Harold Quarry

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I have been to Harold Quarry three times.

The first time was many years ago. Rural Ontario can be ridiculously hot in the height of summer – the year we went was before C had built her pond at the Schoolhouse, and so what we used to do in those days was sleep-in (hot), have breakfast outside (hot), and then hang about getting hotter. Cruise around the garden, play frisbee, read books on Muskoka chairs, play croquet and drink Pimm's. When it got to be too much – the heat – we'd all pile in the car and find a local swimming hole.

I remember Harold Quarry as having a HUGE rock cliff wall that people were jumping off. Daredevils, I thought. I would never. I remember the water being packed with people -- families, teenagers, hooters and hollerers. I remember the water being that clear quarry blue, and I remember thinking (having never swam in a quarry before) that it was deep and exciting and colourful.

Earlier this summer, I went on a solo roadtrip that took me back to that area of Ontario, and I tried to re-find the Harold Quarry.

So I made a little "Destination Guide" here for you, in case you want to go. You could do a road trip. I've organized the whole thing and made you a map too. Here you go:

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Step 1: Get yourself to Campbellford, Ontario

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Step 2: Kick-off Picnic at "The Other Quarry"

When I got to Campbellford on my road trip, I couldn't remember the name of the quarry we'd gone to all those years ago, so I started googling "swimming quarries" in the area. This led me to the Seymour Conservation Area, which has a parking lot, and a hiking trail, and a path to its swimming quarry. WHICH IS AWESOME. When I saw it, I knew it wasn't the one I was looking for because it didn't have the ENORMOUS cliff wall that I remembered, but boy oh boy is this place gorgeous.

A mirror for the perfect puffy-cloud-skies that Campbellford country is famous for, and grassy lawns all round that are perfect for your picnic blanket and your best Manet impression.

Here's a picture. Nice, right? Highly recommend.

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Step 3: Back in the Car

Here's where I have done some important research work for you, because amazingly, the Harold Quarry does not come up so willingly on Google searches. And the guy in the pickup truck in the parking lot at Seymour who had lived there all his life had no idea there even WAS another quarry in the area.

So here's what you do: drive through Campbellford up the hill to the big church and hang a right where the sign says "TO STIRLING." Follow that road (#8 on a map) all the way till it dumps you off at a stop sign in Stirling. The drive is super pretty. You can get a soft-serve cone at the Empire Cheese Factory on the way, but only if you arrive before 5pm SHARP. You cannot get ice cream after that. It's a surprising fact for city folk, and a real drag I know, but you must accept the ways of Small Town Ontario.

At the stop sign, turn left and head into Stirling. You'll pass the Black Dog Family Restaurant. I didn't go there. You'll drive through the cute and tiny town, where they have Jimmy's Special Pizza. I didn't go there either, but it sounds pretty good. At the corner where the Mac's Milk is, you want to turn left and STAY left on the road to Marmora, not Madoc. They are wildly different places. As a bonus, Marmora is awesome when you say it really fast and I recommend this as a fun car activity at this corner.

So now you're on the Stirling-Marmora Road, which is #14 on a map, and you'll drive by a charming old red barn that says "Apple Place ahead", followed by the not-so-charming actual Apple Place shortly after. On your right, you will pass a big barn and a farmhouse store called "BUFF STUFF". They sell buffalo mozzarella and other buffalo... stuff. I didn't go there either, despite my caprese salad hobby, but maybe you should just stop in and tell me how it is.

Now you have to pay attention, because you're going to get to a road sign that says "HAROLD" and about 500m later in the opposite direction, the other "HAROLD" sign will appear. Harold is very small. Soon after that, on the left side of the road, is the entrance to the parking lot for the Harold Quarry. There's no sign except for the "Abandoned Quarry" sign which isn't highly visible, so you'll probably drive right by it, I did both times. But circle back, and now you're here.

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Welcome to Harold Quarry

The first thing I noted upon my arrival is that the rock cliff wall is not actually enormous like it was in my memory, but I will still admire you if you jump off it. Because I would never.

Here's a picture of it with my little Babycar. This was the final swimming hole Babycar ever got to visit on her Roadshow, as she had a little episode shortly after and then went to Smart Car Heaven, RIP.

But I digress. There was no one there on that visit to Harold Quarry, and I was cold so I didn't go in.

So I went again on a third trip, and this time, I discovered a Study in Contrasts, for the quarry was inhabited by a nice Mennonite family quietly fishing on one side with their horse-drawn carriage nearby, and by a bunch of crummy kids (Scooby-Doo reference) jumping off the cliff on the other. (*and a condom package under my car tire in the parking area. Ahem.)

You can walk through the farmer's field at the top and see the quarry from different vantage points. There's no shade to speak of, but there are a couple of nice rock shelves here and there that you can sit and dangle your feet off of. But that's about it. You could probably drink a beer and eat some potato chips out of the bag and be pretty happy.

And then you'll get back in your car and that's it. Hooray for Harold Quarry.

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Bonus Material: Roadtrip Music

Oh -- I forgot that I have some awesome musical recommendations for your roadtrip:

1. Andrew Bird's "Echolocations" album from last year was recorded outdoors in a desert canyon and the music weaves in and out of the wind and the water and the birdsong in the canyon. It's mesmerizing and if you feel like a slightly introspective drive through gorgeous countryside, it's a great choice.

2. Really long fun songs are always great car songs. My faves are the Hot 8 Brass Band's version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" -- which just might be The Most Fun Version in the History of the World of that song. I first heard it on that movie "Chef" where they were also on a roadtrip. The movie was ok. Another fun movie-version song that goes nicely right after that one is "Try a Little Tenderness" from The Commitments. And then one of my favourite super-long songs is that old Bruce Springsteen song "New York City Serenade".

Anyway, that's it. Let me know if you make the trek. Bring me back some buff stuff.

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