Trail Talk – February 7, 2018

Well winter is here. This does not stop the keen Outdoors folk who, if need be, dust off their snow shoes or skis to get out on the trails. There are trails that, due to frequent use, are usually walkable. Some of these are: The Maitland Woods, the Goderich boardwalk, the Sifto Loop The MacNaughton Morrison Trail, and the Lobb’s Trail (thanks to grooming by Murray Lobb).

The Tuesday Trompers keep walking in the winter usually alternating between the Maitland Woods and the Sifto trail unless there are road closures. The February 6th hike will be in the Maitland Woods. The Wednesday hikes (next one on Feb 14th), go on a variety of trails, so snow shoes are often helpful, as do the Friday L.I.F.E. hikers who sometimes walk the Libro Arena in Clinton if the weather is bad.  At this time in the year the trails can be icy, in which case Icers are recommended. I have the best ones are from Lee Valley however at $54.50 plus tax they are more expensive than the ones you can find at Marks and Canadian Tire, but the Lee Valley ones have the best grip and least likely to come off accidentally.

If you are buying snow shoes there are lots of options to choose from. The wood snowshoes have the advantage of tradition but the modern aluminum ones are better when climbing hills. The ones made by Tubbs are the Cadillac of the modern type, but check the fastening system which may be awkward, I like the quick fastening Yanes make. The other thing to check is the pivoting system, the best ones have a rod and the cheaper ones have a strap, which are more likely to flip snow onto the snowshoe and form a snowball under one’s heel. Size is important if you are breaking trail in deep snow but less important otherwise.

The avid skier uses skis that must be waxed, with the type of wax dependent on the temperature, the occasional user may well be quite satisfied with waxless skis.

Two great advantages of hiking the trails in winter are the times when there is the beauty of fresh snow on the trees and the fascination of looking at animal tracks. I’ve found Animal Tracks of Ontario by Ian Sheldon helpful in figuring out what species of creature made the track.

There is always plenty to see on the trails, I’ve found that in Huron County I usually see and/or hear some birds, a pleasant change from hiking in the Sault Ste. Marie area, where it was unusual to see or hear birds. Roger Goddard gives talks on identifying birds, and if you can’t wait until his next hike, a pair of binoculars and a good bird book, such as The Sibley Guide to Birds, are a good way to start. (If you want any good nature book try Finchers in Goderich, who, if they don’t have it in stock, will order it.)

Although you may hike a lot and never see any wild animal other than a squirrel, my second most often sightings have been deer (often just a glimpse of a tail disappearing).  I have occasionally seen a raccoon, fox, rabbit, chipmunk, beaver, vole or musk rat, but only once have I seen a mink, opossum, and coyote. Only up North have I seen a bear or moose or porcupine while hiking. The only skunks I have seen have been in town or in the garden.

If you have any interesting news or observations about the trails that you think would be of interest to readers of Trail Talk please let me know (