Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pancakes and a Walk in the Woods


Karen got back from her tour of the Fiji Islands (!) last week and wanted to pop over to the Fulton’s Sugar Bush for a pancake breakfast and a walk in the woods. I was delighted to have such a nice treat so off we went yesterday morning.

Fulton’s is a family business nestled in between two really pretty towns – Almonte and Packenham in Lanark County, west of Ottawa. It’s a short drive (maybe 40 minutes for we who live in the south end) but it is well worth the crisp air and trails through the bush. And if you like Maple Syrup … well ….

I am trying out my very first case again because, unlike the dSLR days, I can carry rather a lot of equipment for day trips. I packed in the GH2 with 100-300 lens, the G5 with 14-140, and the GX1 with 7.5mm fisheye. A trifecta of fun …

The food is cafeteria style, served on paper plates for easy cleanup, but that takes nothing away from the incredible flavours of Raspberry Maple sauces and syrups that go so well on everything. This is opening weekend, so lunch is a twofer, which makes it an incredible deal. While we ate, we were entertained by a young student with his violin.

Panasonic GH2 + 100-300 @150mm (300mm EFL)  400iso  f/4.5  1/15

He is pretty good, considering his age. He went for hours, since we popped out for about an hour for a walk and he was still playing when we got back. Stamina and a good repertoire … the ingredients of a budding professional.

Panasonic GH2 + 100-300 @300mm (600mm EFL)  1600iso  f/5.6  1/60

After lunch, we hung around for a short while, digesting the food, and then it was off to the woods.

As we entered the trailhead, I looked back at the main building, which was shining in the bright sunshine of midday. At this time of year, the sun is really low at its peak, we the sides of wood buildings tend to glow all day long.

Panasonic G5 + 14-140 @58mm (116mm EFL)  160iso  f/13  1/250s

Note the brain fart … I had it set to S prio mode instead of A prio. so I got f/13 instead of mostly wide open as I would normally shoot this lens. Stopped down to f/7.1 at most.

I remember setting up all three cameras before leaving the house, so I must have accidentally nudged the dial as I took it out of the case. I discover it later on, but I shoot a lot of images in this state first …

There are a lot of instructional signs along the way, for the obvious reason that they expect a lot of kids and it is nice to explain what you are encountering.

Most exposures are variations of the previous one, so I won’t take the time to show them. If you want to see the whole series, pop over to my gallery and every image is easily viewed at my max image size (1000px) with the names containing relevant exposure info. You can use any browser based EXIF viewer to delve deeper into the information.

The rest will be highlights from all three cameras, annotated with text where interested. To see the whole series, pop into my gallery.

That’s the GX1 and the Samyang fisheye lens. Awesome combination. I found the LCD perfectly bright in this sunshiny light, so the lack of a viewfinder was no issue at all.

What you see there is a set of hoses that run through the woods to every Sugar Maple, sucking the sap back to the boiling kettles, apparently automagically :-) … I was really impressed by the scope of the setup here.

Some of the trees are named, likely because they have been around for a very long time. This is the Grandma Maple, an enormous tree that I could barely get into the frame by crouching down low and angling the camera so that the 180 degree view corner to corner could take it all in. This is one tall tree!

There appears to be a lot of wildlife here … I think this is from deer, but I’m not certain.

There is a marked grave for Bernard Shiels, who bought this huge parcel of land after graduating from Dublin University and emigrating in 1930.

There are information plaques around the place that tell you that he cleared only a small part of the land in his lifetime. This lovely meadow in an example …

I will return there in the summer to see what the trails and meadow look look like then.

As we walked along, there were quite a few lovely scenes with trees that seemed out of place and of course with the shadows dancing from the low sun …

About 4/5 of the way around the trail, we encountered this wicked looking four-posted tree … a bit like a trident in shape, so perhaps Poseidon got confused at some point and sent this mutant down to Earth.

And after that we encounter what appears to be the main line back to the boilers. It is insulated, which makes sense, since the sap coming out of the tree would still be at whatever temperature is needed to keep it flowing, but without insulation it would probably get too thick to flow hundreds of yards in an exposed hose. Our weather has been bitter at times this year. By this point, the hoses are pretty low, so I suspect there is an element of gravity involved in transporting the sap as well.

They have a sleigh that it towed through the bush by a pair of nice looking horses. We are walking a parallel trail back to the buildings, so I think maybe there is a second set of trails for the horses.

The last artifacts we encounter are the washroom and the lean to. Karen remembers her kids playing in the lean to more than a decade ago. I never brought my kids here back then. We walked the Beaver Trail a lot but I didn’t drive them around Lanark County much. I think I regret that a bit now.

When we arrive back at the buildings, we pop  into the little shop where they sell all the goodies. We didn’t buy anything, but the selection is really impressive.

On our way to the car, we see the Taffy shop, where some poor soul has to freeze to provide the sugar maple taffy that tastes so amazing for the kids …

I remember the sugar bush in Gracefield, PQ where they would pour hot syrup over snow while you watched and you would then take the warm taffy and munch on what was effectively pure sugar. Awesome :-)

So … a lovely afternoon … if you live anywhere in snow country, you ought to find a local sugar cabin and try their brunch out. If you are lucky, they will be more of a full meal place like the Cabin de Sucre in Gracefield, where they serve a massive brunch of pancakes, eggs fried in syrup, back bacon fried in syrup, toast, beans (Fulton’s has these as an option too) and so on … the brunch is simply stunning at places like that.

And don’t forget to view the whole series in my gallery: