May 24, 2015

Pinery Provincial Park: the Hickory Nature and Bittersweet Trails

For our second full day at the Pinery, my Mom suggested hiking the Hickory and Bittersweet Trails.  Both are short loops through the forest along the Old Ausable Channel.  The Hickory Trail starts right from the parking area west of the of the road, while the Bittersweet Trail is on the east side of the road and is accessed via a short crosswalk.

We headed down the Hickory Trail first, passing through pine/oak/hickory woods before descending to the channel.  There was another Photo Monitoring Post, like the one we saw on the Heritage Trail, and we all indulged in documentation.  Once again, there were many wildflowers in bloom, including Illinois carrion flower, which was particularly exciting for me, as I'd never seen that species before.  I kept muttering, it's some kind of Smilax, but... I had no keys with me and and had to wait until I got home to solve that little mystery.
When we were most of the way around the Hickory Trail, Frankie and Grandma started running ahead, and this silliness continued for much of the Bittersweet Trail as well.  Keith and I puttered along at a more reasonable pace, and eventually found some sticks arrows pointing the way Grandma and Frankie had gone.  We all reconvened at the viewing platform along the channel and enjoyed the waterfront with bright yellow spatterdock in bloom.  Another great day at the Pinery!

There was a PhotoMon almost immediately as we headed down the Hickory Trail.
Waiting our turn to use the PhotoMon.
My official PhotoMon picture. 
Another PhotoMon group portrait.
Trail register.
Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
The Hickory Nature Trail.
Old Ausable Channel.
Bladdernut (Staphylea trifoliata)

Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata)
Frankie and Grandma!

Illinois carrion flower (Smilax illinoensis)

Fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia)

The Bittersweet Trail.
On the Bittersweet Trail (photo by Keith)
Grandma showed Frankie how to make arrows from sticks. 
Old Ausable Channel

Keith and Mary

Another trail register at the end of our hike.

May 23, 2015

Pinery Provincial Park: the Heritage Trail

Frankie and I joined my mother and her husband on their annual Memorial Day camping trip to Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario.  The park is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Huron, near the small town of Lambton Shores.  Mary and Keith have been going there for many years, and told us many wonderful things about it, but this was our first time.  What a place!  We loved it.  Our campsite was in the Dunes Campground -- it is an enormous park with three separate campgrounds -- and as the name implies, it was a very short walk from our campsite through the dunes to the shore.

The entire park is basically a giant dune.  We hiked four different trail over the weekend, and in each location there was but a thin layer of organic material over sand.  Oak and pine were the dominant forest types, with open understories and beautiful wildflowers, often different species from those found in the northern hardwood forests that are most common in Central New York.  Tip-up mounds revealed sugar sand right below the surface.  The landscape felt so comfortable to me, reminiscent of the similar sandy habitats where I did botanical work on Cape Cod and in northern Michigan.  Reunited and it feels so good...

At the trailhead.
The Heritage Trail was our first hike Saturday morning.  The trail winds through a gorgeous oak savanna to the Old Ausable Channel, where there is a wooden viewing platform and a dock out over the water.  Everything about the day was perfect for hiking: cool, mild temperatures; bluebird sky; no bugs.  We moseyed along and enjoyed ourselves enormously.  A short ways down the trail, we encountered a new feature, added in the summer of 2014, after Mary and Keith's last trip: PhotoMons.  From the Pinery website:

"Pinery is introducing a new way for visitors to get involved with ecosystem monitoring.  Photo Monitoring (PhotoMon) Posts have been placed throughout the park at ecologically significant areas. Each post has a grooved, angled top. Anyone with a camera or smartphone can place their device on a post, and they will all be able to take a photo of the same Pinery landscape. If everyone using the posts emails their photos to the address labelled on the post, park ecologists will have a large library of photos to monitor changes from week to week, and year to year. Watch out for PhotoMon posts during your visit, and contribute to the monitoring and protection of some of your favourite trails and beaches."

Of course we all had to stop and take pictures from the PhotoMon (and from each subsequent one we saw during the weekend).  They also make for a convenient set up for self-timer group portraits.  At first I found them simply an interesting novelty, but the more I thought about it and read about it, the more excited I got.  I'd like to see these added to some of my local parks, although most probably lack the funding/staff to install them and keep up the website.  The Pinery has a lot of great conservation programs, which I really appreciate.  It's really wonderful to know that it's not just a place for people to come and visit (i.e., use), but also a place where active stewardship is practiced to monitor and protect the resources.  The PhotoMon website hasn't been updated since I submitted my photos, but I will keep checking back periodically until I see them.  I'm already looking forward to returning to the Pinery next year!     

Frankie was very interested in various flagging along the trail.
Examining the PhotoMon.

The photo I took from the PhotoMon and submitted to the Park for use in monitoring. 
A group portrait taken from the PhotoMon.
The Heritage Trail winds through a beautiful oak savanna.
Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis)


Old Ausable Channel.

Me and my boy.
Old Ausable Channel.

Oddly, the registers were near the end of every trail we hiked.  I guess they're more like guest books? Wouldn't be of much value in locating missing persons if you don't sign in until you leave.   
Examining another sign back at the trailhead -Frankie is a huge fan of signs of all kinds.