Hiking to Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall

Welcome to the second Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope everyone had a nice Valentine’s weekend and your wellness plans for 2020 have been going well. The optional prompt for February is Hiking so I’m sharing a moderate hike to the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. My sister and I completed this hike when we were in Baños, Ecuador.

Where is Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall?

Baños (full name Baños de Agua Santa) is located about 180 km (112 miles) south of Quito. This town is known for its waterfalls, hiking trails, and hot springs. The Devil’s Cauldron waterfall (El Pailon del Diablo) is 18 km from the town centre. It’s one of Ecuador’s most powerful waterfalls and one of the top rated attractions in Baños.

How challenging is this hike?

I classify this hike as Moderate because although the path is clearly marked, it has uneven surfaces. It also involves stairs and a suspension bridge. As long as you watch your step and are not afraid of heights or suspension bridges, the hike is rewarding.

Let’s hike together!

We started following the Green River (Rio Verde) to the Isla del Pailon entrance. While there are other entry points, this entrance lets us see the full height of the waterfall. Entry fee was $2 per adult and $1 per child.

Green River (Rio Verde) in Banos, Ecuador
The Green River (Rio Verde) in Baños, Ecuador

The water flow was strong, rushing by the black volcanic rocks seen along the river banks. On the right of the photo below, the walking path is behind the low lichen-covered stone wall. We soon understood why the wall is essential for our safety.

The Green River flows towards a cliff
The Green River flows towards a cliff

We followed the stone path and reached the suspension bridge. On the left, we saw the side views of the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall which plunges some 80 meters (263 feet) over a sheer cliff to the rocks below.

Side view of Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Side view of Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

It’s necessary to cross the suspension bridge to see the full view of the waterfall and to understand why it’s called the Devil’s Cauldron. The maximum capacity of the bridge is 50 people. Of course it swayed as people got on it. Crossing the suspension bridge was stepping outside my comfort zone but I did it!

Suspension bridge at Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Suspension bridge at Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

At the other end of the suspension bridge, we faced the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. It is beautiful and powerful. Its appearance and sheer force are mesmerizing. People who stood at the Lookout platforms below looked so small next to the waterfall.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall, Baños, Ecuador

We continued to descend the path to the lower level. When we stood at the Lookout place, we could feel the mists, see the curtains of water, and hear the thundering sounds of the powerful waterfall plunging straight down to the bottom.

Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We could see the rocky bottom where water was churning before it settled into a smoother flow and another suspension bridge looking like a thin stick at a distance.

It’s amazing that the stone path was carved out of the cliff side to allow visitors to get close to the waterfall. The surrounding scenery was also beautiful with cascades running down the mountain sides.

Cascades near Devil's Cauldron waterfall
Cascades near Devil’s Cauldron waterfall

We walked back to cross the suspension bridge and exited the same way that we came in. On our way out, we stopped to admire a variety of pretty flowers grown along the path. I’m sharing a small sample below.

Gratitude moment

I’m grateful for another amazing day and another wonderful hike in Ecuador with my sister. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip with stairs and suspension bridge crossings. We learned something new about the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. The hike and nature gave me new energy. I’m looking forward to our next hike.

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment. For a full schedule of all Wellness Weekends in 2020, please see my Wellness page here.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

A Walk Among the Roses

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and in my part of the world, roses and chocolates are common gifts on that day. If you’re buying or receiving long stemmed roses in Canada and the United States, chances are the roses come from Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

An Ecuadorian red rose
An Ecuadorian red rose

Where is Cotopaxi?

Cotopaxi is one of South America’s most famous volcanoes and one of its most active ones. It’s located 60 km south of Quito and is within the famous “Avenue of Volcanoes” in Ecuador, a long stretch of 320 km (200 miles) comprised of tall peaks and volcanoes.

At the base of Cotopaxi volcano, there are many rose plantations or rose farms (seen as white buildings in the photo below). My sister and I took a walking tour in one of the plantations and learned how Ecuadorian roses are cultivated and exported to other countries around the world.

Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base
Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base

Why Roses Thrive in Cotopaxi?

  • Climate: Ecuador has the perfect conditions for growing roses. Ecuador is right on the Equator which means constant temperatures year round. During the day, it is around 20C (68F) and during the night, it cools down to 4C (39F).
  • Altitude: The roses grow in Cotopaxi at about 3000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level. The intensity, luminosity, and the 12 hours of sunlight ensure the roses grow beautifully.
  • Volcanic soil: The soil in Cotopaxi is rich in minerals, allowing the roses to grow very tall with thick, strong stems, the largest blooms, and in the most vibrant colours.

What Does a Rose Plantation Look Like?

A rose plantation has many rows of white plastic-covered houses. Inside each house, many rows of Ecuadorian rose varieties grow more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall.

Rose plantation

Automated irrigation and heating systems control the temperature and relative humidity to ensure the optimal conditions for the plants. The rose buds are kept in perfect shape with nets.

Ecuadorian rose buds in green nets
Ecuadorian red rose buds in green nets

There are about 500 rose varieties in Ecuador. The rose plantation that we visited offers about 40 varieties. I attach a sample of six different roses here.

Once the roses are ready for harvest, they’re cut and placed in a pre-cool area where the outdoor heat is removed from the flowers as they arrive from the field, swiftly halting the opening of the flowers.

Next, the roses are placed in containers in a large hydration and packing cold room where temperature is kept between 0.5°C and 2°C guaranteeing quality prior to shipping. Rose production and international shipments are planned in time for special holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Roses to go
Roses to go

How Are Roses Used Locally?

Roses are sold in local markets or flower stands along the roads for a very inexpensive price. They are also given as complimentary gifts to visitors at the plantation. The local haciendas have rose arrangements in their reception areas and some give a long-stemmed rose to welcome their guests upon arrival.

Roses at Hacienda La Cienega
Roses at Hacienda La Cienega reception desk

Some hotels have more formal flower arrangements and gorgeous fresh roses on display, like this hotel in Quito.

Roses at a hotel in Quito
Roses at a hotel in Quito

Where To Buy Ecuadorian Rose Souvenirs?

The souvenir shop on the plantation site sells all kinds of rose products. For example, dyed roses, dry rose petals, rose-scented lotion, rose-flavoured tea, and since Ecuador also produces cacao, rose-infused chocolates as well.

A popular store chain named República del Cacao has locations in Quito, at Quito international airport and in major cities where you can buy Ecuador chocolates, cacao products, Panama hats, rose-related souvenirs, etc.

Blue roses

It was a real treat to walk among the beautiful Ecuadorian roses and receive them so freely during our stay in this area of Ecuador. I’m closing this post with a photo of a cute pair of llamas that we saw upon leaving the rose plantation.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

Two llamas

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Papallacta Hot Springs: A Delightful Stay

During my travels, sometimes I discover places that exceed my expectations. The Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort in Ecuador was one of them. Our stay there turned out to be one of my 10 favourite experiences in Ecuador. Let me share some of my photos and brief descriptions with you.

[This is not a sponsored post. There is no affiliate link in this blog.]

Where is Papallacta?

Papallacta is a small town about 70 km (43 miles) east of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Papallacta is located at an altitude of 3,250 metres (10,600 feet) in the Andes, at the edge of the Cloud forest.

Cloud forest

Where are the Papallacta hot springs?

Papallacta hot springs are located on the banks of the Papallacta river in between Antisana and Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserves. Two nearby volcanoes, Cotopaxi and Antisana, create thermal baths which vary between 30°C and 70°C (86°F and 158°F).

Active Antisana volcano

How to get there?

By car it’s about an hour drive from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International airport (UIO), and about 1.5 hours from Quito’s city centre. Visitors can also book day tours or take local buses to Papallacta.

Where to stay?

I recommend the Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort for its location and amenities. The resort has a large public bathing complex, a hotel, and a separate spa complex. The natural hot springs in Papallacta feed the thermal pools in the hotel.

Termas de Papallacta Resort

What to enjoy at Termas de Papallacta resort?

Thermal pools: Termas de Papallacta resort offers three different sets of pools:

  1. Private pools right outside the hotel cabins and rooms: These shallow pools, surrounded by rocks and pretty flowers, are free and exclusive for guests of the resort.
Papallacta private pools
  1. Public thermal bath complex (the Balneario): This complex has at least ten different pools with varying temperatures. These pools are open daily to the public with admission fees. For hotel guests, entrance is free.
  1. The Spa complex: This complex has five thermal pools equipped with various water jets, bubbles, water spouts and one polar pool. The pool area has garden-like setting of flagstones and flowers, with plenty of lounge chairs. These pools are open to the public at higher admission fees than the public baths. For hotel guests, the spa pool entrance fees are discounted.
Papallacta spa pools

The entrance fee for the Spa complex includes a locker, bathing cap, and towel. The change rooms in the Spa area are more luxe than the public bath complex, with heated floors, complimentary shampoo, conditioner and blow dryers. Bathrobe rental is extra.

If you’re spending just one day at Termas de Papallacta, I’d suggest to pay for entrance to the public pools at the Balneario or for the pools at the Spa complex. At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 38°C (97°F to 100.4°F).

Hiking trails: Termas de Papallacta owns a protected area of approximately 200 hectares, called Canyon Ranch, located at the entrance of Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserve. Visitors can explore the hiking trails on their own or for a few US dollars, book a guided hike at the Exploratorium in the resort.

The Exploratorium is a research centre that provides information on the different species of flora and fauna found around Papallacta, some unique to the area. Up in the highlands, the cool air is great for hiking and makes lying in the hot pools that much better.

Hotel rooms: The hotel rooms are made of preserved wood with private bathroom and heated flooring. The rooms are situated around the thermal water pools for exclusive guest use. There are also bungalows for families and cottages separate from the hotel area.

Papallacta hotel room

Spa services: My sister and I booked a spa package which includes 30 minutes in the Spa thermal pools, a 20-minute steam bath in a thermal grotto, and a 30-minute back and neck massage. The steam bath grotto has hot water trickles over rocks and eucalyptus leaves while guests relax on deck chairs. There is an area for guests to rest before the massage.

On-site bar and restaurant: The hotel restaurant offers Ecuadorian and international fare using ingredients from the organic kitchen garden. I enjoyed the quinoa soup and local fresh trout, the restaurant’s specialty dish, for dinner.

My Conclusion

Termas de Papallacta resort offers the perfect pairing of recreation and relaxation. I can hike then rest or rest then hike in a magical setting. This is a stunning area for nature walks, mountain views, and hot springs. If you’re in Quito, consider a visit to the Papallacta Hot Springs. I highly recommend it!

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking to Peguche Waterfall

Welcome to the first Wellness Weekend link-up in 2020! I hope the first eighteen days of January have gone well for everyone and you’ve got some time to warm up before tackling your New Year’s plans with gusto. I’ve posted the full list of Wellness Weekend link-up dates and optional prompts here for future reference.

Why Warm Up?

A warm-up is helpful at the beginning of a fitness session to get our mind and body ready for subsequent and more intense activities. In my previous post, I shared that one of my ten favourite experiences in Ecuador is hiking. The first hike that my sister and I did is an easy hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo. It’s our warm-up hike to prepare us for more strenuous hikes later on.

About Peguche Waterfall

Peguche waterfall is 5 minutes northwest of the city of Otavalo which is located 110 km north of Quito and 2530 meters above sea level. Peguche waterfall is a sacred place in the culture of the indigenous peoples of Otavalo.

I categorize this hike as Easy because the trail is flat and well-defined. The length of the trail is just right (about 3 km return). There are a few points of interest along the way, and the highlight is a beautiful waterfall. Otavalo’s spring-like climate in December also makes it ideal for hiking. So we headed to Peguche trail.

Welcome sign to Peguche waterfall

Once we entered the Peguche trail, we were surrounded by beautiful tall trees and lush green shrubs. The winding path was easy to walk on. Mosses and lichen covered the low rock walls that protect the trees from foot traffic.

Trail to Peguche waterfall

The trail is about 1.5 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the bridge that faces the waterfall. Peguche waterfall is a beautiful waterfall of 18 m in height, formed by the river of the same name, which starts at Lake San Pablo. The lush green vegetation embraces the waterfall. The clouds moved in and out to give us some sun.

Peguche Waterfall

We stood on the bridge for a while to enjoy the views before walking up the paths along both sides of the falls to reach the Lookout platform (Mirador), and onto some big rocks to get closer to the waterfall. We could feel great volumes of mist from the powerful waterfall.

Peguche waterfall

The local people name Peguche waterfall Forest Protector (Bosque Protector), because all of the trees get their water from the waterfall’s mists and the downstream gushing water. On the night of the summer solstice, the waterfall becomes the privileged place for community ritual bath, as a first step to celebrate the Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi).

Peguche waterfall downstream

As we walked along the trail, I could hear bird songs and spotted a number of plants with pretty flowers. There were also lots of ferns and orchid plants that cohabit with tall eucalyptus trees. The sun came out and everything glowed.

Peguche trail

Outside the Peguche trail, to the left is the Sun Dial (Inti Watana) site, also known as the Solar Calendar. The site includes a round adobe wall with a sun dial in the centre. People from different communities come together to offer their crops to the Sun god (Inti), and celebrate the summer solstice here.

Inti Watana in Peguche
Sun dial in Peguche

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful morning in Peguche. Altogether we did about 3 km return trip (about 2 miles). We learned something new about Peguche waterfall. The warm-up hike and nature gave me new energy. I looked forward to more hiking in Ecuador. Happy trails!

Trail from Peguche waterfall

Click here to join in the Wellness Weekend 2020 link-up and share your wellness-related post. As your host, I will read your blog and leave a comment 🙂

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Agawa Canyon: From Rail to Trail

After enjoying a nice family hike along the Attikamek Trail in Sault Ste. Marie, the next day we took a rail excursion from Sault Ste. Marie to Agawa Canyon Park. Agawa Canyon has been on our list of destinations to visit for a while. We were so glad to make it happen.

Getting There

The Agawa Canyon Park is only accessible by hiking trail or the Algoma Central Railway, and is located 186 km or 114 rail miles north west of Sault Ste. Marie. We take the Agawa Canyon tour train that departs from Sault Ste. Marie at 8 am and arrives back in Sault Ste. Marie around 6 pm.

Agawa Canyon Park location
Agawa Canyon Park location (red marker)

About Agawa Canyon

Agawa Canyon was created more than 1.2 billion years ago by faulting along the Canadian Shield. A series of ice ages subsequently widened and reshaped the Canyon over a period of 1.5 million years with the last ice age retreating about 10,000 years ago. The word Agawa is native Ojibway for “shelter”.

The Sault Ste. Marie visitor guide provides a map of three nature trails in the Agawa Canyon Park. They are the Lookout Trail, River Trail, and Talus Trail. We hike the River Trail and the Talus Trail for the three waterfalls in the park. The Lookout Trail is closed on the day of our visit. The trails are well maintained and are covered in fine gravel.

The Train Ride

Rarely is the journey as rewarding as the destination, but the Agawa Canyon train ride is truly an exception. The train is outfitted with large tinted windows and comfortable seats to watch the ever-changing and breathtaking Northern Ontario landscapes. The train ticket includes a $10 voucher that we can use for food and drinks in the dining car.

Spruce Lake
Spruce Lake

We drink in the beautiful scenery as the train hugs the shores of northern lakes and rivers, crosses towering trestles, and passes by mixed forests that turn red, purple, gold and yellow in the fall.

Autumn foliage
Autumn foliage towards Lake Superior

We also listen to a GPS-triggered audio commentary about key points of interest and the rich history of the region. When we can peel our eyes away from the window, the train has locomotive-mounted cameras that provide an engineer’s “eye-view” via flat screen monitors installed throughout the coaches.

A view from our window on the Agawa Canyon train
A view from our window on the Agawa Canyon train

The Weather

The weather changes frequently during our train ride, from overcast, to partly cloudy, to light snow flurries at high elevation, to partly sunny as the train starts its descent into the canyon at Mile 102 and full sunshine by the time we reach the canyon floor at Mile 114.

Light dusting of snow
Light dusting of snow at high elevation
Train arrival at Agawa Canyon Park
Full sunshine upon train arrival at Agawa Canyon Park

The River Trail

Upon arriving at the Agawa Canyon Park, we start our hike on the River Trail which gently rolls along the banks of the Agawa River. The strong sunlight quickly melts the thin layer of snow. The trail glows and smells fresh as if it just received a spa treatment.

Autumn colours by the Agawa River
Autumn colours by the Agawa River

We walk about twenty minutes, enjoy the trail and the vibrant autumn colours along the river before reaching the beautiful Bridal Veils Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park.

View along the River Trail
View along the River Trail

We see many white birch trees with their golden leaves and mountain ash trees with their red fruits that accentuate the landscape.

Mountain ash
Mountain ash

The water flow at all the falls in the canyon is contingent on runoff from snow and rainfall. We luck out that Bridal Veil Falls at 68.5m (225 ft.) are running strong. The Agawa River is the calm and reflective barrier that holds us back from getting closer to the falls.

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls at 68.5 m (225 ft)

The Talus Trail

From the River Trail, we walk about fifteen minutes to reach the Talus Trail which follows along the base of the west canyon wall. This trail leads us past lichen covered talus slopes to the viewing platforms at North and South Black Beaver Falls.

The Talus Trail
The Talus Trail

We can hear the rushing sounds of water before reaching the viewing platforms. Black Beaver Falls at 53.3 m (175 ft) are also running strong and look so beautiful with the surrounding autumn foliage. We respect the Caution sign to keep off the rocks.

North Black Beaver Falls
North Black Beaver Falls
South Black Beaver Falls
South Black Beaver Falls

Clouds roll in and out while we pass bridges, creeks and waterfalls to return to the train. Altogether we walk 5 km and enjoy every minute of the hike in Agawa Canyon Park.

On our way back to Sault Ste. Marie, we get to see the spectacular landscapes again from our train windows. Everyone is wide-eyed to take in as much as possible the pristine beauty of Canada’s rugged wilderness.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

I’m co-hosting the Wellness Wednesday November 13th link up with my blogger friend, Leslie. The optional prompt is Healthy Holidays so in this post I’m sharing a hike that my family and I did during our mini-vacation in Sault Ste. Marie, a city on the shore of the St Marys River connecting Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (green marker)

About the Attikamek Trail

The Attikamek Trail is located at the Sault Ste. Marie Canal National Historic Site of Canada, easily reached from the city centre. It’s 2.2 km long (1.4 miles) on flat terrain. Attikamek means white fish.

Hiking the Attikamek Trail

We started from the Sault Ste. Marie Canal gate, crossed the lock, and followed an accessible pathway onto south St. Marys Island. The weather was overcast, cool, and calm without any wind so it felt quite comfortable for an outdoor hike.

Looking towards the International Bridge
The Attikamek trail is on the left in this photo.

We soon entered the packed gravel trail path, surrounded by autumn foliage, from green to various shades of yellow and red. Part of the trail let us walk under the International Bridge, built in 1962.

Attikamek Trail

The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Marys River between the United States and Canada, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie

We stopped by St. Marys Rapids to listen to the sounds of the water and watched a few dedicated fishermen patiently waiting for a good catch. The packed gravel and leaf-laden trail then turned into a wide wooden boardwalk with lovely views on both sides.

Boardwalk

A flock of small birds happily greeted us at the boardwalk. They had light yellow and some black feathers. I think they’re warblers. Can you see a bird blended in with the berries in the centre of the photo below?

We enjoyed the calm reflection of autumn foliage, woods, and wetlands in the river. A family of ducks lazily swam along while other ducks were just watching us.

Autumn reflections
Ducks

Further along the trail, we found a few beaver dams but no beaver in sight since they usually work at night. What looks like a heap of branches is protection against their predators and gives them access to food during winter.

A beaver dam
A beaver dam

At the end of the Attikamek trail we reached the Sault Ste. Marie lock and walked around to examine how it works. The lock operation to raise or lower vessels that go from Lake Huron to Lake Superior is fascinating and deserves a separate blog post.

Looking towards the Locks
The lock is behind the white bridge at the end of the photo.

It was a nice short hike on a calm afternoon in Sault Ste. Marie. Altogether we walked about 3 km (1.8 miles) and experienced the wonder of quiet woods and wetlands. Happy trails!

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Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Have you heard about the Float’em Garden?

During my stay in Tofino, I walked along the main streets in the village and discovered the Float’em Garden. I thought I’d share the artist’s message and the story behind the objects in the garden with my blog readers.

About the Float’em Garden

The Float’em Garden is located along the sidewalk on Third Street between Campbell Street and Main Street in Tofino. It’s an outdoor public art installation comprised of eleven individual assemblages made entirely from marine debris. Pete Clarkson, the artist and a park warden, has been creating his unique marine debris art since 2000. The Float’em Garden was opened in June 2018.

Art from recycled marine debris

Sea Chimes by Pete Clarkson
Sea Chimes by Pete Clarkson
Plastic Water by Pete Clarkson
Plastic Water by Pete Clarkson
From Sea to Tree and Little Bear by Pete Clarkson
From Sea to Tree and Little Bear by Pete Clarkson

Message from Pete Clarkson

Here’s an excerpt from Pete Clarkson’s message inscribed at the Float’em Garden:

I hope you’ll take a moment in this spectacular place to enjoy the Float’em Garden, and consider your own role in the marine debris story. As these objects remind us, there’s no longer an ‘away’ when we throw things away. Everywhere is somewhere, and the ocean is downstream of everything. The daily decisions we make – what we buy, what we throw away, what we value and support – can add up to a chorus of positive action. Let your actions show how much you care. We can all make a difference!

I find the Float’em Garden art installations visually interesting and the message behind the marine debris thought-provoking. It’s a good reminder that we are all connected and we need to reduce waste that is harmful to our environment.

Practicing the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)

My family and I have made a diligent effort to practice the 3Rs in our day-to-day living. We follow our municipal waste reduction movement and help keep items out of landfill. Some of the actions that we’ve taken:

  • Borrow books or DVDs from public libraries.
  • Buy locally-grown fresh produce as much as possible.
  • Cook and eat most of our meals at home with no food waste.
  • Donate clothes and linen to recycling organizations.
  • Put recycling, organics, and garbage into the right bins. Blue bin for recycling, green bin for organics, and black bin for garbage in our city.
  • Read or subscribe online for news and community event notifications.
  • Re-purpose cookie tins and glass jars for storage.
  • Trade in old items when purchase their replacements (where trade-in is offered).
  • Use refillable water bottles.
  • Use reusable bags for grocery shopping.

We shop consciously, plan ahead, buy only what we need, and consider the impact of packaging when making purchases.

I wonder to what degree Pete Clarkson’s message and similar environmental reminders affect consumers’ shopping habits, especially around the holidays when people tend to have more purchases and more social gatherings.

How does the marine debris story from the Float’em Garden affect your shopping habits? How well is waste managed in your city? I’d love to hear your comments.

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Hiking the Tonquin Trail

One afternoon during my stay in Tofino, a solo traveller named Anna from Chicago, approached me to ask if I knew of any nearby hiking trail. It so happened that I was heading out to explore the Tonquin Trail myself so we went together.

From Tofino village centre, we followed the sign to the Tonquin Trail Connector, and walked about 1.2 km before reaching the Tonquin Trail trailhead. We passed by old growth forest, a small wetland, and a few small creeks.

Tonquin Trail Network

Once we entered the Tonquin Trail, we were surrounded with beautiful tall trees and shrubs. It was September and after the recent rainfall, the forest was lush, looking fresh, and smelling fresh. The trail path was sand mixed with gravel, fairly easy to walk on.

Tonquin Trail outbound

Amid the greenery, I spotted some Canadian bunchberry plants, native to this part of Canada. Their bright red fruits are edible to humans.

The Tonquin Trail is about 1.2 km long. It took us about twenty minutes to reach the wooden staircase that leads to Tonquin Beach. We could hear the soft sounds of the ocean before reaching the end of the staircase.

A wide sandy beach with islands in the horizon greeted us. The expansive views were incredible. The sea water was shimmering in the sunlight. The natural thing to do was to inhale deeply and exhale slowly and savour this beautiful environment.

Tonquin Beach to the north
Tonquin Beach to the north

We sat on the rocks and basked in the warm sunshine for a while before walking along the beach to check out the driftwood and look for seashells. There were a handful of other people at the beach, quietly enjoyed the moment.

Tonquin Beach to the south
Tonquin Beach to the south

Although the trail signage warned us about wildlife such as bears, cougars and wolves, the only wildlife we saw on our way back were a few Pacific banana slugs. They looked long and healthy with brown blotches all over their yellow body.

It was a nice short hike on a beautiful afternoon in Tofino. Altogether we did about 5 km return trip (just over 3 miles). Nature recharged me and gave me new energy. I looked forward to exploring other trails in the area. Happy trails!

Tonquin Trail

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On Nature’s Edge in Tofino

After having a wonderful time in Victoria, I took the Vancouver Island Connector bus to Parksville and stayed there for two nights. Parksville is about 150 km north of Victoria, a perfect mid-way place to break up my full day trip from Victoria to Tofino and to meet up with three fabulous blogger friends as mentioned here.

From Parksville I continued my bus journey to Tofino, a small coastal village at the western edge of Vancouver Island. The driving distance from Parksville to Tofino is about 170 km (105 miles). The winding road and Kennedy Hill upgrades along Highway 4 meant the ride would take about four hours. The picturesque scenery made up for the time delay.

From Victoria (A) to Parksville(B) and Tofino (C)
From Victoria (A) to Parksville (B) and Tofino (C)

Tofino is situated in the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who have called the area home for over five thousand years.

Welcome to Tofino

It is surrounded by the vast, breathtaking expanse of the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region. Being in Tofino means being close to nature, the ocean, the rainforest, the mountains, the islands and inlets.

Lone Cone Mountain
Lone Cone Mountain, Tofino, BC, Canada

I stayed at a hostel situated at the waterfront in Tofino, overlooking a harbour on Clayoquot Sound. The views were breathtaking and ever changing as the wind moved the clouds. They filled me with a sense of wonder.

Morning view in Tofino
Morning view in Tofino, BC, Canada

The green domes in the photo below housed my “neighbours”, an eco-lodge operated by WildPod for luxury waterfront glamping. One morning I saw a family of sea otters came right up to the pier and the rock wall to say hello.

On nature's edge in Tofino
On nature’s edge in Tofino, BC, Canada

Tofino centre is grid-like and very easy to navigate. There are many shops specialized in outdoor activities such as surfing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), sea kayaking, scenic flights, whale watching tours, bear watching tours, and hot springs tours.

Tofino marina
Tofino Marina

I was drawn to the many public art works seen throughout Tofino, such as the Weeping Cedar Woman created by artist Godfrey Stephens to protect the ancient rainforests of Clayoquot Sound and Meares Island, and the Totem pole in Anchor Park, created by Master carver Joe David.

Weeping Cedar Woman, Tofino
Weeping Cedar Woman by Godfrey Stephens, Tofino, BC, Canada
Totem pole by Joe David, Tofino
Totem pole by Master carver Joe David, Tofino, BC, Canada

I took the self-guided Tofino Art Gallery Walk that featured five individual artist owned galleries, each a five minute walk apart. The bigger gallery of the five is Eagle Eerie Art Gallery by Roy Henry Vickers, a world-renowned Canadian First Nations artist.

Roy Henry Vickers Art Gallery, Tofino
Roy Henry Vickers (Eagle Eerie) Art Gallery

Within walking distance from Tofino village centre is a network of hiking trails that go through ancient forests and lead to various beaches. I’ll share one of my hikes in another post. I leave you with a view from my bed in Tofino. At night, the sky glittered with millions of stars. I’m so grateful.

View from my room in Tofino
View from my room in Tofino

Have you been to Tofino? What were your impressions?

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