» blizzards & icicles
Even in the age of the Internet, it's hard to find information on Tobermory in the winter. So, Megan and I didn't know exactly what kind of conditions to expect when we arrived. I had read reports of 4 feet of snow in previous years so I was optimistic that we would be able to snowshoe on the Bruce Trail which follows the lakeshore cliffs. The park service also said that the roads to Little Cove and the Head Of Trails near Cyprus Lake would be plowed. This was only partially true, Cyprus Lake Road is plowed to the fee station and there was another side road to a Cyprus Lake access point that was plowed (If you hike from here, it is about a mile to the Head of Trails). Little Cove road is also not plowed all the way to the summer parking lot (plowing stops about a mile shy of the beach).
Anyway, there was only about 6 inches of snow on the ground when we arrived but it was snowing and it kept snowing all weekend (although it still never accumulated much due to high winds). There are only a couple of hotels that stay open in the winter and we choose to stay at the Princess Hotel because they have wi-fi. We ended up being their only guests for the weekend and, as far as we could tell, the Princess Hotel was also the only restaurant open in Tobermory.
Just prior to leaving Michigan we started hearing reports of an "arctic blast" that would be hitting the state on Sunday. The weather forecasts for Tobermory were still mild though, around 32F with light snow. Maybe we should have put two and two together and realized that a blast of cold air would cause some extreme weather in Tobermory since it is almost completely surrounded by the mighty, and mostly unfrozen, Lake Huron. Saturday ended up being just like the forecasts predicted and when we woke up Sunday the skies looked pleasantly clear at sunrise.
After I got out of the shower though, all hell had broken loose. The wind howled and the snow fell horizontally, cutting visibility to a couple hundred feet. The only road out of town was closed and the Bruce Peninsula was living up to it's reputation as the land of the snow squall.
We spent most of Sunday in the hotel room, watching the ice shift around in the harbor and calling to see if the road had been opened but the wind and snow never seemed to let up. After we realized that there was no way we were making it home that day, I went for a little hike along the harbor. I am not sure of the exact weather conditions, but when I checked the weather network in the afternoon it said the temp was in the single digits (around 7F I think) and the winds were gusting to 40 mph (based on weather observations well south of us). Ceiling panels were being blown off the hotel exterior. Conventional wisdom would tell you that this would not be a fun time to be outside, but I loved it. When dressed properly, you can be perfectly comfortable, with the exception of your face which is hard to cover. There were some decent waves and slushy water in the harbor but I would have loved to have seen how big the waves were out on Lake Huron (I just didn't know of an easy way to get there). The cold was very evident whenever I took my mitten off to take a photo and my hand immediately started freezing up.
Monday morning was a mostly sunny day and we were sure that the road out of town would be opened up but there was still a sign saying the road was closed when we reached it. I suggested that we go for a little hike at the nearby Little Cove and hope that the road would be officially opened in the mean time. The last part of the road to Little Cove is real narrow and apparently not maintained as well as the rest. It started out with a few inches of snow on the road, and then there seemed to be some drifts at the road edges which got me worried, and then, before I could rationally think of what action to take, the drifts deepened (to about a foot deep) and the car came to a sudden stop. We were stuck. In hindsight, if I ever had to drive down a road with an unknown snow depth I would go real slow because then if you get stuck you will probably be able to dig yourself out. In this case though, I had a tendency to not want to slow down because I was thinking that increased my chances of getting stuck and due to the narrowness of the road, there was no way to turn around and go back. The only way out would be to back out the whole way. Since we hit the drift with some speed, though, snow was packed all under the car and around the wheels so even after spending an hour digging it out, it still wouldn't budge. Luckily we weren't really far from town so Megan called a tow truck which arrived in a few minutes. He pulled the car back about ten feet and then I backed it out the remaining half mile or so, which was about all my neck could handle.
» the bruce trail
When we awoke Saturday morning it was snowing pretty hard so I was in no hurry to get on the trail, knowing that our views would be partially obscured. We eventually hit the trail around 11am and had to start at a trailhead that was one mile further away than expected due to unplowed roads.
There were many ice fishermen on Cyprus Lake but we did not see anyone else on the trails. In about 40 minutes we made it to Indian Head Cove and hung out there for awhile, checking out all the various ice formations. Snowshoes weren't needed but the crampons were useful since everything near the lake was covered in ice.
We then headed on to Overhanging Point, a spot we failed to find last summer (there are a lot of overhanging rocks before you get to the real one). Nothing too exciting happened during our hike, besides the sheer volume of icicles we saw. The cliffs are much harder to explore in the winter than in summer due to all the ice covered areas.
If you come here in winter, don't go near the edge of any cliffs until you verify that the edge is not ice covered.
We hiked about 6.4 miles total.
Indian Head Cove.
The view from Halfway Rock Point. Megan can barely be seen at the top of the cliff building a snowman.
Indian Head Cove.
Me hiking below Overhanging Point (Photo by Megan).
A hole in the ice of Cyprus Lake.
Me on Overhanging Point (Photo by Megan).
The view from Overhanging Point.
Icicles to spare.
This area was totally iced over from wave spray, even under the snow it was all ice.
Jealousy rears it's ugly head as Megan attempts to push my snowman off the edge.
Megan in the forest.
Beach. In about 5 months this area will be covered with sunbathers.
Megan waiting. The foregound is ice covered pine trees.
The west side of Indian Head Cove.
On the cliffs.
Indian Head Cove.
Me checking out the ice (Photo by Megan).
Megan at Indian Head Cove.
Cyprus Lake outlet falls.
Left: Me in the forest (Photo by Megan). Right: Daggers.
Me at Halfway Rock Point (Photo by Megan).
Near Marr Lake.
Bears Rump Island.
Rock hopping over the Marr Lake outlet with snowshoes on (Photo by Megan).
Icicles under ice.
Tobermory over Little Tub Harbor at dusk.
Chunks of ice floating in the waves.
Left: Pancake ice in the harbor. Right: The lighthouse, in a blizzard.
The harbor ice before and after the blizzard.
Left: Ice along the harbor shore. Right: The view from the lookout tower the morning after the storm.