Westner Lake Hike

With that dark tunnel of winter now taking hold, it’s not too often we see sunny days so, when we do, I’m going to take advantage of them, which was the case today. Even when I’m hiking in the local area, I still try to find places that I’ve never been before when I’m out hiking. I have been on part of the trail that I will be taking today, but the last part is new to me.

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I head in through the Lacnor mine site gate, as I did on my last hike, but this time I will be taking a different road, once I get in here a ways. Notice the sunshine, and also the shadows. It’s about 2pm right now. Soon, the Northern Hemisphere of the earth will be tilted as far away from the sun as it will get, and then start its wobble back into the sun, to awaken the sleeping wilderness once again.

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Ice flowing down the side of a rock cut. The temperatures have been up and down, with a few days being near the freezing mark, and then a sudden drop to the minus teens overnight. It seems that the weather is not sure what it wants to do lately.

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I got started on this hike a bit late today, because I had to make a repair on the truck this morning, and it took me a bit longer than I thought it would. It’s not that cold out, but when you have steel wrenches in your bare hands, they tend to become useless in short order. The hands that is. However, the operation was a success, and everything is in fine shape, for now.

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Looks like I’m not the only one out for a walk today. I saw all kinds of little tracks in the snow, some of them I know, but most of them I don’t.

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On a different road now, heading deeper into the bush, there are still some older footprints, of the human variety. I’ve been down this section of road before, quite a long time ago.

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I usually bring my backpack with me on these hikes, which contains other camera equipment in it but, as I grabbed hold of it today, one of the shoulder straps broke, so I left the backpack in the truck. I have some new lens filters that I wanted to try out, that might help to better represent what I’m seeing when I take these pictures. With the sun being so low in the sky, it does tend to create some problems with lighting.

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This is the far south west side of Dumbell Lake that I’m skirting around, heading for Westner Lake. I did see some folks out ice fishing today on Horne Lake. It’s a bit too early for that, if you ask me, but there will always be people that want to push the limits.

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I guess I should mention that it’s very, very quiet in here. I don’t point that out very often, right? 🙂

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There are still some older people tracks on this section of the road, but I will leave them behind, eventually.

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Looking back at the long shadows on Dumbell Lake, as I pass it by.

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There are still some areas of open water, wherever there is some flow. Also, it’s good to remember that ice can form over top of moving water, but it will be very thin.

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I prefer to stay on solid ground as much as I can. I very rarely find it necessary to walk on frozen waterways.

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There’s still only about 3 or 4 inches of snow on the ground, in most areas. We haven’t really had a big dumping of snow yet, just accumulating flurries.

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As you can see, there’s no shortage of rabbits in this area, a good food source for foxes, bobcats, lynx, and even wolves.

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Still heading towards Westner Lake, I have to keep in mind that I started this hike late, so I don’t have as much daylight as I would usually have.

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Usually, when I go out hiking, I don’t have any particular destination in mind. I knew that I was heading towards Westner Lake today, but I didn’t know what I was going to do when I got there.

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As long as the snow doesn’t get too much deeper, I can continue to come into these places. Once we do get a big dump, then I will have to follow trails that are packed down, like snowmobile trails.

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I have now reached Westner Lake, which, depending on the map, may also be called Spillane Lake, an older name I think. The sun is shining directly across the lake at me, so I have to shoot pictures to the side.

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This road runs, off to the left, along the north shoreline of Westner Lake. I’ve never hiked this road before.

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This is an interesting track that may not seem like an animal track, but it is. It’s a beaver, dragging a tree that it cut down back into the water. I just caught a glimpse of the beaver, as I arrived, diving back into a small area of open water, and back under the ice.

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Here are the tracks of a group of raccoons, out for a snowy stroll on the lake. Actually, saying that they are out for a ‘stroll’ is probably a bit disrespectful. All animals out here are nearly always searching for food. It’s their number one priority, and it takes up almost all of their time.

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Heading along the north side of Westner Lake, there are now no other human tracks visible, other than my own.

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Even though I’ve never been down this road before, I do know the surrounding area fairly well, so the fact that I left my GPS back in my broken backpack wasn’t a big deal. I wouldn’t be going off the road on this hike anyways, and if worse came to worse, I could always follow my tracks in the snow.

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I come to another one of those gates, that separates the Lacnor mine site from the Nordic Mine site. Doesn’t really make any sense to me. What purpose does it serve? No unauthorized vehicles can get past the main gate anyway.

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This is a dam at the south end of Westner Lake. On the other side of the dam, is a settling pond, which is often the case with these tailings management lakes. There is a small pump house on the Westner Lake side of the dam.

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The settling pond side of the dam.

It’s funny, with video, I can get some fairly decent shots into the sun, but pictures are more difficult. You can see the small pump house on Westner Lake in that video. There were no other tracks, other than animal tracks here, and no sign that anyone had been here recently. However, I was about to see something that I had never seen before.

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Here, in this panorama of the settling pond, at the south end of Westner Lake, you can see that the long shadows are getting even longer, indicating that it was time for me to start making my way back, through the bush, to the starting point.

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I took a few more shots, and started the trek back, into the sun. I didn’t take all that many shots on the way back, partly because of the sun, but also because the sun was setting fast, and I had a long way to go.

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Here, retracing my tracks along the top of the dam, you can see that there are no other signs of anyone being here since the snow fell.

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These are grouse tracks, so they don’t count.

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I made my way back, along the hilly north side of Westner Lake. Then I headed straight north, and up a long hill, away from Westner Lake, and back towards Dumbell Lake. It was around this point that I was stopped in my tracks by something that surprised the hell out of me.

Out of the quiet bush, along a road that had clearly never been used recently comes a pickup truck. I squinted my eyes, and moved my head around, trying to determine if I was sure what I was seeing. Sure enough, it was a Denison Mines employee in his pickup truck. I was shocked. After all, it was Saturday and, in my experience, I had never seen these workers on the weekends.

Besides that, even though the snow wasn’t all that deep, there were some serious hills, and rugged roads to negotiate along this way and, from what I could tell, this truck was just a regular road vehicle. He smiled, and waved, as he passed me, and continued along the road. So, now I know, these guys do come into the mine sites on the weekends. Not that it makes any difference to me, they’ve always been friendly when I’ve met them while I’m out hiking.

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Here you can see the tracks of the pickup truck that had just passed me. It came out of nowhere, silently, and even when it was right beside me, I could hardly hear it running. This also made it more of a surprise. If a snowmobile, or ATV is approaching, I can always hear it before I see it. This wasn’t the case with this truck.

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Anyway, I continued on my way back out, as the sun was now just dipping below the treetops. Even though I had started this hike a bit on the late side, I did cover a fair bit of ground, or should I say snow, on this hike. As I’m writing this post, on Sunday, a day that was supposed to be sunny, it’s cloudy, so another hike today is not likely. I’ll be back out on the next nice day though, to do some more exploring and enjoying the great Northern Ontario wilderness.

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