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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Abandoned Ontario Part 1: Old Killaloe

Hey everyone!

As I mentioned in my last post, I just got back from a week-long trip to Ottawa. While I was there, my friend Max had the great idea to do some exploring in nearby ghost towns. We decided on exploring Renfrew County, which is just an hour out of Ottawa and has some amazing old pioneer settlements. Max, Stef and I packed up a car and headed out for an interesting Sunday adventure.

When researching locations to visit we used a website called Ontario Abandoned Places. It's an interesting site where users can report ghost towns or abandoned buildings in an area, and also provide the GPS coordinates, photos and the history of a location. The first location we had decided on was the Biederman Lime Kiln, which is a beautiful stone kiln that hasn't operated since 1930.

I honestly thought this location would be the easiest to get to compared to some other off-road locations. All we had to do was find the old quarry road and drive until the end. We found the road without any problems, but then encountered an unexpected roadblock.

A bridge had recently been removed, leaving us standing in front of a stream that was at least 6 feet deep. So we decided to try driving up a parallel dirt road to see where that would lead us. This lead to our second unexpected roadblock.

Cows, and lots of them. Just as I was driving up the dirt road the herd charged out from the forest. They seemed rather defensive of the car, so we opted to go on foot to see where the road lead. As we walked, the herd of spooked cattle ran ahead of us. We ended up coming to a similar bridge that had been removed. The whole area had recently been renovated, which was clear from piles of gravel and dirt.

Looking at satellite images now it might still be possible to reach the old kiln by continuing up the dirt road, but we decided to head to our next destination since we had a full day ahead of us. Besides, we had been thoroughly excited by our run-in with the herd of cattle.

Our next location was Old Killaloe, a ghost town near the current town of Killaloe, Ontario. As it turns out, Killaloe is the birthplace of my favorite Canadian pastry: a beavertail. Essentially it's a deep fried pastry that's usually coated in cinnamon and sugar, chocolate or hazelnut spread. Naturally we had to stop for a bite.

While there, we also took some time to explore Station Park. This was the site of the old train station, now a park for the town. It was very picturesque and quaint in the way that small towns always seem to be. There was even an admirable community library with books safely stored in tree trunks.

After taking in the town of Killaloe, we got back in the car and drove for a few minutes to old Killaloe. Old Killaloe was settled in the 1850s and was quite successful for several decades. In the 1890s a railway was to be built through the area, but had to be placed several kilometers away from the settlement. Over the years most settlers began moving closer to the railway. Today there are still several houses and farms in the area, but most are abandoned.

Our first location was an abandoned house. Signs of squatters were everywhere, especially since the house was listed on the Ontario Abandoned Places website. Chairs were pulled up on the porch and empty beers were all over the property. It had Stef and I a little creeped out, but we found the surroundings very interesting. Unlike us, Max was unfazed.

Our last stop in Old Killaloe was the general store, which is actually still open one day a week or by appointment. Unfortunately the store was closed on Sundays, but the building itself presented a nice photo opportunity. There were also a few items out in front of the store, including a gorgeous hand-crafted canoe.

After spending a bit of time in Old Killaloe we decided to head off to our next location since we had few more to visit...

I'll end this post here for length's sake and continue the adventure in another post.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Lusk Cave, Gatineau Park

*This is an old post finally published after my knee injury.*

For my short stay in Ottawa this summer, Stef and I decided to visit Lusk Cave in Gatineau Park. It was my first time spelunking and I really enjoyed it! The cave was very busy, so it took some time to navigate the tunnels. We didn't mind, since it gave us an opportunity to take some pictures.

There are two separate cave systems to Lusk Cave. The first was understandably more popular; it was easy to access, lit with bouts of natural light, and the water only went up to our knees at the deepest part of the cave. 

After exiting the first part of Lusk Cave you had the option to get out or continue on to the last part of the cave system. To access the second cave system you have to follow the water down a small waterfall. I didn't get any pictures from the second half of the cave since it's pitch black inside, and the water was very deep. There was one small stretch where we has only a foot of space between the water and the rocky ceiling. Fortunately, we did get pictures of our soaked clothing.

This was such an adventurous experience. I'd definitely recommend it to all my friends in Ottawa, as well as any visitors to the area. I do however have some recommendations:
  • Water levels will change based on the time of year. Use caution, especially when considering going through the second part of the cave. 
  • Bring a towel and a change of clothes.
  • Bring your kids! I saw many children in the caves and they all looked like they loved the experience.
  • The cave floor will be slippery and the water flow is surprisingly strong. Wear shoes you trust to be stable when wet.
  • Definitely bring a source of lighting. If you don't have a headlamp, a flashlight in a sandwich bag will do.
  • Bring a camera, just make sure it's waterproof if you're bringing it through the second part of the cave. Looking back, pictures in the deepest part of the cave would have been awesome.
  • Have a great adventure! 

Rice Lake

This weekend I went for a hike to Rice Lake in North Vancouver. To get there, I stopped by the 30 foot pool in Lynn Canyon Park. This was the first time I had been in the area during really warm summer weather, and the river was full of people enjoying the deep water. There was even a cliff that children were jumping off into the natural pool.

I continued a short while on the Seymour Valley Trail to get to Rice Lake. The lake was beautiful and still, mirroring the surroundings almost perfectly.

Rice Lake is a man-made water reservoir that's now designated for recreational use. The lake is stocked with rainbow trout, and spread out around the lake were fishermen enjoying the day. I was a bit jealous of them, since I haven't fished in years. Rice Lake would be the ideal location for a day of relaxing. However, because of the fishing, swimming isn't allowed - for good reason. Everywhere I went that day I could find signs of fishing.

This was my first hike alone in Vancouver, and I really enjoyed the experience. I had packed a lunch to enjoy along the water. The trail around Rice Lake is only 3 km, and would be very easy to do for people of any activity level. While I was there, I saw quite a few families with small children enjoying the area. It was a beautiful place.

That's all I have to share. I hope you've all been well! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Getting Out Of My Own Head

I haven't blogged in a while. To be honest, I haven't really been in the right mood to take perspective on things in my life lately. The months of July and August were somehow very stressful, despite not much taking place. I guess I hit a standstill with my research, and I had been commissioned to work on my department's academic website. The result: I burdened myself with unnecessary stress and overthinking. I was analyzing and regurgitating everything over and over again in my head.

Fortunately I had a trip back to Ottawa booked for the middle of August. It honestly couldn't have come at a better time. When I can't stop dwelling on things, sometimes completely removing myself is the best situation. 

It was so fantastic to be home. I got to spend some wonderful time with my family, and I was really lucky to see all of my supportive friends while I was there. As usual, I also had a chance to schedule in some adventures, which I'm excited to share. 

I'm back in BC now, and trying to adjust back to the timezone and the working schedule. My first day back wasn't too promising. I only hope things will get better. I think I've become very burnt out from all aspects of my life: academically, physically, emotionally, and especially socially. I really need to focus more on my resolutions from this year: focus on self love, find positive and loving friendships, and be more supportive to myself. 

Well, that's all for this slightly depressing post. I find it almost therapeutic to write these thoughts out, so maybe I should have been blogging through these past two months after all. I promise the things to come on this blog will be amazing! I got re-inspired during my trip back home and can't wait to share some things with you all.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take Pride

"Take pride in everything you are"

I still wish I could have made it out to World Pride this year in Toronto, but I'm so happy I had the chance to watch the Vancouver Pride Parade and support all my LGBT friends and family members.