Have you ever seen a coupla tire tracks, (really nothing more than two grass-flattened trails) disappear into a stand of trees, and wonder where they go ? We do, alot. The difference between 2 old guys walking and normal people is that we’ll pull over and make it our business to find out. I keep one of those bright orange vests in my truck because in hunting season they’re a good idea when wandering anywhere in Southern Ontario. ‘Course, when it’s not hunting season, they kinda look like Township or County working crew vests, or maybe Hydro, or Bell. I wouldn’t claim to be anyone I’m not, but from a distance looks can be deceiving and I can’t do anything about that. ‘Course, most folks ignore the afore-mentioned personnel (in TV cop shows, what do the surveillance guys always masquerade as ?). Then again, at 9:30 on a Wednesday morning, most people we meet down these trails don’t know whose property they’re walking on any more than we do. There was one last Summer that Ranger led me onto. I asked if we were still in the Conservation Area we’d started from. He explained that we’d left the public area some time back and the property we were on, belonged to a consortium from some island in the Caribbean. The trail was better marked, and more heavily used than the public one had been.
This is why we usually seek out road allowances. We know they’re legal and safe. But those 2 tracks winding off into the unknown are often irresistible, as sometimes safety takes a back seat to curiosity and adventure. Often enough these trails end abruptly at nowhere. Maybe a swampy area only traversable in the Winter by snowmobile, or perhaps an abandoned structure blocks the path. Most commonly they end at a cultivated field, pipeline or a hydro corridor. It’s the lure of what might be along the way, to that truly rare dead end, that makes us do it. Berries, mushrooms, plants, insects, animals, any one or combination of them could be waiting for us, just around the bend or just over that hill. We often stop and just listen, smell, touch, look and marvel, at everything around us.
We’d found one such pair of tracks in the early Spring, but didn’t have the nerve to walk up. Too close to a private residence for our tastes. We decided to wait until there was more foliage on the trees to make us less obvious. It was some time before we ran low on other, more remote, paths to explore. We drove out to the townline where Cty Rd 10 curves off to the west, and surveyed the situation. Though late in the year, there was still plenty of foliage to cover us, so we drove in a ways, then started up the trail.
When you’re doing this kind of stuff, you sometimes feel like an explorer discovering new territory. Sometimes you feel like an adventurer, trespassing with flagrant disregard. Sometimes, standing on the crest of a ridge, you feel like the lonesome Monarch of an unnamed kingdom, over-looking the infinite rolling hills.
The sound of Ranger’s boots swishing through the grass drew me back to the warm, sunny, early Autumn morning. As he walked up beside me, I stepped forward in sync, and we begin discussing where we’d make the call. Meaning what, if anything, would dictate where we abandon further exploration. It’s generally dependent upon our collective moods that day. If it’s a hot day and there’s a steep downhill grade (that we’ll have to climb back up from), we’ll call it there. If it appears we’re about to walk into someone’s backyard, we call it. Other than those, there’s not much deters us. For the first little distance, the path was driveable.
But that ran out, so we struck out on foot. Heading north, we knew eventually we’d run into Cty Rd #9, it was just a question of what was between #9 and “here”.
As we walked, we could see cultivated crops to the west and untended fields to the east.
Apple trees still bore fruit, and the buckthorn berries were thick on the shrubs lining the path. I remember someone telling me the only sound you can hear at altitude in a hot air balloon, is the barking of dogs. I’ve never been in a hot air balloon, but I’ve noticed the same phenomenon from the tops of some of the drumlins we’ve walked over. You can see heavy farm equipment, which I know (from being close to) is louder than any dog can bark. But all you can hear from up on those ridges, are dogs barking. Oh ! sorry, one other thing, the cry of a hawk. You can hear them too, but that’s it.
We walked for quite some time until we came to a steep downhill grade descending eventually into a distant farm between us and Cty Rd #9 so we called it. We walked back to the truck and drove up to Rd #9 to check for a way through, but no such luck. We declared it a “return” trail of moderate interest, with an easy, level surface, and a pleasing view. Had there been any chance of making it a loop trail, we’d have tried harder, but at least ¾ of the loop would be along a major road and nobody likes that.
So, they don’t all lead to magnificence. They don’t all loop back in perfect form. Some are just a pleasant way for 2 old friends to while away an hour or two, up on a drumlin, over-looking the rolling hills of Southern Ontario. Those are some of my favourites.