When we woke up it was still raining, but we remained in the tent to enjoy some delicious homemade muffins from Robert. It was a lovely and much appreciated way to begin the day!
Around 8 am the rain stopped and we emerged into the lush, dripping, glowing green world. Almost right away we spotted a tiny but elegant Wood Frog in the glossy wet leaf litter. The Wood Frog has a wide distribution across North America, inhabiting wetlands from the Boreal forest to the southern Appalachian Mountains. It has been extensively studied for its ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures. Wood Frogs can stop their breathing and heartbeats and produce a special antifreeze that prevents their cells from freezing and rupturing. The spaces between their cells do freeze however, only rethawing when temperatures warm up in spring.
It was a muggy and buggy morning, with the mosquitoes out in full force after the rain. It was only a few kilometers to walk to the community of Verona. T
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!
Verona is a community of about 1,800 people that is located halfway between Kingston and Sharbot Lake. It lies right on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, surrounded by a mix of farmland, rocky-shored lakes, and mixed woodlands. The K&P Trail that runs through it is well kept and well used by its friendly inhabitants, especially cyclists.
After leaving town we were in a forested section of trail with a dense canopy cover. We heard a Blue Jay giving persistent alarm calls in a stand of white pines to one side of the trail, and then saw a sudden burst of activity as a large, brown bird took silently to the air. The Barred Owl landed on the top of an old grey snag a few meters farther into the forest, looked straight at me for a few seconds, and then took flight again as the Blue Jay mobbed it. Any owl sighting is incredibly exciting for us.
The hike today was along a beautiful, flat, stone dust trail that took us passed marshes, small beaver ponds and lakes, larger lakes with rocky shores, and through deciduous forests. The rain had left a fresh smell, and bird activity was high. The world felt very alive.
When we reached Godfrey we crossed a busy road for ice cream at the General Store. Social distancing measures were in place, and so we sat at the edge of the trail to enjoy our cool treat.
As the lilac scented trail took us through a small group of cottages and houses we spotted a Black-billed Cuckoo among the lilacs. It adopted a whole variety of interesting poses while having its photo taken. Quite a ham!
A short while later, as we were walking through another forested section of trail we came across an outhouse at the trailside. A pair of flycatchers had built a nest of mud and moss under the eaves, and four nestlings were inside, grumpily peering over the edge.
As we approached busy road crossing, a group of ladies we'd seen cycling past earlier passed us once again. They waited for us at the road crossing, and asked where we were walking to. A friendly conversation followed, and ended with good wishes and a few offers of a backyard to camp in for the night. Once again, we were left feeling warmed by the kindness of strangers.
As we continued into the afternoon we were just emerging from another forested section of trail into a hydro corridor, when a mother deer and her fawn bounded across the trail in front of us. We hoped we'd get a closer look, so hurried out into the open corridor, but the land was hilly, and the pair was gone.
Not too long after that excitement, we crossed into a wooded section of trail, and spotted a porcupine having a nap while hugging a branch, high up in a tree.
A few steps farther on Sean spotted an Eastern Bluebird perched high up in an aspen tree, its red front glowing in the overcast morning. As he was photographing the Bluebird, a Mink bounded across the trail, crossing from one side of the marsh to the other.
Still excited from the mink sighting, we took a break and a looked at the map. We have a meeting in Sharbot Lake tomorrow, so were looking for a spot to camp tonight. We realized we needed to stop soon, or we would find ourselves in what looks like cottage country on the satellite map. Once we find ourselves on developed lakes, access to drinking water usually becomes difficult, and secluded camping spots that are not on private land become rare.
As we crossed a particularly beautiful stretch trail, which took us between two typically northern Ontario lakes, we came across a Killdeer on the side of the gravel trail. She was doing a broken wing display, suggesting she had either eggs or fledglings nearby, and wished to distract us by drawing our attention away from them. We decided to hang back and see if could figure out what she was hiding, but at that moment a man drove past on his ATV with a large hound in tow.
We finally found a secluded spot to pitch the tent. Shortly after we set everything up, a rain cloud swept through, dumping about two minutes of heavy rain before the sun came out. As the sun set a Rose-breated Grosbeak, a Wood Thrush, another Veery, and a Blue Jay were singing loudly above the tent. A chorus of Tree Frogs and American Toads began singing in the nearby beaver pond.
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. Adults will help the young disperse by nudging them with their feet (like a nestling football?). We looked hard, but even with the bright moon we couldn't spot the singing adult.