Saturday, April 29, 2023

Another Flashback - A Walk in the Woods

While I'm waiting for the rain to end so I can get out and take more pictures, let me share another favourite walk.  Every morning at the old house the dog and I used to walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and head into the woods.  It was a beautiful, short and varied walk which we did in the winter (usually on snowshoes) as well as the summer.  This time I was looking for signs of green a lot.  These photos are from the last few days of April, so about now, but 8 years ago.

It's a nice easy trail into the woods, marked by two big Sugar Maples at the entrance of the old tractor trail.   Not much green showing yet and certainly no leaves in the canopy.

Once I got into the woods and started looking though, I found patches of green on the forest floor.  Some were the bright leaves of Wild Leeks, just glowing in the sun.

Others were the glowing leaves of Dogtooth Violets, a slightly different green, but soon to sport much nicer flowers than the Leeks.

The only leaves I saw were the just emerging reddish leaves of small Pin Cherry trees.

Once I started looking more closely though, I spotted other green on mossy rocks and logs.  Don't know the name of this moss, but you can clearly see the sporophytes standing up straight.

And this is a Broad-leaved Sedge, often mistakenly taken for a grass. 

The tiny flowers were in full bloom, very early in the spring.

The Wood Fern Leaves stay green all winter under the snow, and can still be found in the spring.

The promise of this year's fronds is in the still tightly curled fiddleheads that will unfurl soon.

American Beech saplings hold on to their dried crinkled brown leaves all winter, and you can hear them rustling in the breeze.  Apart from bird calls they are often the only sound in the woods in April.

The long pointed buds of those saplings remain tightly curled, waiting for a little more heat, just like me!

Roxie, our Grey County mutt, just loved these walks where she could follow her nose and explore the woods.  She often seemed to be just a nose on four legs.

Standing back for a wider view you can see the smaller bright green patch of wild Leek, the broader carpet of Dogtooth Violet leaves, and the moss on an old log.  This is my memory of the woods in late April.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Flashback - An April 2016 Hike

In April the real hiking season begins, with the snow gone and (slightly) warmer weather.  I often muse back on hikes I took at this time of year, or in the fall, so today I will take you back to a hike a friend and I did from Pinnacle Rock to and beyond Mill Creek.  It's one of the favourite hikes in my memories.  Having my photos and better yet my blog posts helps me a great deal.

We had to hike in on a side trail to get to Pinnacle Rock, an enormous chunk of bedrock that had broken off the Amabel cliffs and flopped over slightly downhill.  It's a well known landmark along the Bruce Trail in the valley.

This is on a large property donated to the Bruce Trail, and the family wanted their recognition plaque attached directly to Pinnacle Rock, it's such a landmark.  Their farm was known as Pinnacle Rock Farm.

On the slope downhill from there we came across a large patch of Hepatica in full bloom.  It's one of our earliest spring wildflowers.

And downhill further we came to this little un-named waterfall.  It's right along the trail, so it's well known; it's on a tributary of Mill Creek which we'll see later on.

This was one of those times when I took my tripod and tried to 'slow down' the water falling onto the  dolostone layer below.  At this point I was of course still using my big Nikon camera.

Now that we've got this far down in the rock sequence we're hiking on the Manitoulin Dolomite, a hard layer that forms the waterfall above, and forms the rim of Mill Creek valley, below.  As you can see, it's composed of many thin flat layers, formed in an ancient delta.

The Manitoulin Dolomite layer, here providing the perfectly flat rim of the valley, is not often recognized, but has a big influence, forming the lip of several of the smaller waterfalls in the valley, and the big plateau of Loree Forest.  We tend to think of the huge cliffs of Old Baldy and we miss this lower thinner geological layer.

It's a long and complex bridge that lets you cross the two shallow channels of Mill Creek in the valley bottom, but it's well built, by an army troop as a training exercise.   It's been appreciated ever since.

And that's the bones of a favourite April hike in my memory, actually the very same date as today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

New Geology Guide for the Beaver Valley!

Hikers along the Bruce Trail and elsewhere in the Beaver Valley will be delighted to find that Beth Gilhespy has written a guide to "Exploring Niagara Escarpment Geology in the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Section".  Beth is a former Executive Director of the Bruce Trail Conservancy but trained as a geologist.  She has led geology hikes on the trail for 10 years or more, so her writing is grounded in actual observations along the trail itself, and many hikers here know her personally.

This book is a very welcome guide to understanding what we actually see as we hike the Bruce Trail, and since the geology of the escarpment is somewhat unique here in the valley, a guide specific to the valley really helps.  The escarpment is after all a geological feature, and the Bruce Trail is designed to follow that feature.

This little book (114 pages) provides both an overview of the geological features and descriptions of eight hikes with features to look for labelled in the accompanying maps.  The book is worth the read to me just for this diagram alone.  Geological labels on the rock layers change from Niagara Falls to Tobermory, so a valley-specific diagram, here at the mid-point of the escarpment, really helps.

We're all familiar with the top layer of the escarpment here, the Amabel Dolomite that forms the giant cliffs of Old Baldy.  These are 'bioherms', parts of ancient coral reefs that grew upwards forming an undulating rock formation of which Old Baldy is one of the high points.

But many of us are not familiar with the Manitoulin Dolomite, a lower, thinner and perfectly flat layer that formed in an ancient deltas, and is best visible here in the winter.  Driving down Bowles Hill you can clearly see it across the valley, north and south of the penstocks.  It disappears under green foliage in the summer.

But it's important because it forms the lip of several of the smaller waterfalls along the trail, including Webwood Falls seen here.  Note the thin flat layers in the upper right.

You can also see it in the thin layers of the flowerpot above Indian Creek,  In fact it forms the entire plateau on which Loree Forest sits, as well as the plateau where the Meaford army base is found.  You'll find it as you climb up out of the Mill Creek valley, forming the west rim of the valley, as well as other places along the Bruce Trail.

Beth's book is valuable because it has a good discussion of the layers of the escarpment, as well as pointers on where to see them.  Many readers will skip to the hike descriptions that make up the second half of the book, but it's well worth going back to read the first part of the book, including the description of geological layers and features.  It is written for the average person to understand and it's very readable.

When you do get to the second half of the book, you have 8 hike descriptions to choose from, and each features points of geological interest for you to find.  The maps in this guide are excellent, prepared by Scott Langley, the Bruce Trail's official cartographer, and of his usual high quality.  They feature those clearly labelled points of interest which are also described in the text along with photos.  This map is the first of them, featuring the popular Loree Forest loop.

All in all this is a great little book, and even for someone who can't get out there and hike the trails anymore, it has added a great deal to my memories of the trail, since I can still hike the trail in my mind..  If you live locally I urge you to order a copy and make use of it in your hikes this summer.  Kudos to Beth for her book;  I've written books myself so I know how much work it takes!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

I Don't See Many Wildflowers Any More

If you've been with me a few years, you'll remember that I often enjoyed a long walk in the woods.  Even from my childhood, a walk in the woods has been special to me, I think because it was one of my mother's favourite things to do.  But there's one place where I see two nice spring wildflowers at this time of year.

Down at the west end of Nelson St. West, in front of an old home, this is, believe it or not, the largest patch of Bloodroot I've ever seen.  And it's right here in town too!

Bloodroot is a favourite spring wildflower, one of the earliest to bloom, while most others, like Trillium, bloom in mid-May.

I've cropped this in a long ways, so you can see the unusual shaped leaf in the centre.  You can also see, on the right hand side, how the leaf curls around the stem holding the bloom, like a protective sheath.  In fact it is designed that way, protecting the plant from frost.

This is the old home, with a huge old Sugar maple out front that was at this stage still providing a lot of shade (the leaves haven't emerged yet).  That pile of fresh shavings at the base of the tree is fresh shavings from a woodpecker excavating bugs, and you can see some Bloodroot blooms on the far left.

The same big old tree after the Bloodroot have faded but now the May-apple are unfolding.

The May-apple are like little trees.  They hold a circle of narrow leaves horizontally, and a small (Chickpea sized) 'apple' underneath.  In this picture you can see a small patch of lighter green Bloodroot leaves in the foreground, though the blooms have totally faded.

So those are my woodland wildflowers for the year.  I will return in a couple of weeks to see if I can get a picture of this year's May-apple (though the pavement on that stretch of road is so bad I have to screw up my courage first!).  And needless to say, the old maple was cut down a year or too back, so the shade isn't quite as dense anymore.

Friday, April 21, 2023

April Skies


I'm posting this so that next year I can remember that there are occasionally sunny warm days in April.  Not right now, that's for sure!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Daffodil Season!

It's Daffodil season here, brought on by the unseasonably hot temperatures of last week.  In spite of the cold this week, they are still looking great.  They're one of my favourite spring garden flowers, their bright yellow blooms providing the welcome for another growing season.  Here are a few pictures of them, to help you welcome spring.

This was the first one to bloom, a very long shot with my phone camera.

But later in the day a lot of our Daffodils were opening up.

I managed one good close-up.  It's hard to get down low enough in a wheelchair!

Then I was left with shots taken from inside the window, all the flowers facing the other direction!

I'm surprised that more homeowners haven't planted Daffodils.  This is the one around the corner that inspired me to suggest it to Mrs. F,G.  We need a lot more to equal this, and I've been promised we'll plant more in the fall.

Monday, April 17, 2023

The Early Garden

The garden has just exploded with new green shoots emerging from the ground, and a few of them are in bloom already.  Mrs. F.G. planted quite a few small Primrose outside the window to amuse me, but I also got out onto the patio a couple of times, it was so sunny and warm.  In fact it got actually hot for a few days, summer in April!

There are a number of both white and purple Primrose, adding a spot of colour to spring.

There's a pretty hellebore, though its blooms hang down so are hard to photograph.

We have a couple of patches of Scilla or Squill as they are called.  I've seen huge patches of these in a couple of lawns on the way downtown.
And there's a nice big clump of the Dwarf Iris.  I showed you the plants out front where they get full sun, but these are in shade and so bloom a couple of weeks later.

And out front the Hyacinth are just about to open up.

Footnote:  It's three days later and the Daffodils in the front garden are in full bloom, as are those Hyacinth.  But the Dwarf Iris, which like it chilly, have already faded in the hot temperatures of the last few days.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Hot, Sunny and Downtown I Go!

It's an early taste of hot summer weather here, so out I went yesterday (and again today).  It's just sweltering.  I headed downtown on my favourite ride, stopping at the library to return a book, and heading on to McGinty's for a quick cup of coffee.  I drove the one block down to the harbour and got my first look of the summer before heading home.

One lawn in front of a big old house had a huge patch of bright blue Scilla in full bloom.

And our local flower shop, Simply Unique, has moved back to a wheelchair accessible location.  I stopped in to say hello and expect to stop again.  It's in a space renovated to be a pizza shop which never went anywhere.

It was a quick stop at the library this time, just returning a book.

Then it was coffee time and I discovered they serve a maple syrup latte!  First choice for me.

I just stopped at the harbour long enough to take a picture.  It shows what a beautiful day we had!