Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Campbellford to ... barely past Campbellford

We awoke this morning to a sunny sky and the vigorous songs of a Baltimore Oriole, American Robin, Blue Jay, and Song Sparrow. We were luxuriating in the lovely flat and safe lawn on which we were camped!  We laid in our tent for over an hour enjoying the cool breeze and peacefulness of the moment.  By 7 when we decided it was time to start the day the sky clouded over, thunder rolled, and an impressive amount of rain began to fall. Figures.

We were served a lovely breakfast on the outdoor patio by our wonderful hosts, and very much enjoyed being under the awing, out of the deluge. As we waited for the storm to pass, we watched a sodden Blue Jay collect and open peanut shells. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird visited the feeder, its red neck shining, even in the heavy downpour. A Baltimore Oriole used it's long tongue to feed on jam from another feeder. An American Robin with a nearby nest found something to protest about. A family of Common Grackles hopped about in the trees, and a pair of Cedar Waxwings landed in the service berry and began passing berries back and forth. It never fails to amaze us how much bird life can be found in one backyard!

When the rain let up we set off down the trail again, which took us through Ferris Provincial Park. Named after James Marshall Ferris, a Liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the late 1800's, the provincial park was opened in 1974, and is located on land which was the traditional territory of the Anishinabek (ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ) and Huron-Wendat People.

The park offers hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski trails through hilly forested land, camping in 163 sites, and it is right on the Trent River. Ferris also features one of the biggest swarms of drumlins anywhere in the world. Drumlins are small, teardrop shaped hills that were formed by the glaciers that covered this area about 12,000 years ago. The high, wide end of the drumlin's distinctive profile faces in the direction the glacier came from. On the surrounding countryside, the hilly drumlins tend to be left as wood lots, which serve as havens for wildlife, while the flat areas between are cleared for agriculture.

After a short but wet stretch of grassy pathway, the Great Trail mostly followed the winding park road under a pleasant canopy of green. At the far end of the park we came to the Ranney Gorge Suspension Bridge. The bridge spans 91 m across the high-banked rock walls of the Ranney Gorge. The Trent River flows by 9 m below, and the beautiful Ranney Falls are just north of the bridge. Our hosts met us near the bridge, and we were delighted to spot some Snapping Turtles paddling along the edge of the gorge wall, far below us.

Our hosts also pointed out two different Chimney Swift roosts that had been installed in the park to help the recovery of this species. Swift populations have declined dramatically since industrial and residential chimneys have largely become obsolete. We weren't sure if these two chimneys were occupied yet or not, but initiatives in other areas have worked, so there is definitely reason to be optimistic!

After crossing the bridge, we were joined by Jill for a few kilometers along the Great Trail which in this stretch is also the Rotary Trail, while her husband kindly ferried our gear ahead. We walked along the Trent Severn Waterway, which is a 386 km long canal route that connects Trenton, on Lake Ontario to Port Severn, on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay. This route, which is a Parks Canada National Historic Site, is popular with boaters, and typically a lot of marine traffic comes through the waterway in the summer months, including from the US. However, it looked like both locks in Campbellford were under construction, so the waterway was quiet.

Campbellford is a beautiful town, which is stretched along the canal and centered around a large arched, concrete bridge. It was founded in 1934 and is still known for its fine Victorian houses. We walked through a beautiful grassy park along the side of the canal, which had beautiful gardens tended by the local horticultural society. The main street features cafes, pubs, restaurants, and small shops offering interesting and local products.

The trail took us past the Tourism Office, to Old Mill Park, at the center of town. This park boasts a 27 ft tall statue of Canada's "toonie," and the Royal Canadian Mint proclaimed Campbellford to be the 'Home of the Two Dollar Coin' in 1997. The statue was built to honour Brent Townsend, the artist who designed the polar bear on the original $2 coin. The famous bear's name is Churchill, as decided by public vote.

After walking along the beautiful canal we did a few errands around town with the patient, kind, and generous help of our amazing hosts. By this time the sun had come out, and the temperature was already creeping into the low thirties. We bid our hosts farewell, and headed back to the trail.

On the way we passed Dooher's Bakery, which is famous for its donuts, and was voted 'The Sweetest Bakery in Canada' in 2018. Unfortunately they seemed only to be open to local residents (or at the very least were not keen to have two hikers with backpacks enter), but the long line outside suggested that the high praise for their donuts was well deserved.

We made our way back to the riverside park, and sat under a tree for a bit and watched as the birds strove to stay cool.  By this point it felt like 38°C with 74% humidity according to the weather network. According to us it was just miserably hot. We covered a few sweaty kilometers, dragging from shade tree to shade tree, but soon decided to give up for the day.  Neither of us is particularly spry in the extreme humidity, having suffered from heat stroke in France several years ago.

We spent a more-or-less productive afternoon sitting under a tree, enjoying some tasty treats provided by our thoughtful hosts, and working on catching up with the blogs and assorted emails.  It is stunning how much the heat can exhaust you and drain you of energy.  Tonight we feel as though we trekked over 30 km, but in reality we are just over 2 km outside of Campbellford.

At 9:30 pm it is still 31°C, and feels far too hot to sleep. Hopefully tomorrow will bring cooler temperatures.

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