My British blood means that there is a very specific range of temperatures between which I am comfortable and willing to leave the house. That range falls between one-degree with several jumpers and about room temperature with slightly less jumpers. Anything outside of this range and I would rather be hibernating like an angry bear. However, autumn is soon upon us, and so revives my hiking.
Although I would like to get back to my self-imposed springtime challenge of walking the length of The Don (read about that here), over the last couple of days, I have been walking The Seaton Trail.
The trail is located north-west of Toronto. It is about 13km (8 miles) long. There is a logistical issue with this trail that will make it more difficult than The Don. There is no public transport. I will have to park my car, walk some trail, but then walk back to my car, thus doubling the length of the trail. At the time of writing, I have walked about half of the trail in two short days.
The Northern end of the trail begins just off Highway 7, east of York Durham Line (for Brits, this is the road that splits York “county” and Durham “county”). It’s about 30 minutes drive from where I live and there is a small parking area which was about three-quarters full when I arrived around 2pm.
As I began making my through the dirt trail, I rounded a marshy area with a small creek which was lined with Spotted Jewelweed, a yellow./orange flower speckled with darker spots. I was thinking to myself that they reminded me somewhat of the Snapdragon plant that is familiar to me from England, when I spotted a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird drink from one of the conical flowers, as silent and elusive as a wisp. It quickly zipped away, followed by a second hummingbird.
I marched onwards. The terrain is easy, but there are occasional wooden steps to navigate as the trail rises up the valley walls, carved by the West Duffins Creek and the retreat of the Glacial Lake Iroquois which formed the water systems throughout Ontario around 13,000 years ago.
The weather was a little damp with occasional spitting rain, and so animal life was sparse, beyond a few brave Chickadees and an obstinate Crow. The trail ended at Whitevale Road due to bridge construction, but my GPS unit, with the trail marked on my map, showed that the trail had a loop. I took the other loop back to the start of the trail and eventually came to Whitevale Pond and a waterfall. A re-visit to this area during the spring of 2016 is called for, as I have since heard that Salmon make their return journey along this waterway, attempting to jump the waterfall. I disturbed a beautiful, prehistoric looking Great Blue Heron as I made my way around the pond. He flapped lackadaisically away towards some distant perch.
I returned from where I had left off, near to Whitevale Road, about a week later. I was apprehensive at first. It was a whopping 26 degrees out, way above my usual threshold, but the day turned out to be a perfect for a walk in the woods.
I walked through the dew covered grass of Whitevale Park towards the trail, which was beautifully sun-dappled, thanks to the Maple and Fir. Each time a range of denser Fir began, the sound of scalding chickadees fluttered through the forest and the squealing, squeaking alarm of chipmunks as they would dash impulsively to the nearest tree. From their vantage point on the offside of a tree trunk, they would freeze, staring at you, almost certain that they were invisible to your threat.
Into the denser woodland, the floor coated in pine needles and fern, a distant, gentle “queedle” of two Blue Jays, a bird now considering its southward migration before the arrival of the unrelenting snow. Off the trail, the trees mostly left to their devices, some felled birch trees, their silver bark like wallpaper for the ground. Somewhere close by, a nuthatch, his unmistakable nasal report.
Several American Red Squirrels were fighting over the right to acorns and territories, all the better to store their horde for the harsher times ahead. No time to waste. As the trees thinned out, banks coated with Bur-Marigold were enjoyed by the community of bees, a species we now love but maligned for so long. And then, on top of a ridge, a vista of the creek.
The trail turned towards some open fields. Lined to the right by expired maize, to the left, apple trees whose deposited fruit sweetly perfumed the air. The trickling sound of the river, like a babbling brook, its sound emanating from the shallow riverbed of stones, rounded from decades of erosion.
Beside the trail, some areas overtaken by white, yellow and purple weeds, Daisy Fleabane, Aster and Goldenrod, beloved by the insects that made this their home. Cabbage White Butterflies flew excitedly around, battling gentle breezes. A pale-yellow bodied dragonfly with neon blue wings.
I turned back once I reached Whites Road. There is parking here, so I will continue on at a later date. On my way back along the trail, back up in to the open fields, a pair of Turkey Vultures soared the hillside thermals in search of, perhaps, an unlucky squealing chipmunk. Some time later, back towards my car, a flash of yellow and a streak of black. A warbler, but my binoculars were in the car. A Blackburnian Warbler, I fancied. One of my favourites.
Parts 3 and 4? to follow.