After we enjoyed our lunch looking out over the bay, we rejoined the trail, which climbs up the cliff edging the bay. After following the bay shoreline for a short distance, the trail curves inland and circumvents a beaver pond.
We soon realized that we had been lulled into a false expectation by the first 4 kilometres of the trail, which are pretty easy hiking. After leaving the 4 KM marker behind however, the trail becomes much more challenging, with a lot of climbing and descending over rocky and rooted surfaces. We followed directions in a trail guide when setting out on the west arm of the loop first and this was terrible advice. It would be much better to do the difficult section first, while you’re fresh, and enjoy an easy walk back to the trailhead.
We were looking forward to the reward of a nice view from the lookout, but it was disappointing. Perhaps when the leaves drop from the trees the view is better, but we only got a distant glimpse of Charleston Lake.
Here’s RailGuy at the top of a rocky pass.
And climbing up through another rocky pass.
The vegetation included assorted ferns and woodland plants, and some interesting green clumps with long, narrow leaves. They were very attractive and I wondered what they are. Seabrooke posted an inquiry for me and they were identified as Plantain-leaved Sedge (Carex plantaginea), not what I think of as sedge at all. They are a native woodland broad-leaved sedge that flowers in spring.
At the 7 KM marker, the floating bridge could be spotted through the trees. The bridge crosses the mouth of Slim Bay. It’s fun to walk across as it rocks as you walk, though it has rods attaching it to large rocks to stabilize it.
The water is fairly shallow. It looks to be about a metre deep and there is a dense growth of water plants along the length of the bridge. However, right in the centre of the plants there was a ring of open water, tinted a milky yellowish shade.
Little fish were swimming within the circle, probably a Shiner (Notropis spp.)species.
I was puzzled and intrigued by this phenomenon. It gave the impression of some secret underwater vault, a mermaid’s haunt maybe.
The Zebra Mussels, on the other hand, were no mystery. They coated the struts holding the bridge in place and could be seen in the shallow water covering the sandy bottom of the bay. Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are a very unfortunate introduction to the Great Lakes ecosystem, probably imported in the ballast water of ocean-going vessels traversing the St. Lawrence Seaway. Their negative impacts include the decimation of native mussel populations and they have been connected to botulism outbreaks that have killed many loons.
After leaving the bridge behind, we were soon climbing again. The trail follows the cliff edge of Slim Bay and offers some nice views of the water below.
Finally, we arrived at the 9 KM Marker. Here is RailGuy, looking fresh as a daisy. After this marker, you soon rejoin the path to the trailhead and the final kilometre is an easy walk back to the parking lot.