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.
The morning was sunny and already warm and humid at 8 am. The bright sunlight and still morning air created stunning reflections of the lone white snags among the lily pads and yellow waterlily blossoms on the ponds we passed.
It was another gorgeous day of walking among marshes, beaver ponds, small communities, and gloriously shady deciduous and mixed forests. Many of the logs out in the ponds we passed had several turtles basking on top. The most common were Midland Painted Turtles, but we also spotted a Blanding's Turtle, a Red-eared Slider, and a couple Snapping Turtles. We are continually amazed that even though we pose no threat to the turtles, and are always quite far away and on shore, they all disappear into the water with loud plops as we stop to watch them.
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.
As we approached the community of Sharbot Lake, houses became more frequent, and traffic busier. However, the landscape remained beautiful. In one marsh we spotted the biggest snake we've ever seen in the wild swimming along the shore. It was about 4 ft long, very thick, and moving quickly. Our best guess is that it was a Gray Rat Snake. This is Ontario's largest snake, reaching up to 2 m in length, bandit is non-venomous. There are two populations in Ontario, and the Frontenac one is threatened, mostly as a result of loss or degradation of habitat, road mortality, and persecution by people.
A little farther on we spotted a large bullfrog blending in with a piece of driftwood in the marsh. Overhead a Wilson's Snipe gave its distinctive winnowing, and all around Red-winged Blackbirds busily defended their territories and foraged for food. We were lucky to spot a muskrat munching on greens quite near to shore.
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.
At the edge of town we crossed a small footbridge and came to Sharbot Lake. The large expanse of open water was beautiful, and brought to mind the archetypal 'north woods' cottage country.
Information plaques explained that we were crossing a Causeway built in the late 1800's to accommodate two railway lines from the Kingston and Pembroke and the Ontario and Quebec Railways. It was interesting to compare what it looked like today with the historical image of the Causeway.
Sharbot Lake is a charming tourist -oriented town, with lots of amenities, a lake-front park and beach, and many small shops and restaurants. It will likely be hard-hit if Ontario isn't able to re-open for the summer tourist season this year.
We got to town around noon, and made our way to the Frontenac News, where we spoke to Jeff. We learned a lot from him about the area, its geology, and various conservation efforts being undertaken here. The interview ended with an amazing take-out iced coffee from the local cafe.
After that we picked up some groceries, and met Kathy, who has very kindly and thoughtfully arranged a physically distanced stay for us at her cottage on a nearby lake. We have spent a truly beautiful afternoon and evening on the dock, enjoying interesting conversation, watching fish jump, listening to a beaver consume half a bush a few meters down the shore, seeing a flock of geese land on the water, and admiring countless dragonflies dancing on the surface of the lake.
After a gorgeous golden and pink sunset we can hear a Barred Owl calling on the far shore of the lake, and a Common Loon's eerie yodel coming across the water. It is incredibly peaceful here.