Postcards From: A writer's journal and photographer's blog of just about anything that interests us.
We had an excellent hike last weekend through some familiar territory, as we left the Greater Hamilton area behind and crossed over into Halton. This last quarter of the Iroquoia Section marks the beginning of our traditional hiking area between Mount Nemo Conservation Area in west Halton and Limestone Conservation Area in the Credit Valley, and we know it well. It’s the first time I’ve ever walked from Waterdown to Mount Nemo though, and on a hot August day, I can recommend you take lots of water, and take the climb to the ridge from Walker’s Line at a leisurely pace so you can enjoy every minute of it. There was a lot of road walking on this hike to get around private properties, but I didn’t mind, especially on No. 1 Side Road, where the rolling hills are a narly ride, and you can hear the wind whistling through the racing wheels of the cyclists flying down the road with smiles on their faces and bugs on their teeth. It looked like a lot of fun and I made a mental note to come back with my bike.
The views from Mount Nemo are lovely, looking down on a mixture of farm land, pasture, golf greens, and estates, through great twisted old cedars that cling to deep crevasses in the escarpment capstone. While we were walking, we passed an area of crevasses and I could hear people talking, but couldn’t see where they were. At first I thought it was climbers out on the cliff face, but could see no one. Then I realized the voices were coming from the ground in front of me. We approached the crevasse just in time to see some young hikers emerging from a gap at the bottom of the far side wall. I wish I had taken their pictures. There’s a cave there that they had entered from a spot further back along the trail. Second mental note – next time we’re heading to Mount Nemo, bring headlamps and the kids. That’s what I love about hiking. You can always learn something new about places you’ve been wandering through for years.
I am the first to admit that I am an utter amateur when it comes to plant identification. I don’t claim to be a botanist, or even an experienced naturalist. I’m earnest, not knowledgeable. I would love to rhyme off Latin names like they were a list of ice cream flavours at the dairy, but I can’t. Besides, I think the common names, though much less accurate, are more imaginative, evocative and historically interesting. But I am pretty good at spotting a challenging mental task and procrastinating about it, which is why my post is so late this week. Let’s blame it on the mushrooms. Identifying fungi is hard work. I spent hours over the past few evenings comparing our photos with pictures and descriptions in field guides and online, and I still have no confidence in my results. The fact is, the bloody things are shape shifters. They can look different from day to day as they develop, and lots of them look exactly like each other. Which is why amateurs die foraging for them, mistaking harmless parasols for deadly amanitas. So enjoy Ian’s photos, and take my clumsy attempts at identification with a grain of salt … just don’t eat them.
The asters are no better. Sure, the brilliant showy violet blooms of the New England Aster are easy to spot, but that’s probably the only one. These pretty and prolific harbingers of autumn all look very similar, and my decisions on names are about as accurate as flipping a coin.
And THIS is a Mayapple. I think I told you sometime back that it’s one of my favorite native plants. Now you know why they’re designed to hide their bounty beneath broad parasol leaves. I found it. The foxes didn’t. It was perfect, blemish free, and very ripe. They are edible and if you hold it to your nose you’ll catch the scent of ripe Asian pear. A deep bite through the slightly leathery skin releases a slippery central flesh full of seeds that tastes sweet tart, like passion fruit. I imagined it pressed through a mill and frozen into a sorbet by some talented gourmet chef, to be served as a crisp intermezzo between courses of locally sourced fish and Ontario pork roast — but then I got hungry and realized there were still many kilometers to go, so I pushed that fantasy away and focused on the trail.
August is over, and our final kilometer tally for the Bruce Trail Hike-A-Thon rounds up to 62 kilometers. We’re proud of our efforts, and have donated 100.00 to help the Bruce Trail Club continue to secure, steward and make 5000 additional acres of Niagara escarpment landscape available by 2017 for hikers and nature lovers everywhere to enjoy on the Bruce Trail. Trail lovers from all the clubs helped the Toronto club with this initiative by raising and/or donating over $15,000.00. Way to go!
Only 25 more kilometers, and we will have reached our goal of passing under the Highway 401 before winter. We’re on our way North now!
Until next time, Happy Trails! Louise & Ian