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...

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 

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