Trail Talk 164 March 31st 2021

What part of the Maitland Trail might you see this?

How well do you know the Huron County Trails? Where is this?

Last week’s photo was of a sign at Point Farms Provincial Park.  The park is open from May 14th to Oct 12th. Before the opening date you can park just outside the entrance and walk or hike the trails.  The north Farms Trail is a pleasant trail for about 20 minutes. After you reach the road you can continue on the Farms Trail or head down to the lake on the Ravine trail.  However when you reach the lake and head South you have to cross a creek, which can vary from easy to impossible without getting wet feet.  If you carry on keeping to the Farms trail you will eventually head back towards the entrance on the South Farms Trail, which is often dry in the summer time but can have some significant wet spots.

The history of Point Farms is very interesting as there used to be a very large hotel on the site, although all signs of the building have disappeared. As David Yates reported in the May 13th 2011 Focus, the Point Farm Hotel was a luxury resort in the late 1800s. The original hotel was built by Joseph Wright in 1870 to accommodate 60 guests and rebuilt in 1874 after a fire with room for 200 guests. The hotel was 400 feet long with a 75 tall tower.  In 1877 it hosted 1933 overnight guests during the summer.  According to an 1889 article in the Goderich Illustrated Signal Star “The dining room could seat 300 persons at a time.” and  “The house is delightfully situated on a high bluff overlooking Lake Huron with extensive views of the surrounding country.  As far as possible the natural woods have not been disturbed,  and seated in one of the numerous summer houses within sound of the musical splash of the waves, it is easy to imagine oneself entirely out of the reach of civilization”.   I am fairly sure that at that time there would have been a larger shore than there is at present. The current shore is greatly reduced because of  unusually high lake levels.

There has been quite lot of activity in the park during the winter with many trees cut down –mostly dead ash trees, and preparations are being made for what is  expected to be a very busy summer camping season.  The trail signage has been much improved over the past several years, and one of the signs has a picture of the of the former hotel.

A Western Honey bee on a crocus
A Compton Tortoiseshell

There have been many indications of spring with the return to warm weather.  One of the most surprising was seeing a garter snake on March  21st on the neighbour’s lawn.  On Monday  March 22nd there were several bees on the early crocus and there were five species of butterflies in our garden, a Mourning Cloak, a Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, a Compton Tortoiseshell and two unidentified ones.    I had not knowingly seen a Compton tortoiseshell before.  I have also seen a few violets, and a few periwinkles in bloom and had a report of coltsfoot being seen.  I have seen several mourning cloak butterflies while hiking the trails, these are largely black with a yellow band at the edge of their wings.

On Tuesday March 23rd at the Newton Tract, there were vast numbers of snowdrops out, I don’t recall seeing quite as many there last year, and by the time you read this I am sure there will be many violets on display there. The purples ones bloom first and the yellow and white ones come out a little later on.

On Monday morning March 22nd I hiked the Sugar Bush trails, they were mostly clear of snow but one patch had quite a bit of snow which could be avoided by walking at the edge of the trail, I saw three deer there, the first deer I have seen this year.  By Thursday morning the trails were largely free of snow.  Similarly on Wednesday March 24th the Lobb trail can finally be walked safely without icers by keeping to the edge of the trail at the parts that still have some ice.

Notes:  Hikers are expected to be socially distant from others.

Due to the Ontario province wide lockdown restricting gathering to 5 people all scheduled hikes in April will be cancelled.

The Woodlands Nature trail is still probably closed past the bridge due to uncleared storm damage.

If you have questions or something of interest for Trail Talk email me Patrick Capper at pcapper99@gmail.com.