Friday, November 11, 2011

Rideau and Cataraqui Trail tour

Cave ghosts

November 11th, time again for our annual hike/adventure boosting the streak to 7 years and counting (see blog links below). This year our crew was whittled down to just Ken and I, the core of the group if you will. Dave was unable to join us as he had another long running streak to keep alive (keep an eye on his blog where I'm sure he'll post the pics and GoPro video soon) and Mike stayed home to rake and fix his internet connection (boo).

Anyhow, our goal today was to explore a small cave that lies close to the Cataraqui Trail south of Westport, Ontario. Along the way we decided to hit a few of the various caches in the area that have popped up over the last 3 years. The section of the Rideau Trail in the Foley Mountain Conservation Area was our first stop of many. This area is well worth the visit as it home to some nice hiking trails, picnic areas, a small secluded beach, and a great lookout area overlooking the town of Westport and the Upper Rideau Lake.

Rideau Trail STOP - You've gone too far!
Fall couple takes a break Yellow-spotted salamander

Next stop, the cave. We arrived close to noon as planned so we packed up the stove for the soup, our sandwiches, and a couple of beverages. Last to go in our packs was our headlamps (helmets and knee pads being luxury items that "real spelunkers" don't bother with). The Cataraqui Trail is an old abandoned rail-bed that is now a great hike or bike trail in the summer and ski or snowshoe trail in the winter. Access is also granted to snowmobilers but not ATVers likely due to the fact that ATVs tend to cause a lot of trail damage in comparison to sleds on a thick bed of snow.

As we crossed the swamp to the narrows we could hear the rush of running water. As the sound got louder and louder, my enthusiasm started to waver slightly as I envisioned soaking wet feet knowing well that the option of turning back was something neither Ken nor I would consider. At last, we arrived to find a healthy flow but nothing that an off-duty engineer couldn't solve with a couple of strategically tossed rocks. It worked like a charm and before long we had crossed the underground creek at the mouth of the cave and were working our way inward. Once inside, we clambered up the rock pile and then wormed our way through the narrow entrance to the next chamber. It opened up to an area large enough to allow us to sit down and check out our surroundings. Very cool. There were small limestone stelleracktites, aka drippy things, hanging down from the ceiling and humongous black spiders in nearly all the corners. The far end opened to another smaller chamber but it appeared to be filled with water so we could go no further. After snapping a few pics, we headed back out for our reward; hot soup and cold pints of Pollenator from the Long Trail Brewing Co. Cheers to a successful mission.

Crossing the cave stream Spelunking
Lunch at the cave's mouth Pollenator from Long Trail Brewing Co.

After a relaxing lunch, we made our way back to the main road where we spotted nearly 30 wild turkeys at the side of the ditch. With some effort (read, my camera was stuck on the 10 sec. timer mode) I snapped a couple of pics while Ken tried to herd them up for a photo shoot. While they didn't turn tail back in my direction, some of them did manage to fly a few metres which is not something you see too often from large dodo like creatures. And before you ask, no I didn't manage to get a photo of them in flight which only confirms that I would not be the guy to bring on a Bigfoot sighting expedition.

Herd of turkeys Lake view
Cataraqui Trail Night caching on the Cataraqui Trail

Here's a quick review of our Annual Remembrance Day hikes over the last few years.