The House of Stone: Wild Caving in Eastern Ontario

Nestled off a dirt road on the edge of Canadian Shield in Eastern Ontario lies a true hidden gem.

Our exploration of this wild cave began on a cool Sunday morning in June. A quick stop at MacDonald’s to dull the hangover from the previous nights festivities and we were on the way. Passing granite cliffs, we made our way onto a back road in shield country that meets an old rail trail in a swamp. We began lugging our gear down the trail. Along the way we pass the odd turtle that had laid their eggs in holes next to the water. A few kilometres later we ended up at the man-altered entrance of the cave.

My research had led to two possible histories for the cave. One possible history was loggers followed the creek and found the natural entrance to the cave and decided to blasts their way through to drive logs to the lake. The other possible history is that the railroad blasted their way through to drain the swamp away from the railroad tracks and into the lake. What is known for sure, was that the blasting uncovered a much larger cavern within the cliff. They decided the best way to divert the water flow back towards the lake was to build a retaining wall in front of the natural cavern within the cliff. Decades (possibly a century) later the retaining wall collapsed exposing the entrance to the natural cave. This was our goal for the day.

Nick squeezing through the gap between the retaining wall and cave ceiling

After a quick squeeze through a two foot gap we were over the wall and into the natural cave. We were greeted by the sound of trickling water which revealed an underground pond. Our lights cut through the water revealing minnows swimming that must have become trapped in the cave from outside. We scrambled along the shoreline for a few dozen meters searching for the rumoured third entrance to the cave. It was quite evident that many animals had made the cave home throughout the year including some rather large cave spiders.

We decided the best course of action to find the exit was to turn our lights off and see if any light source appeared in the distance. In the pitch black, there was a wavy reflection of light on the surface of the water. We had found our exit. After a short scramble up some old rubble we had returned to the surface. We had exited on top of the cliff and decided the path of least resistance would be to make our way down brush covered hill back to the trail.

I call this the blue collar caving look. Standing in the cliff top entrance.

We had officially explored our first wild cave. After exploring the depths, I understood why the government and conservation authorities go to such lengths to hide the location of such wild places. Many caves possess a fragile beauty that must be protected at all costs. All too often we don’t consider the wildlife that call these places home. Irresponsible people leave their trash behind or deface the caves ruining them for everybody to appreciate. Caves are truly natures treasure hunt. They’re hard to find but when you do find them they’re worth protecting at all costs.

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