Finally!!

The weather has finally turned towards spring up here in Elliot Lake. Temperatures are warming up, and melting has started, but has a long way to go. There will be no bushwhacking or even trail walking until some of that snow does melt, but any places that have been cleared during the winter are quite accessible now.

I was eager to get into some quiet wilderness, after such a long, and cold winter, so I headed over to the Stanleigh mine site, intending to do the 16km return trip into McCabe Lake. The day was sunny, and quite mild, and the winds were light.

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I came here because I knew that they plowed this road right in to the pumping station between Crotch Lake and McCabe Lake, which is an 8km hike one way. It was a perfect day, and everything seemed great for a nice long walk.

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The first lake I pass on the way in is Penelope Lake, which, of course, is still frozen solid.

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I knew that there was no one else in here today, because there were no other cars parked near the main gate, and I didn’t see any fresh tracks in the snow. I was all set for a nice long walk into the quiet wilderness. But something stopped me in my tracks. Something that wasn’t here the last time I did this hike.

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Son of a bitch! They had put up a new gate, and this time it’s obvious that they don’t want anyone walking in here. The signs always said No Trespassing, but it was understood that hikers were allowed in, however, someone has obviously changed their minds about access this year. (I have done some investigating, since doing this hike, and here are the results.) I noticed, this week, that the local hiking club did a hike into Stanleigh mine site, so I contacted them to find out if, in fact, the Stanleigh mine site was closed to hikers, or if it was open. They refused to answer me. Not being one to give up easily, I then contacted Denison Environmental, the company responsible for monitoring all these decommissioned mine sites. I had contacted Denison before, but I got no answer. However, this time I did get an answer, from a very helpful guy named Ian. He did some checking for me, and discovered that the Stanleigh mine site was closed at the time that I went there, but it was just a temporary closure, because they were doing some work. He also assured me that the sign prohibiting hiking had now been taken down, and that all the mine sites are open to hikers. So, a very happy ending.

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There’s another side road that goes over to Strouth Lake, which I could have taken, but it’s not plowed, and the snow was way too deep to take that route.

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My only choice was to head back out to where I’d parked the truck. I met another couple coming in as I was going out, and I told them about the new gate and sign. They were also very surprised, since they were used to walking all the way in there as I was.

Another freedom lost. Fortunately, I had already been all the way in there before, and I knew what it was like. I was very sad that I would probably never get to see it again.

Anyway, it was a nice day, and I wasn’t going to waste it, so I got back to the truck and drove a bit further down the road to the gate at the Lookout Tower, and proceeded to head up to the Tower.

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Even though the gate on Tower road is closed in winter, they do plow that road now and then, so it’s clear enough to walk on.

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Some sections of the road, that get a lot of sun, are bare.

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When I got to the top, getting into the Tower was another story. The snow was deep, and it was also soft because of the mild day, so walking through it was a real struggle.

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I did fight my way up to the Tower and, as usual, there was a fair breeze up there.

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This is, what’s known as, the new section of Elliot Lake. It’s not all that new, but newer than the original part of town to the north.

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This is the original, older side of Elliot Lake. You can see highway 108 running through the middle.

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Still looks a lot like winter down there, doesn’t it? However, all the paved roads are now bare and dry, something I haven’t seen since early last December.

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Of course, all the lakes are still well frozen, with over two feet of ice on them. Also, the snowmobile trails are still in fine shape.

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A shot of Lacnor Ridge, as I walk back down to the truck. With all the snow on the ground, I’m still limited to where I can go, but at least the weather is looking up, and I can get out to some places now.

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