Posts Tagged ‘Gananoque’


We haven’t done much hiking this summer. It seemed that it had just rained, was raining, or was about to rain all summer long. But last Friday was a perfect day, too nice to waste on mundane chores, and we headed out to the Marble Rock trail, north of Gananoque, Ontario. This region is part of the Frontenac Arch, an amazing section of the rugged Canadian Shield that dips down through southeastern Ontario and connects the far north bioregions with the Adirondack Mountains in New York state. The Arch marks an entirely different landscape from the surrounding plains. You can learn more about the Frontenac Arch here.


We completed the South Loop, with a side trip to the North Loop Lookout, a total of 4.7 miles (7.5 km). The east side of the South Loop is the most demanding terrain. If you aren’t climbing up a slope, you’re clambering down another, and the rocky ground can be treacherous. But the scenery is gorgeous.


The forest is primarily deciduous, with trees just beginning to take on the hues of autumn. You didn’t have to look up to know that oak trees were well represented in the diversity. The path was littered with acorns for much of its length, a bounty for wildlife.


Oak trees (Quercus spp) can be divided into two groups, red oaks and white oaks. The red oaks have leaves with pointy-tipped lobes, while the white oaks have rounded lobes. Both were represented in the forest.

Red Oak (Pointed tips)

White Oak (rounded tips)

Acorns weren’t the only nuts to be seen. The shagbark hickory trees (Carya ovata) were also offering up a good crop.

Hickory nuts

Check out the shaggy bark on this example.


Junipers are most often encountered as low-growing shrubs on rocky ground, but there was a sprinkling of pretty, upright juniper trees (Eastern juniper or Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana) decorated with their bluish seeds.


Juniper berries

Around open, damp areas, the white berries of dogwood shrubs stood out on their red twigs.


Dogwood berries (Cornus sp)

Still climbing…


I liked the way this millipede, about 2 inches long, blended so well with the colour of an old log.

Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmida sp)

And here’s a Hickory Tussock Moth (Lophocampa caryae) caterpillar hurrying through the leaves.

Hickory Tussock (Lophocampa caryae)

This tree has been attacked by Phomopsis galls. The galls appear as a cluster of nodules tightly pressed together. When cut open they consist of woody tissue that is a bit disorganized in comparison to the normal wood. Galls of affected trees may develop for several years then die.

Phomopsis galls of hickory

This attractive vine is Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens).

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)

The leaves of this clump of sharp-lobed hepatica (Hepatica nobilis acuta) are attractive even without the pretty flowers that will bloom next spring.


This colony of ground pine clubmoss (Lycopodium obscurum) looks like a stand of tiny, 6-inch tall pine trees. Clubmosses are ancient plants that were once 50-foot giants, but now carpet forest floors.

Ground Pine (Lycopodium dendroideum)

Rock Polypody (Polypodium virginianum) seems to grow right out of the rock. Their rhizomes and roots trap leaves and other debris to build up a thin layer of soil.

rock polypody (Polypodium virginianum)

It’s not just ferns that can seem to grow from rock. We came across this very large windfall along the trail.


We were amazed to see that much of the ground that lay under its trunk was rock.


We walked through a little grove of Musclewood, or Blue-Beech trees (Carpinus caroliniana). Their smooth bark has longitudinal ridges that really do seem reminiscent of muscles, making them easy to identify.

Musclewood or Blue-Beech (Carpinus caroliniana)

Finally, we reached the North Loop Lookout and settled down on the rocky ledge to enjoy the view as we ate our well-earned lunch.


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On Saturday, the weather was beautiful, bright and sunny, and RailGuy and I decided it was a good opportunity to try out the Rock Dunder trail. The trail is located near the little hamlet of Morton, north of Gananoque, in the Frontenac Arch region.


We chose to do the 3.9 km Summit Loop. The trail is well-marked and neatly maintained, but is moderately demanding because it follows the contours of the landscape up and down…and up…and down…and up…and down! You set off uphill right from the parking lot, above.


The trail leads through mature woodlands with maples, oaks and eastern pines. It was very peaceful. In spite of the fine weather, there weren’t many people out on the trail.


A sign at the trailhead warns hikers not to approach or feed any black bears they might encounter. We laughed. Who would be crazy enough to approach a black bear? But I guess there are people with no better sense out there. The biggest mammal that we encountered, outside of other people, was this cute chipmunk. We didn’t approach or feed him.


The trail passed through clearings that feature bare rock and reindeer lichen, giving the area a distinctly rugged, northern feel. The Frontenac Arch is an ancient granite ridge that runs through south-eastern Ontario and links the Canadian Shield to the north and the Adirondack Mountains to the south. The Arch region offers an entirely different landscape than the flatter farmlands in most of southern Ontario.


This tree had been well worked by both Pileated Woodpeckers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. The big Pileateds are responsible for the large excavations, while the sapsuckers drilled the rows of little holes.


This beaver meadow overlook has a conveniently located bench that we were happy to rest on for a few minutes. Then we followed the trail down to water level as it continues in a loop around the wetland and climbs back uphill on the other side.


Then the trail began to open up as we approached the Rock Dunder lookout. At first, we could see forest stretching away and then as we reached the edge of the lookout, we could see lakes set out below us. What a panoramic view!


We took turns photographing each other in front of the scenery and watched the numerous boats on the water below for a bit.


Then we rested our backs against a well-situated rock wall where we could admire the view and eat the lunch that RailGuy backpacked in for us.


After a pleasant intermission, we continued with our hike. The lookout is more or less half way around the loop, and the trail continues along the shore line, climbing down to water level and back up again. There was far more activity on the water than on the trail, with motorboats and canoes coming and going. We pause to watch a group of young people jumping into the water from the cliff face.



The trail returns to the brow of the cliff where another bench offers a spot to take in the view of the north end of the lake.



A lone loon was diving and resurfacing, avoiding the motor traffic on the lake. One of several cabins that can be used for resting or emergency shelter marks the spot where the trail turns back inland towards the parking lot. From this point, it is an easy walk back to the trailhead. This was a very rewarding hike, with a fabulous view making the ups and downs worthwhile. We plan to return in the autumn to see the fall colours. It should be spectacular.


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Yesterday’s post followed the Marble Rock trail out to about the halfway point. I had climbed onto a ridge and then down and then back up onto a second ridge and down to wetland level. Now the trail started to climb again. The woods had a bit more of a maple/ hickory/ beech mix and less oak at this point. The trail zigzagged back and forth over a little stream. Fortunately, the stepping stones were secure. It would have been cold getting a soaker!

At one point, I came upon this bridge. It didn’t look too promising and I stepped onto it rather gingerly, but it proved to be sturdy.

A male Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus) was searching the trees for a meal. Hairy and Downy woodpeckers are very similar in appearance and can primarily be told apart by their size, with the Hairy being the larger of the two species. A few Black-capped Chickadees flitted about the branches as well.

After a pleasant meander through the woods, the surroundings grew more open as the trail climbed to the top of the third ridge. By now, the sun was beginning to dip and I was glad to be well on the way back to the car.

As I reached the peak, another beautiful panorama lay before me.

Across the valley, an open cliff face provided a good look at the underlying strata of rock. The Frontenac Arch was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere in November of 2002. It covers some 2700 square kilometers in the south eastern portion of Ontario. This area has a unique blend of biodiversity because the moderating effect of the Great Lakes allows some plant and animal species to survive here that are typically found farther south, while at the same time some more-northerly species are drawn south by the rugged granite landscape of the Canadian Shield.

On the south edge of the clearing, the old foundation of an earlier building remained. I was a bit surprised to come across it as it didn’t seem like agricultural land. Later, I read that during World War I, quartz that was used for early radios was produced in the area, so perhaps the foundation was from a building associated with that industry.

The trail led east from the foundation and sloped gently down until it reached a large pond, the water that could be seen from the very first lookout at the beginning of the hike.

To avoid wet areas, the trail jogged to the right and entered a plantation of pine trees.

The floor of the pine forest was cushioned with a thick mat of pine needles. As the trail returned to the mixed deciduous forest, I noticed this spot where a small creature, probably a chipmunk had a tunnel. Outside the hole was a pile of the neatly-cracked shells of hickory nuts.

I knew I was nearly back at the parking lot when I noticed a sure sign of civilization: a garbage dump.

Pheeew. As the sign at the entrance to the trail promised, it was a strenuous hike. I was happy to get back to my car and sit down, especially as the light was quickly slipping away as the afternoon faded into evening. It was a beautiful spot, however. I really enjoyed the rough terrain offered by the granite outcroppings of the Frontenac Arch. While the woodlands are no doubt lovely in the spring, hiking in the fall had the advantage of opening up the great views, which are probably partly obscured when the trees are dressed in their summer leaves. Another time, I would be sure to take a thermos of coffee for a halfway-point break!

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