Adventure Journal

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Niagara Gorge Day-Trip 200805-25

Sunday, May 25 - 2008
10:00 – 16:00
Start: 10:20
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +18C
Area: Niagara Gorge, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Some cloud
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf, Brian, Sharon
Plan: Hike to the old Helipad
GPS: 43.1214 x -79.0734

Chuck arrived around 10:00 and Brian was kind enough to pick up Sharon for me, and we all met at my place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We went to take the Suburban but Tori was angry at this and insisted we don't take the truck. We decided to take Chuck's car. Sharon had not really hiked in many years and we could not th ink of anywhere to go, but ended up at the old wooden stairs in the Niagara Gorge.

10:30 We kitted up and headed down the wooden stairs. It's been a while since we were here, if at all this year yet. The stairs were still badly unkept and dilapidated from last year. It looks like Niagara Parks has made no effort to repair them.

10:40 We made our way down the stairs and Sharon said when she was younger, she spent a lot of time in the ravine behind her house in Burlington – which this reminded her of.

10:55 We hit the bottom of the gorge by the whirlpool and I showed Sharon the large helipad here they built to rescue people from here and we headed out on the west wall trail. The trail was nice and dry, and the rocks were cool under my bare feet. The trail had a sheer climb on the one side, and a steep drop off to water below filled with big boulders.

We came to a large waterfall – the ½ way point between the starting point and our destination, and all rested a while. Sharon soaked in the sheer beauty of this place.

After a long break, we headed out along the treacherous trails, Sharon marveling at how my bare feet could walk over the jagged rocks, harsh terrain, and occasional beer bottle glass without even feeling it.

14:00 We arrived near the end of the whirlpool and some fantastic but deadly rapids began. Chuck examined a lot of the debris which washes up on shore here to see if there was anything fun or useful. There were piles of flip-flops, wood, foam, and other garbage here. I found two bald tennis balls and gave them to Sharon to hold, then proudly exclaimed "hey! Sharon is holding my balls!" which made us all laugh.

14:20 We sat at the edge of the mighty and heavy flowing Niagara River, marveling at the raw power of nature here. We relaxed for a while and sun bathed on the rocks at the old helipad, which now had some large boulders on it as well as lots of old weeds. This helipad was marked with a large yellow circle painted on the flat rocks. Now it would appear it is not maintained. We watched as across the river – in the United States of America, hikers came and went on the trails as well as the cable car came and went over the gorge.

Brian took some photos with his new Nikon L14 camera, although the batteries died and he could only get a few shots.

We packed up and started to head out when we found a black, childs life vest pop up out of the water and eerily float by. Chuck searched the area to see if there was a body, with negative results.

We started to make the long climb back to the wooden stairs when Sharon collapsed and said she ahd sprained her ankle again. She advised us that 2 weeks ago she had torn all the ligaments in her left ankle and thought it woul have healed by now. Sadly I did not bring my medical kit with me and could not drug and tie Sharon. What we did instead is take her back to the waterfall at the ½ way point of the hike and have her remove her sock and shoe and soak her ankle in the cool water. This helped her a little and gave Brian and Chuck a chance to rest as well. Chuck was still recovering from his injury at Crooks Hollow yesterday.

After soaking her food, we made it back to the dreaded wooden stairs. We kept Sharon between Chuck and I and Brian ran up ahead quite a ways.

Eventually we ended up at the the new concrete helipad and began our slow ascent. Part way up the stairs we came across some young ch ildren calling us names and carrying on. Chuck ran up the gorge walls after them, but could not catch them. Sharon had to rest several times. It was nice to see all the fellow hikers stop and make sure she was all right and ask if they could lend assistance.

A long, and drawn out ascent up the seemingly endless wooden stairs brought us to the top. The barefoot Wolfmaan seemed to be the one who faired best and came out unscathed from the hike. Next time we must not forget our medi-kit on any hike.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Visit to Crooks Hollow, Ontario 200805-24

Saturday, May 24 - 2008
10:50 – 16:50
Start: 12:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +13C
Area: Crooks Hollow, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Sunny & Bright
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf
Plan: Explore some ruins
GPS: 43 16.60N x 80 00.39N

10:50 Chuck picked me up in his back sunfire around 10:50 and headed up the QEW to Dundas .

12:00 We arrived by the Dundas School – supposedly the most haunted school in Ontario and parked nearby. I put on my new Vibram Five Finger shoes and MEC pants and Jeep shirt and we hit the trails. We followed the stream to the old train tunnel and grabbed some photos, including some great ones of Morganna and headed back to the car. Then over the bridge and into the ankle deep water and up-stream back to the few waterfalls that were there and got some great and interesting photos. This was Chucks first barefoot outdoor experience and he found the moss in the water squishy and very cold. Morgana had a fun time navigating the thick rapids and we headed back. Chuck got shod and we arrive back at the car around 13:00hrs. From the there we went to the nearby town of Crooks Hollow.

13:20 Arrived at Crooks Hollow and explored the supposedly haunted ruins of the Grimely grist mill. We took some photos and explored inside the old mill. We found a secluded area and took a few photos. Morgana did not seem to like it here. We took the GPS unit and got a reading of 43 16.60N by 80 00.39N and an elevation of 235m above sea level.

14:00 I slipped on my Vibram five fingers and we headed up the stone path towards what google maps showed was an old stream or quarry. We ended up at a really nice dam.

14:20 We walked across the dam and ended up seeing hundreds and hundreds of catfish hovering near the edge of the dam, in the murky waters. Even feeling ill, and pumped up on dayQuil, they were a spectacular sight to see. If we ate fish, we could have fed here all summer. This was a nice, unexpected surprise.

14:30 We headed back to the car, and I could not believe how well the Vibram FiveFingers performed. They are amasingly transparent on my feet.

14:40 We arrived back at the car and headed out. As we left for the town of Dundas, we crossed several nice marked trails at the side of the road. Unfortunately Chuck somehow pulled a muscle in his thigh when we were under the bridge in the shallow stream earlier.

15:00 We left Crooks Hollow and stopped at the Dairy Queen in Dundas which was poorly serviced and took a long time to get our food – particularly Wolf's french fries.

15:30 With Chuck's leg still troubling him, we decided to head out after checking out the British store where Chuck picked up some cookies.

16:10 We stopped at the end of Prince William St. in Jordan to show Chuck an old set of rail bridges there which were well suited for climbing purposes. We took some time to enjoy the scenery and headed back to the ar around 16:50 to go and wait to pick Tori up at 18:00hrs from her job.

For a full photo set of the adventure click here

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Jeanie Peterson - Barefoot Hero

Hilltop Hero

Jeanie Peterson is tough. She's smart. She's committed to improving her Tacoma neighborhood. So what if she goes barefoot? "I'm not the kind of person who's afraid of things."
Published: May 25th, 2008 01:00 AM | Updated: May 25th, 2008 06:44 AM
It's 2 a.m. on a Saturday, cloudy but dry. Forty-eight degrees. Perfect for a barefoot walk through the Hilltop.

Jeanie Peterson takes off down South Grant Street wearing a sweat shirt, shorts and no shoes. She's in search of knuckleheads.
• Related video: Meet Jeanie Peterson

Drug dealers. Gangbangers. Car prowlers. Drunken hooligans. Derelict landlords.

They're all "knuckleheads" to Peterson, a short, stout woman who learned how to fight as a young girl in Montana and has been honing the craft ever since.

Peterson, 54, is director of community initiatives for the Hilltop Action Coalition. Before that, she was the volunteer board president of the HAC, one of the oldest and most effective citizen groups in Tacoma.

The group is one of the reasons the Hilltop is no longer a war zone, according to police. In 1989, Tacoma made national news when a shootout erupted on South Ash Street between people at a crack house and a group of residents that included U.S. Army Rangers. No one was hit.

Today, neighbors and police agree the neighborhood's dramatically improved.

And Peterson is one of the reasons that the HAC has survived and


She's an unusual citizen activist, not only because of her frequent lack of footwear and a flair for theatrics. She once lugged a garden cart full of empty liquor bottles into City Hall to make a point. But she also stands out because while other activists often work behind the scenes organizing citizens, Peterson is willing to be out front, walking the neighborhood and doing research on her computer into the wee hours of the morning.


Peterson walks quickly this morning, pulled along by her large dogs Took and Mia, scanning for anything that's out of place.

A broken traffic sign. A stream of water in the gutter – a sign of a broken water line at a vacant house. A car that looks abandoned.

She jots notes about these things in a pad she wears around her neck. She'll fire off e-mails to the proper officials when she gets home to her computer. She walks less often these days than she once did, maybe a couple of times a week.

It's a quiet morning. In an hour and a half of walking, Peterson encounters just three knuckleheads – a teenager shouting vulgarities up the street, and a pair of young men with no apparent destination. Drug dealers, she figures, waiting for a car to come along with a buyer.

"Evening," Peterson says as she passes them on the sidewalk.

One of the men mutters something about keeping her dogs away. There's a touch of fear in his voice.

"Pooches," Peterson calls to her dogs and tugs at the rope.

The men cross the street and keep walking.

Peterson stops and stares. There's nothing discreet about her surveillance, and she shows no sign of fear when the men reverse course and begin walking back toward her, passing her again but from the other side of the street.

Peterson waits a moment and begins following them, watching to see what happens.

Nothing. The streets are empty this morning except for Peterson, her dogs and the aimless knuckleheads.

The streets are quiet a lot more often now than when Peterson arrived in 1993.

In the '90s, drug dealers who figured out that Peterson was helping drive them out of the neighborhood retaliated by poisoning three of her cats, Peterson said. A man with a gun once parked in front of her house and yelled threats as she stood on her porch.

Peterson threw up her hands and yelled back, "I'm right here."

The guy probably wouldn't shoot, she figured, and if he did he'd probably miss. Knuckleheads don't know how to use handguns.


Peterson spent her early years in rural Montana. Her older brothers baby-sat while her parents hung out in the bars.

She found refuge watching John Wayne movies on TV. John Wayne saved her life, she says. He gave her a moral compass.

Her family moved to Fife when she was in eighth grade. Her father came out for a job with a chain-link fence business.

In the late 1960s, Fife High School was one of the last public schools that required girls to wear dresses. Peterson helped put an end to that. She organized a protest where 60 girls showed up in pants one day. Soon after, the School Board changed the rules and allowed girls to wear slacks. Within six months, they were wearing blue jeans.

After high school, Peterson quit drugs – she once punched a principal during an acid flashback because he stepped on an imaginary rabbit – and became active in the Pentecostal church and the larger "Jesus people" movement.

"I replaced drugs with getting high on Jesus," she said.

She did some welding for her dad for a while before moving to Rapid City, S.D., where she worked as a water-meter reader.

From there, she moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend Open Bible College. She chose it because it was the only Bible school she could find that offered Hebrew and Greek classes to freshmen.

In 1974, Peterson was working security at an Iowa hockey arena. Part of the job was telling young men they couldn't take their beers into the seats.

After just one year at Bible college, Peterson moved to Moline, Ill., where she worked as a police dispatcher. It was her first taste of law enforcement, and might have been a good fit. Like John Wayne, she does not tolerate criminal behavior.

She was fired from the dispatcher job after telling off the sheriff's daughter.

No one would call Peterson a law-and-order conformist. She goes barefoot whenever possible in part because her feet get hot, but it's also an act of rebellion.

Peterson moved to Tacoma when her father became sick with cancer, and she later went to work at a U.S. Postal Service bulk-mail facility in Federal Way. She worked there 10 years before she hurt her back and retired on a medical disability.

That's when she found her true calling, the setting for her moral compass.


Peterson and her roommate moved from the East Side into the Hilltop in 1993, lured by the affordable real estate. She knew about the neighborhood's dangerous reputation, and they decided the only way they could live there was if Peterson did what she could to clean up the neighborhood.

She started as a block leader, baking "friendship" bread for her neighbors and teaching them how to use tools such as phone trees to make life uncomfortable for drug dealers. Walking the streets when most law-abiding folks are asleep was another way she could help.

She's hardly ever scared. She's always had big dogs, which helps. And Peterson and others say there's an unwritten code on the Hilltop in which even the knuckleheads pay a grudging respect to people such as Peterson who are from the neighborhood.

"I'm not the kind of person who's afraid of things," Peterson said.

Peterson's housemate, Andi DuMont, said she realized they became a target when they took on the bad elements, but she knew Peterson could handle herself. That knowledge gave DuMont confidence. Her attitude became, "If you mess with me, I mess with you," she said. "I know I've got backup."

After a couple of years, Peterson emerged as a leader within the Hilltop Action Coalition. She developed a reputation as a smart and hard worker, someone who was willing to put in the time researching issues instead of popping off to city officials about cleaning up the neighborhood.

People who work closely with Peterson say that's the reason why city officials take her seriously, even if she shows up at City Council meetings in a jester hat and no shoes.

"She is very, very smart," said Sally Perkins, a Hilltop resident who's known Peterson since Peterson first moved into the neighborhood. "Do not underestimate how hard she works. She's good at digging deeper."

When police couldn't get enough criminal evidence to shut down a drug house, Peterson and the neighborhood figured out they could use code violations.

A sewer line broke, giving officials an opening to inspect the house. They ended up finding $30,000 worth of repairs that needed doing, Peterson said. City officials made a deal with the woman who owned the house, allowing her a low-interest loan if she agreed to not allow her drug-dealing son back into the house.

The Hilltop Action Coalition was instrumental in the creation of the state's first Alcohol Impact Area, which bans stores from selling certain high-alcohol beverages. The group, and Peterson, are also credited with pushing Tacoma's crackdown on properties overrun with junk and weeds.

Peterson meets regularly with City Manager Eric Anderson. They co-chair a group of city officials and neighborhood residents called Tidal Wave of Change that looks for ways to improve the neighborhood. The group was instrumental in Tacoma's recent crackdown on nuisance yards.

"She knows how to help connect the community with the city staff," Anderson said.

Peterson also has the ear of Police Chief Don Ramsdell. She speaks to new police recruits, at the department's invitation, telling them what the Hilltop neighborhood expects of them – and how the neighborhood will help them do their job. She tells the new recruits to get to know the community liaison officers – who work closely with neighborhood groups – and to take advantage of the wealth of "intelligence" that block leaders can provide.

And she warns them to not blow off a call.

"If you just drive by, your sergeant is going to get a call," Peterson tells them.


It's that kind of accountability that helped turn around the Hilltop, said Greg Hopkins, a Tacoma police officer who's worked with Peterson for years.

"We didn't like it at first," Hopkins said of the nagging. "But I think it had to happen to get us where we are today."

Peterson has gained the trust of the Police Department because she spends time researching issues, and has proved trustworthy when police give her information, Hopkins said. It's not always apparent when police are working on a problem house, for example. Police feel they can tell Peterson what they're doing, he said.

"Even though she's an odd duck, people recognize her effectiveness," Hopkins said. "The cops love her."

David Alger, executive director of Associated Ministries, called Peterson his "most unusual" staff member. The Hilltop Action Coalition is a program of Associated Ministries, although it's in the process of establishing itself as its own nonprofit.

Peterson has earned the respect of city officials because she does her homework, Alger said.

"She's real," said the Rev. Gregory Christopher, senior pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church. "She's as real as they come. She has no underlying motivation other than to make the community better."

Peterson "advocates from a position of knowledge, not just opinion," Perkins said.

Sometimes that frustrates other neighborhood activists. A few years ago when some Hilltop residents wanted the Department of Corrections to stop releasing sex offenders into the neighborhood, Peterson took a different approach. She talked with DOC officials, studied sex offender recidivism, and visited the state's Twin Rivers Sex Offender Treatment Program at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

She learned that 93 percent of offenders who successfully complete the treatment program do not commit a new crime.

Now Peterson travels to Monroe whenever a Level 3 sex offender is about to be released into one of the Hilltop's two transitional houses, and she meets with the offender.

Peterson said she listens to offenders talk about their crimes, and their release plan. The treatment program teaches offenders to be forthcoming about what they did.

She's probably made 15 trips to Monroe, and only occasionally rejects an offender. In one case, it became clear that the man's friends were all gang members and that he initially lied about it, she said.

By working with the DOC, fewer offenders end up homeless on the Hilltop, and the state is more selective about who's placed in the two transitional houses.

"People say, 'Jeanie should say no to all of them,' but if I did we wouldn't be able to say no to the ones we really don't want," Peterson said.

Herman Diers, who worked with Peterson for years at the HAC, sees the benefit in Peterson's approach, even if doesn't match community sentiment.

"She was able to strike a terrific win-win situation by confronting the DOC with the unfair number of sex offenders relocated to the Hilltop," Diers said. "She has gotten the attention of the DOC."

Hopkins admitted that he was sometimes frustrated with Peterson's approach to the issue.

"But it's realistic," he said. "She knows the offenders are coming back."

In January, Peterson began receiving a salary for the first time for her work with the HAC. She had decided to see if there was a way she could get paid for some of the work she does for the neighborhood. Government officials had stopped her disability checks four years earlier after a psychiatrist concluded her back pain was really in her head.


As the price of real estate on the Hilltop has soared, Peterson has seen some former block leaders move out because they could no longer afford the rent. It hasn't driven out homeowners yet, but she worried about some of the wealthier people moving into the neighborhood. They don't realize why it's important to be involved in the neighborhood, she said.

"We're sitting pretty cush and pretty now," Peterson said. But she sees graffiti and knows what it means. She still sees the Crips and the drug dealers in the neighborhood, even if they've taken their dealing underground or to other parts of town.

Without constant vigilance, Peterson fears the Hilltop could return to the days when there wasn't one working streetlight between Sixth Avenue and 25th Street because the drug dealers shot them all out, and when whole blocks were boarded up.

"We could be back to that in one summer," she said.

So she keeps walking barefoot in the middle of the night, and she keeps meeting with city officials to talk about things such as junk cars and derelict landlords.

It's her job now, but it's more than that.

It's something she's compelled to do.

"I believe that people should, once a year, justify their existence on this planet," Peterson said. "And on my birthday each year I have looked at my life the previous year with that type of scrutiny. If the day comes that I am not a positive addition to the planet, then I am just taking up air and should 'give up the mortal coil,' as they say."

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542


Age: 54

Occupation: Director of community initiatives for the Hilltop Action Coalition

Born: Rural Montana, near Missoula

High school: Fife

Moved to Hilltop: 1993

Housemates: Andi DuMont and Bruce Roberts. DuMont was making porcelain dolls and met Peterson, who was doing ceramics. They became friends and Peterson offered DuMont and her son a place to live when DuMont was divorcing. "She offered me a safe haven," DuMont said.

Nickname: Pooh. (A boyfriend told her she was like Winnie the Pooh because she was into eating and her friends.)

Estimated number of Pooh items in her bedroom: 600

Hobby: Surfing the Web for nature and wildlife photographs

Estimated number of animal photos on her computer: 200,000

A day at the MEC

A day at the M-E-C

As an avid outdoors-person, I have always heard of Mountain Equipment Co-Op. Often touted as the preppy, and snobbish, or the "M.E.C. Crowd" with a certain look, etc.

After doing a few days research, I recently decided I wanted a set of unusual hiking shoes called "Vibram Five Fingers" as part of my birthday present from me mum. Checking the Vibram Five Fingers website, the closest dealer was in Toronto.

Although I was quite ill from some kind of virus I caught, I had booked off today as it is my birthday and on the morning of May 21st I headed up to Toronto to pay my first visit to the M-E-C. We found the store quite easily from the directions on the website

Parking in the underground lot, we headed up the lift to the store. I must admit I was impressed. This was the big-box stores of the outdoor world. 10,000sqft of incredible outdoor supplies. This store had everything. Canoes, Kayaks, Rock climbing and Rappelling gear, tents, shoes, shirts, trousers, and everything else you could possibly imagine other than scuba gear (although they did sell dry suits for kayakers).

The moment one of the knowledgeable staff saw me looking around she said "is there something I can help you with?" I kind of sheepishly said that I was seeking the Vibram Five Fingers shoes as shown in eXplore Magasine, and touted as the editors top pick of shoes for the 2008 season. Without even blinking or laughing at their unusual design, she pointed me in the direction of the shoes, and helped me find my size and the color I desired.

I spent some time afterword browsing the amazing selection of gear and clothes that the store had to offer. The quality of gear was very high. All the trousers and footwear, even the t-shirts were of great quality and excellent prices.

Then came the surprise. In order to purchase something from the store I had to become a "member of the co-op" which cost an additional five dollars for a lifetime membership. Although I think this is a bit unusual, it is a one-time fee. Unfortunately it's per person, and not per couple or family.

I came home to dozens of notes on my Facebook and MySpace page from friends wishing me happy birthday, it was really great of everyone.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Back To Elora Gorge

Saturday, May 17 - 2008
10:00 – 19:00
Start: 11:40
Roads: Damp from light rain
Visibility: 14km
Temp: +18C
Area: Elora, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Sunny with some cloud
Trail Conditions: Damp from rain
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf
Plan: Explore Elora
GPS: 43.6903 x -80.4190

10:00 Exactly 7 days from the last time we met at this spot, Chuck picked me up in his black sunfire at a local donut shop in St. Catharines. We had planned on having a friend Sharon and Brian join us, but Sharon had other appointments and Brian stated his gear was not ready for hiking today.

11:40 We arrived at the small town of Elora and headed towards the Quarry I saw using google maps after our last visit here April 27th. The quarry was closed and Chuck parked up the street to avoid getting a ticket by parking infront of the closed gates. As we slipped past the locked gates, a small quarry came into view. The water was very clear with visible vegetation and fish in the water. As we looked around and explored the quarry area, we could hear water running, but not see any waterfall. To the one side of the quarry, we could see an opening to a small, shallow cave which had water running through it. We scaled the quarry walls and got as close as we could to the opening, but without either swimming through the quarry, or using rappelling gear we could not get into the opening. As we were making it away from the cave back to level ground we came upon a woman in her late thirties and her daughter, the woman was very fit and ambled on over to the cave entrance very quickly to see if she could get closer than we did, sadly she could not. We stayed around just incase she needed any assistance, then made our way back to the car.

We headed to a baseball park we had found on a previous trip out this direction and hit the trails. Wolf with his camouflage pants, hiking shirt, adventure hat, v12 goggles and hike jacket. This time he had to wear his leather moccasins as tattoos were still not quite healed yet. Heading towards the ruins of the old mill, we explored the area and Chuck though of a possible scrounging dive here to see if there was anything valuable that had fallen or been thrown into the water over the years. However the water was tea colored and not very deep looking. There was another abandonment close by but we could not get into it as it was all boarded up and the walls were being held up by big wooden timbers. Not exactly safe looking.

We headed back towards the entrance of the Elora Gorge. We descended into the gorge and the rocks formations and th edge of the river were spectacular. We met up with a German tourist here who was taking photos of the spectacular beauty of this site.

It didn't take long before the itch of the healing tattoos got the best of Wolf and he ended up barefoot as usual along the trails. Heading back along the trails towards the Elora Gorge campsites, we saw a couple down in the gorge who kept stopping every so often to make out on the trails. Eventualy we arrived at the small bridge with a sign that said it was restricted to only 8 tonnes, and crossed over it towards the camps. The couple who was making out in the gorge was standing on the bridge when we were crossing it.

14:30 We stopped at a vacant campsite to relax and have something to eat, take a few photos, and talk to Tori as she called that she was on break at work.

Slowly we made our way back towards the car along the opposite side of the gorge, and stopped at a great crevasse that we found once and took tons of photos. Chuck and I joked we should buy a small reproduction gold idol like in Indiana Jones to use as a prop in our photos.

15:45 We arrived back at the car from what is always too short of a day on the trails, and headed towards home.

16:50 we stopped at a Pioneer petrol station and I gave Chuck a little bit towards todays petrol bill as petrol is $1.23 a litre here.

16:55 We stopped in at the Grasshopper hippy store and I met a girl in there who also had a tattoo on her right foot. We discussed how it went for her and she said she really adored mine.

19:00 We arrived home back in Niagara Region and had some supper. Sadly this day was far too short.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Pelham Ontario hike - 200805-10

Saturday, May 10 - 2008
10:30 – 12:50
Start: 10:45
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +18C
Area: Pelham, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Sunny & Clear
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf
Plan: See The Queenston Caves
GPS: 43 07.44N 79 21.04W

10:30 Arrived at the far end of Staff Road and put on our bugspray as this area has serious gnats which buzz around you and take large chunks out of your skin. We threw on our packs and hit the trails.

There were thousands of Trilliums here all over the trails, mostly white with the odd pink and even pale blue colored one. The trails here are incredible. On the short 4km trail we found the ground to be laiden with giant smooth rocks covered in moss, which felt very cushy on my bare feet. We took the Bruce Trail Side trail and down a small cliff to come across two large tres which had fallen over the trail. We climbed over the trees and eventually came to a large blue T sprayed on the trees which stated we were now finished the blue side tail.

We headed left as we could hear some children, possibly the ones we saw at the parking lot when when we arrived earlier. They said there was a waterfall up ahead.

We could hear the waterfall up in the distance and as we approached Chuck heard something rustling in the trees and bushed – it turned out to be a little snake.

We approached and descended into the small gorge where the waterfall lay. This particular waterfall was quite stunning as it had several tiers. We powered up the GPS unit to get a reading of 43 07.44N by 79 21.04W We sat on a large boulder at the base of the waterfall away from the annoying bugs which followed us during the entire hike.

We relaxed for a while and Chuck laughed that right after this hike, I was going to be taking my dirty, trail-hardened bare feet for my large tribal tattoos. Hopefully they will have a place at the tattoo shop to wash them - or at least a toilet Chuck remarked.

12:00 we packed up our gear and headed out towards the trails again.

12:05 We topped the waterfall to see a young girl and her mother standing there, apparently startled by our appearing out of nowhere from the gorge.

12:18 we arrived at the car and decided since we still had a few hours until my appointment, we decided to goto Camden and Chuck could see the trails there.

12:30 We arrived at the back end of the trail in Camden and took a quick walk up the muddy trails. It was very muddy and there were a lot of bugs, and we didn't want to get lost and be late for my 15:00hrs appointment.

12:50 we arrived back at Chucks car, and headed to his place to clean up and relax for a while.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

First Queenston Mine Visit of 2008

Saturday, May 03 - 2008
12:00 – 17:00
Start: 12:15
Roads: Damp from rain
Visibility: 12km
Temp: +17C
Area: Queenston, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Overcast
Trail Conditions: Slightly Damp
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf, Morgana
Plan: See The Queenston Caves

12:00 We arrived at the small parking lot in the rain, and geared up. I wore my shell pants, synthetic beige hiking shirt, and an old group 4 falck jacket underneath my water resistant coveralls, gaiters, and keen shoes with adventure hat and ESS v12 goggles.

We hit the trails around 12:15 and as expected, were the only ones on it. Morgana had a great time in the mud, and puddles.

After a few minutes hike, we came across the large old crane structure on the trails, leftover from when this was an active mine. Chuck suggested we come back some time with our climbing gear and ascend the crane to get a better picture of it and have some fun and a challenge.

Chuck and I could really feel the exertion as it took a lot of effort to hike in mud in our rain resistant gear.
Eventually we came to the "amphitheater" part of the trail. It was such a beautiful section and Chuck said when we do our big hike this year, if it wasn't only an hour's hike from the beginning of the Bruce Trail entrance.

We came to the slippery down-trail and kept to our right and went down the muddy wooden staircase and then came to the Y in the trail, hung a left. I was surprised on the Bruce Trail marker (the white rectangle) there was still the word "caves" with a left hand facing arrow written on it with my Fisher pen I wrote about 3 years ago, still on the trail.

We headed towards the old mine with Chuck in the lead and he said "I don't know where I'm going – I'm just walking" but as soon as he said that, the mines came into view.

We entered the old mine to find the water very milky, although on previous visits it has always been crystal clear.

We took a couple of photos and Chuck made his way to the left where there were several dry areas in the mine. I went as well, and saw a bat fly by Chuck. Chuck only had his small head lamp which was almost out of charge, and asked to borrow my black Garrity LED lamp. Sadly it dropped into the water and I had to retrieve it. I was happy I found it as it was the first LED lamp I've owned and was a gift from my grandmother and has been greatly useful over the years.

We continued on, and the water was not as cold as I expected on my bare feet through my keen sandals. We got to the dry areas and Chuck with his rubber boots on, went into the water a little ahead of me. I stayed on the dry sections and saw on a rock a hug e12cm brown spider with a dark brown body and striped brown and dark brown legs. As Chuck and I have heard that our area now has brown recluse spiders, but have never seen one – we decided the best course of action would be to photograph then mush the spider good.

Chuck and I looked around a little while, then headed back. Twice during our time in the mine, Morgana ran off towards the entrance as she has not been in this kind of environment before and was somewhat nervous. We left the mine to the face and sat down for a while as it was raining heavily outside now.

A long time ago when I was here, I met an elderly woman who stated that the mine entrance was only about a 5 min. walk from a nearby road to park your vehicle. We decided to take off down the trail to see if there was any truth to this.

Sure enough, after passing a boggy, swampy, black watered pond Morgana had to splash around in – a pile of rooftops from houses came into view. We looked around to try and get our bearings then saw a woman, standing barefoot on her back porch with white shorts and blue blouse on. She watched us intently. I waived at her but she gave no response. As we turned around to head back, we came across a "LaFarge – No Trespassing" sign, took some photographs and headed back towards the old mine entrance to follow the trail hopefully to a loop out through the bottom of the old quarry.

We followed a muddy path up a good sized hill and came across some very low hanging power lines that Chuck could almost reach up and touch. To our right we saw a set of old, smelly, PCB leaking power transformers. All the tall grass and vegetation around them was visibly black and dead. They really smelled badly. As we turned to walk away, we caught Morgana walking in the area close to the old transformers, a quick yell from Chuck and she was back with us.

Eventually we made our way back throught he woods and somehow linked back up with the Bruce Trail and we came across an old capped-off natural gas line that was all fenced in and locked with a padlock. Chuck looked around to try to find a nice large rock to bust-off the lock to no avail.

Heading down into the floor of the quarry we came to a deep ditch which had all kinds of green algae growing in it. Morgana of course had to get in there and try on the algae. We followed the the deep ditch along to find a half-crushed oval shaped drain with a road built over it. Strangely the oval was upright and had been installed pre-crushed apparently. The ditch emptied into a large flooded section of the quarry which had a sign that read "Danger! Deep Water". As we approached the edge of the quarry to find the water was quite clear with lots of healthy vegetation growing around it. We headed back towards the car. As we got to the far east end of the Quarry, we went to the south wall to look at some of the rocks left in the quarry which were all full of bung holes. On one section of the rock there was a very unusual graffiti of a flying saucer spacecraft in brilliant colors with the words "we're coming" written in red letters on top. We took a few more photos and made our way to a steep, muddy path and ambled up he pathway and headed towards the car.

17:00 Arriving at the car, we stripped off our gear and I held a wet, smelly, swamp-donkey Morgana on my knee on the trip home.

4 hours of foot torture

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A while back I had found photo of some serious Maori (a Polynesian tribal design) foot art that I had found somewhere on the web.

I had thought as soon as I saw this design, that that would be my feet.

On Friday May 10th 2008, I went in and had the ink done after negotiating for over a month with the tattoo shop as the design is very, very complex for that area of the body.

So I had the ink work done and I must admit to everyone who reads this - you must be very dedicated, or a real masochist to get this kind of work done.

This was not like the various other tattoos I have (religious symbols on the back of the neck, Jeep on my arm, etc) which are an hour or two of gentle sunburn-like pain and then it's all over.

After spending the morning hiking with Chuck we went back to his place an hour or so before the appointment I removed any jewellery I had on (toe-ring, anklet, etc.) and scrubbed my feet with Ajax to get them really clean as I had been barefoot all day.

We arrived at the tattoo place and waited around laughing and joking for a bit while the tattoo artist to got himself ready. I slipped off my sandals and lay down on the massage table to prepare to be once again altered for the rest of my life. The artist stated I probably wouldn't be able to cope getting both feet done today, so he'll do one and break for a while.

The pain was incredible. My trail hardened, leather feet were no match for the tattoo needle. I could not believe how I suffered. Thankfully Chuck was there to keep me occupied and laughing and joking. Sometimes laughing so hard the artist had to stop until my legs stopped twitching. The first foot took almost two hours of really bad pain. The Achillies tendon was very, very painful. The ankle bone felt very strange as I could feel it vibrating when the electric needle went over the area.

Almost 2hrs after the first torture session, I decided it was best to just keep on truckin' and get it all done and overwith.

Little did I know this was only the beginning.

A total of almost 4 hours of excruciating pain - so much that the endorphins made me go into some kind of weird head space and it was almost like a form of meditation and I didn't even feel the last hour and a half of it.

Then the fun began!

My feet were extremely sore and I couldn't walk properly, and limped my way to the car - thankfully I didn't come on my motorbike and Chuck was kind enough to drive me in his car otherwise I would have been in a real challenge. That evening I was so spun from the event that I came home and relaxed for about an hour and cleaned my wounds then went to bed.

The next day was amasing. My feet were swollen and very painful. I could only hobble around at best, and the swelling had clamped down on my ankle and made it so I could only walk on my tippy-toes. Of course this was my big mothers day party for my mother and mother in law and such today.

I sat around wallowing in self pitty with my feet elevated most of the day, as when I put them down and the blood rushed into them it started to get tight and painful, walking was kind of out of the question, except to goto the bathroom and rinse off and clean the ink with antibacterial soap and then a thin layer of "tattoo goo" moisturiser, which was all done walking on my toes.

So the second night things started to get a little better as I was awoken in the night by insane itching in my feet - which meant the ink was starting to heal.

The 3rd morning I am now able to walk on my feet flatfooted. I'm going to have to wear a pair of camoflauge knitted of slippers to work that a Anne Grottick was kind enough to knit for me some time ago. The harshness of even flip-flops would be unbearable.

Of course in the days to come, this incident will fade into history and I will be left with my design and not even think about it that much.

I certainly would tell everyone who wanted to get this kind of ink done to be sure to have at least three barefoot rest days, and don't expect to be able to wear shoes that much over the next while as it will be very painful and could even disturb your healing ink. It is certainly worth the pain as large foot tattoos are rare and it makes them kind of exotic.