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Archive for the ‘backpacking’ Category

Descending a pit is a somewhat awe inspiring experience, especially if that pit has never been descended before. This particular area of Ontario is absolutely pocked with holes and solution shafts through the rock and this past weekend we found another cluster somewhere near the cave that we call the Death Bell.

See video on the descent of the pit – here

When I got to the bottom of the pit I discovered that I was standing on a boulder choke and beneath that choke you could see a shaft that dropped down at least another 30 or 40 feet. Any dig of the boulder choke would have to be done very carefully as there is the hazard of engulfment where the floor could collapse away and you would find yourself tumbling down amongst hundreds of tons of rock. Bottom line – diggers would have to be roped off.

The size of this shaft is out of all proportion to the water that presently drains into it so I would imagine that it is a relic from the glacial past – in fact the clusters of shafts in the area are generally aligned along some prominent joint and there is little that would explain why they had formed there. Without surface wear marks that would suggest a river that had drained into the shaft the only other thought that I am having is that the shafts formed beneath a glacier with an enormous pressure head that injected water deep along the bedding planes – kind of similar to the formative process of Museum or Leopard Frog Cave.

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Caving in Ontario

Exploring an Ontario Cave - Canada

Here are 2 links to video that I took this weekend. Both these short clips are of Pilgrim’s Crawl, an Ontario cave that is yet to be followed to it’s end. I’d say the biggest problem are the tunnel’s scallops, it’s like crawling against a cheese grater and my cave suit shows it after doing so.

Check these videos out – my first attempt with video of Ontario caving …

Pilgrim’s Crawl 1  – Caving in Ontario 1

Pilgrim’s crawl 2 – Caving in Ontario 2

At this time I’m still getting the hang of this video thing, I like it and see it’s potential for documenting our explorations in the newly discovered “Wasteland Waterway Cave”. One point is that I need to increase the lighting – especially as Wasteland  Waterway has much larger tunnels. Some are well above your head. More on that in the following weeks and hopefully I’ll have my new caving book in about 2 – 3 months. It’s taking a while because I’m trying to get it right.

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Finding the Croft Uranium Mine – Ontario

Between 1953 and 1955 Croft Uranium Mines worked the area for radioactive minerals. They found betafite, uranite, uranothorite, allanite and pyrochlore. Their appearance is flagged in the pegmatite by a dark red color and quartz that has darkened to a grayish-black. There are also said to be small pink garnets in the gneiss and larger specimens in the pegmatite – some reaching up to 3 centimeters in diameter.

A couple of hundred meters along the mine road I got Maggie to pull over in a little clearing and I continued on foot, leaving her there with the understanding that I would be back as soon as I had found the mine and explored the dumps. She had Shaka with her for company and I had my whistle that I tooted on intermittently so as not to walk unexpectedly into a hunter’s ambush. The whistle also served the dual purpose of letting bears know of my presence as the bush was thick and close to the path and I had no wish to meet the “mother of all bears” in a circumstance of mutual surprise.

The road dropped steeply down into a valley and I soon realized that leaving the car above was a wise move. There was nowhere to turn around, the ruts got deeper, and the track was soon entirely underwater. Beavers had built a stick and mud palisade that held back a stinking organic tidal wave that would one day inundate the swamp below. As for the road, forget it. I climbed across on logs and waded knee-deep in mud, thinking what it might be like during bug season (What looks like a stream in front of the beaver dam is actually the mine road).

On the other side of the beaver dam the track began a slow and steady climb upward. I noticed the appearance of crushed granite where I walked and of course the telltale patches of eastern hemlock. These trees tend to grow in clusters wherever the natural forest has been disturbed. They tell you where to look for hidden human habitation.

I soon discovered the mine dumps on my left and in a marshy gully I unexpectedly found the adit.

 

See another abandoned uranium mine in Ontario …  here or my trip to the Sarnac Zircon Mines  … here (where we were again terrorized by the possibility of being eaten by bears

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scan0003, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is what a burn site looks like – typical of the kind of terrain a tree planter works in.

The planter is a guy called Don who was a film student in Ryerson, he carries ‘container stock’ and is using a pottie (potty) to put his trees in the ground.

The idea is that you take your seedling out of your planting bag – roots neatly encased in a little cardboard roll – and drop it down the red tube that Don is holding. At the bottom of the tube is a spike that is driven into the ground. The measure of a well planted tree is whether the duff (organic matter) has been kicked out of the way first. Stomping on a lever at the bottom of the pottie, the spike opens up and the seedling is dropped into the hole that the spike has made.

 

Don looks pretty clean so either he was bathing in the swamp near the camp or I took the picture within about five minutes of beginning work. I remember by the end of that two week contract we were totally black and nobody bathed, firstly it attracted bugs and secondly the leaches in the swamp were these huge ribbony things that would flitter through the water toward whoever was in it.

One of my jobs was flagging the land and I would be out there marking off the planting areas for the next day long after the planters had all gone back to camp. I remember one evening I was way off in some burn site and the sun had already set, it was real spooky and I was convinced that there was some creature following me – maybe it was a bear or coyote or something, but at the time I was thinking it was a Sasquatch.

I believe this burn site was somewhere near Bancroft.

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Before and After Tree Planting

Looks a bit like before and after crack!

It seems that there is a lot of controversy and speculation about the worth of a summer tree planting experience, I believe it did me good. I refer you to the above two pictures as evidence.

A friend of mine sent me a video on the worth of a tree planting experience.I believe there is one especially truthful part. In suggesting the worth of a tree planting experience the counter-point argument goes something like  this; “In seeing your crew, you will initially wonder who let the freaks out of the circus, but after spending months in the bush with the same filthy degenerates while being shunned by the rest of society your brain will trick you into thinking that everyone looks like Brad Pitt in “Legends of the Fall”.

See tree planting video here … Tree planting video

In many respects it is quite accurate, but I do argue the point about the ability to make money. The video suggests that in your first year you end up owing the company money, that is possible, but if you have a decent straight-up company I can’t see that happening. Reputation is important – ensure you get references from many other planters who have worked for the same company that you intend to plant for.

YOU CAN MAKE MONEY IF YOU WORK HARD, BUT AS IN LIFE YOU DON’T GET MONEY FOR FREE, YOU GOTTA WORK FOR IT!

See my post on how tree planting works  here … Tree planting in Northern Ontario

See what happens when things go wrong here …  Lighten up a bit won’t you

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Paradise Falls, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I can’t remember what I’ve blogged about this trip so far – so here is the full story (as I remember).

There is this incredible storm drain that is very spectacular (as storm drains go). Many years ago SNFU and I resolved to follow it up as far as we could – this in place of the especially old drains in Niagara falls that I still intend to visit.

Well you enter in a rather public place – at the edge of a highway and the noise from within is quite intimidating. As a caver that sound of water suggested that we were about to be swamped by a flash flood, but it never came so we waded in and soon found ourselves at the bottom of a stairway down which flowed a gush of very cold water.

It was midwinter and though you might not be able to tell, I am wearing a wet suit beneath my coat.

It took us about 40 minutes of careful walking up two flights of stairs to get to the in-fall; a large grate at the edge of a golf course.

The stairs slope toward their center and with the algae build-up and the coldness it was not exactly easy, but we were very pleased to have done it and we rose from about the water level at the lake to the height just at the base of the cliffs. Along the way we had the fortune to observe some rather spectacular rust stalactites which were growing from cracks in the roof from which water poured. We resolved in the spring when the water was higher and warmer to inner-tube the drain from infall to outlet (wearing helmets) but in retrospect, its probably better that we didn’t.

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Queen’s Regiment, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Having served a short time in the Canadian Army I left and joined the British Army (Queen’s Regiment).

This is me in Portugal. We spent a huge amount of time in the eucalyptus forests. I remember that we were always short of water. I was so thirsty once that I  filled an old pop can that I had found with stinking water from a tire rut. In plugging the end with plastic I had saved it for a treat later in the day. It turned out that there was an orchard near there and the people who were picking oranges gave us fresh water and lots of fruit.

Most of the time we moved at night and I honed my map and compass skills to perfection.

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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This picture was taken on a recent exploration that JC and I did in an area that has long been suspected of being “cave rich”.

In Ongley’s long forgotten cave manuscript he relates the impression at the time of Ontario being a cave desert – a paucity of karst! not so! Theres lots of caves in Ontario you just gotta find them. Marcus Buck said that 90 -95% of Ontario’s caves are found beside a road or path – still true, its because of our rugged terrain and people’s unwillingness to hack through the bush. JC and I do that quite often and sometimes we hit lucky.

My book on Ontario’s cave geography “Rockwatching” is again available at Amazon. It appears that it had risen quite significantly in price while it was out of print – Teebooks1 – $156.13, The_Meirin_USA – $94.00, and any_book for – $56.46.

Rockwatching is back on at Amazon for $20.96 – buy it and stop e-mailing me for directions to caves, you’ll learn in the book how to figure those out for yourselves.

But for now, I hope to update you in the next month or so on our further explorations of Broken Rowboat cave – it all depends on whether the location is totally snowed in for the winter or not. It’s a hike of several kilometers through some pretty rugged terrain.

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Mad man yodels out a turkey call

I can’t be sure of the story behind this fellow, but I was sitting waiting for Maggie in a square off one of the main streets in Chester and in the distance I heard this sound like a wild turkey; everyone around me was looking, wondering what it was … and again the sound; it was this sort of crazy cackling – warbling noise. It just kept getting closer.

Finally this fellow sprinted past, looping back he returned to leap up and down, flapping his elbows like he was trying to fly and yodeling out a wild turkey noise.

I couldn’t be sure whether he was serious or not. We locked gazes and I wondered if I was in for a pecking???  I only had time to snap this hurried picture and then he seemed distracted by something in the distance. Unexpectedly the turkeyman dashed off in a crazy zig zag sprint dodging between startled pedestrians, half crouched over, flapping and leaping, but in vain, everyone knows turkeys aren’t so graceful –  in fact they barely fly. The last I heard of the warbler was his deranged turkey call fading in the distance.

Oh turkey man, from whence did you come and where did you go?

Does anyone know the deal?

Does he do this for money?

Is he a drama student?

Somebody who likes attention?

Just plain off his rocker?

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