A walk in the woods

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We had an unexpected guest yesterday, so I ended up not getting a chance to post about the walk in the park. I’d actually just got back from a return trip yesterday, where Raven and I walked another part of it, to find we had a visitor. The last couple of days have been so nice, warm enough for short sleeves but not so warm you’re dying. It just seemed a shame not to take advantage of that. Today was cool and rainy, so I’m glad I went out again when I did.

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Round trip, we probably walked just over two kilometers (1.2 miles). On a straight and level road that wouldn’t be all that far, but the terrain in the park is far from straight and level. Little mini valleys cut through the granite to create ridges and plateaus. The plateaus are no problem to hike, but the ridges and valleys give you a bit of a workout. Raven outdid both Blackburnian and I; she was still charging onwards even at the end of the hike. She absolutely loved the outing. We let her off-leash in her harness, but she never strayed far from us, no further than her extendable leash would have let her go anyway. And this way, no wraps around trees!

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We had no map, no compass, no GPS, and no particular destination in mind. We hiked out towards a promising-looking ridge, and upon cresting that, set our sights on the next. We headed approximately east, but followed the landforms and the suggestion of interesting sights beyond the next valley. There are no trails in this section of the park; in fact, given the size of the park, it’s relatively trail-poor. There’s only one trail that’s somewhat easy for us to reach from our lake, and it’s through a campground at the far north end, some 3 km (1.9 miles) away by boat. Not long after moving in, we had stopped by the park office to pick up some maps and get information on the area. We spoke to one of the staff, who indicated that walk-in access to the park is free, and you’re welcome to just dock your boat on the shore and hike in. So we felt no reservations about doing so.

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So we boated directly across the lake, and docked the boat on a narrow gravel beach where the land sloped gently upwards into the park. It’s been a long time since I explored an area without being confined to a trail, or knowing what’s coming next. Everything was new, interesting, and different. There are an interesting array of habitats within the park. From the shore it looks like fairly uniform mixed forest. In fact, when you start hiking in, it turns out to be primarily deciduous, at least the sections we walked through. There were a number of more open areas that resembled oak savannah, though I don’t know if they had quite the combination of characteristics to qualify as such.

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There were also a few low, wet areas that were obviously flooded at certain times of year, but not currently. Fallen logs, soft and decaying, were covered with moss and ferns. The area had a very lush, green appearance because of the ferny understory. For some reason, most of the areas we walked through had a sparse understory. It wasn’t that the understory was absent, just that it was thin. There were small saplings and a few little shrubs, patchy wildflowers and vines, but generally it was pretty easy walking. I know deer inhabit the park, so it may be that they keep the understory thinned out. Or, it may be something to do with the soil, or some other factor.

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Our “final destination” (meaning, the point where we decided it was getting on, and we were getting tired, and we should start heading back) turned out to be a large, old swampy wetland. It looked like it may once have been a river, but had been dammed by a beaver and flooded, killing the resident trees. This would have happened quite a while ago, as most of the trees were long dead and fallen. Also, the water level wasn’t maintained, and while it appeared the water was probably high enough to form a continuous lake in the spring, by this time in the fall it had dropped substantially, such that the ground was mostly moist with just small patches of water remaining.

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Raven, eager to continue on, bounced down and into the wet area to check it out. She paused when it was apparent we weren’t following. She was very good about not getting carried away, and coming back to us when called, with the exception of one spot where her nose found something deliciously intriguing buried in the soil, and she required some coaxing to be drawn away from it (even then, it didn’t come down to us going and picking her up, which I was worried about having to do during the hike – either to take her away from something, or to carry her back when she got tired).

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You comin’, slowpokes?

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During the hike we came across lots of things that grabbed my interest. I didn’t spend a lot of time paused to examine anything, but did snap photos of the stuff that really caught my eye. One was this frog. I’ve encountered a number of different species of frog here, the most numerous at our house being Leopard Frogs. In the forest, during the hike, the most common were Wood Frogs, I must have seen at least half a dozen of them. But as we came down to the edge of the water, in the muddy wet bits, Blackburnian spotted this guy. I spent a lot of time debating its identification. The tight, squareish nature of the spots on its back and sides made me think Pickerel Frog (a species I admittedly have never seen), while the fact that there were three rows of spots on the back wasn’t a feature of this species. Apparently the definitive feature is bright yellow to the underside of the legs of a Pickerel Frog, but I didn’t think to pick it up. I’m thinking now it might just be a very dark, strongly-marked Leopard, but it may remain a mystery.

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I loved these ferns, which were abundant thoughout the park. The circlet of leaflets recalled to me a crown, and I thought perhaps it would be named something reflecting that, but the species is Northern Maidenhair, Adiantum pedatum. I don’t recall seeing them at my parents’, or in that region of Ontario, but it’s very widespread, occurring from coast to coast, and from as far north as Alaska and Labrador down to southern California and Georgia.

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Most of what I was paying attention to, though, was fungus, which will be the subject of the next post. As we turned for home, the sun’s rays started slanting low and golden, illuminating the trees with rich light. A forest that is cool and shady during the day, when the sun is shining straight down on the canopy, becomes aglow as the sun sinks toward the horizon.

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Our house, at the end of the day, as viewed from the park; the only reason I knew I was looking toward our house was because of the barely discernible pale line created by the trunk of the big aspen at the shore. There’s so much more to explore, but it will have to wait for another day. Home beckons, with cold drinks and a place to put your feet up.

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One response to “A walk in the woods

  1. It sounds like it was a perfect day for bushwhacking!
    Raven is at a good age for sticking close to her humans. Our experience was the same with Cai and Fergus; as they got to four months or so, though, they would wander farther afield, kinda like human children.

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