It was a gloriously cool, sunny morning when we headed out around 7:00 am to find breakfast. Afterwards, we followed the extremely well-marked Great Trail along the Otonabee River, through the quiet streets of Peterborough, and then along a wooded corridor to Jackson Park. This urban park offers wide gravel trails and footpaths through cedar stands, open areas, deciduous and mixed forests, small wetlands, and along Jackson Creek. The variety of habitats makes it a great place to go birding.
We were supposed to meet a few enthusiastic members of the Peterborough Field Naturalists at 8:00 am for a socially-distanced bird walk through the park. Embarrassingly, we managed to get lost on the way to the parking lot, so were a few minutes late. Since it was the first gathering of PFN since the Covid 19 lockdown, the group politely indicated that our error provided time for socializing.
Not only was our walk through Jackson Park a wonderful opportunity to meet members of the PFN, but we also kicked off our Bird Count for Racial Justice in support of the Toronto Chapter of the Feminist Birders Club's efforts to raise money for the Black Legal Action Center. This non-profit organization provides free legal services to no or low income Black residents of Ontario.
We were joined by an enthusiastic group of eight members of the PFN, and as we made our way through a mixed stand of trees, an open grassy area, and a small marshy patch we managed to see or hear 23 species of birds in about a hour and a half. Some of the highlights included hearing a Pine Warbler, watching a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at close range, getting a good look at several American Redstarts, enjoying a good view of a male Common Yellowthroat, and seeing a Hairy Woodpecker pair moving about in the canopy.
It was a wonderful opportunity to exchange stories with members of the PFN, and to share a bit of inside info on our hike. We would like to thank several members who made generous donations in support of our hike, and to Reem for working hard to organize the hike on very short notice (and for her group picture of the day). It was a wonderful way to begin the day!
After the bird hike we walked the 3 km back downtown to pick up our gear, and have a second breakfast at the Silver Bean cafe on the banks of the river. Thus fortified, we headed back to Jackson Park on our way out of Peterborough. There we met Erica, my former MSc supervisor and her husband Chris. They both attended the bird walk, and it was lovely to have an opportunity to catch with them both. Chris very kindly baked a delicious banana loaf for us, which helped fuel what turned into a long day of walking. We felt humbled and spoiled!
As we headed out along the Jackson Park Trail we randomly ran into Barbara-Ann from MyKawartha, whom we had been corresponding with during the past few days. Sometimes coincidences do happen, and this was the first of several today.
As we reached the edge of the park we ran into Colin, a birder who used to help our field crew search for Wood Thrush, American Robin, and Ovenbird nests in the surrounding area during my MSc research project. He made quite an impression on us back then, because he seemed to jog through the woods at a pace that would have left most of us doing no more than tripping, yet somehow he managed to always find an improbable number of nests. Today he not only made a very generous donation to our cause, but encouraged others to do the same. We are incredibly grateful! Thanks also for the picture of the two of us together - a rare treat indeed!
The trail leading out of Peterborough was a beautiful, flat, crushed stone dust trail. On this warm, sunny Sunday afternoon it was extremely busy, with many cyclists enjoying the weather. Contrary to what we expected from the satellite imagery, the trail did not take us through open corn fields, but rather took the form of a partially shaded trail, running between shrubs and bushes, and occasionally passing through stands of white cedar, paper birch, and trembling aspen.
During the hot afternoon there wasn't a lot of bird activity, but we did spot a few Brown Thrashers darting across the trail, a pair of Turkey Vultures soaring overhead, and many small groups of American Goldfinches bouncing in and out of the trail-side shrubs. Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks were singing in the rolling hay fields, and a particular highlight was seeing a Barn Swallow sitting atop a fence on the edge of a pasture.
Before we came to the community of Omemee we crossed the famous Doube's Trestle Bridge which sits along the Kawartha Trans Canada Trail system. This impressive bridge spans 200 m, and runs 29 m above Buttermilk Valley. A small stream meandered through the emerald green, forested valley far below. Above, the bright blue sky was streaked with puffy white clouds. Many people were out on the bridge, enjoying the view.
The next highlight of our hike came when we reached the community of Omemee, which is located on the Pigeon River. In 1857 this town was renamed after the Omemee tribe, which used to hunt in this region, and the name translates as "pigeon" in the Mississauga language. One of its claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of the famous Canadian singer and songwriter Neil Young.
We stepped off the trail in Omemee to purchase some water. Along the way we discovered an ice cream stand, and decided to indulge. As we were standing outside enjoying our cool treats we were approached by a friendly couple who asked what we were doing. It turns out they were from Newfoundland, and the man had made a couple trips across the country himself, hitchhiking and walking. They were very supportive of our adventure, and ended up making a generous donation so we could buy a nice dinner. Yet another wonderful chance meeting today.
When we calculated the distances we were planning to walk today we thought Omemee was about 6 km closer to Peterborough than it turned out to be. We also thought there wouldn't be any place to stop and camp except for one small wooded area just past Omemee. It turned out there were plenty of places to stop, except for the spot we were aiming for, which turned out to be a marsh. Go figure. We were feeling energized by all the support we received today, the trail was great, and the temperatures were nice, so we decided to keep going.
We walked along the edge of the small community of Reaboro, which appeared to us as a playground (still closed due to Covid 19 restrictions), and a row of houses. Just past Reaboro we saw a really cool sign, indicating that education was ongoing on the trail. We soon learned that this took the form of the Eco Park 2000. This property had lots of educational signage, as well as demonstration gardens, buildings, and multiple Chimney Swift structures. We were very excited at the prospect of adding some Swifts to our bird list for the day, but no such luck.
When we crossed Highway 7 Sean had a bit of a mishap. He stepped to the side of the trail to take a photo of the Kawartha Lakes Trail sign, and discovered without warning that there was a deep ditch hidden by the tall grass. He landed hard, jarring the camera, knocking the clip loose and causing something to rattle inside, injuring his wrist and bruising his pride. The camera seems to function okay, but it was a close call.
In the late afternoon we walked through rolling hills of hay and corn, with many beautiful barns. As the sun began to set, and the shadows lengthen, we took a break and enjoyed some of Chris's delicious banana loaf. It was the perfect thing to give us another boost.
In the late afternoon or early, as we met another cyclist who looked like he might have been in his 60's. He asked what we were doing, and told us he had cycled across Canada 2006, calling it "the best thing I ever did." This was the second person we met today who has journeyed from coast to coast not in a car, and remembered it as a grand adventure. Reasons for optimism.
By the end of the day we'd seen 52 species of birds, and walked nearly 45 km to reach the town of Lindsay. It was a much longer walk than we'd planned, but it was a wonderful day on the trail, filled with many blessings. This is beautiful region and the Kawartha Trans Canada Trails are amazing!
Lindsay is a medium sized town located on the Scugog River, on land that was tradition territory of the Anishinabek (ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᒃ) and Huron-Wendat People. It is the commercial center for the City of Kawartha Lakes. The township was founded in 1825 and grew up around a couple of grist mills on the river. When the Port Hope Railway arrived in 1857 tit brought a period of prosperity.
As we came into town, crossing a bridge over the wide, calm, Scugog River the soft light of evening was beginning to fade. Swallows were catching insects on the water, and a Great Blue Heron fished by the shore. It was a peaceful end to a beautiful summer day.