Part 56: Lindenwood Road to Nels Maher Side Trail
Date: 23 August 2020
Start: Lindenwood Road, Georgian Bluffs
End: Nels Maher Side Trail, Kemble Rock Road, Georgian Bluffs
Distance Covered: 17.7 km
Total Distance Covered: 702.9 km
686. Today’s hike in Georgian Bluffs, the longest to date, is extremely taxing. We discover that thanks to recent reroutes this section of the Trail is at least 3 km longer than we’d expected. Moreover, the weather is very warm and muggy and there is almost no easy road walking on this hike. In spite of the protracted heat typical of the dog days, there are already subtle hints of fall in the landscape. The dog days, incidentally, were named thus by the Ancients, as Sirius the dog star (Alpha Canis Majoris), the brightest true star in the night sky, rises to prominence during the sultry days of late summer.
687A & B. “The Future Is Fungal” proclaims a recent article in the Guardian. Apparently mycology, the study of fungi, has been a neglected science for ages, and only now is that situation being remedied as the ecological importance of mushrooms and their relatives is better understood. 90% of plants depend on a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi: “Such fungi send out gossamer-fine tubes called hyphae, which weave into the tips of plant roots at cellular level; in this way, individual plants are joined to one another by an underground network – a vast, highly intricate, collaborative structure that has been dubbed the Wood Wide Web.” Well, today’s hike would be a paradise for mycologists, though it’s a little frustrating for non-experts such as myself, as precise identification of fungi is elusive. But let’s start with these fine examples of what I am guessing are Amanita flavoconia, the yellow patches mushroom. These are often found in mycorrhizal association with hemlock trees. The ovoid caps become flattened in maturity.
688. But let’s not neglect ferns. I’ve noted some of the rarer ones, and now it’s time to highlight a more common one: the Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), a native perennial so called probably because it’s an evergreen offering a welcome touch of colour in midwinter, or possibly because its pinnae (leaflets) resemble Christmas stockings.
689. We meet the owner of a pair of charming King Charles spaniels, Billie Holiday and Beau Geste. Their hanging tongues tell you everything about the heat during these dog days. Their breed is named for King Charles II of England, who was excessively fond of his diminutive spaniel companion. Of a royal council meeting on 4 September 1666, the diarist Samuel Pepys wrote, “All I observed there was the silliness of the King, playing with his dog all the while and not minding the business.”
690. One of the few viewpoints in the Lindenwood Management Area afforded by a break in the vegetation looks east from the edge of the Escarpment. The broad mouth of Owen Sound lies invisible in a dip about 6 km away. I like that little wooden shelter complete with chair at centre in the middle of the forest.
691. Not a huge pebble, nor a fossilized dinosaur egg, nor a Neanderthal skull, but a giant puffball (Calvatia gigantea), with the tip of Mike’s walking pole for scale. This one was about 30 cm (1 ft) in diameter, so not quite in the same class as the 50 cm, 7 kg monster found near Woodstock, Ontario in 2016.
692. And for mycological contrast, here’s a display of delicate crown coral fungus (Clavicorona pyxidata) growing on on a rotten log. This fungus is apparently edible, with an interesting peppery flavour if cooked. But you do risk a touch of diarrhea and mild vomiting thereafter.
693. Whenever we approach pools or puddles, there’s a splash or two as frogs jump in, then rise to the surface to check us out, as here between the Dawson Road and Ross McLean Side Trails.
694. We are baffled by what appears to be the seat of a dog sled attached to a tree trunk several metres off the ground. The best explanation we can come up with is that it’s a tree stand for hunting deer (there are no moose on the Bruce Peninsula). But it’s so far off the ground on the steep flank of the Escarpment that we wonder how anyone can get a long ladder in to access that perch.
695. These are brilliant red waxy cap mushrooms (a species of Hygrocybe).
696. On one of the few open sections of today’s hike, there’s a fine cloud formation over a hump of the Escarpment.
697. These small white mushrooms are probably fairy inkcaps (Coprinellus disseminatus). These agarics grow in spectacular clusters on or near decaying wood, and boast 143 different sexes. How on earth do they find mates so as to breed so prolifically?
698. A farmer on Lundy Road is evidently a fan of the world’s largest agricultural machinery company. It was founded by John Deere (1804-86), a blacksmith of Rutland, Vermont, in 1837. Deere came to prominence with the cast-steel “Plow that Broke the Plains” that he patented. (This led to the dust bowl of the 1930s, but poor farming practices and drought were more to blame than John Deere.) These days John Deere make tractors, combines, harvesters, seed drills, sprayers and spreaders, as well as construction and forestry equipment and landscaping vehicles like riding mowers. Its HQ is in Moline, Illinois, and it has no major plant in Canada. Ski-Doo, on the other hand, is all-Canadian: it’s the brand name of the personal snowmobile launched in 1959 by Joseph Armand Bombardier (1907-64) of Valcourt, Québec. It was so successful that “Ski-Doo” is often used as a synonym for “snowmobile” in Canada. John Deere did make snowmobiles from 1972-84, but never under the name “Ski-Doo.”
699. Apples hang seductively on a bough as the Trail passes through an abandoned orchard. As the Trail lengthens and exhaustion mounts, I think of Robert Frost’s haunting poem, “After Apple-Picking” (1914), that begins,
“My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break …”
700. This field boasts grazing cattle and a crop of large field stones. And speaking of stones, we have reached another milestone: the 700th km out of the roughly 900 km of the Trail, of which we have now completed 77.7%.
701. From this posted sign, it would seem that we have crossed that invisible line that separates Modern Civilization from Bear Country. Fatal bear attacks always make headlines and there seem to have been many of them recently. But when I check I find that there have been only three so far this year in North America, two of which involved black bears, and all of which occurred in remote northern locations. The nearest was in Red Lake, Ontario, about 1,700 km northwest of here.
702. This object that we found lying by the Trail near our end point is a quarter panel emblem of a 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS. “SS” stood for “Super Sport” and in 1963 that signified what is known in the trade as an “appearance package.” That is, the upgrade was to the appearance of the vehicle only, not to its performance.
703. A lone dogwood in a hurry to display its fall colours. We’re pretty exhausted after this hike, 17.7 km over six hours. But we don’t feel too bad after we meet a pair of experienced Bruce Trail end-to-enders at least ten years younger than ourselves, who tell us that though they have done 30 or even 40 km per day on trails like the Camino de Santiago in Spain or the Coast to Coast walk across northern England, their usual comfortable maximum on the Bruce is 15 km per day.