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Hiking amongst the limestone of the White Desert, Western Egypt (copyright Janine Murphy)
 
Hey Gang,
 
Check out my new article in the Globe & Mail on off-roading adventures in Egypt’s Western Desert!
JM
 
 
 
 
 
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A Kazakh eagle hunter surveys the field near Olgi, Western Mongolia at the annual Olgi Eagle Festival (copyright Janine Murphy)

Hey Everyone,

Check out my new article on western Mongolia’s Eagle Festival in this weekend’s Globe & Mail!

JM

A busy morning in Tobermory's Harbour on the Civic Long Weekend

Sure, by Tobermory standards this was a pretty busy weekend. Maybe the busiest of the summer. The parking situation around the snug little harbour was akin to a Christmas Eve shopping mall lot. The line ups for whitefish & chips were long. Every hotel room, campsite and b&b  in town was displaying a “No Vacancy” sign. And it took a fiendish amount of time to get my cappucino yesterday afternoon during the lunch rush at my favourite cafe.

Still, in between all this hubub, our paddle along the dolomite-cliffed shores of the Georgian Bay coastline was serene and our hike over some of the best parts of the Bruce Trail was similarly quiet. The scuba diving in the crisp waters of Fathom Five National Marine Park was first-rate, as advertised (yeah there were other divers, but Lake Huron is plenty big enough to share). The whitefish and chips and the cappucino were worth waiting for. And we enjoyed some of the finest, most luxurious accomodation, hospitality, food and wine at the E’Terra Inn that we’ve ever experienced. And we’ve experienced some good stuff.

The flipside - a quiet scene off our canoe bow, not far outside the harbour

And here lies Tobermory’s secret – the townsite is busy and the main beaches are blocked with your average weekenders. But once you get past those areas, onto the trails and waterways that made the area famous to begin with, you are far closer to being on your own than you might anticipate.

All this leads me to think that Tobermory and the Northern Bruce Peninsula, while admittedly busy, may not be nearly as busy as they should be. After four days, we feel like we’ve only started to properly explore the place. We will definitely (though perhaps with an advance reservation) be back.

Only a place as cool as Tobermory could have gotten me out of bed this morning.

We arrived at half past midnight last night, dog tired, with an infant who figured that since she’d dutifully slept for the four hour drive here, she was now entitled to play and be entertained for the rest of the evening. So morning found us only slightly less red eyed and marginally less irritable than when we’d arrived.

But things quickly got better. We have a lovely hostess at our B&B, Cedars and Birches, who had coffee made and fresh baked scones laid out for us as soon as we reluctantly emerged from our room. Fortified, we toured throught the beautiful new Information Centre for the Bruce and Fathom Five National Parks. It’s really a great facility – perfectly set its environment, spacious and bright inside and full of fun and informative exhibits. It actually got us pumped to explore the park (I know, we’re nerds).

We grabbed lunch at cafe/bar/restaurant A Mermaids Secret, chilling with home made iced teas and mexican food in the hot afternoon sun. Then it was back to the park for a tour of the sandy, dune filled west side of the Bruce at Singing Sands beach. We hunted for orchids, ancient cedars  and insectivorous plants and kept our ears pealed for the tic-tic–tic–tic-ticking  of the Massassauga Rattlesnake (no luck there, so to speak).

A little window shopping and then it was off to dinner at the Grandview Restaurant overlooking Big Tub Harbour. As the sun set, we picked over bacon-wrapped roasted scallops, fresh whitefish and lake trout while the boats and ferries gathered before us at the end of their day’s runs.

It may sound tame, but for us this was a big day – our first solo trip as new parents. We made it through with smiles on, but we are now well and truly pooped. We’ve made Kathleen a bed besides ours into which she’s fallen with only minimal heart-rending tears of rage and we are about to turn out the lights ourselves. It’s 9:30. It’s Friday. It’s over for us.

But only for 8 hours. Tomorrow, we take to the water with a glass boat tour of Fathom Five and some diving. We also check into the highly-touted E’Terra Inn –  a lodge that claims it can offer all the luxuries with none of the eco-guilt.

At this point, if it can give me 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, I’ll give it 5 stars supposing if the roof caves in and the food gives me cholera.

JM

Bruce National Park, Ontario

Wow. Saying that title out loud sure puts a lot of spittle on your screen…

Anyway, we’re driving from Toronto today to the town of Tobermory on the tip of the beautiful Bruce peninsula.  While there, we’ll profile the area’s awesome land- and water-based activities. Among other things, we’ll be hiking along the dramatic Niagara Escarpment in Bruce National Park, wreck- and cave-diving  in nearby Fathom Five National Marine Park and staying at the exclusive E’Terra eco-lodge. If there’s any downtime, we’ll relax with good food, wine and maybe even massage.

I don’t know whether to be excited about all the stuff we’ve got to do or all the work I’ve got ahead of me to write it up properly.

Toodles!

jm

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Numa Pass in Kootenay National Park, Rocky Mountains

One of the causes I was promoting with the “I Walk the (Sky)Line” hike was the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s “Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Initiative.” It’s a visionary plan to create a wilderness corridor stretching along the spine of the Rocky Mountains from the United States to Northern Canada.

Implementation of Y2Y would not only be wonderful news for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, but would be welcome relief for much of the wildlife resident in the the area. Read CPAWS’ report on the issue here.

After you’re done, consider how you can support this great organization working for the preservation of Canada’s wild places. It’ll make you feel good and it’s far safer than hugging a grizzly.

JM

Yeah, it's not waterproof and it does throw off your keel line a bit, but I now consider an exer-saucer absolutely vital canoeing equipment

We finally took the plunge this weekend and took our 5 month old daughter camping.  We chose to introduce her to the outdoor life at our favourite overnight getaway site – an easy half day paddle down a lake in the Magnetewan River system north of Parry Sound. It wasn’t an overly ambitious choice. We decided to focus on the challenge of simply getting our new family member up and down the lake in a moderately contented state and to save the six week whitewater trips for next year.

Here’s some lessons learned from Kathleen’s first weekend in the great Canadian wilderness:

1.  A good Canadian knows how to make love in a canoe. A good Canadian father knows how to balance a carseat and an exersaucer on top of a fully loaded canoe.

2.  Singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to a sleeping infant as you actually row a boat is a surreal experience.

3.  A 5 month old child is like a puppy in that it wants to explore everything with its mouth. This includes pine cones, sticks and assorted wild shrubbery. If you’re a negligent father and ultimately have make a very quick decision, I recommend the stick.

Sunset on Naiscoot Lake

4.  Gradually introduce your infant to cold lake swimming. Instant immersion is a recipe for a lot of screaming and loss of bladder control (for both the infant and the parents).

5.  The 5 extra hours it took you to get ready for a simple overnight camping trip will feel totally worth it once you’re enjoying that first lakeshore sunset with your baby in arms.

Have fun out there!

JM

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