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H.R. Frink Conservation Area and OEC Review
UPDATE – June 9, 2018 – We went up to see how the boardwalk had been faring (it was in rough shape when we first saw it). I’m pleased to report that it’s under repair though I suspect it’ll be out of commission for the rest of this Summer. You can walk a little bit of it from the Link trail, but about 3/4 across it starts to heave to the sides at worrisome angles. We walked it anyway, and ended up stepping over a “CLOSED” sign facing the boardwalk from the opposite side. So, it might be an idea to avoid it ’til next year.
It was our 35th anniversary and I asked the wife what she wanted to do. A cruise, a trip somewhere, whatever she wanted. She chose to go somewhere we’d never been before, and have a picnic. Always the cheap date she was. She often suggests that’s why I married her. I have other, much better reasons I can assure you.
So, she chose HR Frink Conservation Area and Outdoor Educational Centre for its boardwalks. Frink is 9 km north of the 401 on Hwy 37 (above Belleville), then East on Thrasher Rd for 2 km. There are 2 parking lots, one on each side of Thrasher Rd (OK there’s one on its own before them, but it’s not the best place to start). The one on the right (south) is the best place to start. There’s a trail heading directly south (the Pond trail) from that parking area. Don’t take the Boundary trail heading East. Follow the pond trail to one of the most impressive marsh boardwalks I have ever experienced.
The boardwalk itself is rather rickety and very old. But the feel of it was unlike any other. It’s half a kilometer of heaving, rolling boardwalk over marsh and open water. It’s the kind of boardwalk I always say I’d build if I had the funds and the property. It’s a bit old, but quite stable and the wife and I considered using the platform in the middle as our picnic spot.
Now, the boardwalk is a return trail unless you wish to walk Thrasher Rd back to your parking lot. Why walk a paved road when you could walk over the boardwalk again? There are trails, and a lookout on the far end of the boardwalk, but the terrain would be no better than the Boundary and Horsetail trails. We walked the Boundary and Horsetail trails and found them to be very wet, buggy, and rather uninteresting as they’re mostly through cedar lowlands. The common mushrooms (which could be more appreciated on numerous more pleasant trails) are all these trails have to offer the walker’s eye. Basically, what I’m saying is that the marsh boardwalk is all we found worthy of note and effort on the south side of Thrasher Rd., and it’s worth every step.
At this point, you can cross Thrasher Rd. to the rest of the experience. There are a few buildings concerning the educational centre (which were deserted on our visit of course). The trails on this side of the road are drier, and more upland forested. Interesting trees are labelled and the terrain is much more amiable. We particularly liked the elevated silver maple swamp boardwalk on our way to the Moira riverbank where we saw the most cardinal flowers we’ve ever seen, anywhere.
We didn’t have the time, and we were worn out by the difficult trails on the south side, to walk all of the north side trails. However, we enjoyed the route we took to the Moira river, and along it’s shoreline where we strolled through the cardinal flowers.
We will definitely return to walk the rest. The Drumlin trail circles a drumlin of course. A section of it climbs over the drumlin like the Hi-Lo trail (which we took) does. This would be considered a steep climb by some. If you don’t like the look of it, just continue following the Drumlin trail around the drumlin to the Riverside trail. There’s no need to scale it to see the river.
The Final Take
So, to sum it up, Frink CA/OEC is very well marked and easy to find from Hwy 37. The Marsh boardwalk (accessed from the south parking area) is a must see. Don’t be deceived by the other “boardwalks” on the Boundary and Horsetail trails that you’ll see on the trail map. They’re a series of boardwalks simply covering otherwise impassibly wet ground. Some are just pads of tree trunk slices laid in a stepping stone fashion across extremely sloppy terrain (that would rarely, if ever, be dry). Many were very unstable. Please understand, I applaud the effort, but those trails just weren’t worth the trouble. There are a couple of Look-outs on the south side over-looking the marsh according to the trail maps. However, between the conditions of the trails to them, and the spectacular view of the marsh from the boardwalk already, we chose not to seek them out.
The north side is a lovely dry footed walk with half a dozen picturesque bridges, boardwalks, and scenery.
These trails and the wooden bridges and boardwalks are obviously newer and well maintained for the Educational Centre. Not to mention the educational aspect. The wife and I left a fair piece wiser, with regard to the trees we walk under every day.
Oh Yes ! Where did we choose to picnic ? We went a short way further north on Hwy 37 to Vanderwater CA where we found a lovely spot right on the Moira river, all to ourselves complete with a picnic table.