Part 31: Prince of Wales Road to 1st Line E
Date: Wednesday 3 July 2019
Start: Prince of Wales Road at 20 Side Road, Honeywood
End: 1st Line E at 30 Side Road, Lavender
Distance covered: 12.2 km
Total distance covered: 375.1 km
364A & B. These signs posted by the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs greet hikers going west on the main Trail along 20 Side Road. This road is in rough shape and had fallen trees across it, so we were forced to turn our cars around and reach Prince of Wales Road from a different direction to start our hike. Yet the blue sign indicates that 20 SR is a “Prescribed Trail” for snowmobilers. The red sign denies OFSC liability for accidents. Is snowmobiling dangerous? Well, in 2016 Maclean’s wrote of “Canada’s destructive, and deadly, snowmobile obsession” leading to about 50 deaths annually in Ontario and Quebec alone and many “gruesome injuries” after drivers lose control and fly into or over the handlebars. In a PR counteroffensive, the OFSC claimed that snowmobiling was “the major driver of Ontario’s winter economy” to the tune of $3.3 billion. What I do know is, if a snowmobile going up to 100 km/h encounters a fallen tree or a winter hiker on 20 SR, the outcome is liable to be ugly. After all, the driver is unlikely to have been going slowly enough to read the small print on the red sign.
365. “How now, brown cow?”
She doesn’t seem amused by my question.
So I ask her if brown cows give chocolate milk, and get this look in reply.
366. This pretty flower is orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum), a.k.a. devil’s-paintbrush, a relative of both sunflowers and dandelions. It’s a non-native species, and was introduced to North America from Europe in 1875. It can produce up to 39 flower heads (this one has only five), each producing up to 50 seeds. Its distribution seems to be enhanced by human activity, mechanical and otherwise, and like its dandelion cousin it is almost impossible to eradicate … even fire has little ultimate effective on its ability to reproduce and spread.
367. From here there’s a fine view eastward over the Pine River valley and far beyond (as long as you are prepared to overlook the gravel pit in the middle distance).
368. Bright yellow bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), a.k.a. eggs and bacon, a member of the pea family, is a common sight by the Trail in summer. Originating in Eurasia, this legume may be non-native, but it’s a useful import. It actually has five petals arranged a bit like a bird’s foot, though it’s the prominence of three that gives it the “trefoil” name. It can be turned into high-quality forage for domestic animals, as it doesn’t cause bloating. It’s also an important food source for deer and butterfly larvae.
369. These four turbines are part of the more than 130 constituting the Melanchthon Wind Farm, Ontario’s largest. The 80 metre towers are easily visible from the Trail. According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, by the end of 2018 more than 2,500 turbines produced approximately 8% of Ontario’s electricity. Although they produce green energy from a “free” source (the wind), they don’t do so without controversy. Local residents frequently complain about the noise they make (a low hum with vibrations), and some farmers are convinced this noise is damaging to the health of their livestock. Then there’s the issue of visual pollution …
370. … though they are much less obtrusive from a distance. There are at least 15 turbines visible in this unzoomed shot, though you have to squint hard to see them. The crop in the foreground, by the way, grows on the Honeywood silt loam, some of the richest agricultural soil in Ontario. This area is reputed to grow half the potatoes eaten annually in the Greater Toronto Area.
371. These twin concrete tower silos form a striking landmark near the point where the Trail turns east toward Prince of Wales Road. Silos turn high moisture plants into silage used as fodder for livestock. Silage is produced when the plants ferment in near-oxygen-free conditions, as occur when the plants are under pressure from their own weight within the silo. However, this process produces an acid that can eat away at weak points in the silo, ultimately causing it to collapse.
372. Near this lovely little waterfall we cross Black Bank Creek, a branch of the Pine River, itself a tributary of the Nottawasaga River, which debouches into Georgian Bay at Wasaga Beach. Black Bank Creek is considered by the water authorities to be as pristine as any local stream is likely to be, as it is spring-fed and flows almost exclusively through forest cover.
373. An Eastern American toad crosses our path. Though a relatively large amphibian, it blends in very well with the dead leaf carpet, making it difficult to track. The toad’s spots contain just one or two “warts” (though these bumps aren’t pathological and certainly can’t infect anyone touching the toad). This toad may be a juvenile, as adults are usually nocturnal. Apparently this species has been known to live up to 30 years in captivity.
374. Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), a.k.a. blueweed, here grows among the tall grasses at the edge of a field. Bugloss is yet another wayside plant that originated in the Old World. The word “bugloss” comes via French from the Greek words bous (ox) and glossa (tongue). Its leaves are supposed to resemble … an ox tongue. As for the “viper” part: one authority notes, “as the flower stem develops it does so in a coiled form, the red stamens of the flowers stick out like an snake’s tongue, the stems, which are red-flecked, resemble snake’s skin and even the fruits are shaped like adders’ heads.” However, another authority claims the plant got its name after being introduced from North Africa into Europe as an antidote for snakebites. Possibly the same homeopathic fallacy (i.e., what looks like a snake must be effective against snakes) connects these claims.
375. It seems that 25 Side Road (Regional Rd. 21) is called Dufferin Road locally. What’s in that name, Dufferin? It’s one familiar to millions of Canadians, thanks to Dufferin Street, Dufferin mall, and Dufferin subway station in Toronto, not to mention the County we are currently in, the islands at Niagara Falls, and the Terrasse Dufferin in Québec City. Moreover, Dufferin Hi-Lands is the name of the Bruce Trail Club Section that we will soon be leaving. They all derive from the Anglo-Irish aristocrat Lord Dufferin, whose full name and title was Frederick Temple Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava (1826-1902). Born in Florence, Italy, he was governor general of Canada from 1872-78. (He later became viceroy of India.) He and his wife Hariot were highly effective and popular representatives of the Crown during the formative period in Canadian history shortly after Confederation. The “Dufferin” in his title comes from a historic barony in County Down, Northern Ireland.