Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scenic Caves - Collingwood

I love caves.  I was born to live in a dark, dank cave on a wind swept cliff somewhere far away and all alone.   I am either part mole or part ogre I am sure of it.  So, I was very excited to visit the Scenic Caves in Collingwood which is about an hour and a half north of Toronto.

They didn't disappoint, at least not me.  Someone who is not quite so enamored of caves might not be so enthusiastic.  There are over a dozen separate caves throughout the site which you can walk around at your own pace since it is what the website calls "self-guided", meaning you are on your own. 

This cave is called Fat Man's Misery and is not for those
of us with childbearing hips.
The hike up the hill to the caves is by far the hardest part of the hike so if you are halfway up the hill and thinking, "are you kidding me with this sh*t?", take heart, the worst is almost over!  Once you get up the hill, it is an easy stroll through the woods to each cave which is well marked.  There are also several lookouts along the way that give a nice view of the area.

The caves come in all shapes and sizes, from the very small (see Fat Man' Misery above) to the more cavernous which allow for more scrambling and scampering.

My daughter asked if she could point for this picture.  Me: "Point at what?"
Her: "Just point" Me:"Uh, sure, honey go ahead and point."  So, here she is pointing.
We went in May and there was still some snow in some of the shady caves which was kind of neat to see, especially since it was a beautiful hot sunny day when not in the caves. 

Once you are done with the caves, there is a short hiking trail that you can follow that is lovely.  The caves are part of the Niagara Escarpment which is an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. You basically either walk the little hiking trail or turn around head back to the entrance.  The distance is about the same, so may as well see some new stuff on your way.

The view along the trail.
Once you are done with the caves there is a suspension bridge that you can go take a look at.  According to their website, on a clear day you can see 10,000 square kilometre.  I am sceptical since that equals about eleventy billion football fields, but the view is nice I will give them that. 

The grumpy troll who guards the bridge.
Personally, I don't see the fascination with a bridge that doesn't really go anywhere but maybe one of you feels about suspension bridges the way I do about caves.  The view was nice and it is included in the price of admission so it is worth a wander over.  The walk there though will take you about half an hour or you can even take a little wagon ride down which is fun for the kids. 

Right next to the bridge (and far away from everything else) is the popsicle stand.  The people running this place aren't dumb, that is for sure.  If it is as hot as it was when we went you are going to need one to sustain you while waiting for the wagon back.  It was 10,000 degrees the day we were there so I was fully prepared to hand over all our money and the keys to the van in exchange for some popsicles but much to my delight, the popsicles were totally reasonably priced.  $1.25 for the big fancy cyclone ones.  You pay that much when you buy them by the box at the grocery store.  So, that was the highlight of my day.

Popsicles are acceptable troll currency.
Once you are done with the wagon ride there is also a really good playground for the kids.  Not a lot of shade though, so make sure they have hats.  There is also a little train that the kids can ride around in for a while.

If you pay extra there are all kinds of other things you can do like the gemstone mining.  Ok, ok, "mining", also "gemstone", but still fun for kids.  They hand you a bag of sand and rocks and the little sieve doodad and you go to the water, uh, trough?  Clearly I need to brush up on the mining lingo.  Anyway, the kids go there and sift for their minerals.  They get about 10 or 12 including an arrowhead.  They get a card to identify them.  My kids love rocks so this was a big hit.

This would be the aforementioned sieve doodad and trough like structure.
There are other activities such as a zipline and guided eco-tours but my kids weren't big enough for them so I can't comment on how good they are. 

Now for some things to keep in mind.  You must wear closed toe shoes like proper running shoes or hiking boots.  They won't let you in if you don't have them and you don't want to drive all the way there and have to turn back for lack of proper shoes!  Plus, they aren't just being old fuddy-duddies, you really do need proper shoes to handle the caves which are bumpy and slippery.  You should also wear long pants, even if it is hot.  Bring shorts if you think you will be too hot at the playground or the bridge, but pants are really key in the caves. 

The place isn't cheap.  For a family of four for the caves and gemstone mining you are looking at around $100.  If you add in the extra things like mini golf, the zipline and eco adventure stuff you can easily spend over $100 a person!  The only coupons I have ever found are these piddly $2 off coupons.  So, it is not for everyone, but if you happen to be in the area and love caves (or suspension bridges I guess) it is worth the money.

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