When life gives you lemons and then takes them away, just take ’em back in a different way! Waking up Sunday morning in Owen Sound to a cancelled Flowerpot Island cruise due to stormy weather gave us the opportunity for a new adventure (and another item crossed off my Explore Ontario Summer Bucket List) as we set off for the Blue Mountains and to Scenic Caves Nature Adventures!
We signed up for their Eco Adventure Tour: a three hour tour that consists of exploring all around the park while taking in the sights of the Niagara Escarpment and Georgian Bay from a variety of angles. While three hours may seem like a long time, it honestly flies right by. Robin and I decided on the last trip of the day at 4:15pm. I highly suggest this time slot as it gives you time before your tour to do some wandering in the park as well as a bit of time after to catch anything you may have missed or want to revisit. You’ll also get a hint of sunset in the sky and a much quieter experience of the park!
With about an hour before our tour, Robin and I decided to do a whirlwind trek through the caves. While the Eco Adventure Tour covers most of the points of interest, there’s one that should not be missed – Fat Man’s Misery. Why the quirky name? I think the left photo sums it up nicely:
What may look like a tight squeeze there actually gets even smaller – to 12″ to be exact as seen in the photo on the right! Be sure to suck it all in as you squeeze between huge rock formations and don’t worry, there’s tips to help make sure you don’t get stuck. You’ll come out to a beautiful valley which you’ll visit on the tour (and I’ll revisit later in this post).
Racing back to the start we made it just in time to get suited up for our treetop adventures! We were lucky to have our fantastic guides Heidi and Madison that showed us the ropes (literally) as we ran through the important safety information before making our way towards the suspension bridge.
Now, if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen my post about a “million dollar view” (if you haven’t, then you should really change that!). The suspension bridge in Scenic Caves cost one million dollars to build and so the owner Rob Thornburn jokes that it’s his million dollar view. I’d say it’s a pretty sweet one! From the bridge you can admire the Georgian Bay Coastline from historic grain elevator in Collingwood’s Millenium Park to Nottawasaga Island where you’ll see a lighthouse. Probably the unluckiest lighthouse I’ve ever heard of as it has been struck by lightening a number of times!
The suspension bridge was quite the feat to build as they faced three major obstacles, with the first being the Niagara Escarpment itself. It took from the mid 1990s until 2002 to get all of the permits needed in order to proceed with construction. Next it was building without disturbing the trees as this is the last place you’ll find red oak trees in their natural habitat as they were heavily logged – hence the decision to build a suspension bridge. Last was the timeline – Rob Thornburn was faced with the decision to either hold off on building and miss the summer tourism season or build through the winter to open in time for it. They went with the latter and were able to pull it off on time and on budget!
After enjoying the view you’ll hop on a tractor for a little ride to the start of the Treetop Trek! Here your guides will show you how to attach and detach yourself from the cords that line the paths between the trees, and then you’re on your way! If you’re a photo taker or just like to take your time (possibly because you have vertigo like me) then go towards the end so you can fully enjoy the sights and experience! Also no looking at your feet – they’ll look the same as when you started, promise! Try not to be stiff like me and have some fun with the 15 tree trek as you enjoy the area from a low-flying bird’s point of view.
Upon finishing the treetop trek you’ll hit an exciting finish – your first zipline! While this one’s only 300 ft, it’s a fun little ride to get the adrenaline pumping if it wasn’t already. After a small break and another short tractor ride you’ll come upon the start of the Thunderbird – Canada’s longest twin zipline. Unfortunately for us it was already closed so we couldn’t catch a ride, but you can purchase your tickets for a future visit for $10 instead of the normal $40 rate. We of course indulged in this and can’t wait to visit again so we can enjoy the ride of our lives!
Keeping our feet on the ground, we enjoyed a guided tour through many of the beautiful caves and caverns. Our first stop was at the council chamber where the Petun (pronounced pah-toon) tribe chiefs held their council meetings as the unsupported rock formation made for a natural security measure. Here you will also be able to see the spiritual rock Ekarenniondi (pronounced ehk-ah-ren-ee-on-d-eye) which the Petun people believed was one of the gateways to the afterlife. Here a gatekeeper would smash the skull of someone passing into the afterlife so that they would never take any regret or sorrow with them into their next life.
Afterwards you’ll head down the Escarpment past Fat Man’s Misery and into the Preacher’s Pulpit. This area only receives on hour of sunlight per day and is considerably cooler than many of the other areas. Depending on the year, snow can sometimes last here up until early July! While walking through you’ll go through the Petun Arch which was often sealed off to trap enemies, and then you’ll see the Indian Chief – a natural rock formation that resembles the head of a Native Chief. This paired with Ekarenniondi was one of the reasons why the Petun people felt so comfortable settling here.
Once the history lesson is all done you’ll hit the finale – the 1000ft zipline! We had a beautiful clear day which meant an extra special view as we soared through the air towards Georgian Bay. Have fun with this and do a trick or two – like start off with the “Nestea Plunge” and then enjoy the view upside down! Then enjoy the ride as your tour comes to an end.
Before calling it a day, I suggest revisiting the suspension bridge again as the area is super quiet and you can truly enjoy the million dollar view with some peace and quiet (and a lot less bridge movement). If there’s anything else you want to see that you missed, you can take advantage of the last hour before they close the park – just be sure to move your car from the tour parking lot to the main one as they close it once the last tour finishes.
Ready to get your adrenaline pumping? Head to Scenic Caves Nature Adventures – you won’t be sorry! Thanks for a great time Heidi and Madison!