Update May 5/2016 – We just returned from a walk at Hazel Bird’s and found that the trail markers have been improved considerably since the write-up below. The trail is much easier to follow by them. As well,sufficient traffic, and mowing the trail has more clearly marked the path. Mowing of the path may sound odd, but it’s essential to keep walkers from wandering off the (otherwise relatively trackless) trail in such a fragile ecosystem. eg) note the ankle deep sand on the trail down from the first big hill. That sand wasn’t shipped in from someplace. It’s right under all that plant-life all around you. Yours and my footsteps have disturbed and destroyed the surface, leaving that ribbon of dead sand.
The wife and I were “taking the long way Home” from a walk on the Woodland Trails in Northumberland County Forest when she noticed a sign away back behind a gate, and she recognized some of the words and symbols. We went back to look again and it was a brand new access to the Hazel Bird Nature Reserve. Ranger and I had visited it a few years ago, but the access was very difficult and the parking questionable, so the wife had never been there.
It can be accessed almost directly across from 9475 Beaver Meadow Rd just East off Harwood Rd (Cnty Rd 15) North of Baltimore from Hwy 45 out of Cobourg. It’s very easy to miss as there’s no parking lot, no sign near the road, just a closed gate. Just pull off the road and park on the side. The official welcome sign is about 20 meters back from the gate. Simply go around the gate through the opening on the left side (that’s what it’s for).
If you should visit in the next few weeks, be very careful not to step on the stinkhorn mushrooms between the gate and the road. There are also a few as you approach the first welcome sign. Personally, their scent is slightly appealing to me as I love very dark, heavy, scented cheeses and mushrooms, but it prompts a gag response from the wife (and other people obviously, from it’s common name).
From the welcome sign start your walk by going to the left to lessen the hill climbing. You’ll see the one I’m referring to from the hazel bird lookout, (and will silently thank me for suggesting you start the trail from the left of the sign). Inevitably, there’s a hill to climb, but the one through the canopied forest is much cooler and less steep. Trail markers are blue blazes (rectangles). These are actually the oak ridges trail assoc “side-trail” markers. A single blaze simply means “this way” but if there’s two blazes, the top one indicates the direction to look for the next marker as the trail turns that direction.
Trail markers get a little few and far between at about the first sharp right (at the sand dunes). If you look real hard along the ridge of the hill you’ll see one, on the highest point on a hummock. These trails are so fresh and new that there aren’t any well worn paths at this point to help guide you, but that might change with time.
Every trail has its merits and while this one has a few wooded patches,
the spectacular vistas and open spaces are its strength.
Having just told you that, I wouldn’t necessarily call this an easy walking trail at this early stage. There are alot of trip hazards on the wooded sections, and some serious ankle-turners on the prairie sections due to typically uneven terrain. But that’s OK, you can always “stop and smell the roses” and have a look around. Sometimes that’s the better way to see a place anyway.
Also, there’s evidence of heavy equipment use on some sections of the trail and the slogging was a bit O’ work. That’s not a criticism. This nature reserve is being assisted in regeneration and that takes people and equipment. We appreciate and admire those people and we look forward to watching this reserve “d’evolve”.
On that subject, the first time I saw this place was only a few years ago. It was one of the first places Ranger and I visited when we re- established contact. I don’t even have pictures of it ’cause we never even thought of it back then. Of course, there were no established trails then either. However, I remember sitting on a ridge almost directly across from the current lookout, gazing into the valley below. The ground was covered in lichen … and nothing else. Now I see ironweed and many other plants, and that’s just in 3 years. This day, just like those years before, the ground was covered in deer tracks.
The Final Take
The Hazel Bird Nature Reserve’s new, easier access made the difference between it being included in this blog’s trail reviews, or left out. Start your walk by going to the left of the first sign. Should you read this article in the heat of Summer, I’ll warn you to bring your own shade. For about 80 % of the trail you’ll be exposed to raw sunshine with no trees or any form of relief. We walked it in mid November and I had to remove my jacket and roll up my sleeves on a blustery, windy day. ie) It can get very warm up there. And “up there” are the operative words. The reserve is on the highest plateau in the area and the views of the surrounding countryside are spectacular.
Mind you, the wooded sections are cooling, deep, and inviting, but they’re rare, and that’s just fine. This 4 km trail is definitely about open plains and rare ontario prairie ecosystem. There are no facilities of any kind, no parking area, no picnic facilities, and no charge for use. There’s a bench at the top of the Lookout, and another in the meadow area.
Have a nice walk.
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