May 28, 2017

Pinery Provincial Park: the Cedar Trail

At 4.0 kilometers (2.5 miles), the Cedar Trail is the longest hiking trail at the Pinery, an interesting loop with spurs to both Lake Huron and the Old Ausable Channel.  It starts at the parking lot for the Visitor's Center, and heads west through oak savanna interspersed with red cedar.  After a short distance, the trail splits and we turned right, and then turned right again at the next intersection, as well, to take the spur trail toward the lake.  The main loop is wide and gravel-surfaced to provide accessibility, while the spur to the lake is narrower with slightly more topography, including a long staircase climbing over an old forested dune.  The trail crosses over a park road before traversing more boardwalks over the dunes that lead to a viewing platform with benches and stairs down to the beach.

It was scorching hot out there on the dunes.  The sun was strong and blinding, draining our strength.  We went down to the beach and Frankie threw rocks in the water while Mary, Keith, and I gathered some rocks for an offering.  Mary and Keith led us down the beach and up an unmarked path in the dunes to a dark little cedar grove where we enjoyed the shade and left the rocks with others already there, many invisible at first glance under fallen leaves.  Mary and Keith found this spot many years ago, and it is quite magical.  They re-visit it each year, but it was the first time they brought Frankie and I along.  It was fun to see this neat little place we'd heard so much about.

We retraced our steps up the beach, over the dunes, and back down the spur trail to the main loop.  We turned right toward the river and saw a green snake sunning in the trail.  The spur to the river is very short, and the viewing area shaded and pleasant, except for a few too many flies.  We took some pictures and moved on, looking forward to another leisurely picnic by the river.

This is a great trail!  

hairy puccoon (Lithospermum caroliniense)

smooth green snake (Opheodrys vernalis)

May 27, 2017

Pinery Provincial Park: the Riverside & Wilderness Trails

Frankie and I spent Memorial Day weekend at the Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario.  We met Mary and Keith for a long weekend of camping, hiking, and playing in the sand along the shores of Lake Huron.  Mary and Keith have been coming here for many years, often staying a week or more.  This is the third year in a row Frankie and I have joined the fun and it's starting to feel like a tradition, which is just a terrific feeling.  Yay for outdoor adventure traditions!

In 2015, during our first visit to the Pinery, we hiked the Heritage, Bittersweet, Hickory, and Carolinian Trails, which Mary and Keith had selected for us as being among their favorites.  We liked them so much that we hiked the exact same set of trails last year.  This year we decided to branch out and explore some new trails, which was exciting, but also meant we didn't have time to revisit all our old favorites.  Over the course of the weekend, we hiked the Riverside, Wilderness, Cedar, and Carolinian Trails.  Next year I hope to do different combination of old and new trails.

We selected the Riverside Trail first, in part because the boardwalk was recently greatly expanded, so it would be "new" for all of us.  Plus, the Riverside Trail is apparently quite buggy some years, but Mary and Keith reported seeing very few mosquitos or other biting insects so far this trip, making it a too good an opportunity to pass up.  I literally saw one mosquito all weekend.  (It was awesome).  The Riverside Trail is short, just 1.0 km (0.6 miles).  It is very charming, and definitely worth exploring.  The entire portion along the Old Ausable Channel is now a boardwalk, from which we saw fish, frogs, and turtles.

bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata)

the Old Ausable Channel

new boardwalk

see the frog?

nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

The parking area for the Riverside Trail is along a 14-kilometer one-way park road, so we decided to be strategic and hit another new trail along that drive in the afternoon, and explore other areas of the park on Sunday and Monday -- that way we could avoid driving the loop multiple times.  But before embarking on the Wilderness Trail, we stopped for lunch at one of the many scenic picnic areas along the channel.  

Once we'd properly fueled for our afternoon hike, we drove a bit further to the parking area for the Wilderness Trail.  At 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles), the Wilderness Trail is a bit longer, and meanders through mature pine and oak forest.  Without the distraction of the river, it is easier to move along at a decent clip, although we of course found plenty of other diversions along the way.  The trailhead sign suggested looking for evidence of a tornado that touched down along the trail in 2014, and that was terribly exciting for Frankie, who has a great interest in meteorology.

The trail eventually pops out onto a boardwalk over the dunes, with a viewing platform and stairs to the beach.  We poked around a bit, enjoying the look at Lake Huron, but didn't linger too long.  We had our own private beach waiting for us back at the campsite, complete with the allure of water balloons, which Mary had brought as a surprise for Frankie.  This is the kid who solemnly came to me one day while reading Calvin and Hobbes, and said, ever so earnestly, I need to learn more about water balloons.  He was over the moon to finally get to play with some himself and not just read about.  So after the brief stop at the lakeshore, we hightailed it back, covering the rest of the Wilderness Trail quickly, and headed back to camp to play. 

wild honeysuckle (Lonicera dioica)

balsam ragwort (Packera paupercula)

Lake Huron from the viewing platform

this photo really shows how the grass protects the dunes -- look at those roots!
climbing on some blowdown from the 2014 tornado