WELL, THAT WAS AMAZING!
Photos posted from yesterday! Internet connection was too sucky at the hotel I stayed at last night to get them loaded up.
I’m starting to scare myself. Got up at 6 today with the intention of getting to the Bonnechere Caves for their first tour at 10:00 a.m. I read about them in the visitor guide at Barry’s Bay yesterday when I stopped for ice cream and rode by them on my way to Madoc. They definitely looked like something that was not to be missed, so even though it meant back-tracking, I was prepared to do it. Having found another petroglyph site, quite close to Madoc and more easily accessible than the other sites I had passed, I determined to do a circle route of exploration today.
The Bonnechere Caves are a path of limestone caves that contain fossils in their walls here and there. They were discovered in the 1950s by Tom Woodward, who explored and developed them into a tourist attraction. The caves have been operating as an attraction ever since and the property is now owned by Chris and Val Hinsperger. I also met David and Lucas, who work there and Lucas was our tour guide today. He did a stellar job, explaining the Ordovician fossils they had and the structure and creation of the caves. He even managed to infuse a good deal of humour in his story to keep his audience engaged in a topic that could otherwise be dry and boring very quickly. Reminds me of when I get to teach my computer classes in labs!
After a little lecture for background and context, Lucas led us down the path to the underground caves. I would be surprised if there was anyone in the lot of us that didn’t go “WOW!” when we descended into them. Truly fascinating. As one might expect, the corridors through the caves were narrow, with wider spaces opening here and there where Lucas could tell a story. He let us wander through a little passageway on our own so he could tell us we were official spelunkers – went through a cave passage without a guide. 😊 They have the caves lit, so it is easy to get through without bumping into each other or the sharp limestone carved walls, but it was helpful to have my phone flashlight to check for fossils in the rock as we went.
On Lucas’ advice, I took the path to the left when we exited the caves. This path led to the sinkhole where Tom Woodward had first found a passage into the caves that the river was not crashing through. Eventually, it led back to the waterfalls that we saw on entering the property. There are 5 openings to the caves that can be seen from the waterfall, but the caves cannot be accessed from them, which is why Tom went looking for another entrance. The whole thing was fascinating and exciting. What an experience! Truly a highlight of this journey.
Returning to Eganville, I topped up with gas and stopped at Rio’s for lunch. I sat on their patio, which has a beautiful riverfront view, and ordered their crispy chicken tacos. They were delicious and it was a nice stop before getting on the bike. The day growing quite hot by now, I switched out my jacket for the mesh one, filled up my water bottle and headed out.
Turning off Hwy 41, I took Hwy 28 to Bancroft, which would take me south to the petroglyph site. This highway, between the turnoff and Bancroft, is a sweet ride! Full of closely-packed curves and very little traffic, I put Fury through her paces as we curled through the pretty countryside. We were having so much fun, I didn’t even stop to take pictures! Once we got to Bancroft, there was a great deal of traffic and a few stretches of construction, so it wasn’t much fun until we took the turnoff towards the site. A short way in, we turned into Petroglyph Provincial Park. It is a sacred site for the local indigenous people, closely linked to their spirituality and history.
Leading into the site is a 3 km narrow dirt road, shaded by tall trees that filter the sun delightfully. I’m sure it is not by accident that they have done this, for I was infused with a sense of peace as I approached the site. Then there is a short walking trail into the Learning Centre.
The Learning Centre does an excellent job of educating visitors on the spiritual, cultural and lifestyle philosophies and practices of the Nishinaabeg people. A combination of storyboards, art and videos explain their understanding of the world. I spent a good deal of time absorbing this story before heading to the petroglyph site, which is another short walk through the trees.
A building has been erected over the rocks containing the glyphs to protect them from further erosion. The glyphs themselves are captivating. My mind was visualizing their creation and the possible purposes of the different figures and what the more obscure ones might mean. It seemed a powerful site too, somehow. Tracey came forcefully into my mind about halfway to the site and stayed with me. When I left them, she had gone and I felt dreadfully lonesome for her. While we may have shared the experience in spirit, it was not the same as knowing she will never be there beside me to share it. It took me a few minutes to collect myself before heading back down the path to the parking lot.
You couldn’t pay me to tell you which of today’s gems I liked best. They were both amazing and powerful in their own ways – one by nature and one by spirit. So don’t miss either of them if you pass this way. Both are worth the time.
Hearing thunder in the distance, I checked google maps for the quickest route back to Madoc. Following it without a second guess, it took us down some amazing side roads. Again, closely packed curves, little traffic and good road. We had a delightful run back to Madoc and beat the rain. Fury has had a chain clean and lube and the bags are packed to head for Ottawa tomorrow. Sleep well, my friends. Until we chat again….. 😊
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