Canadian Sunrise – Photo Friday #5

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

Today’s photo was taken back in September of 2020 in the Algonquin Highlands, located in Ontario, Canada.

I’m not really a morning person, but this past summer I found myself needing to wake up early for work and thankfully for my troubles, almost every day I was rewarded with an absolutely stunning sunrise. The lake, the big skies, the rolling forested hills, and of course the vibrant colours brought by the rising sun made this the perfect setting to start my day.

I miss these early mornings, and I can’t wait until winter finally releases its grip on the north, and I get to be here again. This picture below was la crème de la crème of all the sunrises I witnessed, and I’m sure you’ll see why.

See you next week!


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Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail Guide – Algonquin Provincial Park

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Quick Look:

Name: Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail

Location: Km marker 42.5, Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Length: 1.4 km (0.87 mi)

Difficulty: Easy

Features & Points of Interest: Well maintained boardwalk, bird-watching, northern spruce bog, forested path, wheelchair accessible & kid friendly.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail Map – Algonquin Park (Source: alltrails.com)

Overview

The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, located in Algonquin Provincial Park, is an easy, wheelchair accessible 1.4 km (0.87 mi) loop that follows a well maintained wooden boardwalk through a northern spruce bog and wooded area. This trail provides excellent opportunities for bird-watching and photography, and is the perfect place to enjoy a slow paced nature walk with younger children and seniors.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
The beginning of the trail hovers above the bog
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
A small stream runs through the heart of the bog
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
About halfway through the trail, the boardwalk gives way to a forested path
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What do you need to know?

The Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail is one of the most accessible in all of Algonquin Park. While adventure seekers might prefer hiking somewhere else, this trail is a perfect place to go for a slow paced nature walk, take some photos, and enjoy the scenery with friends and family. The mostly flat grade, and relatively short length makes this a great choice for beginners, seniors, or those with younger children.

While the trail’s location is fairly far along the Highway 60 corridor, and a little ways away from the west entrance of Algonquin Park, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail is well worth the trip, especially as a companion activity to the Visitors Centre, located half a kilometre away at km 43.

In my opinion, this trail is best enjoyed if used from late June until late October to avoid the swarms of bugs you’ll encounter during blackfly season earlier in the spring. However, as this is the perfect spawning ground for mosquitos, you might want to choose a warm, sunny day to hike this trail in order to avoid getting bitten throughout the rest of the summer months!

Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
Birds, turtles, beavers, and more can be found on this trail!
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
This section of the trail, which snakes through a grouping of spruce trees, is perhaps the most photogenic
Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail, Algonquin Park
While it’s scenic, beware, this is the perfect spawning ground for Mosquitos!
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How to get here:

  • From Toronto:
    • Hwy 400 –> Hwy 11 –> Hwy 60 –> Algonquin Park West Gate –> Km marker 42.5

*Be sure to stop in at the West Gate first to pick up your day pass*


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Illusions of Time (Vsauce)

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The other day, I came across a YouTube video called Illusions of Time by Vsauce. If you’re interested in science, and the odd quirks of the world and the universe, you’ve probably heard of this channel. If not, I highly recommend checking it out and subscribing; there’s a lot of really interesting and thought-provoking videos!

In this video, Illusions of Time, the host Michael dives deep into the concept of time, and how we as humans perceive it in different aspects of our life. It’s about 30 minutes in length, but well worth the watch as there are numerous moments within it where you question how you are choosing to live your life, and how the choices you make are crucial to getting the most out of your time on this planet. (Kind of like Seeking Saudades?)

Of course, the video itself does a much better job of explaining these concepts than I do, so give it a watch for yourself below!

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Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand – Photo Friday #4

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Welcome back to Photo Friday!

This week’s image was taken in February of 2020, and features the view from the swimming pool of our hillside accommodation in Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand.

Aside from the obvious spectacular scenery, I love this picture because it brings back a flood of memories; the smell of the ocean, the gentle whispering breeze, and the warmth and silence of the setting sun. Thailand is a special place, and I can’t help but look at this photo and wish I was there once again.

See you next week!

Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand
Kata Noi, Phuket, Thailand (ca. February 2020)

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Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower – Kitchener, Ontario

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The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower is an 18.9 m (62 ft.) tall stone tower constructed in 1925 to commemorate the original Pennsylvanian-German pioneer settlers who arrived in what is now Waterloo Region between 1800 and 1803. It is located along the banks of the Grand River in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, just over a 1-hour drive from Toronto, and lies on what was originally the territory of the Six Nations of the Grand River.


Quick Look

Name: Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

Location: 300 Lookout Ln, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Maintained By: Parks Canada

Features & Points of Interest: Stone tower, scenic lookout, historical sites, natural area, hiking trails, community park.

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Although the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower used to be surrounded by farmers fields and forests, the structure now lies at the back of a recently constructed subdivision. To get to the tower, simply follow the Parks Canada signs that begin to appear once you turn off of King St. and onto Deer Ridge Rd. On arrival, there is a small, and free parking lot available.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Parks Canada directions sign
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower parking lot
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

The tower is located within steps to the parking lot, and sits in the centre of a small clearing. At the site, there are a couple of informational plaques that recount the history of the area, and the historical significance of tower itself, of which I will briefly cover before continuing on to what else this destination has to offer.

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Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Parks Canada historical plaque

In 1784, nearly 240,000 hectares of land, including that of which the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower now sits on, was given as a gift to the Six Nations Confederacy for their allegiance and support to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War. In the years to come, some 38,000 hectares of this land was then purchased and sold again, this time by German Mennonite Settlers from Pennsylvania, who were looking to escape the persecution and high land prices they faced in the United States.

As time passed, more and more German pioneer settlers travelled to what would eventually become Waterloo County. They established homesteads and farms, and began cultivating and developing the land; the first of which was located on this site, where the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower now lies, in present day Kitchener, Ontario.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

While today the city is known as Kitchener, Ontario, this wasn’t always the case. In the past, the city went by a different name; Berlin, Ontario. Beginning with the arrival of the original German Pioneer settlers, who established Berlin in the early 1800s, this area has maintained a prominent German cultural presence. Even today, the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany takes place here every year, attracting over 700,000 visitors annually.

However, in 1916 this heritage wasn’t as keenly celebrated. In response to the growing local anti-German sentiments caused by the outbreak of World War I, the city voted to change its name in support of the British Empire, and thus was renamed to Kitchener, Ontario, after Herbert Kitchener, a prominent Irish-born officer who served in the British Army from 1871 to 1916.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower

Following the conclusion of the first world war, to make amends for the damage done by the anti-German sentiments, and subsequent city name change, a petition was put forth to the local government to construct a monument to represent the historical significance of the original pioneer settlers, and German heritage. Thus, the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower was built. It cost $4,500 to build, and was eventually designated as a historical site in 1989. While there have been some refurbishments to the original structure over the years, its exterior appearance has remained relatively unchanged since.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
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While at one point the interior of the tower was open to the public, today the front entrance is locked. However, if you’re interested in seeing the inside, you can contact Parks Canada ahead of time to gain access and schedule an official tour.

Nearby the tower there is also a small cemetery, inside of which you’ll find the headstones of some of those original German pioneers, including Joseph and Elizabeth Sherk, parents of David Sherk, who is reputed to be the first non-indigenous person born in what would become Waterloo County.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Dedication Plaque located on the side of the tower

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Inner staircase leading to the top of the tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Nearby pioneer cemetery

When you’re finished taking in the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, I recommend going for a short walk down Joseph Schoerg Crescent to explore the ruins of the Betzner Barn, and the Schoerg (Sherk) farmstead, the first permanent European settlement in inland Upper Canada. There are also several informational plaques which talk about the the history of the pioneers, and the local area which I described above.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
The remaining structure of the Betzner barn
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower
Joseph Schoerg Crescent (ruins at left, tower down the road)

The Betzner Barn is also the location of Clarica Lookout, which offers a view of the nearby Pioneer Tower Natural Area. This greenspace was created to protect the winter habitat of the king of the skies, the Bald Eagle. Since the 1700s, the local population of this majestic bird has been decimated due to hunting and habitat loss, and so this natural area remains one of the few refuges in the region.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
The view from Clarica Lookout
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area
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While the Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower and surrounding structures offer a glimpse back into history, this area also features Kuntz Park, the Walter Bean Grand River Trail, and the Pioneer Tower Natural Area, as I mentioned above. These locations are great places to go for a nature walk, and while I only had time to walk the Pioneer Tower Natural Area section of the trail, there are more than 17 km (10.5 mi) of pathways to explore, stretching all the way from Cambridge, Ontario, through the City of Kitchener along the Grand River, and then further more on to Waterloo, Ontario.

Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Walter Bean Grand River Trail Map
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Path leading into the Pioneer Tower Natural Area
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail
Pioneer Tower Natural Area, Grand River Trail

The Waterloo Pioneers Memorial Tower, in combination with the Pioneer Tower Natural Area, and the Walter Bean Grand River Trail makes this destination well worth the visit. Whether it be the history, the nature, or simply being a great place to go for a walk, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.


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Lookout Trail Guide – Algonquin Provincial Park

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Quick Look:

Name: Lookout Trail

Location: Km marker 39.7, Highway 60, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Length: 2.1 km (1.3 mi)

Elevation Gain: 71 m (233 ft)

Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult

Features & Points of Interest: Scenic lookout, large rock outcrop, sheer cliff, well maintained forested path

Algonquin Lookout Trail Map
Algonquin Lookout Trail Map (Source: alltrails.com)

Overview

The Lookout Trail, located in Algonquin Provincial Park, is a moderate to difficult 2.1 km loop that features a sweeping scenic lookout, large rock outcrop, and well-maintained forested path. Despite its relatively short length, this trail can pose a challenge for some due to its steep incline, and elevation gain. At a moderate pace, the hike can be completed in less than 1 hour.

Lookout Trail Algonquin Park
Flat, forested section of the path, just past the trailhead
Lookout Trail Algonquin Park
Shortly past this point, the trail gives way to a relatively steep incline

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What do you need to know?

Hikers will be rewarded with one of the best views in the entire area and a fantastic place to stop, catch your breath, and take an unhealthy amount of photos. Just be warned though, this trail is one of the most accessible in Algonquin Park, and as such will be one of the busiest. It’s best to hike the Lookout Trail earlier in the morning, or later in the afternoon to avoid the lunchtime and evening rushes.

If you’re planning on visiting during the Fall colours season, particularly on the weekend, know that the parking lot reaches over-capacity quickly, and the path becomes nearly unusable due to the congestion. To maximize your enjoyment, consider coming during the week, or visiting the park at a time of year when the crowds aren’t as numerous.

Algonquin Lookout Trail
A bench at the top is the perfect place rest, or take photos
Lookout Trail Algonquin
A small lake is visible in the distance
Algonquin Lookout Trail

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How to get here:

  • From Toronto:
    • Hwy 400 –> Hwy 11 –> Hwy 60 –> Algonquin Park West Gate –> km marker 39.7
    • *Be sure to stop in at the West Gate to pick up your day pass*

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The Canada / United States Border – Photo Friday #3

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Welcome back to Photo Friday and Happy New Year!

This week’s photo comes from the Canada – United States Border between the Province of British Columbia and Washington State.

Much of the border between Canada and the United States looks just like the area in photo below: a ditch beside the road, or a long clearing of trees. The border between these two nations is not only the longest international border in the world, (8,890 km, 5524 mi) but it’s also the longest undefended one. The only way to actually tell you’re entering an entirely different country is by the colour difference of the pavement, and the white pillars which mark the exact boundary line.

Still though, much of the border is under constant 24/7 surveillance from both sides, so crossing here without repercussions isn’t as easy as it seems. However, it fascinates me just how different the United States’ northern border is with Canada in contrast to the one with Mexico in the south; walls, fences and all.

See you next week!

The Canada - United States Border
Canada – United States Border Marker, British Columbia/Washington State (ca. November 2019)

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