I have always been intrigued by geology, but I have learned that Poldi is an even larger sucker for it. In her research, she encountered a description of Ouimet Canyon, an unusual geologic feature, not fully understood, that shows exposed columns of basalt, and protects a sub-arctic ecosystem at its floor. And it was right here near Black Bay!
Except that the route to the park was closed for bridge repair, so we took the designated detour, a lengthy route through a network of gravel roads. Normally, motorcycles avoid such roads; the loose gravel is like riding on ball bearings, the usual counter-steering methods of leaning into turns becomes a hazardous guess of how much friction remains.
A slower speed helps, and it also helped that it had rained the night before, causing the dirt and gravel to cling together. But then there were some sections where it had rained a little too much—the dirt became slippery mud. After forty minutes of white-knuckle maneuvering, we arrived at the park, where pavement welcomed us, and we welcomed the pavement.
It could have been a bust, we have been enticed into disappointments before, but instead, it was a great reward. We were all by ourselves, perhaps because no one else was willing to take that detour. There was a trail to two “pods”, observation decks that had been specially constructed to jut out from the canyon wall to provide a wide view of the basalt columns and to peer down to the canyon floor. Which we did. For two old geology nuts, it was spectacular.
But now we had to get back. We did not look forward to reversing the muddy gravel detour, so decided to see if maybe there was a way for “local traffic” to cross the bridge being repaired. We drove past the road-closed barriers and discovered that indeed, the bridge was out.
There was no bridge, but there was an army of construction vehicles busy moving dirt around. Poldi dismounted and approached one of the bobcat operators who stopped his engine to hear her appeal that we be allowed to traverse the construction zone and avoid the risks of the back roads. While she did this, I watched the other dirt-movers tip and bob as their tractors negotiated the disrupted terrain. It was only a few hundred yards to the pavement on the other side, but the intervening region was not one I could manage. As it turned out, the operator told Poldi that it was against the safety rules.
I could see her shaking her head as she walked back, but by the time she reached me, the worker had driven his bobcat to our edge of the pavement. He had checked with the boss, who decided that he would be willing to let us try it. Evidently they all knew the nature of the detour.
I was unwilling. I knew that it was possible to survive the detour, I had actually done it, but it was not clear to me that I could successfully guide my heavy touring bike through the trenches of this construction zone. We thanked the man for going out his way to help us, but he was not done yet. He told us about the “detour to the detour”, which would bring us back to main road several miles earlier. We followed his directions, and after returning to solid pavement, congratulated ourselves at being able to experience Ouimet Canyon on this beautiful morning.