This morning arrived in a wave of birdsong that started just before sunrise. Among the most vigorous singers were a Wood Thrush, a White-breasted Nuthatch, a Warbling Vireo, a White-throated Sparrow, and a family of American Crows in the distance. It was quite an eclectic mix.
We got up shortly after the avian alarm clock went off, planning to make the most of the 'cool' morning temperatures. We hadn't put the tarp on last night in order to take advantage of any cool temperatures. We soon discovered that while we had enjoyed the cool temperatures, we had also gotten covered in dew.
As we set off down the trail the morning sunlight was filtering through the foliage on either side of the path, casting long dappled shadows on the grassy track. The wildflowers were sending up a sweet smell that was mixed with the tang of pine needles.
As we made our way along in a corridor of cedars, spruce, and pine we also started to pass some pockets of cattail marsh. There we spotted a pair of Common Yellowthroats feeding young in a willow, heard the raucous calls of Red-winged Blackbirds, and spotted an Eastern Kingbird perched high above the water on a wire. For the first time in weeks we found ourselves surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes.
When we approached the community of Hillsborough we walked along the edge of a small lake. The water level was extremely low, leaving a large expanse of rather smelly mud exposed around the edges. A large group of young Canada Geese were clustered on the shore and a family of five Killdeer were running back and forth, keening loudly in their demanding voices.
Although we felt like we were in the country, after leaving Hillsborough we crossed two very busy roads, which were a reminder of how close we remain to the densely populated GTA. One upside of civilization is the amenities it offers, and we did stop to enjoy a quick coffee as we crossed the highway.
As we made our way towards Erin we started to see more people out cycling and jogging on the trail. They all passed us with a smile and a friendly greeting, but a few seemed to give us a strange look. As we were approached by a couple with two dogs on leashes we were at first puzzled when they veered into the bushes. When we were a short distance away the woman called out to us, asking us if that was our dog. Puzzled, we turned around to discover that a beautiful but very dirty dog was following behind us, as if he belonged to us. He didn't have a collar, but seemed friendly and didn't look undernourished. The very nice couple asked about our hike and gave us some good tips about the trail ahead, but a dog altercation seemed likely, so we parted ways. Fortunately for us the lone dog stopped following us, and the couple seemed to indicate that he belonged to a local farm. We very much hope he got home safely.
As we approached the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park we found ourselves walking through beautiful rolling countryside. Old stone farmhouses, large mansions, and modern homes were set back on huge estates with expansive views over the rolling countryside. Split rail fences surrounded meadows and hay fields, some of which contained beautiful horses. The patchwork of green and gold fields seemed to glow beneath a bright blue sky.
When we reached Forks of the Credit Provincial Park we got a glimpse out over a treed valley far below. We could see train tracks winding among the trees at the bottom of the valley and we could hear a rushing river somewhere below.
Forks of the Credit Provincial Park is part of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere. The Credit River runs through the middle of the park on it's way to Port Credit, where it empties into Lake Ontario. It is strange to think we walked past the bottom of this river just a few short weeks ago.
The park supports a wide variety of different habitats, including areas around its kettle lake and the river, meadows, early successions habitat, and forest. Although it was 38°C when we walked through, we heard a variety of birds including a Black-throated Green Warbler, multiple Song Sparrows, a Marsh Wren, and a Hairy Woodpecker. We also saw Turkey Vultures circling overhead, a Northern Harrier flying with purpose into the forest, and a Northern Flicker foraging for ants at the trailside. The biggest highlight was seeing a Clay-coloured Sparrow in one of the meadows!
Another highlight when crossing the park was walking a short section of the Bruce Trail. It was on this rugged footpath, which runs along the escarpment from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Tobermory that our love of long-distance hiking began. We walked through this section on an organized end-to-end hike, and again with a good friend. Good memories all.
After leaving the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park we had a stretch of road walking. The first part was down shady gravel side roads, which were mostly lined with cedars, cattail marshes, and the occasional house.
As we hiked north we slowly approached the escarpment, rising before us like a dark green wall. When we reached the foot of it we crossed a bridge over the clear, shallow, fast-flowing Credit River. In front of us was a steep wooden staircase where a Bruce Trail side-trail climbed the embankment. For once we were glad to be on the less steep road!
As the road too began to climb we once again found ourselves in beautiful, open, countryside. The hills extended out around us like wrinkles in a large, soft blanket, and in the distance we could see the towers of Toronto. We passed large estates and picturesque barns in this pastoral setting, but by this point in the afternoon the heat was extreme, and roadwalkng in the sun made for tough going.
We were glad to descend down into the town of Inglewood, although somewhat disappointed to discover that it lacked a variety store or coffee shop with cold drinks. By this point the little water left in our bottles was as warm as tea.
As we sat in the shade and looked at the map we realized that we were only a couple kilometers from the Cheltenham Badlands. There is a spur of the Great Trail that would take us down there, but it is simply too hot to do extra kilometers this afternoon. The badlands consist of an area of soft rock that is bare of vegetation and soil cover which has been molded into rolling mounds and gullies like a folded blanket. The Queenstown Shale is a bright rusty red due to high iron oxide content, and it is highlighted with striations of light green iron oxide.
When we visited the Cheltenham Badlands in 2016 it was an unmonitored site where visitors could walk out onto the red mounds, but since then a boardwalk has been built to help protect this rare geological feature. It is well worth a visit!
We made our way down the main street of Inglewood to the trailhead, where we picked up the Caledon Trailway. We were somewhat dismayed to find a poster at the trailhead telling us that the trail is closed due to bridge construction until after the next concussion. On closer examination it seems the closure might not yet be in effect, but we are left wondering if the bridge is passable. Exhausted from the heat and feeling a little discouraged, we decided to find a spot to pitch the tent and determine how things stand in the morning.