Sunday, May 27, 2012

The 100 km Countdown

Date of hike:  Sun. May 6, 2012

Weather: 17C at start; 22C at completion; bright sunshine with a light breeze                                                                                     
Duration of hike:  3 hours 44 minutes  (including a 15 minute stop for lunch)

Section:  5—from Oxford St. entrance of Komoka Provincial Park to entrance of park on Gideon Dr.
                4—from entrance to Komoka Prov. Park on Gideon Dr. to west side of Komoka Rd. bridge

Distance:  13.4 km            Cumulative distance:  166.9 km
We could not have picked a better day to hike this section that passes through Komoka Provincial Park.  Bright sunshine, gentle spring breezes, and wild flowers blooming everywhere were just the beginning of all good things that could be said of this day on the trail. 

Fiddleheads anyone?
Hiking this section was not a new experience for either of us though, having been through these trails many times before on a Sunday hike with the kids.
Komoka Provincial Park is a small park with few amenities; it’s nothing like the Pinery where one can camp and enjoy a variety of activities and services that are provided.  There isn’t an entrance fee that must be paid in order to get in.  Just pull up to one of the parking areas that offer access in, pick a trail and off you go! 
Hiking is its main raison d’etre and that was certainly the case on this sunny Sunday as we passed numerous groups of hikers of all types….especially families with young children.   This is a great spot to take kids out for an outdoor expedition as the trails offer easy hiking, but with lots of nature bonuses!
Butterflies enjoying the nectar in
the honeysuckle.

Small marsh located along the trail.

Carp sunning themselves just upstream from
the fisherman's hooks!
Turkey vultures circling overhead.

There is the main trail that traverses the park from east to west; that’s the Thames Valley Trail and it’s marked with the traditional white blazes.  But from the main trail, you can choose to loop around and head off onto the Blue, Yellow, or Orange trails.  A good spot to start is at the main Gideon Drive parking lot, hike toward the river on the Blue trail then switch over to one of the other trails to complete a circuit.
Yellow trail marker
Orange trail marker
Blue trail marker--many of the white
TV Trail blazes are metal strips in
Komoka Park.
As the trail passes through the park, we crossed many deep ravines, all with the aid of bridges that had been built.  The path wound its way up the bluff, giving us some great views of the river, and then back down to its edge. 

We exited the park at its west entrance on Gideon Drive, then continued down the road for a bit, avoiding some private land, before turning back onto a path that went alongside of the river.  We followed this until it went under the Komoka Road bridge and came back up toward Gideon Drive.  This was our turn around point for this chapter of our adventure.
This downed tree blocked the path
where the trail crossed onto private
land, just before the
Komoka Road Bridge

Turn around point--telephone pole that
is just west of the bridge.
Completing this section now brings our cumulative kilometre total to 166, meaning that we have less than 100 km to go in completing our end-and-back adventure.  It won’t be long now!
The view from our lunch time stop
Our lunch time stop
One of the many ravines that cut through Komoka Park.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

Date of hike:  Sun. April 22, 2012 Earth Day!

Weather:  9C at start; 11C at completion; partly cloudy/sunny with a NW wind                                                                                   
Duration of hike:  1 hour 27 minutes

Section:  6—from Tigerlily Road/Riverbend Road to the entrance of Komoka Provincial Park on Oxford St.

Distance:  6.4 km              Cumulative distance:  153.5 km

This was the third stretch of the TV Trail that took a detour along the local roads, and it won’t be the last.  Usually, following a roadway is necessitated by the fact that private land ownership does not allow hikers to come onto the property, should the trail pass that way.  That was the case here, as we left Kains Woods and headed through a housing development and made our way to Westdel Bourne and on through to Oxford Street. 

Had we continued along the river, we would have traversed onto the properties of local home owners as well as that of Woodeden  Camp (a camp for physically challenged children that is operated by Easter Seals).  I guess it’s just unfortunate that the trail would have to pass through these properties, in order to stay its course along the Thames River. 

On one hand, one would hope that a compromise of some sort could be worked out, but on the other hand, I suppose it’s understandable that the privacy of these properties needs to be respected.

Nevertheless, we set out to complete this part of section 6 in a steadfast, no-nonsense manner.  Short on time, this particular day, we were able to get the job done efficiently.  All the while, I couldn’t get the Beatles tune “The Long and Winding Road” out of my head as we made our way along the side of the road.  I also began to reminisce about when I was 9 or 10 years old, participating in the annual Oxfam Walk that was held in my hometown of Chatham.  Perhaps this was when I first developed an attraction to setting off on a challenging journey, such that a hike can be.
The Oxfam Walks were held in the spring across Canada, and Chatham/Kent County was no exception.  I remember the course being 30 miles (yes, 30 miles, not kilometres!) in length and participants would get sponsors to pledge for each mile they would complete.  There were check points along the way, and your card was stamped to prove that you had made it to that destination.  I tried twice to make the full distance, but only ever made it as far as 18 miles, before my blistered feet and sunburned shoulders forced me to abandon my goal and wait for the paddy wagon to pick my friends and me up.  When I think of it now, I am in wonder that my parents allowed me, a 9 year old child, to set off for the day, to try to accomplish such a feat.  But they did, and I survived!  Though I was always in awe of other class mates who had succeeded; how did they do that?  After a couple of years, the annual event was no more, for reasons that I am not aware of, and I never did get a chance to beat that course.

Eventually, I became involved in middle distance running at the high school and university level and took on the ultimate challenge of running the marathon (26.2 miles).  I would conquer that 30 mile distance (more or less) and successfully complete 14 marathons, with all but one race under the 3 hour time barrier.  Hard to believe when I struggled to simply walk an equivalent distance!  But I do digress….easy to do as one walks along a road with little else but thoughts and Beatles tunes going through one’s head.

Still, there were some interesting things to observe along this early part of Section 6.  This lovely little country church, set back from the road, attests to a simpler time. 

Located just east of the church, along the road, was this small cemetery.  We took a few minutes to explore it and observed many similar family names, with dates going back as far as the early 1800’s!  Many stones were indecipherable due to the weathering of time. 

This section, if travelling from Talbotville to St. Mary’s, begins with an exit from Komoka Provincial Park.  One of the smaller parks in Ontario, and lesser known, its boundaries protect the terrain and species in this area.  A provincial park for only about 10 years, there seems to be a change in the making happening, in order to classify it as a Provincial Nature Reserve.  I’m guessing that this will bring further restrictions to activities like horseback and ATV riding through the area, which will only help to preserve its natural state for years to come.  We’re looking forward to hiking the trail through here on our next leg.
Where the trail begins its entry into Komoka Park
Beginning of trails in Komoka Prov. Park....our
turn-around point for this leg....our starting
point for the next.
When hiking Section 6, one should be aware that there is a slight trail re-route.  By checking the Thames Valley Trail Association web-site and following the link to “trail re-routes” under “The Trail”, changes that have occurred since the publication of the third edition of the trail guide are posted.  One such important change for this section:

“Section 6 from the North end of Westdel Bourne – at 2.5 km

DELETE existing trail guide description entirely.

ADD “At 2.5km turn R (east) off the north end of Wesdel Bourne onto Kains Road. Follow Kains Road for 300 m and turn L onto Tigerlily Road. Follow Tigerlilly Road for 50 m and cross over Riverbend Road. Continue along Tigerlily Road for another 260 m to Riverbend Road. Cross over Riverbend Road and continue on paved walkway on opposite side. Follow the footpath as it curves L (north) around the storm collector pond.”

Section 6 from the North end of Westdel Bourne – at 3.2 km

DELETE existing trail guide description entirely.

ADD “Pass through the opening in the cedar fence and continue down the open corridor towards the river for approximately 170 m (before reaching the outlet of the drainage spillway). Turn right (east) and follow the trail into woodland.” ”
Paul, standing where the trail used to go....from this point, if
heading east, turn onto Kains Road and then turn left onto
Tigerlily Road.
This short leg of our adventure may not have offered much in the way of scenery or a chance to mingle with nature, but I’m surprised to see that the length of this post is substantial nonetheless.  I guess it just goes to show that even the simplest outdoor excursion, on a spring day, can provide not only physical stimulation, but a mental one as well.  Good for the body AND soul!
This tree is defying the odds...notice the large gaping
hole in its trunk and it was developing another
set of buds!  It was located on the cemetery property.