Panel Mine – Hike to Strike Lake

It was very cold last night, we had a frost advisory for the overnight hours. The temperatures have been well below normal for a while now, but I do see some warmer days are headed this way, so I may be back in the yak very soon.

Even though it was going to be a single digit kind of day, it was sunny, and there was no way that I was going to sit around on a sunny cool day. Considering my options, I knew it would be a hiking day, and I did want to do the Strike Lake route, up at the Panel Mine site. However, that road has been closed for more than a month now, and I’ve already driven up there twice, to check if it had opened yet.

Anyway, I was thinking of other options, just in case, or more like, when I find that it is still closed. So, I drove up there and, this time, I didn’t pull into the road, because they still had the ‘Trucks Turning’ sign posted a few hundred yards ahead of the road, on the main highway, so I figured, “Here we go again”.

But, when I went flying past the Panel Mine Road, I saw that the Road Closed sign was lying on the side of the road, and not blocking the entrance. I still had my doubts, but I swung around and headed in. I was half expecting someone to see me coming and start waving me off but, I saw another car coming towards me, and they just passed by normally.

When I reached the area of the construction, where they had installed these new, huge corrugated pipes under the road, to allow the Serpent River to pass under the road, there was a bunch of construction workers sitting there, blocking half the road. I slowly drove up, wondering if they were going to turn me back, but they just looked at me, as if I was a nuisance, and let me pass.

It looked like they were just doing the final cleanup, after the pipes were installed, and they probably opened the road because the work had gone way over the Sept. 11 projected finish date, and there is a small seniors trailer park past this point, which needed access to this road, in order to get out.

Anyway, to my surprise, I made it through, and the hike to Strike Lake was a go. I usually check my maps before I hike into an area that I’ve never hiked before but I didn’t do that today, since I was expecting that the road was still going to be closed. It was no big deal, I did have my GPS with me, so I pulled up to the main gate at the Panel Mine site, and parked the truck.

If you’ve read my past posts about this area, you’ll know that I’ve been here before. I have already explored the peninsula, where the mine shaft is located, and I did a hike to Rochester Creek from here also. Today, I will be heading into an area that I’ve never seen before.

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Okay, so this is where I will be heading into new territory. When I did the hike to Rochester Creek, I took that smaller road to the right. This time, I will be continuing on the main road to the left, which, eventually, will lead to Strike lake.

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This road turns left, and heads uphill right away. You can see the remains of, what was, another gate here. There used to be a public boat launch into Quirke Lake a number of years ago, but they closed that launch and moved the main gate out to where it is now.

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Almost to the top of the hill, past the old gate, there is this rocky area, off to the left, and it provided a nice view over Quirke Lake.

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You can see that there was a fair breeze today and, with the very cool temperatures, I decided to dress fairly warmly for this hike. That proved to be a wise decision, and made this hike much more enjoyable.

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This is mushroom season and, as usual, I find it hard to pass up a good looking mushroom. There will be more to come. 🙂

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What a perfect day for a nice, long quiet hike.

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I came to a pond, on the left hand side of the road, and it was a very scenic area, so I stopped, and went off road for a while, to explore and take pictures.

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Exploring in the pond area, I walked across an old beaver dam and, when I was coming back, I nearly fell in the water. I was just able to save myself, at the last second. That would have been a disaster, since I have all my camera equipment with me.

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Another scenic pond along the left side of the road.

After I took this video, I went back out to the road, and continued my hike, but something wasn’t right. Something felt a bit strange to me, and I soon realized what it was. My backpack felt lighter for some reason. I check it, and found that I had lost my bottle of water, which was hanging on outside my backpack with one of these special bottle clips that I bought on ebay.

I continued on, after I realized that I had lost my water supply for the hike, but I got about 50ft, when my gut kicked me in the ass and told me to get back there and find it. I had a pretty good idea of where I might find it. Remember when I almost fell into the water off the top of that beaver dam?

So, I went back to that location, and there it was, lying on top of the beaver dam, as I had suspected. 🙂 It was only about 300 yards back so, no big deal. I forged ahead, once again.

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I was really enjoying the cool air, and the beautiful sunshine, and also the fact that there were zero bugs to contend with.

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The long road stretches out ahead of me.

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Another small pond along the way.

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I came to a large open area, at the top of a hill, and I could see a lake ahead.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, he doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground. That, in fact, is Strike Lake, and he would have known that had he checked his maps before he came on the hike today.

Of course, I have my Galaxy Tablet GPS with me, and I could have taken it out, at any time, to confirm where I was. But, I usually won’t do that because there’s something about the mystery of the hike that I like. If I feel that I’m completely off track, and lost, I will take out the GPS to locate myself, but that wasn’t the case here.

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No bears. I’d like to come across a bear in an open area like this, so that I could get some good pictures of it.

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This is Strike Lake, but the hiking old man doesn’t know it yet, and he won’t realize it until much later in the hike.

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Is that a rusty mushroom, or what?

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It’s a beautiful area isn’t it?

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Heading out on a peninsula that juts out into Strike Lake.

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Strike Lake seemed to be very shallow, I could see the bottom, even way out towards the middle.

Again, pay no attention to the old fool, he has no idea where the hell he is. I think he must have walked away from an old folks home, and gotten himself lost. This is Strike Lake, and not some no name lake.

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I went back in from the peninsula, and headed down a side road.

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I passed this old pipe that goes down into Strike Lake.

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The road led to a dam, at the end of Strike Lake, which, obviously, must have mine tailings in it.

Oh my goodness, someone please help this old gentleman. He has no idea where he is. He may fall, and not be able to get up. He is standing right in front of Strike Lake, and the lake he is calling Strike Lake, in the distance, is actually the no name lake. I feel sorry for the old fella, it’s probably the radiation affecting his brain.

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One last panorama of Strike Lake, before I leave the area.

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Looking down on the no name lake, you can see a pump house in the distance. I think this is what, partly, convinced me that this must be Strike Lake.

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Heading back out the side road, to the main road.

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A mushroom under a baby pine tree.

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There were other mysterious side roads, going into the bush, that I didn’t explore on this hike.

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I’m now back out on the main road and heading towards, what I think is, Strike Lake.

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Not, in itself, all that noteworthy but, the funny thing is, I’ve seen exactly the same hub covers in other mine sites. I guess the maintenance workers must really tear around here in their company vehicles.

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A big mushy.

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Oh no, not another choice, how will I ever cope?

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That’s the dam I was just up on, at Strike Lake.

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I found this other short side road, leading in to the no name lake.

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Looks nice to me, even if it isn’t the lake that I think it is.

Oh, so you looked at the map last week, or so? Now we’re getting to the truth. With that old feeble mind like yours, you can’t even remember something from last week, or so. You’re about to find out the hard way.

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No name, or not, this lake was quite scenic.

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I’ve been seeing these animal signs on the road, and I’m not quite sure what it might be. It doesn’t look like any bear signs I’ve seen, and I started to consider if it could be wolf.

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I went back out to the road, and continued my hike into the bush.

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This road follows the shoreline of the no name lake for a while. My thinking, at this point, was that this road must go around the lake, and over to that pump house. That’s what I get for ‘thinking’.

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It was a very nice road though, and I thoroughly enjoyed my walk along here. But, I can tell you right now, it’s not gonna take me anywhere near that pump house.

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This is the dam holding back Strike Lake, which I was on earlier. The feeling that I’m getting is that Strike Lake has the mine tailings in it, and the water flows off the top of Strike Lake, and down into this no name lake, which is being used as a settling pond. Then the pump house transfers cleaned water back into the local watershed.

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The road continues, and I follow.

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Another interesting mushroom. Is there no end to the colours, shapes, and sizes?

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The mushrooms love this cool weather.

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On and on, up and down, the road winds it’s way through the bush.

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I didn’t stop at every mushroom, just the interesting looking ones.

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This is the same no name lake I’ve been following, thinking that it’s, eventually, going to take me around to the pump house.

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This is a little river, coming down from Strike Lake and into the no name lake.

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As long as I’m following the shoreline of this no name lake, I figure it has to lead to that pump house.

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Looking good, right?

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Wow, this road goes for a long way, but I’m still certain that it has to lead to that pump house.

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I’ve now reached the dam, at the end of the no name lake. Now, when I cross this dam, the road should start to follow the opposite shoreline, back to the pump house.

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I cross over the dam.

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More signs, but not like any bear signs I’ve ever seen.

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Hmm, this is strange. On the other side of the dam, the road starts to veer left, when it should be going right, towards the pump house. I figured that the terrain must be too rugged for a road, and the road is just going around the rugged part, and will soon enough head back towards the pump house, so I continue.

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Ah yes, here we go, the road is now heading right, back towards the pump house.

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Well, someone cut this fallen tree off the road, so that’s a good sign that they, at least, use this road.

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It didn’t look like it was used all that much though, and I was now getting the feeling that this road is not going to lead back to the pump house, as I thought it would. However, I was invested at this point, so I figured I might as well see where it does lead to.

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It was deafeningly quiet as I walked through this section. And then, BAM! All hell broke loose right beside me, and scared the livin’ shit out of me.

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It was a bloody Grouse. It didn’t fly too far, and landed in a tree so that I could get a picture of it. 🙂

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At this point, I had absolutely no idea where I was, and this road was starting to look like the road to nowhere.

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Eventually, I came to another lake, but I had no idea which lake it was.

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From here, the road made a steep ascent, and it was at this point that I decided not to go any farther. I also made the decision to get my GPS tablet out, to see where the hell I was.

The GPS located me in a matter of seconds and, at last, I could see! I’m nowhere near Strike Lake, and I was on Strike Lake way before this. The wonders of modern technology. The topo map on my GPS did not show this road, however, it did show my location, so I knew that I had to go back the way I came in order to get out of here. Not exactly what I wanted but, nonetheless, it is what it is.

And so, I started the long trek back.

And so the story goes. I started the long trek back towards Quirke Lake, and to where the truck was parked at the Panel Mine gate. However, I made an interesting discovery on the way back out.

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That’s my boot track, and there are other tracks there too. These tracks were not there when I went in. I always scan the ground for tracks, as I’m walking, and I’m sure that these were made after I had passed here.

Another interesting things is, I don’t believe these are canine tracks. They appear to be cat tracks to me, and they are big cat tracks. Then I thought of that unusual scat that I’ve been seeing, all along the road. Could that be cat scat?

There are only three possibilities when it comes to wild cats around here. Bobcat, Lynx, or cougar…..gulp! Was I being followed by a feline, as I walked in here today? I guess I’ll never know, and maybe that’s the best outcome.

However, after seeing that, I did quicken my pace, and I became even more alert than I already was. I was pretty sure I could deal with a bear, because I’ve faced them many times before, but a cougar, well that was an unknown. I did know that a cougar would likely attack from behind, out of cover, so, needless to say, I had one eye in the rear view mirror, as I made my way back out of the bush.

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That’s Quirke Lake there, and the old public boat launch, which many folks bemoaned, after the mine site closed access to it years ago.

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I saw this on the way in too, it seems like someone built a wilderness stretcher, to drag a fellow injured hiker out of the bush. I wonder if they were attacked by a cougar? Hmmmm.

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Anyway, this body is still alive and kicking today, and today is all that really matters. 🙂

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