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Posts Tagged ‘Hiking’

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When it comes to hiking, the weather just doesn’t get any better than it was last weekend. On Sunday, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get out and enjoy what may be one of the last perfect days of the year. We decided to travel to Charleston Lake Provincial Park and because it was such a gorgeous day, settled on one of the more challenging trails.

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We set off along the 10 km Tallow Rock Bay trail. After a short walk from the trailhead, the path divides into west and east arms of the loop, and, based on my trail guide’s recommendation, we took the west fork. The woods soon gave way to a boardwalk through a wetland area. Most of the ground was pretty dry, as we’ve had an extended period of low precipitation, but a pretty stream runs through the clearing.

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A few of the trees along the boardwalk had Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea) nests. These nests are often confused with the better-known tent caterpillar constructions, but tent caterpillars are mostly seen in spring. Tent caterpillars and Webworms are spring and fall phenomenon.

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The tree has time to recover after the spring Tent Caterpillars and grow new leaves. In the case of Fall Webworms, the tree is about to lose its leaves for the winter anyway, and can grow again in the spring. Thus, the insects don’t kill their host tree. For more on Webworms visit Jeepers! Creepers! here.

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The trail has helpful distance markers. Here is RailGuy standing by the 1 KM marker shortly after leaving the boardwalk behind and re-entering the forest.

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This tree is reportedly one of the oldest trees in the forest. Sadly, it seems to be dying and had already lost its leaves for the year, making its fork-tine branches more conspicuous.

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The rustling of the dried leaves littering the ground brought this garter snake to our attention.

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The first few kilometres of the trail are undemanding, following the gently undulating landscape up and down with few steep inclines. Rocky outcroppings bordering the trail remind you that you are on the Frontenac Arch, part of the Canadian shield. You can read more about the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve here.

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Many of the rocks support a rich mosaic of lichens and mosses and ferns.

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The bright cerise-red centre of this plant caught my eye. I didn’t recognise it, but Seabrooke was able to identify it for me as Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana). It has already lost the blue berries it would have had earlier in the season. The berries are inedible (by people), but the waxy, tuberous roots, as the common name indicates, taste like cucumber and can be used in salads.

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At one point, the trail curls around the edge of an open wet meadow, encircled with white birch trees.

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Just after the 4 KM marker, a short side trail leads down to the waters of Tallow Rock Bay.

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What a beautiful, peaceful spot! The water was still and quiet and a picnic table was welcomingly positioned on the little beach. We sat down and had a pleasant rest, eating the lunch RailGuy had kindly backpacked in for us.

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We’ve been enjoying a string of beautiful fall days. I’m not a huge fan of fall, mostly because autumn means winter is around the corner. However, there is no denying that some of the most gorgeous days of the year come along in this shoulder season. On Sunday, it was too nice to stay inside. After getting some chores looked after, we headed up to Nepean, at the edge of Ottawa.

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With an inviting array of 100 km of trails, the National Capital Greenbelt offers hikers many choices. Since it was mid-afternoon when we arrived, we explored a couple of the shorter loops. The Sarsaparilla Trail is an easy hike on a level, gravelled pathway. It is just .8 km long, but it proved to be very rewarding.

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The trail circles through attractive, open woodland with many beautiful big trees. The Y in this tree was clearly a favorite posing spot for hikers. A large branch was propped up behind the tree so that photo subjects could climb up to the opening.

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Near the trailhead, we looked up, way up, and saw two dark shapes in a treetop: two porcupines dreaming in the afternoon sun high above hikers.

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Dogs aren’t allowed on the trail and this probably explains the dozens of chipmunks that dart boldly across the trail.

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There were also squirrels, both little red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) and their larger cousins, gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis). Black squirrels are just a different colour morph of gray squirrels, not a separate species.

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About half way around the loop, the trail opens onto a deck overlooking a large wetland.

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As we stepped out onto the lookout deck, ducks and geese hurriedly retreated to a safer distance.

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We gazed out over the water, admiring the sun sparkling on the surface. At the far side of the swamp, there was a tall white bird, a Great Egret (Ardea alba), not a common species in this region. Cool!

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Near the parking lot, was an inviting picnic pavilion. We were struck by how perfect the Sarsaparilla Trail is for introducing young children to nature and hiking. It offers a short, easily traversed trail, plenty of little critters, an interesting lookout over water, and a great place for a picnic.

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We had time for another trail, and travelled a short distance to the nearby Beaver Trail loop on Moodie Road. The Wild Bird Care Centre is near the trail parking lot. It is open to the public between noon and 3:00 PM, and an interesting place to visit. For more information, visit their website at Wild Bird Care Centre.org.

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Like the Sarsaparilla Trail, the Beaver Trail loops through open woodland and leads to another wetland lookout.

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Here and there along the trail were little caches of mixed seed and sunflower seed left behind by visitors. Near the lookout, a family with two youngsters were feeding chickadees. The young girl kindly stood patiently until I was able to get a photograph of one of the chickadees helping himself to a seed from her outstretched hand.

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Chickadees and nuthatches were flitting about near the trail, obviously accustomed to handouts. Another time, we’ll take some sunflower seed or peanuts with us. Both these trails had a number of families visiting, which was nice to see.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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