Part 28: 1st Line E to Centre Road
Date: Thursday 16 May 2019
Start: 1st Line E at Boyne Valley Provincial Park boundary, Mulmur
End: Centre Road at 10 Side Road, Whitfield
Distance covered: 10.9 km
Total distance covered: 344.1 km
334. The sky is grey but bright, the temperature about 15C. Spring seems late this year, and later still at this boreal latitude well over 100 km north of our Hamilton base. But there’s one advantage: leaves haven’t opened enough to block our view of birds at their most active time of the year. Here a blue jay observes us curiously from a nearby tree. These birds, unmistakable even at a distance, are found everywhere east of the Rockies. They are intelligent, expressive, omnivorous members of the crow family. Males and females, who form lifelong monogamous pairs, are indistinguishable in appearance. While the female broods over the eggs, her partner feeds her. Blue jays can imitate the calls of other birds, and also warn them of the proximity of raptors. They will aggressively defend their territory, but can be intimidated by determined squirrels and smaller birds. Above all they are adaptable, a winning quality that makes them an excellent mascot for a certain local sporting franchise.
335. A bench facing east over the Boyne River Valley marks the end of the short Mulmur Lookout Side Trail. The intense green of the grass indicates that spring has been very wet so far.
336. Can this really be a patch of ice in this sheltered spot where a small creek runs down to meet the Boyne River? Or is it light-coloured silt? It seems to be a mixture of both, and we tread across it warily.
337A & B. The rusted remains of a pickup truck stands right beside the Trail. And on its hood, a single boot in equivalently decrepit condition has been deliberately positioned. Evidently this is a postmodern conceptual installation by the locals for the benefit of those of us on Trail, though the concept behind it defeats me for the moment.
338. Early wildflowers, including triliums and trout lilies, are already appearing in profusion. Here is something a little more special: Dicentra cucullaria, namely Dutchman’s breeches (or sometimes sailor’s cap). Its pantaloon-shaped white flowers, each on a peduncle (elongated stalk), hang as if upside down from a washing line. Apparently this flower is spread by ants.
339. In Walker’s Woods:
“The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.”
—Philip Larkin, “Trees”
I’m not sure I agree with you about “grief,” Mr. Larkin, though I appreciate that there aren’t too many acceptable rhymes for “leaf.”
340. Mother Nature must have been having a bad day when she put this bird together. It’s a turkey vulture, a magnificent flyer with its great two-tone (black and silver) wings, but rather hideous at rest. These birds are ubiquitous along the Niagara Escarpment as they like to roost high on steep edges and nest in cliff caves. Their weird-looking head (a bit like a turkey’s, hence the name) indicates that they are exclusively carrion eaters. For as they feed on already dead creatures (but not normally roadkill), they don’t need to have the powerful beak of raptors. Among their other disgusting habits: they carry stinking meat for long distances in their crop, regurgitating it to feed their young, or as a weapon to ward off attackers; and they defecate on their own legs to stay cool.
341. Several of the more beautiful sections of the Bruce Trail are twinned with similar long-distance trails elsewhere in the world. The Bibbulmun Track (founded 1974, completed 1998) in Western Australia is a little longer than the Bruce, running 1,000 km from the suburbs of Perth south and east to the coastal town of Albany. The Bibbulmun were an Aborigine community indigenous to the area, who lived in close harmony with nature. It isn’t possible to do the whole Bibbulmun as a series of car-based day-hikes, as we are doing on the Bruce, because vehicular access points are often very widely spaced. But the Track seems very appealing and maintains an informative website for those interested in doing a Down Under End-to-End.
342. A grader smoothes the surface of 1st Line East south of 10 Side Road, filling in potholes and scraping off washboarding (i.e., corrugation), just as we are about to cross it. This ritual benefits Bruce Trailers, as there’s a parking place there on the right, affording easy access to both the Enchanted Forest and Rock Hill Park. This “gravel” road isn’t actually surfaced with gravel, of course, but with crushed rock that the weight of passing vehicles binds into a driver-friendly crust.
343. Rock Hill Corner is a remarkable section of Trail, having been purchased by the Bruce Trail Association in 1996 and so fortunately preserved. Here the dolostone cap of the Escarpment has been deeply fissured by the force of gravity acting on a steep talus slope in concert with the annual freezing and thawing cycle, to produce such geological features as crevice gullies, outlier islands, bridges, stacks, and crevice caves. The Trail leads you a merry dance through this labyrinth, and you have to watch where you’re putting your feet at every step, even though the temptation to peer into these moss-lined fissures is overwhelming.
344A & B. This boarded-up Anglican church and its attendant graveyard is all that’s left of Whitfield (founded 1824). A sign indicates that in 1880 this was once a major settlement on Hurontario Street (now Centre Road), boasting 3 stores, 2 sawmills, a blacksmith shop, a lime kiln, a school, 3 churches, a post office, and 2 taverns. (The population of this “major settlement” never exceeded 125.) Though the older headstones are heavily eroded, it’s still possible to make out the epitaphs on most, including the poignant double marker pictured: “Thomas, died July 3, 1878, aged 9 years, and 7 months; Albert Edward, died March 8, 1872, aged 1 year, 1 month and 5 days; beloved children of William and Margaret Laking. Our sweet little children have gone / To mansions above yonder sky / To gaze at the beautiful throne / Of Him who is seated on high.”