Sunday, March 15, 2020

Horst Wetzl Memorial Canyon Ski



VTA – Saulteaux Section - Trip Report 
Horst Wetzl Memorial Canyon Ski
March 15 2020


Last Sunday’s backcountry ski hike was the most awesome adventure I’ve ever been on!


Horst Wetzl was a long-time devoted member of the Voyageur Trail Association (VTA) and landowner along the VTA trail system. He was an avid outdoorsman, and had a home a few hundred meters beyond the end of Peoples road. Horst passed away in 2015 at the age of 80. The new owners of the Wetzl home, the Chevalier family, now run a maple syrup operation there. Our hike on Sunday was devoted to the memory of Horst, who blazed the scenic trail to the canyon many years ago so that we may also take pleasure in its beauty and peacefulness.








On March 15th, the “Fabulous Five” ventured out for the Horst Wetzl Memorial Canyon Ski. Cheryl and Mark led the backcountry ski hike. Julie, myself, and Lesley were the newbies on this adventure. We started around 11am at the end of Peoples Road. From there, we strapped on our skis and travelled a short distance along a snow-covered road where the former Wetzl home is located. The fun really began when we went “off-roading” into the woods.  We headed North West through forest and frozen wetlands. Cheryl was ahead of us, laying track, when she took an efficient and lucky detour towards the creek crossing. She came upon Mother Moose and her calf relaxing on the other side of the creek!  The rest of us slow pokes could only imagine the wonderful scene as we were too preoccupied dodging trees and a steep incline to get to the creek crossing.


The day could not have been more beautiful. A blue jay was welcoming springtime with its call. The sky was so blue and the sun so bright and energizing. The snow was perfect. The base was hard enough to support our skis, and just soft enough to allow us to carve tracks and glide effortlessly. We continued for a while following the creek, and then negotiated a few more mogul runs in the forest. Nothing like a good roller coaster ride amongst the tall pine and birch trees. We finally arrived at the portal entry into the canyon.  It was such a spectacular view! A corridor of canyon laid in front of us, lined on both sides by rock and magnificent icefalls. I was truly awestruck!


We skied down into the canyon entrance and followed the meandering path until we arrived at our destination. There, in front of us, was a spectacular chandelier of turquoise ice hanging from the cliff wall. Cheryl and Mark made a nice campfire, and we ate lunch admiring the beauty all around us.  A curious fisher or marten was scurrying up the side of the snow covered rockface as we admired the glittering ice sculptures. I’m sure the little creature was surprised to see us there!



Upon leaving the Canyon, Mark serenaded the spirits with his bagpipes. He played one of my most favorite pieces, Antonin Dvorak’s Adagio movement from The New World Symphony. I played Dvorak’s 9th Symphony many times while touring through Scotland as a young violinist. The adagio (featured as an oboe solo in the symphony) was also the lullaby song that I sang to my daughter when she needed calming and reassurance.  It’s a beautiful tune, and it echoed soulfully through the canyon as we left it behind.


Our return was along the same route. The sun was now a warm golden glow, glistening on the snow. Disappointed that we had not witnessed Mother Moose and her calf, we were altogether surprised to be given a second chance by seeing the duo’s moose tracks on the trail upon which we had skied earlier in the morning. I couldn’t believe how deep the prints were! At least 2 feet deep, and tracking down the side of the valley wall. What a nice treat! 


We exited the forest, back onto the snow-covered road, and were rewarded with a nice gentle, gravity-powered ski back to Peoples road. A truly perfect day with wonderful friends.


Thanks Cheryl, Mark, Julie and Lesley for a day I will cherish forever!



Kimlan Bell


Hiking Summary: 13 kms.   Total elapsed time: 5hrs:40mins. Return 4:30pm.






Monday, September 30, 2019

Griffon Peak Expedition 2019

Voyageur Trail Association – Saulteaux Section 
Griffon Peak Expedition – Sept 28th 2019 

Despite the warm and rather rainy September it seems like summer has finally given up. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a “woolly sweater pumpkin-spice” type of gal. I love summer, but there was no denying it, this was going to be one of those amazing autumn days. We milled around at the usual meeting spot (in the parking lot in front of GoodLife Fitness) and watched the sky. The clouds started to separate revealing blue skies. 



Our group of 10 quickly sorted out carpooling and headed up the highway. We drove up past the Chippewa Falls and turned up the Tilley Lakes Road. I was a passenger and not very familiar with the road system up there so I won’t give detailed directions. You would get lost. Get in touch with Mark and Cheryl if you plan on venturing up there on your own. We parked the cars and walked up the road further before heading up the ATV trail to the summit. 

As I stated before, I am a summer loving person but I just wanted to point out a few perks of hiking in the fall. No bugs! No bugs! And did I mention no bugs! In all seriousness, the cooler temperature was welcome for our uphill grind to Griffon Peak and the beautiful fall colours were easy on the eyes. 

The ATV trail to the summit was a gradual uphill climb. If you are in decent physical shape you could make it. Of course, we stopped frequently admiring at the weird fall mushrooms and taking off layers of clothes. Others found photo opportunities in the forest streams and fall colours. It was about a 6km walk (taking about 1.5 hours) to the top but the conversations with the other hikers kept my mind off any huffing and puffing that I was experiencing. 

The trail was pretty wet in places due to the rainy weather lately. We had to skirt around some good size puddles. I was glad I took the time to weather-proof my hiking boots earlier this summer. I sensed we were getting close to the top as the trail levelled off and you could see through the trees that we were on a high plateau. The trail opens at the summit to a rocky clearing. There is an old fire tower there that is used as a communications tower now. The view from the top was stunning. Vast overlooks north to the Montreal River area and Lake Superior shimmering in the distance off to the west. Wow! 

With the warm sun on our backs, we perched at the view and sat to have lunch. For me, a big part of hiking and being outdoors is eating. Somehow a boring old sandwich always tastes better outside with good company and a spectacular view. We spent about an hour sharing our lunch and stories. (Delicious smoked fish Cheryl – thanks for sharing!). Like all good hiking citizens, we spent some time leaving the place cleaner than we found it and then headed back down. I am still undecided whether it is easier going up or coming down. I think we were back to the cars in about an hour. Good byes were said and we loaded up to head back to town. What a fantastic day! Maybe autumn isn’t that bad after all…… 

Authored by: Janice M. 
Photo credit: Kimlan B. 

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Coming Events

Sept 28 - Hike to Griffon Peak. Not for the faint of heart but the reward is a fabulous view. Call Mark or Cheryl for the details. 254-2356

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Batchewana Island – June 22, 2019

This was the first kayak outing of the year for most of us. A 12 kilometer paddle took us around the eastern half of Batchewana Island. Great company, perfect weather, refreshing swim all made for a fantastic outing. The pictures below are each worth a 1000 words, as the saying goes.


The intrepid group of paddlers 
The wind did come up later
Fresh moose tracks
There is a heron rookery on a nearby island
Thanks to Theresa Glover for the great pictures and the write-up.

Update:

Some may recall that two years ago there was a proposal floated by the landowner (the island is owned by an American fellow) to build a lodge and an airstrip on the island. An information session was held, which was attended by an overflow crowd. The proposal has apparently been shelved, at least for the near term.

mc

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Spring Cleaning

VTA – Saulteaux Section – Trip Report
Spring Cleaning!

The week of May 11 was Trail Maintenance Week…

On May 11 we chose the messiest section of the trail in our Section. The trail parallels 6th Line and Highway 17 and both motorways are resplendent with litter every spring. It really is amazing just how much junk is deposited over the course of a year…and an interesting assemblage of junk it is. From a delicate high heel shoe to 30 feet length of big “o” drainage pipe this area has it all. Seven VTAers filled 10 big garbage bags with trash this day.

Ila installs the new VTA trail marker at the corner of Highway 17 and 6th Line
On the evening of 13th Cheryl and I paddled up the Root River in the same area by canoe and collected another two big bags…more on that later.

On Wednesday the 14th 18 VTAers, Sault Naturalists and friends focused on the west side of Highway 17…where very little garbage was found but several large trees were cleared from the trail and a number of blazes were replaced.

Thanks to all who participated in Trail Maintenance Week!

Mark C

Saturday, April 27, 2019

2019 Annual Dinner

VTA – Saulteaux Section Trip Report 
2019 Annual Dinner 

On Saturday, April 27th 80 VTA members and friends enjoyed a great dinner and an engaging account of a canoe adventure in northern Quebec

For stay at homes like myself these dinners are a great way to travel the world vicariously through the efforts…and budgets…. of other VTA members. In recent years I have travelled to Kilimanjaro, hiked across Britain and up and over the Chilkoot Pass.

Kim and Conor Mihell took us for a fascinating adventure by canoe past the treeline, on the Quebec shore of Hudsons Bay. Their adventure started on saltwater, paddling along the coast for a couple of days, an experience they likened to paddling the coast of Lake Superior…cold water, big waves…but complicated by strong currents, tides and the fact that the water is actually salty. They then headed inland tracing a little used route…trying to find portages that don’t see much traffic, enduring the flies and encountering more black bears that they have on any other canoe trip. A couple of daunting portages took them up and over a height of land into another watercourse that took them across the treeline into a landscape that was even more spectacular/bleak depending on the weather…the winds becoming stronger and the rains more frequent. “What did you find on your trip?” they were asked. “Fulfillment” was part of the answer.

A larger otter perhaps?...Nope! Kim and Conor encountered freshwater seals on this trip
Though on a much less grand scale we also find fulfillment on our VTA outings…whether through a spectacular viewpoint, and interesting wildlife sighting or just a plain old good workout.

Thanks to Kim and Conor for sharing their adventures with us. Thanks to Susan Graham for organizing the dinner and to Grand Gardens for the hospitality

Mark C

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Griffon Peak

VTA-Saulteaux Section Trip Report 
Griffon Peak-September 30, 2018 

We are blessed to life in a spectacular area, full of spectacular places. Each season has its special magic, but for me, the colour palette of an Algoma fall is top of the list. 

On this day the colours were in their full glory .... for a caterpillar year, that is. Cheryl noted that the forest tent caterpillar did their good work for a second year in a row, so the trees are stressed. As a result there was more bronze in the palette this year. .. the oranges were muted. The red maples seem less palatable to the caterpillars so the crimson that the red maples add to the palette is still there. The reds, yellows and oranges are made more vivid by the contrast with the deep greens of the conifers. In the south view (next page), you'll see some spruce in the foreground ... but conspicuous by their absence are the big white pines. They have been preferentially logged out over the years. There are many in the understory .. .I hope to be visiting Griffon Peak for enough years into the future to see those pines start to peak over the maples and birches. 

The hike to Griffon Peak is a steady uphill, through a tunnel of trees and then suddenly you are at the top and the view to the north, west and south lays out before you. There is an old fire tower there ... no cupola, just the tower. 

Ten VTA members and friends made the trek this year (the third ... annual?). 



To the north you can see Griffon Lake below you, and on the horizon are the wind turbines at Montreal River. 


To the south you see part of lower Tilly Lake and King Mountain on the horizon. This image is more to the south west view towards the Goulais Peninsula. 

Griffon Peak, at 656 metres above sea level, is ranked as the 6111 highest point in Ontario. 

Of the top 12 heights in Ontario, at least three are in Algoma, and about 8 are within the VTA "region". Maybe we could add a "summit to summit" badge to our "end to end" badge? Any volunteers? 

Composed by Mark C. 
Photography by Bruce C