Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Muskoka Geocaching Holiday

We have just come back from our holidays. This year we decided to go on a geocaching adventure so I picked an area that I thought would be nice to explore. Then I downloaded the maps and the geocaches within 5 km of our planned route onto my Garmin Dakota 20 GPS.  That gave me 500 caches to choose from when we hit the area.  The route I chose was between Huntsville and Orillia, Ontario but that doesn't mean we necessarily intended to cover all of it.

We stopped for breakfast at a place called The Cupboard, in Arnprior.  I highly recommend that place. The food was plentiful and tasty, and very reasonably priced. I'm sure we'll go back there again sometime.

We saw two deer on the road before we got to Algonquin Park, but no wildlife as we drove through. I had booked a room at the Comfort Inn at Huntsville before we left home, and it was definitely a good place to land when we finally arrived.  We had only ever  been to Huntsville once before and that had to be about 15 years ago.  It's a pretty little town with lots of hills and a river running through it.  After a bit of a rest, we turned on the GPS and checked to see where the nearest caches were, then off we went.  I wasn't so determined to pick up all the caches as I was to see the sites the listings brought us to, so it didn't bother me that we drove by some and didn't find some of the others.
One of the ones we didn't find was up at the Lion's Club lookout point.  Heck, it was hard enough to just find that!  We had been up there on our previous visit, but the road was much better marked at that time. This time we had to ask numerous people before we found someone who actually knew where we should turn off to get t here.  There was a lady from England up there reading. She was really enjoying our Canadian weather, she said. 

Geocaching helps you find all the interesting spots the locals want to point out that may not be in the tourist brochures. Huntsville  not only has a river, but it also has locks.  A pretty place, much like home.  But unlike at home, there were no boats as the locks had not been opened for the season yet. We found that strange as there are certainly a lot of boats on the Rideau at this time of year.

Then there was the boardwalk over the bay, creating a short cut for the waterside trail.  We never would have found this if it had not been for geocaching.

As we were driving to our next location along highway 11, I noticed there was a clump of geocaches off the main road, near some water. I mentioned that, and my hubby said that here was an exit coming up. I suggested he take that exit, and I'm so glad he did.  That's how we discovered Port Sydney.  Now, if I were to build a cottage somewhere, this would be the perfect spot.  We found caches along a roadside trail, at the beach, and on a woodland trail. We also found kids in a tree near the beach.  We had to be careful that they didn't see us looking for the cache nearby.

We went to the dam to look for another one, but there was too much metal and it kept screwing up the headings on the GPS.  That's okay as the site was the best treasure we found on the entire trip. 

Below the dam we saw some kids climb a pine tree, walk out along the branches while clinging to the branch above them and then plunging into the water below.  After they swam around in the deep water there, they went a bit downstream and used the rushing water to slide over the rocks.  I could have sat there all day and just watched them.

We went on to Gravenhurst for the night.  There we found the docks at one end of town and a beach with a bandstand at the other side of town.  The main problem with Gravenhurst is that it needs more decent places to eat. 

After visiting their farmer's market the next morning, we headed for for Bracebridge.  On our first trip to this area we managed to find a huge rocky lookout that I had seen in a brochure. We had to ask many people where that was, but finally found it. The trail across the rock back then was marked with painted arrows. We had to stand on one to see the next one. We were not sure if that "trail" made a loop, or how far it went. As it was late in the day and very difficult to see the arrows for a reverse trip, since some of them where on the downside of a dip, we decided it was not a good time to venture too far.  I doubt that it would be good to be caught up there at night, or in a storm.

This time I saw at least 4 mentions of Huckleberry Rock in the brochures. I was not sure if it was the same rock, but figured it would at least be similar. Think of the Group of Seven and the paintings or wind blown pines on a rocky surface done by Tom Thomson. I'm sure he sat up there and did those.

It was the same rock. We just came at it from a different angle. There is now a canyon cut through this rock, and you can walk up to the edge of that and look down if you like.  This rock is the oldest on the planet, and absolutely huge.  I'm so glad we were able to find it more easily this time. 

When we were finished walking around on the rock we went back to Bracebridge. There are a number of caches along trails leading to the waterfall in the middle of town.  I know we never saw that last time we were there, so once again, geocaching is a great way to find the local sites. 

If you are looking at a map you may notice we are backtracking. We had decided to go back to Huntsville for another night, before heading home.  While there a waiter asked if we had been up to the Dorset Lookout Tower. We hadn't heard about that, but it was not far off our route on the way home, so we did make the scenic side trip.  This tower is 100 feet tall, and because it stands on another rocky outcrop, it looms 365 feet above the Lake of the Bays.  Not everyone makes it to the very top.  You have to climb the stairs, and while the ones closer to the bottom go up the centre of the tower, the upper flights spiral around the outside of it, which can feel a little spooky. 

It was a long trip home but we did stop in Eganville for our final meal on the road.  It was a  nice trip and we certainly picked a great area to go exploring.

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