Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lake Superior Agate Search Adventure

We're back!! We had the most wonderful weekend trekking about the forest north of Sault St. Marie and I've decided to post some of our adventure photos here.

(That's me, sitting on the rocks out front of our cabin in Montreal River that we stayed in for our weekend adventure).
Aren't those neat rock formations?


Our adventure beings on Friday - I managed to get "just about everything" we could possibly need packed on Thursday (with a lot of effort) and into the back of the truck. It was a bit crazy as Rob had just gotten back from out of town and we had about a zillion things to do before we left.

The book you see in the picture is one of the publications we decided to use on this trip. It's called Geology and Scenery of the North Shore of Lake Huron Region. This book is like a travel guide that talks about some fabulous side trips you can take as well as the local mineralogy and old mines that are in the area. It's in a series of books - and not easily found... I spent a LOT of time with my nose in the pages reading off information to Rob as we drove west from Sudbury towards Sault St. Marie (there are a LOT of cool things to learn that I didn't know about!)

One of our first stops was at Rydal Bank - this is a very small town that is about 8 miles north of Bruce Mines.

A prominent ridge marks an outcropping of the Lorrain Formation and you can find what is called "Pudding Stone" (or quartz jasper-pebble conglomerate). This is a really pretty stone that is an off-white cream colour with beautiful dashes of red. I took a picture of just one of the stones that is on the side of the river area by the dam that is located in Rydal Bank. We didn't find a lot of stone near the dam - only a few smaller pieces that were littered about the ground where we were walking. It was really neat to look down and find these little goodies!

Off we went exploring!!

We turned onto a bridge going east and across the river towards what we figured "might" have been the ridge the book was talking about.

You can see it in the picture - there is a white coloured ridge that is pretty high up on the hills.

So off we went - we discovered a pretty good side road that goes to the left up towards the hill. Of course, we took it (checking first to make sure that there were no private signs posted - there were not).

About half way up the road we stopped as there was an address sign posted on the road (a number). After some discussion we pushed further down the road (deciding that if it WAS a house we'd just turn around and go back). Just a bit further up the road we found "Humphries Cemetery", a very tiny old graveyard with the most beautiful headstones and scenery. I took some very pretty pictures of some of the old headstones but I'm not going to post them here - these are very old families located up on the hill that date back to 1900 and earlier. I'd rather keep the names private.

Ah yes, back to the rock hunting! As you can see by the picture of Rob standing near the white rocks (in the picture above) there was some blasting and removal of rock going on in this area. At the bottom of this hill was a large gravel pit - we didn't find a lot of pudding stone here, just the odd piece here and there. The white stone he's standing on was quite pretty though with a lot of sparkles!

Back on the highway we went - and pushed our way through Sault St. Marie and beyond. We took a short side trip down Wolf Lake Road (around Batchwana Bay area) and did some exploring. It was more of a look around and not any serious rock hunting happening. Both of us found it FAR too busy with a lot of dirt bikes and fishermen everywhere - so we turned back on the highway to go further on.

Up the hills we went!! With my ears popping - the elevations as you go west are really amazing and the hills are just beautiful!

Here's one of the places we stopped to stretch out legs before driving on. Although this picture shows the beauty of the lake, what you DON'T see is the embarrassing piles of garbage everywhere. I have to say, I was utterly disgusted with what I saw. The shore was littered with diapers, bags of mystery garbage, cans, bottles, tires, even CAR batteries were thrown down into the water from the top of the lookout!! There was jug after jug after jug filled with 'yellow mystery liquid (take a guess)' in piles and piles that had been thrown out through windows and over the edge of this lookout. I was disgusted and shocked by the fact that so many travelers just figured it was "okay" to throw their garbage out and figure that it would just take care of itself. I do not understand how someone can do that.....

Alright, I'm done venting.. a little while later we arrived at our cabin in Montreal River. As I might have mentioned in an earlier Blog, the water was really low - so we were able to see a LOT more shore than usual.

This is the mouth of the Montreal River - usually this is underwater, but don't be fooled if you are going to visit this place and walk around - this IS a mouth of a river and the water flow is controlled by several upstream dams - so if you are going to walk around, make sure to keep your ears open for the sound of the water flow changing.

We had a super relaxing night off - sitting by our campfire and eating pasta... watching the stars come out and playing with the dogs that lived just down the street from our cabin. It was really nice...
(That's me sitting outside on the rocks in front of our cabin)... We did bring home a few nice round rocks for my mom too.


On Saturday we got up early and rushed out the door to our favorite beach (it's about a 10 minute drive towards Sault St. Marie).. (I can't remember the official name on the map at the moment but I think it's around Mica Bay). Mica bay has what is called the Keweenawan volcanic rock formations in it.

The Keweenawan are principally lava flows of basic or basaltic composition with vesicles (or gas cavities) that have been filled with minerals such as agate, amethystine quartz, calcite, chlorite, dataloite, epidote, prehnite, thomsite and zeolites. These are really pretty when you see them up close - as you drive past them on the highway they look kind of reddish and you don't see the inclusions.

You can see some of the calcite and quartz veins in the rock that I'm standing on in this picture.

Now this was REALLY neat to find!

Yes that's ICE on the shore! There were some areas of the shore that still had huge ice built up (all the rest of water is open by the way and there are boats on the lake). That's Rob and Treble (our dog) standing next to an ice build up. It's pretty strange to be out in a tshirt and be standing next to these icy giants!


Just a bit further down this beach we stumbled upon a fabulous find. I was walking towards the shoreline (thinking that I had spotted a REALLY big Lake Superior Agate winking at me near the edge of the rocks) I reached down, only to have the rock I was looking at roll and crush my thumb between it and another rock... OUCH! I screeched, and tried to stand up.. only slipping on another pile of rocks and landing flat on my butt on another pile of rocks. As I sat there nursing a throbbing purple thumb (not broken - thank goodness), I took a look at where I was sitting and found myself in the center of a treasure pile of Hematite and Jasper stones.

As I sat there in awe, watching the waves roll in near me (knowing that these stones were only recently hid by layers of ice and before that, many feet of water.. I got to thinking of Mishi Peshu - the great underwater lynx like creature who lives in the depths of Gitchigumi (Lake Superior).

A bit of history on this:

Mishi Peshu is the ultimate metaphor that represents the power, mystery and innate danger that comes from these sacred waters. With razor like spikes on his back, the face of a lynx or panther, and the body of a sea serpent, this creature demanded respect. The Anishinabe offered tobacco and prayer to the creature spirit before they embarked out onto the waters in their canoes. The calm waters of Lake Superior can be quickly transformed into raging squalls and huge waves from the northern, north-eastern, and north-western gales that often suddenly crop up. These gales sweep over the open water, quickly picking up momentum and causing huge waves, some up to 40 feet high.

A picture of Mishi Peshu is found at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior National Park, in northern Ontario, north of Sault Ste. Marie. The Midewiwin Society claimed in 1850 that this pictograph was painted by an Anishinabe shaman, and represents a heroic 4 day crossing of Lake Superior by a war party of five canoes. The author is believed to be a tribal shaman named Myeengun which means "Wolf." The images are painted using red ochre, a pigment made from the iron ore called hematite, mixed with clay minerals. This is the most famous rock art painting in Canada, according to National Collection Archive sources.

As I sat there nursing my sore thumb, I started to wonder about the Great Spirit in the lake and the wonderful treasures that had shown up where I least expected them to. Even Rob was in awe over this find. The stones I "stumbled upon" were the stones that were used (all those years ago) to paint these ancient cave paintings - it was crushed and the residue inside was used on the rocks). I spent hours with the red ocher colours on my fingers after picking some of these stones. (That's me, holding my sore thumb and sitting on the stone that looked like an Agate from a distance). I've got a chunk of Hematite Jasper in my hand about the size of a baseball. Yes I'm smiling but it's more like "Ow.. hurry up.. take the picture")

We popped back to the cabin to pick up supplies and then headed up to Wawa for lunch. A quick tour around town, a Subway sandwich and we were back on the road again.

We stopped and poked around a few glamorous rock cuts on the highway (don't look down or you'll step in someone elses garbage - frown - and picked up some really interesting shale type rocks for our collection).

Next stop - Gargantua in the provincial park.

When you pull into the road, you'll see a warning sign that lets you know that there are 14km of rough winding single lane roads ahead. Don't take that lightly...

The picture you see here? Is a NICE picture of the road - most of the drive in was single lane traffic only - we drive a huge 4 x 4 dodge truck so there was little room for anyone else coming the other direction. Luckily we only passed by one other truck - but I had to get out and move TREES out of the way so we could pass through. Now as I understand, these roads are being worked up but they are still rough. (This part of the park is left open during the off season - that's why we were able to go in).


Gargantua is AMAZING!!

There are miles and miles and miles of the most beautiful and well hidden scenery on this part of the shore. It is a rough stop to get into so there were only a few folks there when we arrived (some were set up for camping on the shore).


That's Rob in the picture looking at the map of this area - you can walk for quite a long time from one end of the park to the other - he's just looking at the Gargantua area.



Here's 2 pictures of the Gargantua beach - you can see that it's split into stones and sand..

The rocks range from pebbles to large boulders in incredible colours, shapes and sizes.




I don't know if you can see the picnic table in this picture, but there is one.. wayyy off in the distance (we are still on Gargantua beach) and that's Treble on a rope attached to my pack trying to rush ahead to see what is sticking up out of the sand in front of us.



We spent the next few hours poking around lots of other beaches and finding little gem treasures here and there. I'll be posting a few desktop images of our trip (some really nice scenery on our website mid May plus a few of the treasures for sale - we need to figure out what's going to be just for us and what we're willing to part with.
Well... did Rob and I find any Agates this trip? I'm sorry to say... no, we didn't.
This trip was all about the Hematite and the Jasper that kept being found under our shoes.
Stay tuned... you never know where we'll be heading to next!

1 comment:

Mad Scientist said...

Hey, you guys need a wireless laptop to take on these adventures so you can answer our e-mails while you're bounding around the outback so far away from home. Just tuck me under your pillow at night and I promise not to disturb your tent activities. :-)