Friday, September 22, 2017

Well I thought I would share this again so you can have a little glimpse of history.
I am just getting ready for my annual fall pilgrimage to the Canyon.
Just so the rest of you know the Black and White sketch is on the opposite side the hill of the water colour.

I plan on doing something a little different and do a couple of movies, one will be at the campsite that Sidney Johnson most likely used when he drew this pictures.
And we will talk about a "few other" spirits who have visited the area. :)
And yes it will be a full moon again :)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Do North

Just a little slide show I put together for a contest in the Soo Today.
Probably a little long for their desires but Algoma is eye candy
So grab a beverage sit back and enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Agawa Canyon Canoe Trip Sept. 26 to Oct 2, 2015

Agawa Canyon Canoe Trip Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, 2015

Trip report of PJ McColl's and my fall trip to the Agawa is now up for your enjoyment.
And it is long and Pic heavy.

Yeah this is sort of cheating but it is as long as the river was low.
So this is just way easier than fixing all the links and pics to work here.


Monday, August 17, 2015

The bucket list paddle.

The bucket list, most know the movie, and most people have such a list of things to do or places to go.

I have been paddling for almost 50 years now and have done and seen some amazing things on the water.  I have won National titles in both whitewater and sprint canoeing.  I have trained, competed against, paddled with and have been friends with the best in the world both racing and recreational paddlers.

I have paddled many great rivers and waters around the world.  I have paddled some great first descents and rapids that are on many peoples list such as the Skookumchuck  Narrows in BC. And have paddled among huge icebergs in Newfoundland/Labrador.

There are many places I would like to go, but there is one that has been on the “list” for a long time and this will shock a lot of people that know “paddling” me.

We take you back to 1976, fastest in the Country in Downriver racing and most of my paddling is leaning to the “big” side of the scale.
We were traveling to the Nationals in Alberta when just to the west of Marathon Ontario, Highway 17, the Trans Canada makes a fairly sharp turn to the west around a small Boreal lake, nestled into a beautiful mountain setting.  The threatening clouds and darkening skies added to the depth and beauty of this lake.
Right then and there, I said I had to paddle this lake!
I have been to Northern Ontario many times since then but had not been able to stop and paddle here for a variety of reasons.
So this year I knew we where going up to Northern Ontario for two weeks at the end of July so the plan was to definitely go and paddle this pretty little Boreal lake named “Wolf Camp Lake” on the maps.
Not much has changed on this lake from when I first saw it except there is now a microwave tower on top of the big hill at the north end.  There is a little dirt road that follows the east shore but you don’t really see it from the lake.

Access is really easy as there is a turn off and parking area right beside the lake when you get off the highway and there is little sign that it gets used very much and there are no camps or cottages on the lake.

So for 39 years this lake has been in the back of my mind, that I should paddle it, why? I don’t know, but I will Share with you what I found.

Once we were ready to paddle and the boat was off and on the edge of the lake we gave a gift of tobacco to Mother Earth and the Lake. 

My paddling roots run very deep in Northern Ontario, my Father worked on the Algoma Central railway after WWII and was partnered with a First Nations member who taught him paddle and bush skills, which has led to my life long love affair with paddling, so this gesture was more than appropriate.

As we move through the reeds to open water an Eagle circled overhead and cried out….  Very cool indeed.

My wife Anne joined me for this pilgrimage, since I have been talking about this lake since we took the kids up for the Sault – Thunderbay loop 20 years ago.

We paddled along the east shore heading north, there was a small little island and the shoreline rises gently for a short distance then raised very steeply helping give that lake in the mountains effect.

There was a nice wind blowing, not too strong, but enough to keep the bugs at bay as we slowly made our way along the shore.  When we got to the north shore there was a tiny lagoon with a small stream flowing in and we were given this terrific view looking towards Hwy. 17

This end of the lake was definitely the “high end” beach strip.

This end of the lake has a little turn in it and you only hear the sounds of the wind as we paddled in some more reeds.

As you paddle south, along the west shore, the cliffs rise right out of the lake.

It is beautifully rugged and it feels you are being watched from the hills.

Looking at the eastern hills and shore.

Another small stream enters the lake towards the south end.

Looking north from the southwest shore.

I hope you enjoyed paddling around this pretty little lake with us.

So what did I find?
A beautiful peaceful place to paddle on one of Northern Ontario’s Boreal lakes.
What did I expect to happen?
That I don’t know, in the beginning there was just whisper in the back of my head that I should paddle there, but there where no visions or secret messages.
There was though a great sense of peace and relaxation, but that I have felt whenever I paddle and camp. 
So maybe that is the message to share what I have found so others and also find these wonderful places.
Wolf Camp Lake, if you go here or any other special place to you, make sure you leave it for others as you found it.

Jeff McColl

Link to my Northern Album 2015.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Canyon in Winter.

The Canyon in winter.
Agawa Canyon may not be in the top 10 of winter camping destinations in Ontario but it is far more exotic and beautiful place than those on the list.
Getting there is far more challenging but the rewards for doing so are much more gratifying!
This first image is of the Goudge Gateway and the second is of me holding the water colour copy of a painting done approx. 1907 by train surveyor Sidney Johnson before they put the ACR tracks through.

But before we discuss how to get in you must be aware just how harsh the weather and landscape can be.  In the heart of winter you must be ready for conditions where the temperatures can range down in to the -40’s and that is cold in any system, plus very strong winds and being in a snow belt very deep snows.  Last year over 2metres and with really deep snow river travel is very hazardous because you cannot see where the open water sections are.
Pic last years snow

I usually base camp and use a canvas tent with wood stove (hot tent) but then even then I pull a small sled with survival and backup gear on day trips should things go amiss.
You can snowshoe or cross country ski in from the highway or the easiest way in/out is by the ACR passenger train.

Winter Trekking .com site.  This is the premier community for winter camping and trekking and the members are both polite and very helpful.  They will critique your choices and give you suggestions where to go for equipment or on how to improvise with what you have.
When I took up winter camping 5 years ago at the age of 54 their knowledge and advice made my first week ever of winter camping enjoyable and safe and six of those seven days where below -30 c

If you are not quite up to the experience of camping on your own you can contact Superior Exploration and climbing Co. 
They have a hot tent set up right in the middle of the canyon and Shaun can guide you in the area and take you to the top of one of the ice climbs in the area.

Facebook page

There are some others in the area that may be able to hook you up with people that are knowledgeable about the conditions or some local guides.
Niijkiwenhag – friends of Lake Superior Park

If you are looking for warm accommodations there are several but the Stokely Creek Lodge will put you into the heart of King Mountain conservation area.

Finally if you do are not the kind of person that likes to trek through the snow and hills you can take the Algoma Central Railway Passenger service on a two-day trip. You pick up the train in Sault Ste. Marie spend the night at a hotel in Hearst and back down to the Sault the next day.  You will have to take your own lunch on board  for it is a full 2 days of train travel but you will see just how awesome Algoma is.

Lower Agawa Canyon terrain.  This will give you some idea of the size of the hills in Algoma.

If you do take the train in on an unguided winter camping trip and doing a base camp it is a good idea to bring in some firewood with you. It is worth the cost of extra weight on the train because with the very wet fall we had, good dry firewood will be a major effort to find and collect.
With the Ash borer problem it is best you by local wood or take some of those fire logs.  It will make the trip much more enjoyable.
Meakin Forest Ent. sells certified ash borer free fire wood and they can tell you which outlets carry their pre-packaged firewood in the Sault area.

Just a friendly reminder/heads up abut winter camping in the area.  Cell phones do not work and satellite technology, either phones or other services do not work well in the canyons.  Make sure you have a good plan and someone knows your trip itinerary.
Plan for the worse possible weather conditions and have the gear that can keep you warm and comfortable, the forecast can change very quickly and snow squalls off the lake can dump a lot of snow in a hurry making travel very difficult.
I bailed for that very reason after one night last year.  I had all the cold weather gear and was quite comfy but travel was extremely hazardous and hard.
It is always better to come out and try again another day.


Past trip reports.

Link to winter albums.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Into the fall Part II

Into the Fall Part II

In part one I wrote of “Waiting 5 minutes for the weather to change” and how truly how unpredictable the weather can be, especially if you have to plan your trips almost a year in advance.
This year’s choice of the week of October 4th to 11th was full of possibilities, full moon fall colours and a lunar eclipse.  It was the same week chosen as the last 3 years which where all exceptional weather wise.  Well, this year the Big Lake showed who was in charge of the area.

Usually I am just hoping for enough rain to raise the river levels a bit so you can get down with some “Bump and Grind” but the rains brought the levels up more than 1 metre from what I usually run. 
I had a rookie wilderness tripper with me, and the high river levels where just not safe to take him down on a canoe trip.  I will post a link to our trip at the bottom so you can follow our adventure.
The storms of November came early to Gitchigumi this year and photo opportunities still abound, the difference is with the speed of the weather systems and the more “challenging” conditions you as a photographer have to be and get ready much faster. 
One of the benefits of the high water is that all the hidden small streams with waterfalls in the Algoma Highlands become beautiful cascades that demand that you stop and enjoy them.

What is normally passed by becomes a scene that is painted with water.

Some scenes show the power of water unleashed.  This shot of where Eleven Mile Creek meets the Agawa River; it is as if the water is being ejected from the top of the canyon walls.

Other better known falls take on a different appearance such as this shot of South Black Beaver falls.  The colour in the leaves, ground vegetation, and rocks is really brought out by a recent rain/snow squall.  It gives the falls a very “soft” look, but also lets you know that the temperature is very cool.

As for landscape shots you have to be a lot luckier to get conditions that will really showoff the terrain of the area.  Sometimes it’s hard to get the whole scene into your frame with what your eyes see.  Too much of one background colour, be it either clear sky or clouds.  In this image from the observation platform at Canyon Station Park it all comes together to show the beauty and depth of the Canyon.

When you are hanging out in a specific area you know what you want to shoot, it then becomes a matter what will the weather bring.  Some of the previous shots are good others are just ok, and a mental note to come back and try another day.  In the base camp scenario you can get that chance of getting that special shot.  I knew I wanted to get the ACR Passenger train in the A.Y Jackson painting location.  This is a spot I have always climbed up too, even before I knew it was a G7 location.  Ever since I first came to the Canyon, no matter what the conditions I have always sat there for a while, just absorbing the view. (It is the background image for this blog)
Link to the A.Y. Jackson painting.

I had nothing better to do, no place to go, (which is sort of an oxymoronic  statement when you love being out in the wilderness )  and we where in between squalls, I was having a snack just enjoying the view after the train went by when on of those magic moments happened.  A little hole opened in the clouds and let some light beams in to the canyon.  Just so you know I shoot in raw, I will sharpen, or take some shadows out, reduce highlights, I do not like to over process or process 3 or 4 shots to into one image.  What you see in the image is what I see, and if you go there and encounter similar conditions you will see it too! And this was one of those wow moments; just complete eye candy when Mother Nature shows you her best.

On our last day while waiting for the train to take us back out, we where again given a glimpse of fall beauty when a few more sun beams broke into the canyon.

We thought that was it for photo opportunities for the trip we got showered and a fire going for our last night in Lake Superior Park at the Agawa Bay campground when one of the famous Agawa Bay sunsets started to happen.  A thin sunbeam of light started illuminating the Montreal Harbour Point to the south of us and then to slowly proceed moving north to our location. 

What made this one truly spectacular was the colour the sun was projecting on to the hills along the shore.  Even though many of the maples where now bare, it really showed off what kind of trees grow at what elevation on the hills and where the heavy frosts first hit.

As the sun beam moved north and got lower in the horizon a beautiful gold hue was cast along Agawa Bay.

I was so intent on shooting to the south I almost missed a great natural phenomenon.  My wife pointed out that there was something different between the Agawa Islands and the mainland point where the pictographs are; it was a mirage, most likely the islands that are in that direction approximately kms. from where we where.

We now know how mirages work but did this effect have any influence on their drawing on Agawa Rock.

The few people that where on the beach that evening where all golden, even the White Pines along the beach where golden.  To have  the area painted in such an amazing way just left you in awe.

There was a lot of “ifs” on this trip, if any of these didn’t happen, I would have missed out on some spectacular shots.  What if the river did not rise to flood levels?  What if the first train we where to take in on the Saturday was not cancelled?  What if we decided not to go or bail early on the trip?  Any one change in what we did and we would have missed it all. 
When you experience such beautiful phenomena and landscapes in this area you have to wonder if the spirits of the area had anything to do with what transpiried.
I am beginning to think they are watching!


Link to trip report.

Link to album.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Into the Fall

It is that time of year where if you wait 5 minutes the weather is going to change, especially in Northern Ontario. So just a short blog to inspire you to get out and enjoy the fall season.

From the Mouth of the Agawa River
Looking Northeast.

Sometimes the weather is warm and calm and other times it can be downright nasty.  You have to not only respect the terrain but be prepared for what the season will through at you.
In the fall the Algoma region is incredible eye candy!
If you are taking photos you may be offered only short time span in which to "catch" the perfect frame, a sun beam, a intriguing cloud pattern or a shadow or shape.
But sometimes just to sit and watch the show unfold knowing that your front row seat is one of a kind and the camera will just not do the scene justice.

From the Towab Trail

This next image is was taken several years ago  but I felt was a good example to go along with the segments from radio show I have linked below.   from such a big vista like Agawa Canyon there is some much more you can see, and this little tree tells us a lot.

I heard this on on Sunday September 14 and I thought it would be good to share, not only from a photographers mind set, but also from the view that if you want to slow the world and notice "other happenings" that are taking place around you.
It will also open your mind to see other perspectives in areas that are heavily photographed or visited.
It has some good suggestions that will encourage to practice more for those times that you do get go to special places like Northern Ontario
CBC Radio 1, Tapestry; Season 20, Episode 2.
Starts At 36:30

the two end portions of the show with  Freeman Patterson's

and Rebecca Hass