Tobermory – Embracing its invisible powers

An impressive beacon of land that protrudes from below, overlooking a panorama of blue waters.

In the middle of Canada’s grand expanse of diverse geological landscapes exists a pinpoint location known as Tobermory. This uniquely significant headland is surrounded as far as the eye can see, by a North American geographical treasure, the Great Lakes. This freshwater oasis is absolutely the life blood of Canada’s heritage, influencing our lives, from survival to economy. The celebrated attraction here are spectacular views that enrapture visitors with an incredibly humbling experience. The tip of the Bruce Peninsula, on the Niagara Escarpment, is the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation and it’s the northern end of the 890 km long Bruce Trail, which criss-crosses the land through rolling hills and headwaters, from Niagara to this land’s end promontory in between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. The Niagara Escarpment is a thinly earthed spine of ancient sedimentary rock, distinctive in places where its rock is broken, crumbled, pitted, sunken, shifted and scattered. Along with the history of the region’s First Nation’s inhabitants, it’s the uniqueness of its landform formations and vast shades of bright blue and green waters surrounding it, part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, which enhances the area’s contrasting and captivating allure.

Over the millenniums that Tobermory’s land’s end peninsula of rock has jutted out into the giant inland sea, it has faced harsh weather conditions, like strong winds, year-round. Its exposed ancient rock, dolomite, a type of limestone that was created over 430 million years ago under tropical seas, has endured ongoing seasonal conditions of freezing and thawing which has triggered its vulnerable rock to crack and fracture in between its strengths and weaknesses. The extreme irregularities of geological features continue below the lake’s surface where similar jagged rock occurs as submerged unmarked shallow shoals, abrupt cliffs, pinnacles, and unstable cave entrances, all of which pose hazardous threats, even in calm weather, to navigating boats or people exploring near this giant landform. Certain underwater sections even suggest that this area may have once been adjoined with Manitoulin Island.

The seriousness of the varying water depths in this area is reinforced when underwater divers are exploring the over 20 known sunken wrecks within the Fathom Five National Marine Park, Canada’s capital of freshwater diving. Several old wrecks are clearly visible by boat, or are accessible for snorkeling, while other deeper locations remain the domain of certified and registered underwater divers. Extreme caution and preparation are recommended as the waters here are unusually cold even in summer months.

As hikers, we pick up our car permits and maps at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre and head out on the main trail’s Burnt Point Loop. We wander through mixed woodland of moist green undergrowth and beside spectacular lookouts with blue sky and rocky points in the distance. An hour later we reach a breezy shoreline beach of jumbled stones and boulders and find smooth rock seats so we can gaze out over the impressive panorama of extraordinary scenery.

In the shallows along the waterfront submerged boulders are all clearly visible below the surface, with exposed rounded rocks above exploding with triumphant splashes each time a rhymical wave of water rolls up and over them. The water’s colours are hues of captivating blues, depending upon the day’s sunshine and the water’s depth, light green fades into teal, then bright turquoise, azure, to deep sapphire.

Peering across the narrow strait is another enchanting view, where a partly treed, uninhabited island, with a rock-strewn beachfront like ours, catches my stare. It seems close, within easy reach to swim, but I dare not venture across as the waves are lively, and the water temperature is cold enough to easily overcome a swimmer without a wetsuit.

Pathways along the trails at Tobermory are technical, requiring continuous stepping vigilance in between going up, over and around rocks and roots. There are countless undulating sections, metres in height, and hazardous cliff sections to be wary of footing, all of which can tire walkers quicker than usual. As a regular hiker, at least twice a week, I choose a comfortable average of 10 km per day in this area, giving adequate satisfaction without becoming too tired. I’m appreciative of having walking poles, to help with balance, especially when traversing irregular, potholed or damp sections. Hiking in this isolated area of rugged terrain requires preparation with survival gear, clothing, liquids, and snacks, plus emergency provisions. In the woodlands it’s fascinating to see where luxuriant mosses, rare ferns and autumn mushrooms grow, on the ground or in between trees and rocks. It’s pleasurable having the combination of trail venturing coupled with magnificent viewpoints for rest breaks.

The biological diversity of nature around Tobermory is impressive considering the perseverance needed by creatures and forest species to survive here. The harsh environmental circumstances include unrelenting wind, cool temperatures with a shorter growing season, and limited nourishment due to patchy earth. Trees that thrive here are hardy Balsam, Cedar, and White Spruce, plus limited pockets of birch, poplar, and oaks, with pine where the land is well drained.

The Cape Chin Nature Reserve is another inspiring trail to visit, with the Devil’s Monument, plus numerous scenic vistas to appreciate. There are renowned locations to see like the famous Grotto or camping at Cyprus Lake which require prebooking, especially in summer months. Reservations are a must to avoid disappointment when visiting extraordinary Tobermory.

One of my favourite activities at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula is to take a multi hour boat cruise and opt for a short term drop off to walk and explore on Flowerpot Island. Tobermory is the departure point for the Chi-Cheemaun ferry transporting travelers over to Manitoulin Island. This also requires a reservation, especially during popular crossing times and dates.

Gazing out from the water’s edge, I’m engulfed by magnificent views, and the mighty force of invisible winds. I silently let go of all distress and smile, I’m grateful for this spectacular place.

WILDERNESS WRITER & PHOTOGRAPHER CYNTHIA PERCIVAL HIKING ALONG THE SHORELINE OF GEORGIAN BAY NEAR TOBERMORY.

Author: LivingSpaces

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