Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pine Grove Trail

Pine Grove Trail (43 & 44)

Length: 5km loop
Time: 60-90 minutes
Terrain: Easy

Located in South Ottawa, Pine Grove Trail is part of the National Capital Commission (NCC) Greenbelt trial system. Parking can be found off Davidson Road at P18 (N45 21.292 W075 35.560) which is between Hawthorne Road and Conroy Road.

The hike is a 5 kilometer loop through natural forests, reclaimed white and red pine forests and marshlands. It should take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete following trails 43 and 44. Starting at the parking lot head north and cross Davidson Road to the beginning of the trail, here you'll see an information panel explaining the history or the forest. Before 1962, most of this area was cleared farmland. After it was purchased by the NCC both red and white pines were planted in most of the clearings and the area was eventually developed into a full grown forest.

Heading north on 43, the first kilometer of the trail is a gravel covered. This is part of the Greenbelt pathway which will eventually run from Greens Creek in the east end of Ottawa to the Shirley's Bay in the west. As you walk make sure you take a few moments and read the panels which describe the different trees in the forest.

One of the best parts of this trail are the new signs that are located at all intersections. As the gravel path heads east continue on 43 (to the north) to where it changes into a grass/dirt covering.

As you follow the trail you'll eventually pass by a large marsh on your left. There are a few spots where you can sneak through the brush get a better look but beware, the closer you get the more mosquitos you'll anger. After another five minutes you'll arrive at another intersection, turn left and keep going on 43.

Keep heading south through the old natural forest until you reach Davidson Road. From here you have two options... 1. You could cross the road go over a small bridge onto a narrow, not well maintained trail, or... 2. Go left and follow the road for about 100 meters until you reach the opening on the left. Personally, I chose the road... it was a nice break from the bugs.

From here the trail keeps heading south. If you're getting tired you have the option of cutting the hike short. At the intersection of trail 43 and 44, if you turn left you will reach the parking lot after only a few minutes. If you're still up for the hike go straight through onto trail 44. This part of the walk brings you around a very large marsh with a few boardwalks, some gerat views and lots of mosquitos.

The trail follows a southern flow for a kilometer until you make it around the marsh then it heads straight north towards the parking lot. Along this stretch there are a lot of side trails which will take you to side street parking on Hawethorne Road as well as other parts of the Pine Grove Trail System. Stay on 44 as this is the only one that leads you back to P18.

In conclusion, Pine Grove Trail is a great hike for beginners and families. It offers some very easy terrain, some nice scenery and is by far one of the best kids in the Ottawa Green Belt.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lake Whittaker Conservation Area

Lake Whittaker - Sinking Bridge Trail and Ivan Row Trail

Length: 3km of hiking trails (5km with total loop of Lake)
Time: 60-90 minutes
Terrain: Easy to Moderate

Located in South-West Ontario near the hamlet of Avon, Lake Whittaker Conservation Area is a nice wooded esacpe in the middle of farm country. The 26-acre lake supports a public beach, camping, fishing and several kilometres of hiking trails.

The entrence to the conservation area is located at the end of Whittaker Lane. There is an $8.00 entry fee (per vehical) to gain access for the day. Once you're all paid up turn left around the gatehouse and follow the road along the south side of the lake to the day-use parking area (GPS Location: N 42 54.720 W080 57.587).

The two trails will take you on a 5 kilometre (3 km of hiking trail, 2 km of road) loop of the lake. From the day-use parking lot, walk the wooded trail and end up at the public beach in the camping area. From the beach, back to the parking area, walk along the road.

Starting at the day-use parking lot, head towards the lake and through the gate. Welcome to Sinking Bridge Trail.

The first few hundred metres of the path are quite simple... it's wide, grass covered and quite flat. Make sure you check out the fishing piers to the right as they give you a great view of the lake. Also along this stretch is a nice pinic area with lots of tables, this is a great spot to sit and relax after the hike.

Photos Provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

After a few minutes you'll arrive at the end of a road and the trail will make a sharp right and down a hill. This part of the trail is actually the old allignment of the road and at the bottom of the hill was an old floating bridge that crossed the wetlands.

Now this is where the trail starts getting a little more difficult. Before reaching to bottom of the hill there is a small un-marked entrence to your left. It may not look like much but things open up after few minutes. This part of the hike is takes you along some very interesting terrain as well as grassy meadows, over boardwalks and through old hard and soft-wood forests.

Photos Provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

By this point you've probably noticed that the trail is not marked that well (or at all) and the map available at the gate-house is not a good representation of the trail. As you walk through this part of the woods you're probably wishing things were advertised a little better. Over the next few minutes you'll find many forks in the trail. From what I saw, most lead back to the main trail but use the attached map below to help you find your way.

Photos Provided by Jamie Limebeer Photography

Continue along the route until you reach the old alignment of road again, this will mark the end of the Sinking Bridge Trail but not the end of the hike. Follow the grassy road until you see a sign for the Ivan Row Trail and make a right into the second half.

Ivan Row Trail is a little different then the Sinking Bridge Trail, it follows much closer to the the lake and can get quite muddy as you make your way through some marshlands. Though the trail is not marked (except for the entrance and exit) it is much easier to follow with no side trails to confuse you. As you near the campground section of the park the trail will turn into a mountain biking area with several jumps and hills. If you stay to the right you'll see the exit which brings you to the public beach and some washrooms.

That marks the end of your hike. To get back to the day-use parking lot follow the road to your east, past to the gatehouse and along the south of the lake.

Lake Whittaker Conservation Area is a great spot to spend an afternoon. The trails allow you too see a rare part of Southern Ontario. The only negative is the lack of signage along the trail but the scenery by far makes up for this. Enjoy.

Lake Whittaker Map