Walking south along Lakeridge Road from the parking lot on Houston Road for a kilometer and half was not as unpleasant as I thought it would. Walking along the shoulder of a busy secondary highway is not the type of hiking I enjoy. However, most of that time was spent either below the road in a valley or above the road overlooking it as the trail followed the topology of the land and not along the leveled road that had been hewn out of the hills and infilled valleys. To the east was the forest and the rolling hills I was soon to enter. Snowmobile and ATV tracks were deep-set in spots which made walking a little more of a chore having to put one foot directly in front of the other. Balance was key to not stumbling against the upper lip of the track.
Originally intending to hike only to Crow’s Pass Conservation Area and loop around on Crow’s Pass Trail then back, I had somehow been distracted and missed both points where the Crow’s Pass Trail connects with the Oak Ridges Trail. Upon realizing that I decided I would walk as far as Ashburn Road and catch the Crow’s Pass Trail on the way back.
The entrance to the forest is at the top of a steep climb; almost a cliff. I took one last look at the traffic below, then moments later I was walking down the backside of the same hill. Stepping off the trail had a strange sensation underfoot. The forest floor became extremely spongy, I imagine because of all the fallen leaves over the years. It felt like walking on mattresses
Primarily a deciduous forest for the first couple of kilometers, I was about to enter its deeper, darker cousin, a thick coniferous forest. I am not sure why, but it seemed exciting. Perhaps because it appeared a little dark, and perhaps a little dangerous. As I walked through it there were number of ponds spread out over the next kilometer. There was one in particular that had me daydreaming back to my childhood in Quebec, where my friends and I skated and played hockey until the sun set and it was time to head home for dinner.
Where the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail meets the western intersection with Crow’s Pass Trail there is the ruin of an old outhouse just into the forest on the west side of a meadow. I wondered what was here years ago that warranted an outhouse. Not far away is a sign. It states that ATV and snowmobiles are forbidden. Nothing unusual there, however, it also states, no cars allowed. Signs aren’t put up without a reason. I have to assume that at some point people were driving cars on this tail, although it looked like it couldn’t accommodate anything wider than an ATV.
Further east, I couldn’t make it out with the sun in my eyes, but there was something large and artificial up along the small ridge to the south. The outline was too straight – something you wouldn’t see in nature. Was it concrete? Maybe a wall? The ground was too steep and the brush too thick to investigate. On I went down the trail, and the farther I went, the more curious I became. Up I went through an opening where I could climb, and at the top the forest floor became manicured grass. Was it a golf course? Or perhaps picnic grounds. Did the conservation area extend this far east? I didn’t see a golf course on my map. I never did find out what the object was that drew my attention in the first place as I had traveled too far down the trail and it was out of sight at this vantage point. Back down the hill and on the trail I come across a couple of golf balls which sealed it. Once home and after a little research it turns out that it was Oak Ridges Golf Club. I’m glad I never played this course back when I played the game of golf. I don’t think I saw a level piece of ground anywhere on it.
Almost at my turn around point, not far from Ashburn Road, I tripped over the largest pile of horse manure I’ve ever seen. It was a good thing it was frozen. Strange, the trail didn’t seem suited for horses at all. If I had come in from the west I would have already passed horses grazing in a field with a direct connection to the trail via their very own gate from their grazing field onto the trail.
On my return trip I pulled out my GPS and noticed just off the tail a geocache. To my surprise three very nice people, whom I will keep anonymous, left a $10 Tim Horton’s gift card inside the cache. Merry Christmas and a heart-felt thanks to the three of you.
Crow’s Pass Trail was an interesting mix of forest and meadow. However, by this time, I was tired and it was getting colder as the wind picked up and the trail became more exposed. Thoughts of using my new-found gift to buy warming hot cocoa and pastries quickened my pace.
Heading north along Lakeridge Road back to my car, I scared off a very large deer who was grazing maybe 25 meters from the trail. It is amazing how fast it was and how high it jumped as it darted around and over obstacles then disappeared into the forest. And that put the finishing touch on an already great hike.
See more photographs from today’s adventure.