It was about a 4 km walk to the Earltown General Store. In the cool morning (we were actually quite cold last night), with the shadows of the trees still long, the rolling hills and forests were quite beautiful, and it was a pleasant enough walk.
When we got to the general store we found a wealth of organic products, jams, preserves, cookies, and chocolates. Sean went in to explore, and came back with a small bag of very delicious cookies and some fair trade chocolate! To some it may seem wrong to have cookies so soon after breakfast, but today was Sean's birthday, so we decided to splurge for the special occasion.
The other thing we did to celebrate today was to hike the extra kilometer off the trail to the Sugar Moon Farm. This lovely place is a maple sugar farm and restaurant. The restaurant resembles the kind of romanticized kids summer camp we all dream of - a big log cabin with long wooden tables and benches inside and a large fireplace. It served all the best kinds of breakfast foods too in huge quantities, and of course they all came with maple syrup! Sean had pecan pancakes with sausage and I had blueberry pancakes with scrambled eggs, and we both had maple iced tea. It was fantastic!
Feeling very full and a little sleepy, we headed back down the large hill to the highway, and then dove into the small trail entrance for the Earltown Lakes and Portage Trail. We were thrilled to discover that this was a small footpath leading through a beautiful forest! It was so soothing and pleasant after the highway walking!
A few hundred meters in to the trail we began searching for what is likely our last Great Trail Treasure box. This time we were successful!
We enjoyed the lovely walk through the Portage Trail, which eventually brought us to the shores of Earltown Lake. This large, serene, tree lined lake was lovely. There were a few cottages at one end, and the trail was interspersed with well-placed benches for enjoying the view. There was even a lovely campsite, right on the shore of the lake, which seriously tempted us.
We continued on, and the trail took us over a few small bridges and boardwalks to Taylor's Lake. This too was beautiful. The trail followed the shore along a footpath overhung with hemlock, and the beams of sunlight filtering through were magical.
We continued on this beautiful trail, through a mixed forest of primarily Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, White Birch, and Hemlock. There was an under-story of lush ferns, and lots of vibrant green moss.
Finally this trail brought us to the Gully Lake Wilderness Area. We crossed the beautiful Salmon River on a quaint looking bridge, and then the footpath continued through the forest. Here we had a real sense of remoteness and wildness. The only sounds were the rustling of the soft breeze in the forest canopy, the occasional song of a Red-eyed Vireo, the burbling of the rivers and brooks we crossed, and the crunch of our footsteps in the leaves.
There is a network of footpaths and trails in the Gully Lake Wilderness Area, but they are all very well posted and waymarked with colour coded blazes. The Great Trail was very well and clearly marked too, with directional arrows at each intersection.
As we took a break at one point to dry out our tent from last night, we were sitting on the ground noticing a huge diversity of caterpillars and inchworms. Some of the caterpillars we've been seeing over the past few days have been very elaborate, and even the inchworms all look different. It is amazing what you start to notice when you sit still in the forest for a few minutes!
If you are in this area and looking for a wonderful wilderness trail, we would highly recommend this section of trail! A word of warning though - the terrain is constantly undulating, it is rocky and uneven, and at times it is difficult to navigate. The Willard Kitchener MacDonald Trail in particular essentially required bushwacking from blaze to blaze through knee-high raspberries, grasses, and ferns. This section was slow going, and a bit treacherous.
By the time we reached Meguma Falls our legs, which are accustomed only to walking on flat railway beds, were feeling a bit like jelly. We found a gorgeous campsite on the shores of the river, in a gorge, with a view of the waterfall. We only managed to cover 26 km today, but we realized that even if we continued on to Gully Lake, we wouldn't reach Truro tomorrow anyway. We decided to take advantage of this beautiful spot, and set up camp.
As we fall asleep we are hearing the hooting of a Great Horned Owl for the third night in a row. This time it is very close! We are also lying here watching the magical lights of glow bugs lighting up the warm summer night. There is even one sitting on the roof of our tent!