Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Difference between Geocaching and Geocache

Geocaching in Bruce County, Ontario
is a fun sport for anyone seeking an adventure. As a family, we had completed the Explore The Bruce "Adventure Passport contest" which you can play all summer yet found ourselves wanting more to explore in Bruce County. The 12 destinations on the passport adventure were unique and exciting and we were craving the adventure that we had just completed. It was then that my neighbor mentioned geocaching. I had to ask, what is geocaching? I was told that it was treasure hunting using a GPS to find hidden Tupperware containers. I had to laugh because I wasn’t really sure about this game at all. It wouldn’t hurt to at least check out the website, so I logged into geocaching.com and signed up for a free account. I didn’t own a GPS, and hoped that we might have luck finding one of these hidden treasures without a GPS. I didn’t want to purchase a GPS just in case we didn’t actually like this game, but I knew that we could borrow one from the various library branches in Bruce County.

After starting our account, I started to look around the map to see
where exactly in Southern Ontario's Bruce County that these caches were hidden. I was blown away when I saw that there were over 12 right in our hometown of Wiarton. I didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to ourselves without a GPS, so we traveled to a small beach area and started our first geocaching adventure without a GPS in hand. We printed off the co-ordinates and I decided to use all of the clues posted by other geocachers to find the treasure. I followed the basic clues and searched for almost an hour when I happened to find a spot that I thought might be a good hide. After moving a log I was shocked to see a medium sized Tupperware container hidden inside of a rock crevice. I screamed out to my son, “I found the treasure”. He hurried over towards me and we opened our first cache. Hidden inside were a few items for trade; a keychain, a pen, a few child items and the log book for us to sign. I signed our name and my son was delighted to pick anything from the cache that he wanted for himself.

I knew that there were a few rules to play this game and they are:

  1. If you take something from the cache, be sure to leave something of equal or greater value.
  2. Sign the log and hide the cache exactly as you found it, so that future geocachers have as much fun as you did finding it and the final rule.
  3. Log your visit and find on Geocaching.com

I didn’t really have anything on me, but pulled out my keys and removed the keychain and put it into the container to replace the child item that my son took. I signed the log and re-hid it exactly as we had found it. We crawled back out of the forest area and looked back at the beach area and I knew that we had just found an amazing new sport for my son and I too participate in. I think I was more excited hunting for the cache than he was, but his eyes and squeal of delight when the actual treasure was found told me that we has just found a great new hobby for us to partake in. When we got home, we logged our visit on the website an I knew that we were both hooked. Geocaching is awesome. We were very lucky for our first few searches because we found our first 5 finds without a GPS; however, the hides became far trickier and we had to use a GPS to continue playing. We bought a GPS because we knew that we were hooked on this game and we wanted to be able to play at anytime.

We did learn a few things from geocaching very quickly and that is to bring a GPS and extra batteries, water, food and always dress appropriately for the areas you are hiking too. Also, make sure you also remember a map of the area and a compass. It is also important to note that all geocaches look different and come in a variety of sizes. A cache often contains hidden treasures that are perfect for children or a variety of items that can be random for adults. You will always find a logbook for you too sign. Most caches are hidden in ammo cans or Tupperware containers, but they may also be as small as film containers or even extremely tiny containers called micros or nanos. Some caches even have ‘travel bugs’ which are trackable items that are designed to found by geocachers and placed into new caches for others to find.

We have now hidden 10 of our own geocaches across Bruce county in areas that we knew that are unique and not commonly seen by others. The best part is that this is free to play and something you can do during and season or various weather conditions. As a family we are able to continue exploring around Bruce County by finding these caches and with new ones always being made; we always have something to do. The cache count in Bruce County is now over 450, so this game will take us awhile. Geocaching is an international game and with 1,335,310 active geocaches around the world, this game will keep you busy!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Bruce Peninsula 100km Multisport Ontario Race

The inaugural Bruce Peninsula Race was announced on Monday, February 28th 2011, exactly 365 days after the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. What do the two events have in common? Both will propel sport tourism.

The Bruce Peninsula Race is a unique 100km endurance challenge from North to South on the Bruce, designed by long-time Wiarton resident Jack Van Dorp. After finishing 9th in the World Multisport Championship in New Zealand, he and event consultant Leigh Grigg have put together the logistically-intense event scheduled it for Saturday August 13, 2011. But it won’t be without it’s rewards. The race is positioned to shine a spotlight on the rugged outdoor landscape of the Bruce Peninsula as Challenger course racers trace follow the edge of the Niagara Escarpment while running, biking and paddling.

Plans for the event include a live social media integrated web page to which spectators, media crews, and volunteers can post photos, video clips and tweets as the race progresses, not only to keep those waiting eagerly at the finish line up to date with progress on the course, but also to open the event to those around the world who couldn’t justify making the trip in the event’s first year. It’s a chance to show off the sights and sounds of the race and an important one for the long-term growth and success of the race.

Along with the 100km Challenger course which will see athletes bike-run-kayak-bike-run the Bruce, there will also be a much more achievable 25km paddle-bike-run Explorer course which follows in a loop from Wiarton to Colpoy’s Bay, Purple Valley and back. There will also be a kids race in Wiarton’s Bluewater Park.

Right from the initial discussions with regional authorities, such as the municipalities of Northern Bruce Peninsula and South Bruce Peninsula, organizers have emphasized that this event aims to draw major sport tourism to the area. The aim is to draw not only participants from out of the region, but to encourage traditional tourism in the way of campers, hikers, paddlers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts in general from the spotlight that will be shone, not to mention any incidental business investment to the event from outside Grey-Bruce. This is what sport tourism is about.

This is the first official GriggSport event in the area, which has been advocating these principles since it’s South Bruce Peninsula launch in November 2010. The Olympics have generated excellent sports ‘buzz’ in Canada. After the closing ceremonies of the games when VANOC CEO John Furlong pointed out just how much work volunteers had done to make sure the events went ahead, saying “Blue Jackets 1 – Cypress Mountain Weather 0,” the onus has been on people like Van Dorp and Grigg to build sports capacity at home, create sports opportunities, and represent Canada on the international stage.

The Peninsula Race will focus on being low-impact, another crucial priority considering the race will quite prominently feature the sensitive ecosystem of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere site. Race entries are limited for the event to ensure that it is environmentally sustainable. All proceeds from the event will be used to support sport initiatives on the Bruce Peninsula.

More information about the event can be found at www.griggsport.com/bruce.




Thursday, April 07, 2011

Birding in Southern Ontario's Bruce County

I am not your traditional idea of someone who enjoys birding. This is a new interest for me and my photos are pictures of opportunity. This means that I have spotted these amazing creatures and have been able too capture them. Across Bruce County hundreds of various species of Ontario birds can be seen sitting on telephone poles, farm fence lines, swampy areas, farmland on side road concessions, national parks, waterfalls, wooded area and occasionally they may be spotted near the ruins of an old abandoned home. Another great spot is always near the water, like inland lakes, dams and common fishing spots.

The smaller species of birds are fairly easy to capture. These birds will allow people to get a bit closer than the larger birds of prey. I make a point to not intrude on the birds’ habitat and always maintain a safe distance. I move very slowly to take my shots and then I leave the area as soon as I am done. Please remember that making sudden or fast movements will spook a bird, so if you want to capture their image, just remember to be patient.

Bird photos around The Bruce Peninsula National Park

Some of my favourite spots to capture birds, are near swampy areas. I have noted a variety of species in these areas and am always left wondering, ‘What type of bird is that?’ I have developed a natural curiosity about taking photos of birds; some birds have incredible beauty and size while others are scavengers and sometimes a menace.

My favourite birds to capture, are birds of prey like Hawks, Falcons, Vultures and Owls. They are a beautiful sight to capture and some of the best spots to see various birds of prey are up and down the Grey Bruce Line. There are various hawks like the red tailed hawk, white tailed hawk and the peregrine falcon that can be spotted daily throughout the swampy areas along this road. These birds prefer open areas, like fields with high perching places nearby from where they can watch for prey. Hawks are commonly seen on large tree tops along the roadside to spot and seize mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, reptiles, or other prey. They do not allow humans to get too close, so you will need to be patient and have a good zoom in order to capture them.

Another favourite bird that I love capturing is the Osprey. This is a powerful raptor, bird of prey and is commonly known as the “sea hawk or a fish eagle”. They can be spotted near Oliphant and Wiarton as there are various perches built in these areas. Ospreys are often mistaken for bald eagles, but they can be identified by their white under parts. Their white head has a distinctive black eye stripe that goes down the side of their face. Ospreys are also very territorial and where there is one, their mate is always close.

The grey and blue herons are a common site in Allenford, Stokes Bay, Sauble Falls, Lockerby (Paisley) and Tobermory. Also the great Egret, also a member of the heron family can be seen in Sauble Falls and Allenford. These members of the heron family frequent marshes, lakes, humid forests, and other wetland environments to catch small fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and crustaceans in shallow waters.

If you would like to see swans, I always recommend visiting Southampton at Fairy Lake near the Bruce County Museum or Harrison Park in Owen Sound. You will see ducks and other water birds that frequent the area, but the swans are the birds to see here. Swans are easily spotted, noting their long curved necks and webbed feet. These majestic birds can be seen floating serenely around ponds with their mate. There are seven different species of swans that exist and they are the: Whooper, Trumpeter, Tundra, Mute, Black-necked, Black and Coscoroba.

Throughout Bruce County, there are hundreds of small species of birds. We all commonly recognize the Bluejay, Cardinal, Chickadee, Robin and wild Finch. These smaller birds are much easier to capture, as they have become domesticated by being fed wild bird seed. Recently, I had an amazing experience at the Bruce Peninsula National Park, where baby chickadees would eat wild bird seed directly from my hands. This was unique and powerful experience for myself and my son and one that has sparked the desire to continue capturing various bird species in Bruce County, Ontario.