to climb down rocks, and felt a little unsteady, so I came down most of the way on my butt! :)

Speaking of butts... after the hike, we parked ours in our folding lawn chairs in the trail parking lot and sipped cold beers while we relaxed. We consulted the map and visitor information again and continued our journey on to Little Current. We had dinner there and then after several phone calls and driving around a bit, we wavered back and forth about staying at the $35 a night Anchor Inn. Thankfully when we called it was fully booked, so the decision was made for us. We figured there had to be a reason that it was so cheap.... We ended up getting a room at the Hawberry Motel. It was a bit more expensive than the Anchor Inn, but definitely not even worth $35! Anyway, we were tired so we slept but made a quick exit on Thursday morning. It was a rainy day in Little Current, so we grabbed a coffee, took a walk along the waterfront and then hopped in the car to head home via Hwy 69.

We had a great time and we are already planning and looking forward to our next trip to Manitoulin Island!