Monday, June 8, 2020

Tweed to past Springbrook

We began this morning with a short walk through the charming village of Tweed, Ontario. The downtown boasted many colourful and well-tended gardens, including one at the Heritage Center that displayed a Totem pole. The town also featured lots of interesting art, in its shops, on various murals located throughout the town, on artistically painted fire hydrants, and in a display of painted wooden school buses created by schoolkids and hung on the edge of town.

 
 
 


We watched Tree Swallows diving above the river, with its stately green trestle bridge, and listened to the soft coo of Mourning Doves. We also stopped to visit North America's smallest jail, which was built by R.F. Houston, the founder of the Tweed Lumber Company, in 1898. The jail was 4.8 m wide and 6 m deep, and originally housed three cells and a lobby. Most occupants during the 50 years the jail was operational were vagrants and rabble rousers. The most famous inmate was Gideon Butts, who murdered his wife while suffering a delusion that she was a serpent (or so the story goes).



An historical plaque indicated that the area was known for establishing one of the first Boards of Health in response to the small pox outbreak of 1884. The outbreak in nearby Hungerford was effectively contained as a result of quarantine measures and vaccination, and the coordinated response used there became a model for disease control throughout the 1800's.

 
 

At the edge of town we passed a Great Trail pavilion, which featured photos of the trail opening in Tweed. It was located in a lovely green park, but we didn't hang about because the lawn care crew was hard at work, and in the process of watering the flowers at the base of the Pavilion.

A few kilometers outside of town we came to a beautifully landscaped memorial garden dedicated to Erin Palmateer, who was instrumental in establishing the trail in the area, and her brother. The garden and benches were situated on the shores of a beautiful and peaceful lake.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A little farther on we came to a second lake, where we paused beside a bench to enjoy the view. The haunting calls of a Common Loon floated out over the dark blue water that was gently ruffled by the breeze. In the cattails at the edges of the lake a Swamp Sparrow called consistently. The piercing call of a Red-winged Blackbird rang out from the cedars along shore. It was a welcome break.


As we rounded the edge of the lake, we came upon a beautiful swallowtail butterfly, enjoying a patch of early cover. Such a beautiful sight!


 
 

Although the landscape was an interesting mixture of fields, deciduous forests, marshes, and lakes, the going was tough today, and physical discomfort took over most things. In many areas the trailbed was covered in deep gravel, which made pulling the cart difficult. Added to this, much of the day was a steady uphill climb. In sections where there was little shade, this made the hot sun very draining. ATV traffic was persistent. Until you get into the rhythm of a hike, there is always a day when things seem really difficult. Today was that day. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier, although with temperatures of 34°C predicted, optimism is a stretch.

Around noon we found ourselves surrounded by agricultural fields. The smell of fresh mown hay was strong in the warm dusty air, and several wagons piled high with shrink wrapped round hay bales drove past us at intersections.

 
 
 

Over the course of the day we rescued several turtles from the trail. It is generally a good idea to leave wildlife where you find it, but there was a lot of ATV traffic on the trail. The little Midland Painted Turtle hissed indignantly when I picked it up before drawing waaaay back inside his shell. Perhaps my favourite was the Blandings Turtle that seemed to be smiling.

 
 
 

In the late afternoon, at the height of the heat, we found ourselves walking among un-mown grass fields that were sprinkled with the occasional juniper bush, honeysuckle, apple tree, or other low standing shrub. We were delighted to hear three separate Eastern Meadowlarks! They were perched at the very tips of the shrubs, all at considerable distances from the trail. The heat haze made it difficult to photograph them from such a distance, but we spent some time enjoying them.
 
 
 

 
A little farther down the trail, still among agricultural fields, we unexpectedly came across a Red Fox on the trail! When we first spotted it, it was quite far away, but we stood still, and very fortunately it began trotting towards us! It looked young, quite skinny, and very thirsty, with its mouth open and its long, pink, curled tongue hanging out.

 

Still struggling from the heat and the incline, we continued on in the hot afternoon. Our mood wasn't improved by the fact that the trail made a 4 km detour north of Springbrook Rd, only to make a sharp point and come 4 km straight back south to cross Springbrook Rd a few hundred meters from where we'd been an hour and a half previously.



A bright spot was making it back to the tiny community of Springbrook before 6 pm, and being able to order grilled cheese and fries and a water refill from the Springbrook Diner just before they closed.

As evening set in the temperature began to drop, and we hiked another few kilometers in search of a place to camp. We finally found a spot, tucked in under a stand of eastern white cedars, next to a meandering brook.

 
 
 

As we try to get some sleep, there is a lot of bird activity and other noises by the marsh. Mourning Doves are cooing above us. An over-excited Rose-breasted Grosbeak is vigorously burbling away. A Veery is calling with amazing persistence and volume. Red-winged Blackbirds, a Blue Jay, a Gray Catbird, an American Robin, and a Red-eyed Vireo are adding to the frey. There is also something whining softly in the marsh, the sound of waterfowl splashing and taking flight on the brook, something big crashing and swishing a little farther off, and a healthy chorus of frogs singing. Who thought nature could be so loud?



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