Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The New Stew Hilts Side Trail

I've spent the last two days writing an article for the local Bruce Trail Club's newsletter, so that's what you get today.  Hope it's of interest even if you don't live locally.

The New Stew Hilts Side Trail

First of all, let me express my deepest appreciation to the club for naming a new side trail in my honour.  It goes through some beautiful forest and ends up at a ‘secret’ waterfall, so it’s pretty special.  The Cuckoo Valley Overlook property owned by BTC is a wonderful place for other reasons too, beautiful big trees, a wonderful view of the valley, and spectacular fall colour.

We had a grand gathering in early June to officially open the trail, with speeches that were far too long, but it was a memorable occasion for Maria and I, with many of my Bruce Trail friends.

 The gang at the official opening.
(Stew, Maria and his sister Marilyn centre front)

The main trail through Cuckoo Valley Overlook runs from the Johnson’s Sideroad parking lot (km. 70.1) east and then south into the forest along the western slope of the valley.  The forest extends south to the waterfall and the stream that feeds it, but you only get a limited view of the falls disappearing over the lip of the rock.  The trail then turns uphill and follows the stream for a short distance before turning south again and heading up to the crest of a hill.  This is the ‘overlook’, and the view is spectacular.

Looking east to Cuckoo Valley

Cuckoo Valley is the narrow cliff-bound valley rimmed with cedars below Eugenia Falls, showing up in the photo as a dark valley on the upper right horizon.

The new side trail leaves the main trail while you’re still in the forested section, and dips east, further downhill, before turning south again.  Marked by the usual blue side trail sign and blazes, it takes you through the woods to the base of the waterfall.

Stew’s sister Marilyn and the new side trail sign.

Through the Woods 

 The waterfall itself is small, but it drops about 30 feet over first the Manitoulin dolostone, and then the Queenston Shale.  Erosion of the softer Queenston Shale under the very hard dolostone is what has created the waterfall.  You can clearly see first the blue-gray and then the red of the Queenston Shale.  For those of you who know it, this is geologically identical, although with less water, to Webwood Falls.

The Falls

Adding this new side trail makes much more use of the large Cuckoo Valley Overlook property, and adds some extra interest for hikers.  It also makes a shorter hike if you don’t want to go uphill all the way to the overlook!

The idea for this side trail was floated several years ago by Cathy Little, the Land Steward then, and myself.  In fact the first time I found my way down to below the falls, I had snowshoed in during the winter.  The falls I found was a spectacular sheet of ice!  The slopes beside the waterfall are impossibly steep, as you can see below, so the plan is to build a viewing platform from which to view the falls, as soon as funding can be found.

The trail through Cuckoo Valley Overlook is great at any season, and with both the crest of the hill and the waterfall as destinations, it’s a great hike.  The main trail among those trees on the upper right of this photo skirts the waterfall, but with no view of the falls, you don’t even realize that this is down below you.  Now there’s a way to get down and see it.  Hope you get to enjoy the new side trail sometime.

Photo Credits to Marilyn Hilts, Ned Morgan and Stew Hilts
Transferred this from a Word file, so there may be some spacing issues.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Misty Meadows Market

Misty Meadows Market was fabulous!  We first stopped when it was a small roadside stand.  It grew to a small store inside a house where we stopped many times.  Over the years it added an outdoor veggie stand in season, and a small chip stand.  Now it's this huge modern grocery store.  We were very impressed.

Easy disabled parking right up front.

And lots of fresh things out front, from cut flowers to a long veggie stand.

This is a great place to get bulk veggies like small cukes for making pickles.  We were there for peaches for making jam.

A transport truck was there unloading a few things (probably from the Mennonite run Bruce-Huron Produce Auction near Lucknow).  This dog looked out from the front seat.

Inside the store was bright, roomy and clean.

The Mennonite-made quilts on the upper walls were striking, and all remarkably cheap, less than $1000.00.  That's probably a good deal less than $10.00 an hour!

There were more kinds of honey than I've ever seen, and lots of baking, including of course butter tarts.

Mennonites don't play a lot of musical instruments, though some churches are known for their beautiful four-part acapella singing.  But they obviously play the harmonica.  There were two shelves of these, at prices up to $400.00.  The straw hats always appeal to me.

Even the checkout counter was beautiful, polished wood made by a local carpenter.

We said good-bye to the horse and headed home with our peaches.


A Note on the Mennonite Culture

I'm not Mennonite, but I sense that there is a lot of local misunderstanding of the Mennonite culture because Mennonites do tend to form a community unto themselves, with their own churches and schools.  We also tend to base our judgements on seeing 'horse and buggy' Mennonites, while actually these Old Order Mennonites (or possibly Amish) represent only 10-20% of Mennonites in the community.

Mennonite churches believe strongly in the importance of family and local community, usually associated with a particular local church.  Decisions are made locally and thus over time tremendous variation evolves compared to mainstream churches, from very traditional and conservative to quite modern.  Many Mennonites would be indistinguishable from you or I in appearance, though their personal commitment to living a life of peace and love might be different (and admirable).

Thus you can't tell a Mennonite by whether they have electricity on the farm, whether they use tractors, or whether they drive modern cars.  There are an increasing number of Mennonites in Grey County, and I'd like tp learn more about their culture.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Drive to Conn

While the carpenter was spreading ear-splitting noise in the kitchen putting up the door to our renovated bathroom, we decided to get out of the house and drive down to Conn to see the big new Misty Meadows Market which we've watched under construction for the past year or more.  It was a beautiful drive on a beautiful day; we took our time and went slowly on the back roads under blue skies..

A new home just around the corner from our old home, and a large new hog barn we watched go up two years ago.

Sadly, both the Saugeen and Bighead Rivers were very low, reflecting the dry summer and the time of year.

And even more sadly, Goldenrod and Joe-pye Weed were blooming in the ditches, always the first signs of the summer season changing to fall.

The interesting Swinton Park church with it's belltower silhouetted in the distance.

And then we were heading through our favourite road through the woods for a mile.

Ripe Choke Cherries along the road.  Mrs. F.G. was tempted to stop and pick some, but I convinced her that it was enough to make strawberry, raspberry, black currant, mixed black currant and blueberry, red currant and peach jam this year!

Soon after that we got to Conn and the new Misty Meadows Market, in a fabulous large barn-style building.

It's a Mennonite market, run by a Mennonite family who we have gotten to know over the years.  They provide a convenient hitching rail for the horses.

And we picked up our fresh peaches, the ostensible reason for going.

The trip home was beautiful, under white fluffy clouds.

 We were pleased to see lots of Milkweed growing in the ditches, hopefully home to many Monarchs.  There's a lot less spraying of roadsides than there used to be.

Through our favourite stretch of road again and back to Swinton Park.  It's a very interesting church; we were inside once for a strawberry social.

We took a turn past our old house, but couldn't see much; it's getting overgrown!

A beautiful and colourful garden not too far south of Meaford.

As we passed this farm we noticed they had a sign out front advertising the Good Family Farm Store - another place we will drop into sometime soon.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Kitesurfing at Oliphant!

Leaving Petrel Point, we returned south and drove out to the shore at the North Oliphant Beach.  We were surprised to see a kitesurfer fly by in the distance.  But by the time we got headed along the shore road, we realized there were at least a dozen kitesurfers zipping by on the choppy waters in the brisk breeze.

I thought the two on the right were pretty close. You don't want the lines to get tangled!

We sat and watched the spectacle for awhile, enjoying the excitement.  It seems that kitesurfing has taken over from the lone windsurfer here in popularity.

Then a guy very close by started up.  It was great to see how quickly they got going.  It looked like you had to be pretty strong to hold the lines and pull yourself up.

We tore ourselves away and drove on down the shore road.  The water was obviously very high, and there were fens on the inner side if the road too.  We turned east and headed home, a very adventurous day for us!