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Finger Point Trail

After a long break from hiking, I’m back on the trails. I did this trail on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, October 13th, 2008 along with my girlfriend Melanie and my daughters dog, Sierra.

Finger Point Lookout trail is located south of Thunder Bay on Highway 61 at the US border, in the Pigeon River Provincial Park. You access the trail from the east side of the parking lot at the Ontario government tourism office. When the office is open you can pick up a map of the park. Follow the boardwalk to where the trail heads left. Although not very wide, the trail is easy to follow as it heads to the intersection of the High Falls trail. Keep right and you can’t miss the Finger Point signs.

You get a chance to walk to the waters edge here and you can see the “lookout” in the distance to the east north east. So once you’ve had a look at the driftwood, and probably let your dog wade in the water, head up the trail to the lookout.

A view from Pigeon Bay of the lookout.A view from Pigeon Bay of the lookout.

It’s about 2.5 kilometers one way from the parking lot to the lookout. The first kilometer and a half is fairly easy with minimal up and downs. However, once you get to the base of the lookout, you have a few steep climbs ahead of you. But the trail is very good and easy to follow. There are natural steps created by both rocks and tree roots that help you along. And once you reach the top, you will be amply rewarded with a view as spectacular as you have seen in these parts. This is a trail with a high “wow” factor.

View of Lake SuperiorView of Lake Superior

On top you will find two veiwing areas separated by a small gully. Make sure you head over to the far one as that is where the bench and artwork is found. This is a pleasant surprise as you are not expecting to see such creativity in the middle of nowhere.

Lake Superior benchLake Superior bench

Enjoy your stay on the lookout and then head back down the trail.  But be careful on the way down. Sometimes your legs can get going faster than you like on some of the downslopes. Hiking down a hill can often be as dangerous as hiking up.

Finger Point trailFinger Point trail

Remember to take your garbage out with you. We found the trail and lookout very clean and hope that it remains that way. And don’t forget to clean up after your dog as well.

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Twist Lake

This morning I ventured out with my canoe to have a look at a little lake I found on Google Earth last night that appeared to have access from a good road. It is about a 45 minute drive, at least the way I drive, only having a car, from home, so it was perfect for today’s forecast of showers. Actually i had only planned to have a look at it today, planning to come back when the weather improved, but it turned out to be a beautiful morning so I put the canoe in the water and went exploring.

Twist Lake

This is a opportune time of year to see the plants starting to bloom. I do not profess to know plants, but the next pictures show vegetation that I have tried to identify using Shan Walshe”s great book “Plants of Quetico and the Ontario Shield”. I think the first one shows Leatherleaf, but it may be Bog Rosemary. If anyone knows what it is please add a comment.

Twist Lake Vegetation

The next photo I believe is Bog Laurel, but I would like someone to verify this.

Twist Lake Vegetation

Northwestern Ontario is not known for tornadoes, but we do get plenty of what we call micro bursts. These localized, powerful winds will lay down mature hardwood and softwoods alike. These blow down areas will often be cleaned up by harvesting crews, but it is very hard work.

Twist Lake Blow Down

Twist is not very large, but it was just right for a midday paddle. I had seen a family of Canada geese on the stream, but stayed clear of them so as not to upset the parents, and there was a pair of Loons on the lake. Of course I heard their call before I spotted them. Nothing can compare to being on a lake and hearing that sound. Part of nature’s symphony.

Twist Lake

I paddle once around the lake, with a stop on the far side for a mug of thermos coffee, then back to the stream where I came in. There is another stream on the south east side of the lake that will take you to Marks Lake. I do not know if it is navigatable, as even the stream I came in on had a small beaver dam that I had to push my canoe over. I live in prime beaver country and you see their lodges everywhere.

Twist Lake Beaver Lodge

It turned out to be a great day after all. Even though it was only an hour or so of canoeing, and I didn’t see much wildlife, I’m sure I’ll be back to Twist Lake. I think the stream to Marks Lake needs to be explored.

Now I’m Canoeing

Today marks my entry into the world of canoeing. I’ve been given the use of a canoe by my son-in-law, bless his country soul, so I’ll be telling little stories about my canoe trips instead of hiking trips. Hopefully I’ll get back to hiking this fall.

So last night I loaded the canoe onto the car and got a small pack ready to head out early. Well, early for me ended up being eight o’clock before I hit the road, but I was on the water by ten to nine. I went to Hazelwood Lake, north of Thunder Bay. I choose this lake because it is close to town, it is not very big, and is one that I’m familiar with.

The wind picked up quite a bit by the time I got on the water and there were white caps on Hazelwood itself, so I stuck to the river portion and stopped for a coffee and a rest on the leeward side of  a little spit of land just as the river opened up into the lake.  Even though it was my first canoe trip in MANY years, I felt comfortable enough that I wasn’t concerned about the wind on the river, but I had no intention of battling the waves on the lake.

Stopped For Coffee

My resting spot.

Turtle

Sunning himself on a birch log.

I took my time heading back to the landing and was rewarded with a bit of nature.   Besides the turtle on the birch log, there was a Canada goose, a pair of mallards, a pair of loons, a kingfisher that made quite a splash for me, and a blue jay. I also saw something small slide off a log into the water but was too far away and noticed it too late to tell you what it was.

Hazelwood Lake

Looking north west at Hazelwood Lake

I’ll try the lake again, either with someone or when the weather (wind) is better. I would like to do the entire shoreline as I’m sure there is lots to see. As well, the river can be travel east towards the dam, which would be a good trip solo as it is better protected from the wind.

This being my first trip, I expect to be stiff and sore by tomorrow, but I really don’t care as it was a great experience and something that I will enjoy as much as hiking. See you on the water!

Hazelwood Lake

Another of the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority areas, Hazelwood Lake is a year round facility offering recreational trails, picnic area, non powered boating and indoor facilities for rent. The lodge is a popular spot for weddings and conferences. It is a great get-away spot for the whole family.

Hazelwood Lake LodgeHazelwood Lake Lodge

It was a beautiful November 1st, 2008 when I headed up Hazelwood Drive to the LRCA trails. There are two trails, each about two and half kilometers. The brochure I had said the trails were on the easy side, so I intended to do both of them this day.

From the parking lot, I headed up the orange trail, going north past the picnic area. This is a wonderful area for families, having numerous table, a large shelter, washrooms and a sandy beach. There is plenty of room for having fun.

Picnic area and beachPicnic area and beach

The trail leaves the picnic area and follows the lake shore. Unfortunately it only parallels the lake, too far inland for even the slightest view. There are plenty of small up and downs on this particular trail, so I would describe it as easy to moderate in difficulty. The trail is very well maintained and wide enough for two hikers to walk side by side.

Well kept trailWell kept trail

The trail loops around and returns to the picnic area on the east side by the washrooms.  Once across the open field, follow the trail from the beach along the shore. You pass the lodge and pick up the forest community trail heading southwest. This is another two and half kilometer loop, but it is much easier walking than the orange loop. Again, the trail follows the shore, but there is virtually no view available.

These are lovely trails but I swear they were built by the government. They don’t really go anywhere and don’t offer a view of anything but trees. There is  no “wow” factor at all, and frankly I felt disappointed once I was done. There was plenty of opportunity for views of the lake and surrounding area from the numerous high spots on the orange trail, yet the trail was so far from the lake that nothing could be seen. The forest community trail showed promise, but it was too far from the shore to offer any real scenery as well. But if all you want is outdoor exercise, these well maintained trails are for you.

Hazelwood Lake, looking east to the beach and picnic areaHazelwood Lake, looking east to the beach and picnic area

The LRCA works hard to maintain all of its trails, don’t leave garbage lying about.

Mission Marsh

The Lakehead Region Conservation Authority has eight areas in Thunder Bay under it’s control. Mission Marsh is located on Mission Island and can be accessed via Island Drive and 106th Street. It is a very good area to see the local deer population. It is a popular spot, but the trails are rarely busy. Most people come to check out the deer or to walk the short boardwalk trail. As with all LRCA areas, a $2.00 parking fee is asked for. It is on the honour system and I hope that those who get out of their vehicles to check out the trails are honest enough to support the LRCA. And for those of you who enjoy the outdoors and the facilities available courtesy of the Authority, a yearly pass is available for only $30.00 ($25.00 if you buy before the end of 2008). Many of the conservation areas have facilities that need to be maintained, and you know that doesn’t come free. So do your part and support the LRCA.

Beaver ActivityBeaver Activity

Melanie and I headed to Mission Marsh on October 12th, 2008, in a bit of a drizzle. We took Sierra, my daughter’s dog, along for the exercise. We did the trails around the Memorial Trees and over to the McKellar River. This included the wetland lagoons where there was ample evidence of beavers at work.

Although the trails are not long, this is still a great spot for a bit of exercise. You get a great view of Lake Superior and the Sleeping Giant, and there always seems to be waterfowl on the river.

Wildlife on the riverWildlife on the river

We didn’t do the boardwalk this time, but certainly will the next trip out. There is always something to see here, so make sure you come back often.

Orion

One of the most prominent constellations in the northern hemisphere’s night sky during the winter is The Hunter, Orion. In lore he was a guide to the seasons for mariners and farmers, signaling the onset of winter storms. The Egyptians called him Osiris, God of the Underworld, with the Milky Way his River Styx. His companion dog, Canis Major follows him in his travels across the sky from east to west as the winter progresses.

 Orion

 There are seven major stars in Orion, three in his belt and two each in his shoulders and feet.

The brightest is Betelgeuse, also known as Alpha Orionis using the Bayer system of classification. It is a pulsating red super giant of 0.5 (var.) magnitude. It is located in Orion’s shoulder, in the north east portion of the constellation. It is about 427 light years from earth and is so large that if it was to replace our sun, its outer surface would extend between Mars and Jupiter.

The other star in Orion’s upper body is Bellatrix, a blue super giant of the second magnitude (1.6). It lies about 240 light years from earth and is one of the hotter naked eye stars. It is the Gamma Orionis star.

The Beta Orionis star is Rigel, a blue-white super giant that lies below Bellatrix. It is a first magnitude star (.2); it is over twice the distance from earth as Betelgeuse, somewhere between 700 and 900 light years, depending on whose research you use. It is also a visual binary star.

Directly below Betelgeuse, and across from Rigel is Saiph, also known as Kappa Orionis. It is a blue-white super giant, mid-second magnitude at 2.05, and is 720 light years away.

And now on to the three stars that make up Orion’s belt.

Below the beautiful Betelgeuse is Alnitak, the brightest O Class star in the sky. A double star with a combined magnitude of 1.8, it lies about 800 light years away, it is a hot blue super giant. Classified as Zeta Orionis by Bayer, it hides from most backyard telescopes the amazing Horsehead Nebula, IC434 just to its south.

Next to Alnitak is Alnilam, Epsilon Orionis. It is a hot B class super giant. A second magnitude (1.7) star, it is 1300 light years from earth.

The final star in Orion’s belt is Mintaka, rated as Delta Orionis. With a magnitude of 2.2, it is over 900 light years away. It is also a double star like Alnitak.

Any visit to Orion would not be complete without mention of the wonderful Orion Nebula, that hazy patch lying below the three starred belt. Also known as M42 and M43, this is a vast cloud of swirling gas containing very young stars of magnitude 4 to 8. The asterism Trapezium lies within this nebula.

Much of the Constellation Orion is visible with both the naked eye and with binoculars, making this a popular viewing spot in the northern hemisphere’s winter sky.

Astronomy

Today I am starting a series of articles on astronomy. This has always been of interest to me and I have finally made the effort to learn more about the night sky. I see this as a wonderful companion to hiking; both take in the great outdoors and both hobbies are reasonably inexpensive to get started in. Invest in a good pair of binoculars and you are all set for either hobby.

I am starting out by learning one constellation or asterism per week. These will be in no particular order, but will probably follow the seasons.

I will not be providing explanations or definitions for astronomical terms. If you want to know what they mean then you will have to research them yourself, just as I have done. And a short note on research. I have found that information regarding interstellar objects is not always consistent from one source to another. So if you find any discrepancies in my”facts” as compared to your “facts” please remember that I am only passing on what I have read.

I hope you enjoy this tour of the night sky. It’s vastness is breathtaking and it’s beauty is unsurpassed.