Part 50: Concession Road 2 North to Tom Thomson Trail
Date: 6 July 2020
Start: Concession Road 2 North at Side Road 22, Meaford
End: Junction with Tom Thomson Trail near Sideroad 22, Bayview
Distance Covered: 13.0 km
Total Distance Covered: 616.7 km
605. We decide to do this, our fiftieth hike, in reverse. No, we don’t walk it backwards, but proceed in a direction opposite to our usual northward drift, ending at the same point where we ended Hike #49. That’s because the weather is extremely hot and humid and 6 km of today’s Trail is spent on back roads under an open sky, a stretch that we’d encounter at the end of the hike if we went the usual way. Reversing our normal direction, we do the open 6 km first in the relative cool of the morning, then as midday approaches, we do the remaining 7 km in the shady woods of Bayview Escarpment Provincial Nature Reserve, where the temperature is 5C cooler. We begin with this fine view over distant Owen Sound … not the lakeside city behind the hills at left but the narrow inlet of Georgian Bay that laps its shores.
606. The beautiful colours of unripened (green ear) wheat under intense sunlight in a field next to 2nd Concession North.
607. Mike and I are continually intrigued by the prevalence of vast neatly-trimmed lawns in front of houses in the middle of nowhere, lawns often in the process of being mowed by a fellow of our age in a baseball cap on a riding mower. It’s time to look deeper into Lawn Theory (yes, there is such a thing) to account for the phenomenon. As a riding mower is essential if a landowner is to keep huge expanses of grass trimmed without employing servants or expending physical effort, this machine may be the key to understanding this aspect of Lawn Studies. The riding mower was invented by Cecil Elwood Pond (1924-2011) of South Bend, Indiana, appearing first as a modified four-wheel lawn tractor in 1954. “He didn’t like to mow the lawn,” Cecil Pond’s son, Gary, said of his inventive father. “He didn’t like to push the lawnmower, that’s how it came about.” This might beg the question, Why maintain a huge front lawn at all if you don’t like to, say, get fresh air and exercise by mowing it? The answer seems to be the curious sociological function of the lawn in North American culture. An immaculate front lawn denotes high economic status as it shows the owner can afford to keep his land agriculturally unproductive, and the bigger the lawn, the higher the status. There’s a gender aspect to Lawn Theory too, accounting for the fact that, at least in our experience, it’s always a guy, not a gal, in the driving seat: the riding mower is a machine enabling patriarchal control of otherwise unruly Mother Nature. And there’s also historical context to take into account: after WWII, the private golf club, with its immaculate greens and exclusive memberships, came to be the model for lawn fetishists to emulate. More recently still, flaunting a vast front lawn flips the bird to tree-huggers of the environmental movement: such a lawn requires constant marination in eco-destructive herbicides to keep it weed-free, then frequent close cropping by a loud, greenhouse-gas-spewing machine. (Am I starting to read too much into all this?)
608. Speaking of the environment, posters like this can be found everywhere in the Meaford area. I quote from the website whose address is on the poster above: “The proposed pumped storage project by TC Energy threatens to cause significant disruption and permanent changes to the existing natural habitat. Save Georgian Bay is concerned that the technology being proposed will cause fish mortality, water turbidity, water and air pollution during the construction phase, and will require the installation of high tension power lines from Meaford to Essa Township near Barrie. We believe there are many better alternatives that should be considered in place of the current one.” The proposed massive installation is to be constructed on land owned by the Department of National Defence (see #615 below). The case against the project is lengthily argued on the Change.org website, where almost 40,000 have signed a petition against the project as I write. Of course there is also a case for construction, which can be found on the website of TC Energy [formerly TransCanada Energy]. After my rant in #607 above, I’ll shut up and let you make up your own mind about this proposed project.
609. A charming house that seems to say, “We Have Achieved The Canadian Dream.”
610. Some consider them invasive weeds, as they were introduced from the Old World, spread rapidly, and are hard to eradicate once established. But in my view a bank of orange daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva) in July is a fine summery sight.
611. This perky creature is a Savannah sparrow (thanks again, George!) The delicate stripe of yellow above its eye, the streaked breast, and short tail are the keys to how it differs from other LBJs. Like all sparrows it’s a passerine or perching bird, with three toes forward and one back on each foot. In fact, “passerine” derives from passer, the Latin word for house sparrow. “Savannah” here doesn’t refer to a mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem, but to the oldest city in the southern US state of Georgia, where the species was first identified. And indeed these birds winter in the American South.
612. A tree swallow perches on a powerline. This one’s either a female or an immature bird, as the adult males have iridescent blue-green heads.
613. We don’t encounter many hikers on the Trail, but when we do, we like to stop and chat for a while if they seem willing, both to take a breather and to pick their brains about local conditions. We meet Cheryl (left) and Carol (right) in Bayview Nature Reserve. Retirees like ourselves, they are experienced hikers who completed the Bruce Trail End-to-End in 2017 and are now keeping active by doing some of the Side Trails that they missed on their four-year odyssey. We can strongly identify with many of their experiences on the Trail. There is an excellent illustrated article about their experiences on the Trail in Grey-Bruce Boomers Magazine (Fall 2017).
614. There’s something awesome, sublime even, about an isolated giant boulder looming quietly over the Trail. “Whereas the beautiful is limited, the sublime is limitless, so that the mind in the presence of the sublime, attempting to imagine what it cannot, has pain in the failure but pleasure in contemplating the immensity of the attempt” ̶ Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (1781).
615. The northerly section of the Trail through Bayview Nature Reserve runs along the Escarpment, the edge of which is fenced off with signs occasionally attached to the top wire. Though the fence is in good shape, the signs are usually far away, faded, or overgrown, so I use the camera’s zoom to help me read one of them. “Do not touch anything. It may explode and kill you” in both official languages! Yikes!/Beurk! Later we discover that the fence marks the boundary of the Land Force Central Area Training Centre (LFCATC) Meaford, a.k.a. the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre (4th CDTC). At the foot of the Escarpment, hidden from view by summer foliage, there’s a huge military training area, 800 square km with a 22 km coastline, including a tank range, a machine gun range, and a sniper training centre, that can entertain (if that’s the right word) over 600 soldiers per week. Maybe the 35-year-old warning signs need to be … punched up a little!
616. There are outcroppings of pure white rock under moss here in Bayview Nature Reserve. I know very little about geology, so I’m guessing that this is the white dolomite of the Amabel formation.
617. Thomas John (Tom) Thomson (1877-1917) was Canada’s greatest painter of the modernist period. Born at Claremont, a village about 55 km northeast of Toronto, he spent his first 21 years in Leith, on Georgian Bay about 10 km east of Owen Sound, not far from here. An outdoorsman, he strongly influenced the Group of Seven, which would have been the Group of Eight if he had not drowned in a canoe accident in Algonquin Park before the Group had formed. The circumstances of his death and burial have evoked endless speculation and conspiracy theories, though his official grave is in Leith. Thomson’s expressionist landscape “The Jack Pine” (1917), with the titular tree in the foreground, a lake behind it, patches of snow on the hills in the background, and a sunset sky is a Canadian icon, perhaps because the weatherbeaten evergreen is a powerful symbol of endurance in a harsh northern climate. Thomson’s paintings and drawings can be seen at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg, and, closer at hand, the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. The 44 km multiuse Trail named for him, finished in 2008, begins in Owen Sound and ends in Meaford, running chiefly on back roads. But now there’s a new mystery associated with Tom Thomson: Why did those who administer the Trail that honours his memory choose a logo that looks like a nuclear war interrupting an Elvis concert when they could have adopted a detail from one of his many beautiful paintings … a jack pine, for example?