First Day of Winter Hike

Actually, I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened to be a nice day for a hike.  I’d been keeping my eye out for a good day to do a more extensive hike into the Stanleigh mine site and today was exceptional in the weather department.  There was no wind at all and the sun made an appearance for a least part of the day.  Also, the temperature was just above freezing, so all those factors added up to exceptional.

Of course, I have hiked into the Stanleigh mine site before, but never as far as I went in today.  Here’s my hike in pictures;

This icicle cascade was just before the gate into the mine site.

Quite a frozen waterfall here.

And here’s the entrance gate to the Stanleigh mine site.  The tire tracks you see going in there will be the mine workers who monitor the facility you will see later on.

The first lake you come to in here is Penelope Lake, which is completely frozen over right now.

I’ve learned a lot more about these mine sites than what I knew when I first got here.  I was always looking for the actual mines and I now know that this is it.  These candy cane shaped pipes sticking out of the ground are put into the mine shafts to allow air to escape so that the mine shaft can fill up with water.  I’m guessing that there’s some kind of cap over the mine shaft and that was covered with dirt.  This particular mine shaft was over 2,000 feet deep.  There were two of them in the Stanleigh mine site.

Here’s a closer look at the pipe.

This is the second gate into the Stanleigh mine site.  It’s about a half a kilometer in from the first gate.  As you can see, it’s a more formidable type structure with chain link fencing on each side.  When I first saw this gate during the summer, I figured that this meant that we couldn’t go any further, but I’ve since learned that these gates are only meant to stop vehicular traffic and not hikers.

Right next to where the mine shafts are is this level area that they use to fly model airplanes in the summer time.  The grass here is kept cut like a golf course so that the model planes can take-off and land easily.

After a bit of a walk I came to Crotch Lake.  This is where the mine tailings from the Stanleigh mine shafts are submerged.  It is the preferred method of storing these radioactive waste products since there is much less radon gas given off with the tailings under water.  Actually, it’s not the radon gas that causes the problem, since radon gas decays in just a few days.  It’s the progeny, or sometimes referred to as the ‘daughters’ of radon gas that are radioactive.  These ‘daughters’ are produced when radon gas decays and they don’t decay for thousands of years.  The mine sites must be set up so that the tailings are secured in such a way that they can be maintained indefinitely.  The water in these tailings lakes must not leak out into the surrounding watershed and cause further contamination.  This is why they are constantly monitored by the mine owner, which in this case is Rio Algom, who contract this job out to a local mining company called Denison Mines.

Crotch Lake is quite a big lake, as you can see.  It’s also an oddly shaped lake, with arms going off in different directions.  Of course, all these lakes in the mining areas are uninhabited, with no cottages or structures of any kind, so it’s very scenic and also very quiet.

Animal tracks can be seen crossing onto the ice here and I did see many other animal tracks along the way on my hike.  I’m not sure what kind of animal made these tracks.  It could have been a fox, a coyote, or even a wolf, although I don’t think that they were big enough for wolf tracks.  I saw lots of rabbit tracks and also partridge/grouse tracks too.  There are Lynx in this area as well, but I’m not all that great at determining what animal made what track.  I do know bear tracks and there were none of those that I could see.

It’s a common misconception that bears hibernate all winter long, which is not the case.  Bears are not true hibernaters, they can, and do, come out of their dens during the winter if they feel the urge to do so.  Usually they won’t wander too far from the den if they do come out.

I took a short video of Crotch Lake to give a better idea of how big it is and how wonderfully quiet and scenic it is also.  Here’s the video;

Here’s some more shots of Crotch Lake;

This is just the kind of area where a Sasquatch might show up…. and look!!!  I think I see his shadow down there.

Anyway, I continued my trek into the wilderness along Crotch Lake.

I don’t know what they were doing here but they could have been taking rock out to be broken up into smaller pieces to build these huge berms you will see next.

This huge broken rock berm is built at the end of Crotch Lake to prevent any possibility of the contaminated water getting into the local water system. A large black pipe runs through the berm from one side to the other.

It sure took a lot of rock to build this berm but there’s no shortage of rock in this area.

This is the only building in here and I assume that this is where the mine workers are coming to monitor the water coming out of Crotch Lake and going into the next lake, which is McCabe Lake.

In 1993 a spill took place at this very location due to a power failure.  Two million litres of contaminated water spilled into McCabe Lake from Crotch Lake.  Rio Algom was charged for this spill and they have made extensive changes to this location since then.  The most obvious of these changes was the settling pond between the two lakes.

In this picture you can see that they’ve created a settling pond in between the two lakes so that any radioactive material that might get through would settle to the bottom of this pond.  At the far end you can just see another berm which separates the settling pond from McCabe Lake.  The water on top of the pond is allowed to spill over into McCabe Lake.

Down at the other end of the settling pond, looking back up towards the white building, you see where the water comes off the top of the settling pond and it goes into a concrete chute, which you will see next.

There is a small bridge across this chute where I expect that the mine workers take water samples to monitor any radioactive contamination that might get through.

Even though there is a lot of man-made stuff going on here, it still is a real nice spot.

The water comes out the end of the chute and drops down into McCabe Lake, which is about 15 to 20 feet below.

Wait a minute!  This might be one of the mine workers now;

False alarm, it’s just an idiot.

Looking down into McCabe Lake, you can see that it’s gotten a little bit cloudy now, but it sure was nice to see the sun for at least part of my hike today.  I had a fantastic time out here.

For anyone that’s interested, you can see exactly where I hiked to today by copying and pasting these coordinates into the search bar on Google Maps;

46.417757,-82.58749

If you switch to satellite view on Google Maps you can actually see two white buildings close to this spot, but they are no longer there.  The satellite pictures are quite old and they’ve changed things since those pictures were taken.

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