The Excellent Adventure 13 Renting the Farm in Bruce County

Another Excellent Adventure has come and gone. Tom, Doug and I spent an awesome week in a renovated farmhouse very near Southampton, Ontario. Our accommodation selection this year was thanks to Tom, who researched cottages and other locations in Bruce County. And while we had a comfortable stay, we spent a lot of time out and about, touring the countryside. We visited many places that week, including:

  • Southampton
  • Port Elgin
  • Keady Market
  • Walter’s Falls
  • Coffin Ridge WInery/Meaford
  • Tobermory/Fathom Five Park
  • Lion’s Head Provincial Park
  • Croker Lighthouse
  • Wiarton
  • Saugeen River
  • Arran Lake

As you can see, we don't exactly sit on our backsides all week drinking beer. That said, there was definitely some binge-watching of Stranger Things, and a variety of non-beer, adult beverages were consumed.

This is the 13th year of the Excellent Adventure. We've been to many places over those years, camping, cottaging and the like, everywhere from Lake Superior Provincial Park, to Newfoundland, to California wine country and the Kawarthas in Ontario. Regardless of the location (which have all been fantastic experiences), it's the fellowship and camaraderie of the group that makes each trip so successful and leaves us yearning for the next adventure. We have such fun, laugh all week and share thoughts and ideas about pretty much anything that comes to mind.

On arriving at the the farmhouse for the third time ( I missed the driveway - twice. It was well hidden.) we immediately scoped out our digs for the week. Other than the house itself, the first thing I noticed was the old barn. It would become a focal point for several photos.

The farmhouse and surrounding grounds

We quickly realized this would be an excellent base of operations, relatively central to many locations we planned to visit, and had everything we needed: three bedrooms, open concept main floor, bbq, air conditioning, running water and a full kitchen - in a word, it was perfect.

Tom and I took a walk around the property that afternoon of the first day, and yes, we were deep in farm country. There were fields and farm equipment as far as the eye could see. In many ways, it reminded me of the Kawarthas, where my cottage (aka the Fortress of Moderate Solitude and host to last year's Excellent Adventure) is located.

Walking the farm

Day 2

Shop Local

Day 2 was a modest one in terms of travel. A trip into Port Elgin for some vitamin Meat from the local butcher, and then two short drives, one to the Arran Lake Conservation Area and the other to a nearby trestle bridge.

Arran Lake

The bridge had been decommissioned from vehicular traffic and was now part of a walking path, with great views of the winding Saugeen River. This spot is also a popular one for dropping canoes into the river, as there is a parking, and a fairly easy route down to the water's edge. Look closely and you will see a couple of the local denizens of the river...

Views of the Saugeen River from an old bridge-turned-walking-path

As day turned into night, Tom's promise of fabulous sunsets came true. Even captured with my iPhone (using the Lightroom Mobile app, of course), I managed to get a couple great captures...and also discovered what it feels like to brush up against a live - but hidden - cattle wire. Shocking, to say the least.

Southampton Sunset

Most nights were also game nights. I brought a collection of games such as Farkle, Keys to the Kingdom and Labyrinth. We have a great time watching Tom lose every. Single. Game. The man is nothing if not consistent.

Tom wanted to revisit night photography while were on the trip, so we prepped our gear and tried compositions from the farmhouse yard and also down the tractor path to the wheat field. Thanks to the gibbous moon, there were not a lot of visible stars at 11pm, but we managed to get some pretty cool night shots nonetheless, with the moon providing ample illumination. Indeed, I was even able to process some of these images so they appeared sun-lit, it was so bright outside. However, I opted here to show the scene more as I saw it. The final image in the grid does a good job of showing the brightest stars near the horizon. That final frame was a 30-second exposure at ISO 800, f/2.8

Night time at the farm

Day 3

Wiarton & Croker Lighthouse

I thought it only appropriate that Doug get his photo with the statue of Wiarton Willie, our Canadian rodent prognosticator of spring, and distant cousin to Punxsutawney Phil in the U.S. We walked along the waterfront and Tom started up a conversation with a gentleman who was restoring a 1939 Sloop in the Wiarton marina.

Wiarton beach and marina

Reason 10 why I don't shoot people and generally stick to landscapes. OK, a weak attempt at humour, I admit. But if you ever get coerced into shooting a family member's wedding, one shot of the bride, framed like this one on the left, will guarantee you won't be asked a second time. You can thank me later.

Yes I can take an OK picture of people when I have to.

Then it was off to the Croker Lighthouse, where all three of us got to see a real crime scene. It seems at some point in the past few months, the fencing around the unmanned lighthouse was rammed and broken. I also saw some empty shotgun cartridges on the ground. Really, OPP - pick up your litter. tsk, tsk...

The "beach" was literally a deep, loose piling of flat rocks in various shapes and sizes. Finding a comfortable spot to sit and think (or take a photograph) was not easy. Thankfully, I had my trusty Platypod Pro Max tripod base for some ground-level shots.

Croker Lighthouse

In what I think was a fitting end for the day, we stopped in Southampton at the Outlaw Brewing Company for a refreshing beverage - or two.

Day 4

Keady Market, Walter's Falls and Coffin Ridge Winery

Keady Market was an interesting mix of farmers market, flea market, antique market, food court and cattle auction. I did not make many photos at the market; it was pretty crowded and besides - I'm more of a trees and rocks guy...

Keady Market
Walter's Falls

Speaking of trees and rocks, I was in for a treat when we visited Walter's Falls, where there is not only a running waterfall, but also a connection point to the Bruce Trail. Although this waterfall is on private property, there is a viewing platform where Walter's Creek plunges 14 metres straight down! Named for the pioneer John Walter and his family, the settlement grew around its waterpower, which continues to provide energy for a gristmill. The location is now home to the beautiful The Falls Inn and Spa, a popular wedding venue.

Needless to say, I was not going to settle for overhead shots from the observation platform. So, the three of us made the somewhat treacherous trek down the hillside so we could get photos better showing the falls in all their glory. My variable neutral density filter came in very handy that day, but even with that accessory, the light was so contrasty that I was forced to expose multiple frames and build an HDR image afterwards, in Lightroom Classic.

Walter's Falls

If there is a winery in the area, we will find it. And such was the case with Coffin Ridge Winery, located on the northern edge of the Niagara Escarpment, in Grey County. Makers of some fine VQA wines and tasty ciders, we enjoyed sampling several before heading back to the farm.

Coffin Ridge Winery

Day 5

Tobermory and Fathom Five National Marine Park

I could not do a better job of summing up Fathom Five park:

420 million year old dolomite rises through the waters of Lake Huron to form Fathom Five National Marine Park. This is a freshwater ecosystem of ancient rock formations, cliff-edge forests, fascinating dive sites on 22 shipwrecks, and orchid species both plentiful and rare. Fathom Five is equal parts mystery and recreation, ecology and culture—and a welcoming escape to nature. - From the Fathom Five web site

This was to be our first serious hike of the week. The downhill scrabble to the base of Walter's Falls was a good practice run, but not very long. This hike would be approximately a 6 km loop. We had good weather, a tree canopy and a relatively early start to make this as enjoyable as possible. And everyone could count on several breaks while I made photos along the route.

Due to flooding, our loop trail to the Georgian Bay lookout took a side trail (marked in yellow). It was a good hike, but none of us had walked this far over uneven terrain in quite some time. We were exhausted by the end.

Before heading out on the trail, we journeyed up the observation tower for fabulous views of Georgian Bay, from at least three stories up. We even saw a tall ship with sails unfurled, but it was pretty far in the distance.

Fathom 5 National Marine Park

By the time we returned, we were pretty beat. Everyone took time to crash before we started dinner. In the early evening, we were once again treated to a stunning sunset and I had the opportunity to see one of the local farmers wrapping hay. He was a busy camper and didn't stop until all the work was done, at nearly 11:30pm. Tom had been itching all week to cook something, so we set him loose on something he does very well - building a campfire.

A relaxing and colourful evening at the farm.

Day 6

Reflection and Recovery

After the previous day's hike and thanks to a mostly rainy day, we gave out bodies time to recover from the workout we put them through. My quadriceps did a good job of reminding me they still existed and did not appreciate one work out a year.

The weather did eventually clear up, and we headed into Southhampton to visit with Tom's dad who lives in a retirement home in town, and also to see Tom's daughter Lindsay and his grandson, Wells. Tom's dad regaled us with tails of of his work as a radio man in WWII, and some of Tom's misadventures as a young man. And Wells kept us all entertained with his energy and exuberance. He sure loves his "Poppa" and his "GG".

After our visit, we headed down to the shore of Lake Huron right in Southampton, and checked out some of the classic cars that come into town every Thursday evening.

Classic cars and sunsets in Southampton

Day 7

Lion's Head Park - Hike #2

On the recommendation of my younger brother, Mark, we headed out early on Friday morning to Lion's Head Provincial Park for our second major hike. The roughly 90-minute walk was a bumpy one on the Bruce Trail, but worth every step, when we reached the cliff edge, with panoramic and dramatic views of Georgian Bay. As near as we can figure, we did somewhere between 6 and 8 kms. We did not do the entire 15 km loop, AND we found a short cut for the return trip that brought us out to a side street within about 30 minutes.

On the trail, we also had the chance to check out a pretty amazing pothole formation - from the bottom, looking up! While we were resting up at the look out, we further lucked out and had a chance to photograph some rock climbers as they prepared and descended down the sheer cliff face. Yep, those photos are definitely going up to Adobe Stock!

I made ample use of my Platypod Pro Max tripod base on this hike. In fact, despite packing it, I did not set up my regular tripod once!

After the hike, we drove into Lion's Head proper and had a great lunch at the Lion's Head Inn. Homemade Shepherd's Pie sure hit the spot!

A fantastic hike along the Bruce Trail to the Lion's Head Lookout, capped off with another masterful fire at the farm.

Day 7 - Homeward Bound

Saturday morning came early (ish). We were up by 7am and the car was packed before 8:30. In that time we also made our traditional group photo. It was raining outside, so my original plan of shooting near the barn wasn't gong to pan out, but Doug suggested the cellar stairs and it was a great idea!

Goofs, gaffs and the final photo. Another Excellent Adventure comes to an end.

As we were just about to leave, I suddenly noticed the view through garage window. I loved the symbolism in this scene - it really summed up the spirit of the Country Home. This location is definitely worth a return visit.

What's Next?

Rumour has it the next Excellent Adventure will come earlier in the season - April or May - as we head to Doug's new vacation home in Palm Springs! I'm looking forward to checking out a few national parks, including Joshua Tree.

If you'd like to see where else we've been, check out this Spark Page project, with links to photos - and often stories - from all 13 Excellent Adventures.

Created By
Jim Babbage


All photography by Jim Babbage