Corduroy Roads

Before the invention of modern concrete, travellers were able to cross muddy, swampy grounds by building “corduroy roads”—paths that were constructed of logs laid perpendicular to the direction of the route.

Canada’s first travel routes were the rivers and lakes used by Indigenous people, travelling by canoe in summer and following the frozen waterways in winter. The water network was so practical that explorers, settlers and soldiers followed the example of the Indigenous people. The first graded road in Canada was built in 1606 by Samuel de Champlain and was 16 km long stretching from Port Royal to Digby Cape, Nova Scotia. In 1793, an Act of the first Parliament of Upper Canada placed all roads under the supervision of overseers, called path masters. Early road development was accomplished by a system of “statutory labour,” which required settlers to maintain the road adjacent to their property or to work 3 to 12 days each year on road maintenance. Over time, the statutory labour system was commuted into payment of a fine in lieu of labour, creating the first source of funds for road expenditures.

In Simcoe/Grey County, many of the early pioneer roads can still be found as shown below. Sometimes, they’re easy to see and other times a bit of research gets you there!

SS Alice Hackett and the Ghost of the White Horse

When I see the storms coming in from Georgian Bay like today, I am reminded of the thousands of shipwrecks that lie on the bottom of it. How horrifying it must have been to be aboard a distraught ship, especially in the freezing waters of November. Here’s the story of Georgian Bay’s first shipwreck. Nov. 4, 1828

When Drummond Island was evacuated in 1828, the Government sent the schooner SS Alice Hackett to do the job of transporting the remaining 25 island residents south to Penetanguishene, including an innkeeper named Fraser with his thirteen barrels of whiskey, and William Solomon, a government interpreter.

Solomon arranged for his possessions to be part of the voyage – two horses, four cows, twelve sheep, and eight pigs, and they all set sail. This turned into Georgian Bay’s first shipwreck after they hit a sand bar at Fitzwilliam Island, near Manitoulin Island. A storm and the inebriated condition of the crew from Fraser’s fine spirits are reported to be the cause of the ship going off course.

Miraculously, all 25 passengers survived the wreck along with some pigs, the thirteen barrels of whiskey, and Solomon’s white prize horse named ‘Louie’.

They managed to take refuge on the shores of Fitzwilliam Island and after 3 days, all were saved and arrived safely in Penetanguishene. All, except for Louie, that Solomon tried in vain to have taken off the island but to no avail. Louie could be seen by boats for years later running on the Island. He would end up dying there which, since then, has become known as (Ghost) Horse Island.

When you hear the howling of the storm, think of the ones who went down listening to that as the very last sound they would ever hear.

Castle Glen in Blue Mountain, Louis Riel and Britton Bath Osler

Britton Bath Osler (1839 – 1901)

In the mid 1800’s, an enchanting love story between Britton Bath Osler and his wife Caroline began, and that brought them to County road 19 in Grey County, at Castle Glen Estates. Britton was a famous Canadian criminal lawyer, and also the crown attorney at the trial of Louis Riel on the charges of treason in 1885. He founded the law firm of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt in Toronto. When his wife, Caroline, began to suffer from her chronic arthritis, Osler decided in 1893, to build the 15-room Osler ‘Castle’ near the Town of Blue Mountain. Mr. Osler hoped that the ‘fresh air’ would improve her health. Before he was finished, several hundred thousand dollars had been invested. The “cottage” that emerged from the construction had 15 rooms within a stone shell of huge granite-hard heads that had been gathered from the surrounding hills. It was a fanciful structure of massive cut rock with turret-like chimneys, an arched entryway, and large bright windows. It was built to last an eternity. Tragically, Caroline died before ever being able to summer at Osler Castle. She died on May 3, 1895. After Caroline’s death, Britton visited the home for 5 years before his own health deteriorated. After his death in 1901, the Butler and Maid remained in the house for years, until they left to live an easier life in Collingwood. Left unattended, the empty home became the target of lawbreakers. The furnishings were stolen and the home vandalized and eventually set on fire. Of course, urban legends began to sprout up with notions that the castle was haunted and that strange lights could be seen and horrible noises heard. Today, all that’s left of the castle are ruins which keep watch over the Lake in the Clouds and is lined by the Silver Creek flowing down the Escarpment. You can access it several ways, one of the most beautiful is by way of Silver Creek.

Natures Art Gallery

There is a gallery of beauty, so intricate and precise, where every stroke of the brush creates a canvas of energy and color. It is a privilege to step inside the frame and share in it’s magnificence. Presenting some of the sites of the Magic of Nature, as seen through my eyes. “Hiking with the Viking”

The Wolf Clan battle the Iroqois in Clearview

The Ojibways also have an extensive history in this area. They travelled from Penetanguishene to near where Collingwood is today and the old Petun territory, because of attacks of the Iroqouis upon them. The Petun, too, had been chased out of their homeland by the Iroquois in the mid-1600s. According to Peter S. Schmalz’s ‘The Ojibwa of Southern Ontario’, the Battle of the Blue Mountains took place here in Clearview Township. At sunrise, the Iroquois were surrounded and attacked by the Ojibway. Many Iroqouis were killed, but some managed to escape. Others were captured and made to watch as the hundreds of dead were decapitated and the heads stuck on poles that stood along the edge of what would become the ski hills of the Blue Mountains, facing north, toward the land of the Ojibway. The survivors were told to go home and tell of what they saw. Through treatys, the Ojibway eventually gave up this land. These crevices are some of my favorites and are between Meaford and Owen Sound – once also the Land of the Ojibway, just like the Blue Mountains. To hike here, go to Blue Mountain Section, Bruce Trail Club, Map #23


Historical Badge & Glen Haffy

In this series of Caledon Hills Bruce Trail Club Hiking badges, I am leading a hike of 16 participants, in a series of five, throughout the Caledon Area for the Caledon Bruce Trail Club. Upon completion of these hikes, you are awarded an “Historical Hike” badge for your collection. This 11 km hike was in the Glen Haffy Conservation Area, which hosts VERY serene mature forests. Located at the crossroads of the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine, the terrain is very up and down, but the ups provide some spectacular views. Overall, if you want a work-out in an area that makes you forget (sort of) the strain, this is a totally great hike. Signing off “Hiking with the Viking”. Bruce Trail Caledon Hills Map #17 Glen Haffy

Woodford & Lord Sydenham

This is about a 14 kms hike through crevices, bogs, amazing forests, and all along the escarpment ridge. I began my hike in Woodford, a very small hamlet on Hwy 26, in Sydenham Township near Owen Sound. The Township was named in part for Lord Sydenham, governor of Canada from 1839 to 1841.

Sydenham Township was surveyed in 1842, with concessions running north to south, and at that time the land consisted mainly of hardwood forest. Immigrants from Scotland and Ireland began to settle this area at about this time. The first mill was built in 1846, and the first school section was organized in 1851.

The first post office, at Woodford, was established in 1852. In 1853 the residents organized an Agricultural Society. By 1861 there were over 3,000 people living in the township.

Although telephone lines were connecting nearby towns as early as 1886, it was not until 1908 that telephones began to be installed in Sydenham Township. There is definitely a warm energy surrounding Woodford, like a cozy blanket on a cool winter’s night.

The end point is so peaceful, as I hiked out of the final crevice system, I crossed hwy 26 and re-entered into an amazing crevice system. I followed the main trail to the Bognor Marsh and the big red chair. Leave yourself extra time, if you want to do this hike. The terrain is very rocky and there are many hills that need your full leg strength to get up and down. It is so worth it, though! Such life and magical rock and plants live here. Signing off “Hiking with the Viking”! To hike here: Sydenham Bruce Trail Club, Woodford, Map 30

The Wood Wide Web

The Magical World of Forest Fungi

I hiked Skinners Bluff in Wiarton where the fungi are out in huge numbers & varieties right now, likely thanks to the rain and humidity. Fungi play an intricate part in our ecosystem, providing nutrients to the trees in exchange for sugars. But even more, beneath every forest, there is a complex underground web of roots, fungi, and bacteria helping to connect trees and plants to one another. It is the fungi that connects it all and has been dubbed “The Wood Wide Web”. This underground system is the earth’s internet, and natural networking. Get out there!! It’s an incredible time to hike, signing off, “Hiking with the Viking”. September 2020

Silent Valley and the plane crash site

Tucked between the gentle slopes of a long-vanished glacial landscape and the Niagara Escarpment is an oasis of peace and tranquility on the side trails of Silent Valley. It has a past that extends 12,000 years to a time of glacial retreat and the depositing of its rock and silt on the gouged land. Time moved forward to the settling by pioneers on the land in the 1800s, Evidence of these past events is found on Escarpment hills of glacial talus rock, the fossils throughout the area and the ruins of a sturdy homestead owned by the Wilson family. To the west of the homestead is the site where, in 1970, a Cessna 205 crashed in the trees, tragically taking the lives of the 4 people in the plane. I opted not to hike the Avalanche Pass side trail where the talus rock is so incredible due to timing being so close to sunset. On another day, I will return to finish it. As it was, I left this amazing forest with just the hue of the setting sun adding a glow to the sky. After, I went to Ted’s Road Side Diner for a bite to eat and a visit with an old friend. Signing off, “Hiking with the Viking”. Sydenham Bruce Trail Club Map #30, Woodford

For hiking location purchase map #30 @ Bruce Trail Conservancy

Paleozoic Era

“I’d like to be, under the sea, in an octopuses garden in the shade…”Well, did you know that you actually are living under the sea? This land that we live on was once called the Laurentia located at the Equator and covered by ancient warm water shallow seas, 500 million years ago! The evidence is in the many varieties of fossils and plant life you find here. The rock layers, which are shale at the bottom and dolomite/limestone on the Niagara Escarpment caprock are the coral and sea bottom of that sea.

The Wonderful World of Fungi

The fungi that you find on the Niagara Escarpment descended from one common ancestor that probably colonized the land during the Cambrian Period in the Paleozoic Era, over 500 million years ago, (Taylor & Osborn, 1996), but terrestrial fossils (land) had only become uncontroversial and common during the Devonian400 million years ago. It is probable that these earliest fungi lived in water and had flagella, as many of my hike pictures of fungi show amellae, or more commonly known as “gills”, on them.

Eugenia Falls – Hoggs Falls via Cuckoo Valley

Fun Facts

1. In 1852, an early settler named Brownlee near Flesherton, discovered a waterfall falling 30 metres over the Niagara Escarpment to the Beaver River below – Eugenia Falls. He saw some glittering in the rock and thought that he discovered gold, but alas, it was “fools gold”. It triggered the areas first and only gold rush and leaving about 200 “miners” none the richer.

2. In 1893, William Hogg, a local businessman, built the area’s first electrical generator on the river below the falls. Using a paddlewheel to generate 70 kW from a 6 metres (20 ft) head of water, the station barely produced enough electricity to meet the needs of Eugenia and Flesherton.

3. A second attempt at hydro generations was made between 1906-1907 by the Georgian Bay Power Company. A tunnel was dug through the hill beside the top of the falls to the valley floor below. The two stone arches still remain.

4. By 1870, four mills operated on the Beaver River, and the growing community of 200 also featured several stores, Presbyterian and Methodist churches, a school, a carriage factory, a blacksmith, a cobbler and a carpenter. We then hiked on to Hoggs Falls through Cuckoo Valley, which has an elevation of 346 meters. A lot of ups and downs through the woods and crossing the Boyne river, until we reached the 7 meter tall falls. It was named after William Hogg. Although Hoggs Falls is small, the volume of water from the Boyne River pouring over it is plenty and the ice dripping down the banks is spectacular! It was too icy to get close to, so we opted to not stay long.. A good hike with Steve who always makes me laugh, and is a real trooper on the trails. Signing off, “Hiking with the Viking”. To hike here, Bruce Trail Beaver Valley Club, Map 26, Eugenia