ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “lake

AKECHIDAIRA (明智平) & KEGON WATERFALLS (華厳の滝), Nikko (日光), Japan

Apart from the UNESCO World Heritage temples and shrines, Nikko is also well known for its natural scenery.  The bus ride from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) took about 40 minutes.  The journey passed through the town of Nikko along the river.  After about half an hour, the bus began to climb up the Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂) west of Nikko.  As the bus zigzagged up the 48 turns of Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂), we decided to get off one stop before Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) at Akechidaira Ropeway Station to visit the Akechidaira Lookout.  Akechidaira (明智平) can be reached by a two-hour uphill hike from Lake Chuzenji, or a 3-minute gondola ride.  Akechidaira offers an spectacular overview of three iconic scenic features of Nikko: Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖), Mount Nantai (男体山), and Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes to appreciate the peaceful scenery, then took the ropeway back down and continued the last bit of our bus journey to Lake Chuzenji.  From the bus station, we followed the road signs to the nearby lookout of Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  Almost 100m in height, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is the most spectacular waterfall in Nikko, and one of the most famous falls in the entire Japan.

12We hopped off the bus at the ropeway station below Akechidaira (明智平) Plateau.  Unfortunately the weather was not as beautiful as earlier in the morning.

03The Akechidaira Ropeway was first operated in 1933.

05The lookout is about 86m above the ropeway station.

11The ropeway ride took about three minutes.

02During the Autumn, Akechidaira (明智平) is a highly popular spot to see the fall colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lookout offers an almost 360 degrees view of the surrounding scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) lies right in front of us at the lookout.

08In front of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) and at the foot of Mount Nantai (男体山), we could see the beautiful Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately the top of Mount Nantai (男体山) was hidden behind the clouds.

10We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes.  There wasn’t too many people and we had a brief and peaceful time to admire the scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we took the ropeway back down to the station, and hopped on the next bus for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most important sight near the bus station of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) is undoubtedly Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

13With a drop of almost 100m, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is an impressive waterfall.  It serves as the only exit for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).

 


MORNING ON TAQUILE, Titicaca, Peru

We got up at around 7 in the morning.  The air was cold and refreshing.  We walked down to the courtyard to brush our teeth and then into the dining room for breakfast.  After breakfast, our host suggested us to take a morning walk to the “beach”.  He gave us simple instructions and we ventured off onto the rural paths of Taquile again.  We walked to a part of the island where we had not been to before, following a winding path with a low stone wall along both sides of the path that stretched all the way to as far as we could see.  The beach was at the far end of the island. We could get a glimpse of it from the village centre. Without signage for direction and a clear path leading to the beach, we could only trust our gut to find a way to descend to the beach at the foot of the hill.

The lake water was freezing cold. Two cows were wandering on the sandy beach while we chilled out in the cool breeze.  We stayed on the beach for about 20 minutes until we decided to walk back to the village to check out the handcraft centre.  We climbed back up the hill to the main path.  The handcraft centre had a huge collection of exquisite textiles and wearable pieces handmade by the villagers, such as knitted belts and hats.  The colourful pieces are often decorated with traditional patterns unique to Taquile.  In 2005, the textile arts of Taquile was declared Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.  Taquile is often considered a successful example of community-based tourism.  Many islanders participate on making handcrafts for sell at the handcraft centre, or take turns to become hosts for visiting tourists.

After we visited the handcraft centre, we walked by a teenage girl sitting by the road, quietly knitting wool bracelets.  She lined up her colourful bracelets nicely on a piece of fabric for display.  The colourful bracelets had several different patterns knitted on both sides, and they all looked lovely to us.  While we were appreciating the works, a local islander waved at us from afar and he looked anxious.  He tried to tell us something important but we had trouble understanding.  After moments of confusion, we finally understood that he had been looking for us for quite sometime.  A friend of our host, he wanted to let us know that the boat leaving for Puno had changed its departure time earlier than scheduled.  Our host, on the other hand, had gone to the pier to urge the boat captain to wait for us.  By the time we were informed, we had less than half an hour to rush to the pier.  We followed the messenger’s lead to the exit archway of Taquile, where a long flight of stone steps led to the community pier by the lake.  We hurried down the stone steps in a single breath and finally jumped onto community boat leaving for Puno.  The community boat was much slower than the tourist boats, and the ride took over two hours.

After docking at Puno,  we went into a local restaurant at town centre for a big glass of warm chicha morada.  Chicha is a Peruvian drink made of purple maize with a variety of spices or fruits.  Fermented or non-fermented, chicha drinks have been popular with people on the Andes for centuries.  A glass of purple chicha morada (with spices of some sort) became the perfect conclusion for our visit to Lake Titicaca.  The next morning, we would head northwest to the historical heartland of the Inca Empire, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

7The boy of the host family was shy but curious. He invited us to play football with him at the forecourt of his house.

6Our host’s home had a big foreground surrounded by adobe houses on three sides and a wall at the front. The forecourt is a perfect place for the kids of the family to play football.

1The rural scenery of Taquile in early morning.

2A woman with her sheep for a morning walk.

3The beach that our host recommended was down the hill from the main path.

4The beach is right at the foot of the terraced farmlands.

5We finally reached the beach. We were greeted by a cow and its calf there. The water was too cold for a comfortable swim but the sun was warm and the sand was fine.

10PE05-29At the Handcraft Centre, we found many finely made textile items and knitwears.  Examples of Taquile’s famous knitting could easily be seen everything on the island, including the traditional headwears of the villagers.

8We passed by a number new buildings under construction when we rushed to the pier.  Many buildings were left unfinished until villagers saved up enough money to complete the second level.

9After passing this arch, we would bid farewell to Taquile island.

10Following the messenger, we hurried down the stone steps to catch the community boat.  The stepped path was long with uneven stone risers.

11We finally made it to the pier and were amazed by the speed at which we descended the uneven steps.

12There were a few boats at the dock. The community boat left from a different pier than where we arrived a day ago.

13At last, the farming terraces of Taquile Island was behind us.

14As the boat moved out to the lake, Taquile Island appeared smaller and smaller until it disappeared completely.

15Our boat passed by some fish nets in the lake.

16During the boat ride, we passed by a number villages along the coast of the mainland.

17Close up of a coastal village by the Lake Titicaca.

18We were sitting out on the boat deck.  After the gate marked by the light towers, we knew Puno would soon be in sight.

19We arrived at Puno at late afternoon. We strolled around the market near the town centre and went into a small local restaurant for a warm chicha moranda.

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Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


AFTERNOON ON TAQUILE ISLAND, Titicaca, Peru

Once arrived on Taquile, we were greeted at the dock by the father of the home-stay family. We had difficulties understanding each other completely, but we could still communicate with simple facial expressions and hand gestures.  Our host suggested us to take our time to walk uphill to the village centre, while he would go ahead of us to prepare our lunch at a village restaurant.  Since we weren’t totally acclimatized to the 3,800m altitude, we took our time and slowly walked uphill from the dock to the village centre.  The journey took less than half an hour.  We walked along through terraced farmland ascending from the dock to the top of the hill. The view was gorgeous along the way, with terraced farmlands everywhere along the slope of the island.

Soon we reached the plaza at the village centre, where we found our host.  He led us to a local restaurant and ordered each of us a dish of local trout.  After lunch, our host guided us to his home where we would stay the night.  We were introduced to the host’s family.  Then we dropped off our bags and followed our host to the island’s elementary school where some sort of festival activity was going on.  Standing behind rows of local spectators, we watched groups of Taquile students engaged in some kind of acting and  dancing performance.  Despite we couldn’t understand Quechua, we enjoyed the funny acting of the innocent Taquile children that made everyone laughed.

After the performance at Taquile’s school, our host took us to the highest spot on Taquile, where the ruins of an ancient buildings still remained.  After the visit, we wandered around Taquile on our own until the sun was set. We followed the main path into the village.  Along the way, we were greeted by the villagers, most of them with a smiley face.  In late afternoon, we walked pass the main village square once again, where the pink Artisan Centre stood.  Taquile is renowned for their textile art.  In 2005, the UNESCO declared the textile art of Taquile as one of the world’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  The centre was closed for the day.  We would come back the next day to check out the textile art.

In the evening, we dined at our host’s place with three other fellow travelers, two from Belgium and one from France.  In the candle lit dining room, we had a simple meal with soup, egg omelet and rice.  After dinner, the entire host family including the kids performed their traditional music for us.  Away from any electronics and digital devices, the night was simple yet surreal.  Inside the dining room, it was warm and full of music and laughter.  Outside the house, it was freezing cold and extremely quiet on an island in Lake Titicaca at 3,800m above sea level.  Before bed, we took turns going to the toilet hut in the courtyard in front of the house.  The full moon was climbing over our heads as we retired to our bedroom.  Our bedroom was on the upper level accessible only via an external stair.  Wrapped under three to four layers of wool blankets, the four of us had a very soundly sleep until the next morning.

1It was a 20 minute walk from the pier to the main square of Taquile, passing by farming terraces and the boundless Lake Titicaca.  Amantani, another island popular with tourists, stood prominently in the distant.

2The slope of the hills became terraced farmland.

3Taquile is living village and we love the sense of community on the island.

4The host took us a small restaurant in the main square for lunch. He ordered the local trout dish for us. The fresh water fish is slightly pan fired. The meat was sweet and tender. The fish was served with fries, rice and steamed vegetable.

5After lunch, the host guided us to his place where we met his family and left our luggage. He then brought us to the the local school. There was actually some festival performance there.

6Children with traditional costumes were doing dance and act performances.

7We followed our host up to the high part of the island.

8The highest spot of the island stood a series of ruined buildings and our host had no idea when they were actually built.

9School building in Taquile.

10Taquile is a peaceful living village with a great sense of community. Most of the foreign visitors made one-day trip to the island.  After the tourists left with the last boat, the island became peaceful again.

11We love Taquile for its sense of community. Most islanders here would greet us warmly when they walked past us.

12The Artisan Centre at the main square of the island.

13Gateway leading to the main square of the village.

14Photovoltaic panels to supply electricity was becoming more popular when we visited Taquile.

15We passed by the school complex once again before we returned to our host’s place.

16At our host’s place, the four of us stayed at the upper room (the one with the door open). The family prepared new woolen blankets to keep us warm for the night. Accommodation was simple but we had a good night of sleep after all the walking.

* * *

Read other posts on Peru Trip 2010

LIMA
1. Peru Trip 2010
2.  Bumpy Arrival, Lima & Arequipa, Peru
AREQUIPA & COLCA CANYON
3.  Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa, Peru
4.  Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru
5.  Volcanoes and Vicuna, Pampa Canahuas Natural Reserve, Patahuasi, and Patapampa, Peru
6.  Yanque, Colca Canyon, Peru
7. Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
8. Farming Terraces, Colca Canyon, Peru
PUNO & TITICACA
9. Road to Titicaca, Colca Canyon to Puno, Peru
10. Afternoon on Taquile Island, Titicaca, Peru
11. Morning on Taquile, Titicaca, Peru
12. Inka Express, Puno to Cusco, Peru
CUSCO & SACRED VALLEY
13. Pisac & Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
14. Salinas de Maras, & Moray, Sacred Valley, Peru
15. Lucuma Milkshake & Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Peru
16. Saksaywaman, Cusco, Peru
INCA TRAIL
17. KM 82 to Wayllabamba, Inca Trail, Peru
18. Wayllabamba to Pacamayo, Inca Trail, Peru
19. Pacasmayo to Winay Wayna, Inca Trail, Peru
20. Winay Wayna to Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Peru
21. Machu Piccu, Inca Trail, Peru
22. Machu Picchu in Black and White, Inca Trail, Peru
23. Afterthought, Inca Trail, Peru
LAST DAY IN CUSCO & LIMA
24. Farewell to the Incas, Cusco, Peru
25. Last Day in Peru, Lima, Peru


UROS FLOATING ISLANDS, Titicaca, Peru

At roughly 3,800m above sea level, Lake Titicaca is widely considered the world’s highest navigable lake by commercial sailing.  Deep blue water, bitterly cold winds, golden marsh reeds, remote island communities and legendary floating villages: the story of Titicaca contributes a unique component to every visitor’s experience traveling in Peru or Bolivia.  For us, our Titicaca experience was centered at our visit and home stay on the peaceful Taquile Island.  Before reaching Taquile, we made a brief stopover at one of the floating Uros Islands.

In the morning, we headed out to the main pier at Plaza del Faro.  A row of boat ticket cabins stood at the entrance of the pier.  We approached the ticket booth which sold tickets for local boat to Taquile. We then boarded on a small boat among a boat cluster.  Our plan was to sail to Taquile, stay the night there at a local home, and return to Puno the next day.  We thought of getting some fruits as gifts for our potential host at Taquile, but we missed the chance to do so the night before.  While waiting for the boat to depart, our friend returned to the pier and to our surprise came back with a bag of oranges.

Sailing northeast from Puno through a labyrinth of water networks in an enormous marsh filled with totora reeds, our boat soon reached an area where the floating islands concentrated.  The boat ticket includes a brief tour to one of the floating islands which are the home of the Uros tribe. Our boat captain navigated slowly among the floating islands and docked by the island that is available to take in visitors. There were about a dozen of passengers on our boat, including both tourists and the locals.

The Uros villagers use bundle of a native reed to make boats for transportation and to build floating island on which they reside.  Layers of dense roots interweave to form a one-to-two-meter thick base for the island. Villagers have to constantly add layers of reeds on top of the island as the reeds at the bottom rot away.  To us, the floating island is soft and stable to walk on. We were told not to run around as there might be hidden weak spots.  We enjoyed the time spent on the island, wandering in front of houses and checking out souvenirs from vendors.  Although it was a short visit, we appreciated the little introduction given by the villagers about the floating islands.

1We boarded a community boat that took us to Taquile Island. Our boat was smaller and slower but quieter than the other tourist boats. With our limited Spanish and the help of other travelers, we expressed our interest on spending the night at Taquile to the captain who then made arrangement for us.

2The boat moved slowly away from Puno.  All boats entering or exiting Puno in Lake Titicaca has to pass through a narrow watercourse through the dense reeds.

3
When the engine of the boat was turned down, we were embraced by an indescribable tranquility. The weather was nice and the lake was calm.

4We were on a community boat with the locals. They seemed accustomed to the presence of tourists. We tried to keep our voice down when we talked. Since we couldn’t speak much Spanish, we could only show our friendliness by sharing our snacks with them.

5The boat ride to Taquile included a brief stop on one of the floating islands. The captain steered the boat slowing into the area where the Uros community is concentrated.

6Reed made canoes were parked along one of the Uros Islands.

5BAfter minutes of searching and asking, the captain finally found a village community which was available to give us a little introduction about the unique floating islands.

7We landed on the floating island with great excitement. The sun was warm and the ground was soft to walk on.

8There were about 10 small houses on the island. The villagers showed us around the island. We were told not to walk too far away from the main open plaza as we might accidentally stepped onto the weak spots.

9Every island has a welcome arch made out of reeds.

10A boat with a big roof was approaching us. Its big low roof was designed to keep the interior from getting wet.

11Looking at the small boat from the side, we saw it carried all different kinds of snacks, food and drink. The boat moved from one island to another.

12A villager on the island was preparing the presentation materials to give an introduction about the floating islands to the visitors.

13These are the handmade crafts that villagers used to tell visitors story about the floating islands. We played with the little reed boat with our hands. It felt very light but strong. We decided to get one of these little reed boat as a souvenir.

14Each floating island has its unique design. The welcome arch is visible from afar.

 


ALGONQUIN LEGEND AND MAZINAW PICTOGRAPHS, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Once there was a legend…

Before the creation of land there was only the expanse of boundless water, on which a large floating raft carrying all kinds of animals searching for land.  Great Hare, the chief among them all, urged the beaver to dive into the water and bring back a particle of earth.  The beaver went reluctantly into the deep deep water but after a long time came back exhausted and empty handed.  The animals then turned to the otter for the request but it too failed reaching the bottom.  The animals fell to despair amid fears of floating in the endless water eternally, then came the small and weak muskrat who was willing to give another go.  Off it went for a day and night and finally resurfaced unconsciously with belly up and paws closed.  The animals pulled the muskrat onto the raft, and opened its paws one by one.  Not until the last paw was opened then they found a single grain of sand.  The Great Hare dropped the sand onto the raft and the magic began.  On the raft, the sand started to grow larger and become rocks and then mountains and then the entire world where all animals could thrive and find their own food.  The first generation of animals lived happily since then and died peacefully.  The Great Hare then created humans out from the various animal corpses, such as the elk, bear and fish, each with their own dialect and tribal origin related to the deceased animal.

This version of a cosmogonic legend was passed down orally throughout generations of the Algonquians, the people who dominated pre-colonial Eastern Canada including the Atlantic Coast, Quebec, Ontario and the Great Lakes regions.  Their ancestors roamed over these lands since thousand of years ago, leaving vivid evidences of their beliefs with pictographs and petroglyphs discovered throughout the Canadian Shield.  The tale combining water, animals and Algonquin pictographs is the story of Bon Echo Provincial Park.  With the exact etching dates still unknown, the 250+ pictographs on over 65 cliff surfaces along Mazinaw Lake at Bon Echo Provincial Park is widely recognized as one of the oldest First Nations pictograph sites in the Canadian Shield region.  Etched with red ochre (a natural mineral of silica and clay with iron oxide), these pictographs of human, animal and abstract figures were applied onto the cliff surface by people on canoes.  Most of these rock art were used in search for helping spirits, or in rituals of shamanism, when the shaman used these pictographs for healing, prophesy and vision quests.

On a Friday evening in early summer 2013, we headed off to Bon Echo Provincial Park after work.  After over a decade since Angela first explored the park in a canoe trip, we decided to revisit this beautiful provincial park for its starry sky, pristine lake scenery, and mysterious pictographs on the 100m Mazinaw Rock cliffs.   After almost three hours of driving from Toronto, we arrived at Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area south of Bon Echo.  Unfortunately half the night sky was covered with clouds.  We left disappointingly and headed for our accommodation at Northbrook’s Pine Grove Motel, about 15 minutes drive south of Bon Echo.  After midnight, the sky cleared up and we had some fine moments of stargazing outside the motel.  Early in the next morning, we drove north on Highway 41 and entered Bon Echo Provincial Park.  After a short walk along the shore of Mazinaw Lake, we rented a canoe at Bon Echo Outfitters to explore the lake.  We left the small cove at Lower Mazinaw Lake, passed the unique channel The Narrows, and paddled along the cliffs of Mazinaw Rock at Upper Mazinaw Lake looking for the Aboriginal pictographs.  At one point, we docked our canoe by the shore and hiked up to the summit of the rock cliff for a birdeye view of the park.  After canoeing, we returned to the Narrows where a bench and a lamp post offered a magnificent spot to enjoy the scenery of Mazinaw Rock.  We stayed at the Narrows for the rest of the afternoon, braving the cold water with our feet, taking time-lapse photography of the scenery, watching boats coming through the Narrows every twenty minutes or so, listening to the sound of gentle waves and occasional songbirds, and enjoying every tranquil moment of daydreaming under the warm afternoon sun.   It was the perfect picture of Ontario landscape, the legendary homeland of Aboriginal Algonquins, and one of the splendid settings of our delightful Canadian memories.

17That night, we were the only visitors staying at Pine Grove Motel in Northbrook.

18The sky cleared up after midnight, and we indulged ourselves with some splendid moments of stargazing under shooting stars and a faint Milky Way.

19That night was cool with mild wind. The dark sky was not entirely clear but we still got a glimpse of the Milky Way with naked eyes.

1The next day, we entered Bon Echo Provincial Park under the morning mist.

2We decided to rent a canoe to explore the vast Mazinaw Lake.

88_01Canoeing is the best way to enjoy Mazinaw Lake.

4Given the cliffs of the 100m Mazinaw Rock, Bon Echo is also popular for rock climbing.

9Aboriginal pictographs on cliff surface.

10We docked our canoe and walked up to the top of an island for its amazing view.

7We paddled by this quiet lone bench and lamp post at the shallow channel called The Narrows..

5The bench at The Narrows was the perfect spot to spend the afternoon.

6When there was no wind and boat, the lake was like a perfect mirror for Mazinaw Rock.

3We tried a few times walking into the shallow water in front of the bench at The Narrows as it seemed temptingly clean.  Despite less than a foot deep and the warmth of early summer, We couldn’t stand the freezing water for long.

11We stayed at The Narrows till late afternoon.

12The tree roots by the water at The Narrows looked sculptural.

13Peaceful Mazinaw Lake represents the beauty of Ontario landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe low sun reminded us that it was almost time to leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATripod, lamp post and Calvin.

15Final view of Mazinaw Rock at The Narrows through the viewfinder.

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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario


WHEN MOOSE MEETS BEAVER, Algonquin, Ontario, Canada (3/3)

The sky was grey and the air was moist when we first hiked the Mizzy Lake Trail in 2007.  After seeing a wild turkey dashing across our path, we followed the trail to an open area surrounded by spruce bogs. The trail cut right through the bogs, with peaceful ponds lying along both sides. It was 7:30 in the morning and we were all by ourselves. Soon we discovered footprints on the muddy path, some probably belonged to a fox, and some were hoof prints of a much larger animal.  We continued to walk forward until we saw a dozen or so bare spruce trunks sticking out from the water.  Reflection of their white trunks stood against the grey clouds in the tranquil water was occasionally disrupted by touches of water insects.  Somehow the imagery touched us like a gentle poem.  We looked at the scenery for a while and took some photos.  As we turned our head back onto the trail, we immediately spotted something tall standing ahead.  It had its back towards us, but soon it turned its head and looked right into our eyes.  It was a tall cow moose, our first ever sighting of a moose.  It stared at us for half a minute, then walked slowly down to the spruce bog on the left, crossed the water to the opposite shore, and disappeared into the spruce forest beyond.  Moose, the largest animal in the deer family, is popular for wildlife sighting in North America.  The English name “moose” is a word borrowed from the Algonquian language back in the 17th century.   Spreading their two large toes to keep them from sinking, moose has adapted well living in the environment of spruce bogs, where they can walk on the peat filled marshland to feed on aquatic plants.

We saw beavers several times in Algonquin.  Sometimes with sticks in their mouth, sometimes without, always in quick motion swimming across the water.  But more often, we saw traces of their existence: pointed tree stumps, trunks with bite marks, mud and timber dams, and mounts of timber sticks in the pond.  Back in the 17th century, when a large area of North America was owned by the Hudson Bay Company, beaver fur was one of the major exports from the New World.  Nowadays, beaver has become a national emblem for Canada, appearing on the symbol and coat of arms of many organizations, companies and government departments, from Toronto Police to Canadian Pacific Railway, and has officially designated as the national animal in 1975.  In Algonquin, beavers are probably the only animals other than humans that know how to alter a natural environment to create their desirable home.  As the second largest rodent, beavers use their large teeth to harvest timber.  Along with stones and mud, beavers use the timber to construct dams to alter stream flow in order to create wetlands known as the beaver ponds.  A peaceful beaver pond contains water warmer than running streams, an ideal habitat for many wetland plants, frogs and fish.  It also serves as a moat for the beaver lodge to prevent wolves and other predators.  The longest beaver dam in record exists in Alberta, reaching up to 850m in length.

Spruce bogs and beaver ponds are two of the five major habitats found in the Algonquin Park.  The other three includes the coniferous forest, deciduous forest, and rivers and lakes.  Spruce bog is a type of wetland common in the north.  Its water is quite acidic and full of floating vegetation that slowly accumulates into a thick layer of peat.  Many birds frequent the bog,  and so as moose which come to feed and drink.   Beaver pond, on the other hand, belongs to the story of beavers continuously transforming the natural environment by building dams and ponds, creating a wetland that benefits many species and also serves as a natural filtration and stormwater system for the area.  A pond may last until the death of a beaver, or until a fierce storm hits and damages the dam beyond repair.  By then, nature will restore the area back to its original conditions, until the arrival of the next beaver to restart the cycle all over again.

00Moose sighting is popular on Highway 60, especially in early spring when the animals gather at the highway ditches to indulge  in a feast of road salt from melted snow.

1The coniferous forest (ie. spruce) and deciduous forest (ie. maple) are two of the five major types of habitat in Algonquin.

07AL02-03Rivers and lakes represent another major habitat in the park.

2Reflection of autumn foliage in a beaver pond.

3BA small beaver dam made of timber, rocks and mud is a highlight at the Beaver Pond Trail.

4Many species, such as some waterlilies, frogs and birds, thrive in the ecosystem of a beaver pond.

5Spruce bog is the other major habitat at Algonquin.

6Life and death of spruce trees mark the boundary of a spruce bog.

8Reflection of spruce forest in the bog water.

07AL03-05Spruce bog near our moose sighting location in early morning (First visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2007).

7Remnants of once a thriving spruce grove at the spruce bog near our moose sighting location in late afternoon (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

9Spruce bog near our moose sighting location in late afternoon (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

DSC_2160Young moose shook off water after crossing a small stream (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).  That afternoon, we joked with each other and placed our bet on whether we would have the same moose encounter that we had five years ago. We waited patiently and dusk was approaching. When we were about to leave, we spotted this young moose. It was truly a magical moment for both of us.

11Young moose gazed upon us curiously (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012)..

12This curious young moose walked from the wetland onto the trail. It seemed to be interested in us as it was slowly walking towards us.  The cow moose that we encountered five years earlier at the same spot reacted differently. It walked away from us into forest after it made an eye contact with us.    (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

DSC_2202-2_01Bull and cow moose kept their eyes on the young moose while the young moose fixed its eyes upon us. We have vivid memory of each encounter with moose at Algonquin Park. The encounter becomes special and personal as each time there were only the moose and us. Every time, when we spotted the animal, we would keep our voice low and keep a distance from them as we didn’t want to disrupt or irritate them.  (Third visit of Mizzy Lake Trail in 2012).

13After we had some good moments of moose encounter, we got to rush out of the Mizzy Lake Trail before dusk fell. We walked so fast that we were like racing with the sun. We’ll keep this peaceful image of Algonquin Park with us in mind no matter where we go.

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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario


DAY 66 (1 OF 2) – CUERNOS TO VALLE ASCENCIO, TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE

There were strong winds and scattered showers throughout the night. By morning, the rain stopped. From the porch of our cabin at Cuernos, we could see a rainbow stretched over the turquoise water of Lago Nordenskjold. After breakfast, we were all set to go for today’s journey to Refugio Chileno. Walking due east until we hit Valle Ascencio and then north up the valley to the refugio, the hike would take about 6 hours. It was a fine day if not the persistently strong wind. We were glad to have our hiking poles to keep our balance at windy spots and during stream crossing at several occasions. After hiking for 3 hours along Lago Nordenskjold, we turned to the shortcut for Chileno that would save us an hour. Another hour and a half took us to the trail at Valle Ascencio, where many dayhikers were rushing up and down Mirador las Torres.

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Read more on Parque Nacional Torres del Paine in 2013 South America:
Day 62.1 – Introduction
Day 62.2 – Mirador Cuernos, Torres del Paine
Day 62.3 – Camping Pehoe, Torres del Paine
Day 63.1 – Pudeto, Torres del Paine
Day 63.2 – Paine Grande to Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 63.3 – Glacier Grey, Torres del Paine
Day 64.1 – Glacier Grey to Paine Grande
Day 64.2 – Mirador Pehoe
Day 64.3 – Palette of Spring
Day 64.4 – Refugio Paine Grande
Day 65.1 – Paine Grande to Camping Italiano
Day 65.2 – Valle Fances
Day 65.3 – Camping Italiano to Refugio Cuernos
Day 66.1 – Refugio Cuernos to Valle Acencio
Day 66.2 – Refugio Chileno
Day 67.1 – Las Torres
Day 67.2 – Descend
Day 67.3 – Asado de Cordero, Puerto Natalas
Day 68.1 – Punta Arenas
Day 68.2 – La Marmita, Punta Arenas

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought