Last week, I went to the Scenic Caves Nature Adventures with one of my very cool aunts. She was a champion cross-country runner and often the one to take my younger brother and me to Guildwood Park or Morningside Park for ‘runs’ (as much as a 5 and 7 year-old could run) or just to explore the area. Last summer, she got a decent part of our family together to go canoeing in Paris, ON. It was a disaster, but a story for another time.
Anyway, I think it’s safe to say she’s the outdoorsy one, so when she suggested a hike and canopy walk in Blue Mountains, I was definitely into.
She picked me up in the afternoon and I took down the address. When we tried to enter it into her GPS it told us the place doesn’t exist! I think the phrase ‘off the beaten path’ should just be changed to ‘off the GPS’…
We tried looking up ‘Nearby Points of Interest’ to no avail. In the end, we did it the old school way: we looked up the directions on Google and wrote them down. With a pen and paper. True story. I would have liked to say we used a Perly’s (for you youngsters, that’s a book with a maps printed on paper) but…no.
Blue Mountain much more well-known for being a resort town, and it’s a pretty popular place for skiing in Ontario. I went snowboarding (photographic evidence) there on my birthday once – I was the tallest kid on the bunny hill. Because I was 20.
A Little History and Context
The Scenic Caves are located at the highest point of the Niagara Escarpment, just west of Collingwood.
Based on geological information, the caves and caverns were once under water. From written records, historians and archeologists learned that French explorer Samuel de Champlain visited this historic village of the Petun and Huron First Nations people in the 17th century. Then it was called Ekarenniondi – which means ‘rock that stands out’.
The area around the Scenic Caves was the home of the “Deer” trube of the Petun or “Tobacco” nation. They grew tobacco for trade and ritual purposes.
After getting paying for our entry (somewhere in the realm of $50 for the two of us), you come out in front of the pond. You can go left to walk across the suspension bridge or take a right to explore the caves.
We decided to walk across the suspension bridge – at 126 metres long, it’s actually the longest in Ontario. Despite being afraid of heights, I was actually somewhat underwhelmed by the bridge. It’s obviously an impressive structure, especially after learning how it’s built – but, it’s just a bridge…
There were some really nice views to catch from it though.
We made our way back to the pond and over to the start of the hike. On the way, we passed this lovely bird who was not scared of me at all. I got quite close and I’m almost certain I could have petted him if I wasn’t so scared.
The first thing we came across, which is something I’ve never seen before, was a natural refrigerator. There is an ice cave just behind it and the air flow from there keeps the crevice at 4° C – even in the summer. This is where Petuns would store their food.
Farther up, you get to the First View, where you can see Collingwood, Wasaga Beach, and Nottawasaga Bay – part of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
We stopped at Suicide Point – my aunt, the morbid nurse that she is, wanted to see whether it was actually feasible. She guessed the injuries a jumper would sustain and his or her cause of death. Anyway, legend has it that a Petun woman fell in love with a man from another tribe. Jealous men from her tribe ambushed him and threw him over; out of grief, the Petun woman followed her beloved.
This area is called Ekarenniondi – the site of the famous standing rock. Here, on their way to the Village of the Souls, Oscotarach (which means Pierce-head) or the Watcher would remove the brains of the dead. The Petuns believed that for the dead, their afterlife would be happier, not being able to remember their earthly existence and those left behind.
Probably my favourite part was Fat Man’s Misery. You can try to squeeze through, but the narrowest spot is 36 cm or 14”. We both made it – so very proud! The area around here is called the Petun Fortress because it’s the only area of the caverns with four exits – one in each direction of the compass. It made it almost impossible for an invading tribe to ambush the Petuns.
Unless I was going back to do the ziplining, I don’t think this place needs to be visited more than once, if at all. If you’re in the area, it’s more of a “Why not?” kind of activity, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do it again. Next time, we’ll be going to Beausoleil Island (which I will write about one of these days).
On a positive note, I did learn some interesting historical facts and see some pretty unique things. I also noticed that I’m much more impressed by natural wonders. For someone who, for the most part, had to be forced into nature (I’m a city girl, what can I say?!), I think my time in Martinique really gave me an appreciation of the outdoors.
There’s just something about the mystery of nature that makes it interesting and…wonderful.