Hike to Rochester Creek

Even though my hands are getting back to almost 100%, the weather dictates what I might do for any particular day, and today the weather says, “Lets Hike”.

I’m always scanning the maps for places to paddle and hike, that I’ve never been to before, so today I chose a hike, in a mine site, that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned on my blog yet. This hike will be into the Panel Mine site, which is just north of Quirke Lake.

I can’t say that I’ve been to all the mine sites around here yet, but I am working my way through them. Here’s my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2’s GPS map of the hike that I did today;

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As before, I turned the GPS on ‘track’ when I reached the end of the hike, so that it would track my way back out, to the start. I continue to be amazed at how well this GPS works. Here’s a map, which I created on Google Maps, of the hike, and I’ve added some extra mileage that I put in, before I initiated ‘tracking’ on the GPS.

This was all new territory for me, and I really like exploring new places. It was a beautiful sunny day, a bit of heat, but not overwhelming, especially if I could stay out of the sun. There was a nice breeze too.

When I first entered the mine site, I looked around for where the actual mine shaft might be located, because I always like to get a picture of the location of the mine shafts. I went out onto a large peninsula, where the original road seemed to be leading, and I looked around for anything that might give me a clue as to where the mine shaft might be.

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Here I’m entering one of the familiar gates that they use on these mine sites.

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Once inside the gate, the first short section of roadway is paved, but that doesn’t last too long.

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A feather on the roadway. Seems like a welcoming artifact to me, so I continue, with confidence.

At the end of the paved section, the road seemed to curve to the right, although there was also a well-used gravel road going left. I wanted to go out on the peninsula to check it out anyways, so I headed to the right.

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I started my explorations along the left side of the peninsula, keeping my eyes open for any signs of a mine shaft.

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There was a narrow strip of land jutting out from the shoreline, and a number of islands in this area too.

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Across the other side of the bay, there was a high ridge, and I would, eventually, be walking below that ridge, along the shoreline.

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Here’s a panoramic shot across that same bay. You can see that the water is very clear.

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Coming into mid-summer now, the main bug pest in these open areas is deer flies, although they weren’t as bad as I’ve seen them.

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I was following a not so well defined road, through a relatively open area at about the mid point of this peninsula.

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This is a protected bay, so the water is fairly calm here, but my experience with Quirke Lake is lots of wave action.

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A lot of this middle section of the peninsula is open because there used to be a number of buildings on this site in the past. The Panel Mine closed for good in 1990, but I don’t know when the structures were removed.

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As I scanned the open area, I caught a flash of something in the distance, so I went to investigate.

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Here we have one of those candy cane shaped pipes, that are used to vent the mine shafts. This one happens to be stainless steel, and it is of a smaller diameter than I’ve seen at other mine sites.

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The welded printing on the pipe confirms that this is, indeed, the Panel Mine shaft. There was also a mill on this site, which meant that they did not have to transfer the material taken out of the mine to another site, they could just mill it here to extract the uranium they were after.

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From my topographic maps, it looks like the tailings produced by this milling process are located in Strike Lake, which is just north of this site.

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Once I had located the mine shaft, I continued to look around on this peninsula a bit. I went right down to the end, and then I came back a ways, and crossed over to the other side of the peninsula.

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It was clear, throughout my hike today, that I wasn’t the only one prowling in this area. Bear signs were everywhere.

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It was obvious that no one comes in here very often. I could hardly see where any roads once were. The workers who monitor this site would have no need to come to this area, since, as I’ve already mentioned, the tailings were located north of here, at Strike Lake, and that would be the area that needed monitoring.

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As I made my way through the bushy areas, I was well aware that bears could be a factor during my hike today. However, I did have my musical bear repellent with me, in the form of Tom Petty, Neil Young, and CSNY. Not too loud, so as not to impose on my enjoyment of the surroundings, but bears have good hearing.

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It’s a very interesting, and scenic area to explore but, being so open, the sun was beginning to take it’s toll on me.

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Even though the ground seemed very dry to me here, some plants really did well in these conditions.

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Part of the shoreline along the west side of the peninsula.

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A holed drilled through a big rock, could have been a core sample, or maybe just for blasting purposes.

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This is still on the west side of the peninsula and, if you look to the top left of this picture, you can see the very prominent shape of Rooster Rock in the distance.

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I made my way back out to the road I had come in on. Here I’m looking back out towards the gate. I had already explored to the left, or west, out on the peninsula, and now I will head right, or east. This is a well used gravel road, which probably leads to Strike Lake, where the mine tailings are located.

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Just a short way along this road, there was a passageway that went down to the lake on the right hand side, almost looked like a boat launch, so I went down to check it out.

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I found this narrow beach area down there, and I walked along the beach to check for animal tracks.

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I always like checking these remote beaches out for animal tracks. The tracks are difficult to see in the dry sand, but the wet sand holds tracks very well. Also, you know that the tracks in the wet sand are probably not all that old, since the wave action would wash them away over a certain amount of time. Here we have some deer tracks.

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I didn’t see any people tracks, except for the ones that guy right there made.

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I went back out to the main gravel road, and looked east. This main gravel road curves off to the left, and heads towards Strike Lake, but I wasn’t going that way today. I had the loose intention of heading towards another location, although I wasn’t sure that I could reach it from here. That smaller bush road going off to the right is the one I will be following today.

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It didn’t look very well used, not by vehicles anyway, so I suspected that there was nothing for the Denison Environmental workers to monitor down here.

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As I continued down this smaller bush road, I came to, what looked like, some sort of entrance, with two large boulders on each side.

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There was the standard mine site sign at this point also.

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After this point, the trail started to become less defined, and it was clear that not many people come in this way. However, I continued on, in my quest to explore.

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This trail ran right along the north edge of Quirke Lake, and there were spots, along the way, where the bush would open up to give a view of the lake.

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Just behind that little island out there is, once again, the silhouette of the massive Rooster Rock.

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Another open, flat area along the shoreline. That’s an island there, blocking the view of the main part of the lake.

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Some colourful fungi alongside the trail.

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I came to an intersection in the trail, and looking right, I could see sand, so I was sure that it was just leading down to the shoreline again. I decided to check it out.

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Wow! I felt like I had just walked into some kind of resort. This was one of the most amazing beaches I had seen in my explorations yet. I took a video here to better describe this area.

I did check my Recreational Map, and this campsite, although seemingly well established, is not on it. However, from appearances, I don’t think that they check this campsite very often, using that trail/roadway anyways. I might chance a one nighter here, especially if it was a Sunday night, since I don’t believe there are any workers around then.
Update; Well, here’s an interesting note about this campsite. I just checked the Ontario Crown Land maps, and this campsite is listed as Private Property, unlike the rest of the mine site, which is listed as General Use Crown Land. There are also other smaller pieces of land in this area that are shown as Private Land. It could be that there is a native, or other type of lease on this land, there is no way of knowing, however, I didn’t see any signs while I was there to indicate the ownership of this campsite.

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Even for a day trip, it would certainly be worth the effort. When I do, eventually, come paddling up this way, I know that I will be looking to stop at this beach for a nice lunch spot.

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There was a good mixture of sun and shade here too.

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After I had thoroughly checked out that beautiful area, I headed back onto the trail, which was now diminishing even further. In fact, the only reason I could still see it was that there were no trees growing right on it.

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Here’s another open area along the trail.

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Again, there were signs of previous campers here too.

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I’m getting into some pretty dense, and remote country now.

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It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone though. Right? 😦

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I forged my way onward, turn after turn, through the bush, towards something that I knew could not be too much further.

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At times, the path would become more well defined, and in other places, it was more like make your choice, and take your chances.

Then I saw something in the bush ahead, on the right side.

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Stupid me! I had never even considered the fact that bears might drive cars, although their maintenance skills do seem somewhat lacking. Still, it’s probably difficult to find a Canadian Tire store in this area.

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Just after that, I broke out of the bush, and realized that I had reached my intended target. Rochester Creek.

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The flow coming into Quirke Lake was almost non-existent at this time of year. I would imagine that there would be a lot more water flowing in the spring.

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It does open up quite a bit though and, it seemed to me that calling it a creek was a bit of an under-statement.

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I hung around, to enjoy this scenic spot, for a while, and then I turned on my GPS tracking, and started the hike back out.

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I didn’t mention this yet, but there were lots of mosquitoes on this trail, but there was also lots of shade, and I really appreciated that, since it was getting a bit on the warm side now.

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I came out of the bush again, to take another panorama of the Quirke Lake shoreline.

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Then it was back to the mosquitoes, once again. I found that my pace was picking up on the way back because of that.

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As I continued my way back the road, once again, was becoming more well defined, and I was moving along at a good pace now, with the swarms closely in pursuit.

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Just coming out, to the main dirt road.

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Strike Lake is that way, and that’s where I’ll continue my explorations the next time I come to this site.

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While driving back out, I stopped to take a picture of this section of the Serpent River, which flows into Quirke Lake. I was checking for spots where I might be able to put my kayak in, so that I could do some paddling here.

And so ends the hike to Rochester Creek. It was very enjoyable, and now it’s time to head to Timmies. 🙂

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