The Bruce

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The Bruce



Just got back last night from cottaging on the Bruce, right on the tip at Hay Bay. This is the second time I have rented a cottage on the Bruce-- the last time was at Pike Bay, further south. Usually, though, we camp, Preferably at Cypress Lake Provincial Park, but we have used private camp grounds there too.

I love the Bruce Peninsula. I love the birch, pine and cedar forests. I love the geology. I like the people.

And the quiet. As Gordon Lightfoot best put it in song, "too silent to be real."

This time things were fairly Tobermorycentric. For those that are looking for some shopping for kitchy tourist stuff, you can find it there. You can also find much one of a kind resident artist stuff there too, from paintings and photos to pottery.

We bought some rather tastefull stoneware coffee mugs by potter named "Ben". Who turns out to be a woman. She has a shop off Hwy 6 near Ferndale? I forget. Her stuff is readily available in Tobermory, for the same prices she charges in her studio.

Speaking of Ferndale, there are now two new windmills to keep the original company.

We had lunch one day at a place called "A Mermaid's Secret." I'm sure the owner was inspired by Toronto's Kensington Market. Not only was the lunch unique and good, there were one of a kind gift items to be had. And bicycles can be rented there. Big tires with big, baby boomer assed sized seats.

"General Ecclectic" is another shop that seems to be trying to hippify the Tub. Cool stuff at touristy prices. But what the heck, the owner has to make a year's income in four months. Be forgiving.

I recomend the breakfast and the dinner at the Princess Hotel. Great view of the harbour, and of Georgian Bay beyond.

They should patent that shade of blue.

But of course, I am not much of one for shopping. So a day spent on the trail at Cypress Lake provincial park was done.

Rebecca had never experienced the Horse Lake trail that brings one out to the boulder beach not far from Bootlegger's Cave.

It's always magic for me, and it's never not impressed anyone who I have taken there. Butterflies by the dozen, humming birds, ferns and cedar trees growing out of rock faces. And as usual we saw a couple of snakes. Columbine and other wild flowers grow in cracks in the rock. If you are lucky, like we are, you can stand and listen to a pair of loons call to each other as they fish far apart.

We came back along the Bruce Trail that climbs above Bootlegger's Cave. There are types of moss and lichen one doesn't see-- or at least I don't see-- anywhere else. And there are large cedar trees growing right in car sized boulders to astound you.

It's a great vacation spot. There are things to attract just about everyone. There is the Bruce Trail for you hard core campers and hikers, and there is Fathom Five park for those that think a wet suit is not a fetish item, but can be also used for scuba diving. The ultra clear waters, and the many ship wrecks are an international attraction. For the less adventurous, glass bottom boat tours are available. So are walk on dinner trips across and back from Manitoulin Island. We are told the dinner is superlative on the Chichimaun.

Spread my ashes at Cypress Lake, so it can rejoin my heart.


Sounds great Tommy. If you can get those ashes over to Oshawa, I'm going up for a week in early August.

Been going almost every summer for the last 19 years now along with some of my wife's extended family. My kids and their cousins have accumulated some great memories. As I think I mentioned sometime before, some people on my in-laws side have some history in Sauble Beach going back a few generations. We stay in cottage on the beach right at the north end of Sauble. It's an unabashed tourist trap, but it's found a spot in my heart anyway. My daughter and the cousin group are more beach focussed, and my son, me, and a few of the olders like exploring inland up the peninsula.

Atheist though I may be, my vision of Paradise borrows heavily from the Bruce Peninsula.


I think I write here about it here every time I come back. I'm even commercial about it, as I have great sympathy for those who work so hard to scratch out a living up there.

At Hay Bay, the rock is pock marked like sponge, with holes from pin head to toonie size. One can see such holes formed by water rushing over and swirling rocks or particles in pock marks, gradually making a hole.

But I think these holes are formed when the limestone was still fine mud. they look more like solidified gas bubbles, and one finds them at odd angles that rushing water would not form. I guess that also means that this rock formed fairly quick as the mud must have dried out fast to hold that pattern.

It's my guess. Later this week I will try to find an explanation on line.

There are also grooves in the rock from glacier trapped boulders. And in more than one direction. It was fun to try to figure out which direction was older.

You know, there are cave and other wonderous formations around Lion's Head that I've never yet explored.

And, I do not think there is one comprehensive guide to the Bruce that ties the geological, human flora and fauna history together in one tidy package.


I bought one of those products that I didn't think would work, but was tempted to try none the less. It's that tape you put on your hat to trap deer flies. I bought some and tried it out on my friend's farm near Dundalk.

I'll be durned, the stuff works as advertized. If you hate deer flies, you will love this stuff.

Now, it could be that ordinary duct tape, looped to stick to itself and stuck on your hat will work too. I'll try that sometime.


There used to be a great canoe route along the Rankin River. Been a few years for me though, and with generally lowering water levels, I'm not sure it's easily navigable any more. Last time I tried I spent a lot of time wading, dragging the canoe over logs 'n stuff. (MNR really needs to send in a crew to clean it up.)

Anyway, a good days trip is to get in the water at the N end of Boat Lake where it meets that road running between Wiarton and Oliphant. Nice little paddle across the lake, and the challenge becomes finding the entrance to the Rankin on the other side. This is the only spot a guide would help.

It's a smallish river, but really beautiful, going through wilderness. It joins the Sauble river which is much wider, and you can meander up that river as long as you feel like. If you turn right and go down the river, you can meander until you get to sauble falls. After going over the falls, what's left of you and your canoe will be found in Lake Huron. If you portage around the falls like a normal person, you'll end up at the north end of Sauble Beach, where I suggest you get out and have an ice cream at Joseph's. Best ice cream cones on the planet.

This route used to be very important way back in the pre European times, and has some archeological significance as it was pretty much the only natural East West route across the peninsula.

ETA: oh yeah, the caves at Lion Head. Definitely worth the trip. Wear sturdy hiking boots.

[ 02 July 2007: Message edited by: oldgoat ]


C'mon, guys be kind and stop it! I've been here in B.C. for more 30 years now, but your musings remind me of some fine experiences from my youth. Everything, every description here makes me melancholy. Mind you, the same would be true if it was the Cabot Trail, the Eastern Townships, the north shore of Superior, the big sky or the north coast of Vancouver Island that was being discussed. What a fine country!

Thanks for the memories.


I am going Bruce Peninsula National Park and camping at Cyprus Lake this weekend for the first time ever with my friend. I was wondering if you had any suggestions of must-sees or certian trails to hike, or any suggestions at all would be greatly appreciated. I look forward to hearing from you! [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]



Wear a good shoe, something that grips the heel well. Sandles and the like aren't good for crossing the boulder beaches.

I think I mentioned above about that strip of tape you can get for a hat to remove the annoyance of deer flies. It works. You can pick that up cheap at a store called "Verna's" right next to the harbour at Tobermory. It's on a rack with a bunch of other camping do-dads.

There are bears there, I guess. I have never seen them, though. Particularly at this time of year when there are so many people, I think they move well away from Cypress lake. Check out the office where you register and get to know what a Massasaga rattlesnake looks like. They have a stuffed one. Chances are almost certain it's the closest you will ever get to one.

I do tend to over do prudence. It's just I don't want you to come back and say "You didn't say there were rattlesnakes there!" If you do manage to see one, count yourself fortunate to see such a rare, and beautiful species. At any rate, thier bite is not fatal.

The Horse lake trail is the shortest route to Georgian Bay, you might want to start with that one. It's pretty flat, and brings you out to a boulder beach. To the south is bootleggers cave, north leads to the grotto. I'd go south, past the cave and then turn back into the bush. The white blazes on the trees will take you above the cave, and there's some pretty magical sights to be seen. Check out the cedar trees growing right out of seemingly solid rock.

The Mar lake trail is longer with more hills. It brings you out north of the grotto. The grotto is a neat place to swim or relax. If you take the small section of the Bruce trail that goes above the grotto, be aware that the trail is close to the edge of the cliff. They don't litter the park with warning signs or anything.

In case I have mixed up the names of the trails, they do give out maps when you register.

If you have a pair of binoculars, use them at night to check out the stars. If you have never done that before, you will thank me for mentioning it. You'll want them to check out the loons, too.

Spaced out along some of the trails are bits of information that explains something of what is before you. Not enough for my taste, but I suggest reading them.

Hmm. Most of all, walk until your feet are hot and maybe a little sore. Then put them in Georgian Bay and watch the waves roll in, and look at the various colours of the water where it's deep, and marvel at it's transparency in the shallows.

The rocks tell a story, too. Listen to them.

On a more practicle note, I wouldn't buy firewood inside the park. Last year when we camped there it wasn't seasoned. There's a general store just south of the park entrance, on the west side of Hwy 6. The wood is better there.

[ 18 July 2007: Message edited by: Tommy_Paine ]