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Great Trail trekkers come through Cat and K&P trails
June 17, 2020
Dr. Sonya Richmond, and ornithologist and GIS analyst with Bird Studies Canada, and her partner Sean Morton, a freelance photographer, have walked the Camino Trail and hiked across France in the past.
Those walks might seem long, but they are nothing compared to the walk they are chronicling on the website “comewalkwithus.online”. Last year they sold their house and began a trek across the Great Trail, the new name for what was formerly called the Trans Canada Trail.
They began their trek on the east coast of Newfoundland late last winter and made their way across Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and ended up in Riviere du-Loup, Quebec, 100 kilometres east of Quebec City.
After house sitting in London, Ontario in the late fall and early winter as Sonya carried on her work for Bird Studies Canada, they were going to start out from Riviere du Loup, but with COVID-19 starting to have its impact in Canada in early March, they were uncertain about travelling from Ontario to Quebec, and about trekking across the country during a pandemic. They delayed their departure, finally decided to set out from Ontario instead of Quebec this year, hoping to double back next year to do the section in central and west Quebec.
A couple of weeks ago, they made their way from Smiths Falls and travelled along the Cataraqui Trail to the Harrowsmith junction, and then up the K&P trail to Sharbot Lake, before taking the Trans Canada west through Mountain Grove, Arden and Kaladar on their way to Tweed and Peterborough, where they are now. They are headed to Toronto and they will head north from Toronto to Sudbury before heading due west towards Lake Superior.
One of their goals as they cross the country is to “inspire youth to reconnect to nature through Citizen Science and Birding in the might be something of curiosity now that the provinces and nation have begun to reopen,” she said in an email to the News a couple of weeks ago. They were planning to meet with groups, through schools and outdoors organizations, as they cross the country, but that is not possible this year. They will be conducting some Zoom seminars, however, and have been posting a detailed blog as well as other material on their website.
They are also intent on raising awareness about the importance of protecting migratory birds and bird habitats such as the Boreal Forest, as well as protecting areas of Scientific and Environmental Importance (IBAs).
“We emphasize the many opportunities available for becoming active participants in the vibrant outdoor recreation, conservation, and Citizen Science communities across Canada. Our focus is on connecting families and youth to nature through birding, promoting healthy active lifestyles, and inspiring a passion to become lifelong explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainable stewards of the nation’s resources,” Sonya said.
And they are contacting media along the way, which led them to the Frontenac
Sonya and Sean stopped in at the Frontenac News in early June. They said that their experience on the Cat and K&P trails had been a very good one.
“Apart from the Confederation Trail in PEI, this has been the best maintained section we have seen,” Sonya said. “The Cataraqui Trail goes over Canadian Shield, and it seems like there are lakes everywhere on these trails.”
When we heard they were coming through the Cat Trail, we got them in contact with Robert Charest, a friend of the News who is a cyclist and the keenest of keen trail volunteers for the Cat trail from Opinicon Lake to Sydenham.
Sonya and Sean captured their impressions of the Cat and K&P trails in blog entries and photos. They present the impressions of the Frontenac Trail system from outside observers with a keen eye for birds, turtles, insects, and mammals along the way, as well as the people who use the trail.
And they came through at an interesting time. Not only is the trail at its peak for wildlife, it is also at peak use from hikers, bikers, ATV’ers and others, in the COVID-19 timeframe before parks were even opened up.
According to Robert Charest, who rides much of the Car trail often, and the K&P occasionally as well, trail traffic is about triple what it has been in previous years.
Sonya and Sean met up with a Sharbot Lake resident who found out about the trek by looking online and offered them a place to stay for a night or two in an empty cabin on a nearby lake. They hit the road again a day later, heading towards Mountain Grove and Arden.
A few of their blog entries are reprinted below, starting on the Cat trail and ended as they passed through Mountain Grove.
“Shortly after Little Lake we came to a stretch of trail with water on both sides. A Leopard Frog crouched in the shade of the grass at the edge of the raised gravel trail. Five Midland Painted Turtles basked on logs in the middle of the ponds, and a couple Snapping Turtles hugged the far shore. The dry call of a Belted Kingfisher sounded from a dead tree on the edge of the marsh, and the deep calls of Bullfrogs reverberated below. Eastern Kingbirds, American Goldfinches, an Eastern Phoebe, a Baltimore Oriole, and plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds moved busily about. Yellow water lilies were in full bloom, their solid cups contrasting with the black water below. Amid all that beauty, one of the highlights was seeing dozens of Garter and Water Snakes basking in the vegetation at the trail sides. Sean isn't a fan of snakes, and over the course of the day we saw many, many snakes, some of which were over two feet long.”
“As we watched, a friendly lady jogged passed, noticed we had binoculars and a camera, and told us she often sees Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings in the area. It always gives us a boost to meet and exchange a friendly word with a fellow birder.”
“Just past this point we came to the 'Escarpment Rest Stop', provided courtesy of the Davies Charitable Foundation. This delightful spot consisted of a stone staircase leading up to a bench with a beautiful view. On the rock wall was the quote "Be tough yet gentle, humble yet bold, swayed always by beauty and truth."
And then on the K&P
“When we emerged from the cool green tunnel of deciduous forest into an open cattail marsh, we stopped to watch one of the many Eastern Kinglets we've been seeing in this area. Looking up, we unexpectedly spotted a large White-tailed Deer standing on a rocky promontory on the far shore, it's rich reddish coat seeming to glow in the overcast morning.”
“When the nearly full moon rose over the marsh an Eastern Whip-poor-will began singing loudly above the tent! Whip-poor-wills breed in sync with the full moon, so apparently their eggs hatch approximately 10 days before a full moon. Apparently, nestlings are not kept in the nest, but dispersed to make it more difficult for predators to consume an entire brood.”
They came through Verona
“Here we stopped at the Verona Convenience and Gift Store to get some water and vinegar. Sean went inside to find the supplies, and was sorely tempted by the delicious smells of bacon, mushroom, and egg sandwiches being made by the owner. When Anil asked what Sean was photographing, and learned about our hike, he donated our re-supplies! This spontaneous generosity really gave us a boost, and it was wonderful to meet a local celebrity. Our only regret was not sampling those fantastic smelling sandwiches!”
North to Godfrey.
“We were passed by lots of side-by-sides and a few dirt bikes today, but everyone who passed us slowed right down, gave a small wave, and a few people asked if we were okay. It was really nice to experience a trail section where ATV users and hikers could co-exist in harmony. It brought back fond memories of Newfoundland
“One particularly interesting marsh we stopped beside was inhabited by two pairs of Great Crested Flycatchers. One pair was busily going to and from their cavity nest, which was located in a snag out in the marsh.”
“This morning arrived with a vigorous and loud chorus of birdsong courtesy of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Red-eyed Vireo, Eastern Wood-pewee, and Veery, all in close proximity to the tent. The definitive whistle of a train was the final call to get up and begin the day.
“When we reached the community of Tichborne the trail took us past an outdoor skating and hockey rink. It was easy to imagine it coming alive in winter. From that point onward the trail wove through a forested band with houses on both sides, and a busy road not too far off. Apparently this section of trail is brand new, and was the result of years of planning and work as properties were acquired and the trail built. As we watched a Northern Flicker digging for ants at the edge of the beautiful gravel pathway, we were enormously grateful to be in the pleasant shaded corridor of trees and not on the shoulder of the busy road.”
At the edge of Sharbot Lake we paused in a forested section of trail, between two rocky ledges. The exposed granite walls were damp and glistening from the recent rain, setting off the pale green lichen on their sides. Shafts of sunlight lit up the light green ferns, grasses, and wildflowers growing on the ledges.
And coming through Mountain Grove
“On the far side of town, just as the rain began, we spotted an enormous Snapping Turtle on the trail up ahead. It was standing tall, with all four legs extended, like it was trying to impersonate a coffee table. We watched in horror as two ATVs approached the turtle, but they stopped, and one the riders jumped down and moved the protesting turtle off the path! This made us very happy.