Part 26: 3rd Line EHS to 1st Line EHS
Date: Monday 11 March 2019
Start: 3rd Line EHS at Hwy 8, Mono
End: 1st Line EHS near 25 Side Road, Mono
Distance covered: 10.0 km
Total distance covered: 322.6 km
314. It’s March 2019 and we’re on the Trail again! At the start of this adventure we vowed we’d avoid winter hiking. Well, we’re now so impatient to get back on track that we’re not going to let a bit of snow intimidate us. Nick’s ribs have healed and both of us are wearing heavy-duty hiking cleats. Our hearts pound excitedly as we contemplate that stile at this morning’s start point …
315. … but we have compromised a little in the face of local conditions. We have deferred to a later date and milder weather the section of Trail immediately after the spot where we ended in December 2018. That’s the rugged 8.2 km length of Trail through Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve. Today we’re beginning our hike beyond that point, right on the boundary between the Caledon Hills and Dufferin Hi-Land Club Sections. We’re sufficiently far north to be experiencing rather harsher conditions than we anticipated when we left our homes in the Hamilton area two hours earlier.
316. Today the temperature is -2C with a -9C windchill, there are wind gusts to 44 km/h, and it’s cloudy with flurries in the offing. We’re in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, and a lookout beckons …
317. … offering a splendid but wintry vista over the Provincial Park to north and east.
318. This small deciduous tree is marcescent: i.e., it has retained its dead leaves over the winter. Why does this happen? After all, the larger trees in the neighbourhood forest are completely bare. Marcescence usually affects hardwood saplings: oak, beech, witch hazel, hornbeam, and ironwood. As these young trees stand well below the forest canopy, they get little natural sunlight. So the cellular abscission process that causes deciduous leaves to fall, and which is triggered by the seasonal position of the sun, may be delayed. Then an early frost may “freeze” abscission altogether, so that dead leaves cling to the branches. Some experts hypothesize that marcescence is advantageous to young trees, as the leaves deter deer from nibbling otherwise very accessible budding twigs in the spring. Whatever the reason for the phenomenon, such patches of colour against the monochrome background are very beautiful.
319. The Trail has been lightly trodden here in this popular Provincial Park, but we don’t expect to see many other hikers today, given the blustery, wintry weather. Suddenly, with no warning, a large black dog comes bounding aggressively towards us. Its owner, who appears some moments later, seems totally unaware of the shock his dog has caused us, and passes us without acknowledgement. Had we been on a steep section, the consequence could have been unfortunate. Dog owners, please follow the rules and keep your pets leashed on the Trail!
320. On 1st Line EHS (short for “East of Hurontario Street”), we start to pass scattered houses. This arctic-coated creature eyes us curiously from behind a secure wire fence.
321. This house with patterned brick facade and elaborate bargeboard stands at the side of the road …
322. … and in a bush beside it is a black-capped chickadee. These little birds are known for their tameness, and are supposed to survive winter by hanging around backyard feeders or cutely begging sunflower seeds from passing strangers. But an expert affirms that chickadees’ survival powers are remarkable even when humans don’t supplement their diet. “Black-capped chickadees have a wonderful assortment of adaptations for the winter,” says Susan M. Smith of Mount Holyoke College. “Carefully hidden food items, dense winter coats, specially selected winter roost cavities and, perhaps most remarkable of all, the ability to go into nightly hypothermia, thus conserving large amounts of energy, greatly increase the chances of survival.” It helps, too, that these tiny birds are highly intelligent, with a phenomenal memory for cached food and a range of calls that convey complex messages to each another.
323. This is the view northward from 1st Line EHS before its junction with 25 Side Road. Our car, parked at today’s endpoint, is just visible at the top of the hill. The surface of this gravel road is very icy and tests our cleats and balance even more than the snow-covered parkland Trail did. We concur that today’s “short” 10 km hike was just about as long as we could manage. Our bodies are telling us that we must ease back into things after our more than three-month layoff.