Thursday, June 11, 2020

Campbellford to Settler's Line

Last night brought some pretty impressive storms, complete with thunder, lightening, gusts of wind, and absolutely torrential rain. The first band came thundering down on the tent around 10 pm. A second deluge hit about an hour later, with several smaller bands following throughout the night. Once again we were left feeling very grateful to have a tarp with us, and a good waterproof tent. We were also delighted to find that as promised, the rain brought cooler temperatures!

This morning dawned cool, breezy, and overcast, and it felt so good that we decided to backtrack the 2 km or so into town to get breakfast, before heading out for good. As we sat in the grass with our coffees and muffins there were rather dark and ominous clouds racing across the sky, and a helpful local man stopped to tell us there was a place to shelter nearby if we needed it. It was the first of many of acts of kindness today.  The Campbellford region certainly seems to embrace and care for visitors to their community!




As we wove our way out of Campbellford again, we followed the winding trail through white pine, white birch, trembling aspen, and sugar maple stands, and past small marshes and pastures with tall, lush, wet grass. We crossed several wooden bridges that spanned small meandering creeks, all of which were running high, the fast flowing water murky and brown from soil washed out in last night's rain. Some of the bridge beds badly needed repairs, while others were brand new and still smelling of fresh cut wood.

 
 

As we passed a sprawling cattle farm a large flock of European Starlings wheeled noisily overhead as the curious cows watched us trundle past their yard. A pair of Barn Swallows zipped low over a nearby pasture, which was home to at least Bobolink pairs!

 
 
 

Throughout the morning we walked through a beautiful pastoral landscape. We made many stops so Sean could photograph the wooden barns, and I could follow the Turkey Vultures circling overhead, the Yellow Warblers skulking busily about in the trailside shrubs, and the energetic bounce of Northern Flickers among the standing snags.

At the sides of the trail wildflowers were blooming in purples, pinks, white, yellow, and red. They lent a strong, sweet smell to the air that stayed with us all day. A few fields were white with blooming daisies, looking as though the green grass was covered in a thin layer of snow. These gently rolling pastures reminded us of the fields of Narcissi we walked through in France, which were being harvested for perfume and were considered a particular treat by the Aubrac cows.

 
 
 

A few kilometers into our hike we crossed under one of the first rounded tunnels we've encountered in Ontario so far. It was the first of two such tunnels today, and reminded us of hiking across Newfoundland, where we frequently criss-crossed under the Trans Canada Highway.

At the next few road crossings we came to, Osprey platforms had been erected. We were delighted to see that they were being used! It is always nice to see conservation efforts working.

 
 
 

As we approached the town of Hastings, the trail brought us to the banks of the wide, deep, Trent Severn Waterway. We could see cottages on the far shore, tucked in under the eastern white cedars.

We stood to chat with a man out walking his dog, who kindly warned us that we needed to cross the river downtown, and not farther up on the trail. A few steps later came to a yellow sign asking us to watch for snakes, frogs, and turtles. A few meters past that a second sign declared a turtle crossing. Beyond that was a row of nine large Map Turtles, all laying eggs!! Turtle crossing indeed.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

As we made our way down the trail, quickly and quietly so as not to scare the laying females, we saw that a few nests had already been predated, but quite a few others were being protected by mesh grates. It must have been part of a turtle research project!



When we reached the outside of town, we found the second Great Trail sign in Ontario so far. The first one was in Ottawa, and since then the trail has been extremely well marked for the most part, but always with Trans Canada Trail markers. Since Hastings, the signs have switched to Great Trail or Grand Sentier signs.

When we got into the town of Hastings we crossed over the main bridge in town, at Lock 18. The trail is actually supposed to go over a swing bridge farther down the river, but from April to November that bridge is open to let the boat traffic through. We were grateful for the warning that prevented us having to walk out and back to discover this for ourselves.

Hastings looks like a lively town, with many amenities, including pubs, restaurants, cafes, and icecream stores along the waterfront. There are beautiful treed parks on both sides of the canal, complete with benches, picnic tables, a gazebo, and several statues of fish.


Hastings is known as the "Hub of the Trent", because it is on the Trent River and serves as a major destination for tourists, boaters, and fishermen. The largest annual event in Hastings are the Canada Celebration, which include a parade and one the best fireworks displays in Ontario. In 2012, Hastings was also named Canada's Ultimate Fishing Town by the World Fishing Network. Muskie, pickerel, pike, walleye, large- and smallmouth bass, catfish, perch, crappie, and bluegill are all abundant in Hastings.


When we reached town we sat for a bit in Hasting's Pisces Park, at the base of Pisces Pete. Pisces Pete is a 12 ft high and 12 ft long statue of a Walleye, designed by Canadian artist Bill Lishman. It represents one of the fish species that is plentiful in the area and can be fished.

As we sat in Hasting's Pisces Park, on the edge of the Trent River, we spotted three male Common Goldeneyes bobbing about in the waves above the lock. We also got to watch as the swing bridge was opened for a motorboat to pass by and into the lock.


 

As we trekked through town we stopped - as we always do in each community - at the fallen soldiers memorial to pay our respects and acknowledge that we are privileged to live as we do, owing to the sacrifices of others.


After a short rest on the beautiful banks of the river, we were met by Marlene and Marty, who brought us some fantastic trail magic. They are friends of a couple we met last year in Annapolis Royal, NS, and they are true adventurers. Over a delicious picnic feast of bean salad, bread and hummus, cheese, fresh tomatoes, egg salad, cole slaw and fabulous wine we learned of their adventures. They are campers, hikers, trail stewards, cyclists, sailors who built their own boat, and travelers. They've spent their lives learning, trying new careers, ways of life, and places to visit. It was inspiring to listen to their stories, and the food was delicious. We feel truly spoiled by the wonderful people we've met these past few weeks and who have gone to great lengths to figure our socially distanced and responsible ways to be part of our journey.

 

We headed out of Hastings around 3 pm, intending to walk another 10 km or so. We found ourselves on the Lang-Hastings Trans Canada Trail, which is one of the newest sections of Great Trail to be completed. It runs from Hastings to Assumption, a small community on the outskirts of Peterborough. It is gorgeous, with a perfectly flat, crushed stone dust surface. This section of trail also featured benches about every 2 km, and signage at each crossroads telling us where on the map we were and how far it was to the next concession. Such luxury!


It took us through shady forested corridors, and through rolling pastures. We could really see how the drumlins had shaped the landscape here, with its steep, rounded hills. Many of the hills were forested, and unmown hay pastures and orchards filled many of the spaces between. We spotted a few Bobolinks happily attending their nests.

 
 


We stopped by one of the benches that had a view out over the Trent River. On the opposite bank we could see rolling forested hills, dotted with the occasional cottage. On the near shore was a stand of cattails with a wooden structure floating in it that was absolutely full of turtles basking in the warm afternoon sun.

A speed boat went past, the wind kicking up a foamy spray in its wake as it bounced over the waves. As we watched a small flock of Cedar Waxwings zipped past. A pair of American Goldfinches bounced along. A Belted Kingfisher landed on a snag in front of us, raised his crest and let out an indignant call before leaping from the branch and continuing on his way.

 
 

A bit farther along the trail two cyclists stopped to ask where we were off to. After explaining our hike, they told us their daughter, Genna McLinden had been killed in a car crash in 1996, and they had donated the money from her estate to the Great Trail. At their urging we will keep a lookout for a poem dedicated to her memory on the next trail pavilion. This was another reminder that people don't just dedicate time and effort to this trail, but they also dedicate their memories. It was yet another humbling reminder that there is a story behind every beautiful kilometer of trail we walk.

 
 

We had only intended to walk 10 km or so beyond Hastings, but after passing two lovely looking campgrounds that are still unfortunately closed due to covid 19 restrictions, we found ourselves walking through very uneven and swampy country. There was a small river on one side of the trail, and a marsh on the other. In between was private property and open farmland.

As the sun began to set we paused beside a particularly interesting marsh. A Great Blue Heron was perched sideways at the very top of a small tree out in the water. A smaller Green Heron was hunched on a nearby snag. A female Mallard stood on a log below. An Eastern Kingbird perched stop a small shrub, and Red-winged Blackbirds adorned many of the standing snags. Colourful, coppery Leopard Frogs let off the occasion croak.



By this point we were looking for a spot to camp. We came to a promising stand of trees, but a family of four was following us down the trail, and we didn't want to set up camp or duck in the woods in full sight of them. Besides, it was still a dense, swampy, cedar forest.

 
 
 

A bit farther on we came to a section of rolling hills with beautifully curving rows of planted corn and a picturesque wooden barn on top. The setting sun lit the scene, and the sweet song of a Baltimore Oriole brought it alive.

 
 

In the end we hiked 35 km today before we found a secluded spot to tuck the tent. It was a long day but full of many blessings. We fall asleep listening to the sounds of coyotes howling in the distance, American Toads and Leopard Frogs calling in the nearby marsh, and mosquitos buzzing outside the tent. It was a long day, but full of many blessings.


1 comment:

  1. I loved this. I live in Campbellford and currently stuck out of the country due to covid19 restrictions so I’ve missed the spring and now half of June. It was nice experiencing your walk as I know the area

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