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Proctor Park (Brighton) Trail Review
After two days of Spring yard work, we needed a break, so we hit the trails. We walked the Laurie Lawson OEC, and saw our first snake of the season, then Nawautin where we watched fish spawning in the shallows, turtles basking in the sun, and another snake. By this time it was near noon so we figured we’d go to Brighton for a picnic lunch at Proctor, before walking the trails. The wife and I hadn’t seen Brighton Ontario’s Proctor Park for about 2 years. All we remembered was a hill, a stream, and a cool bridge. The day was a bit cooler than the last two (fortunately, as it turned out), but bright, cheery, and sunny.
You know, every time I go to write a review about a trail I just returned from, I always check out what my peers (?) say about it online. Rarely is there any correlation between their interpretations and my recollection of a few hours earlier. This trail is no exception either. It’s not anywhere near 10 Km long, has no view of Presqu’isle Bay, and could hardly rate two of five on a difficulty scale as was suggested by three separate “hiking” sites I accessed (all 3 of which had the exact same word-for-word intro descriptor as the Wikipedia page at the top of my screen).
So, here’s the reality of the Proctor Park trail. Unless you know about the trails there, you might not ever see then. The “in town” park has a decidedly “in town park” look to it. The big, covered picnic facility, the ample parking lot, the mown lawns, the Brighton Barn Theater, the Proctor House Museum. The driveway could use a bit of gravel when approaching from the George St. entrance though (you can also access from Kingsley Rd.). ***UPDATE August 11, 2017 – the Kingsley rd. entrance was gated (closed and locked) – there’s a new huge sign announcing access to the park from Young St. right at the huge sign. By the time you see the sign, you’ll probably be past it, so just take the next right ’cause that’s where the main gate (pictured below) is. It’s just as well, as we took the new route in, (Young st.) and found it to be washed out due to its steepness.***
Once you do find your way in, if you head North from the parking lot or from your picnic table, you’ll walk into a trail system like this :
There’s a little bit of a walk down to the Butler Creek bank for a stroll, but be warned … if you only want a pleasant little stroll beside the creek and through a bit of wood, take the short trail at the bottom of the map above. ***Update August 11, 2017 – You’ll see a bridge over the river with an obvious trail running between a row of intentionally planted trees and the riverbank just before crossing the bridge. Follow this unmarked trail for a lovely stroll along the river for the length of the park. It’s much more rewarding than the trail marked on the map. I don’t normally encourage wandering off trails, but this is all cedar lined riverbank, and nothing grows under them so, really, it doesn’t matter.***
Once you commit to taking the entire outside trail, you’re in for a cardio and lung capacity challenging walk. By that I mean, she’s pretty hilly. I normally suggest a direction that will present you the most pleasant walk but I’m afraid there’s no easy way to do this one. It’s uphill and fairly steep, any whichway you view it. Seriously though, I’m sixty and with an occassional stop for a breather/rest, I and the wife made it just fine. Mind you, I wouldn’t even think about it after a rain because of a few very steep sections. So, if you follow the entire outside trail, you’re gonna be going up and down, then up and down again. I must admit that even the downs weren’t easy due to the steepness.
So, here’s the walk when taking it to the right (East) after the bridge over the creek. First, you’ll go through mostly typical cedar lowlands. The kind where the trees all look dead until about thirty feet up. Hwy 30 is surprisingly noisy along this section as it’s not far away. Then, as you begin your first (gradual) ascent, the trees will become more deciduous. The grade will steadily increase as the view through the mostly “undergrowth free” forest around you, improves. The view of the valley to your right can be quite rewarding in the early (or late) seasons. I’ve never even tried walking Proctor in the Summer as the combination of heat and hills would be more than I could handle.
Once you hit level ground at the top of the hill, it’s not long before you’re on your way down again (approx. 10 meters). As you step down, you’ll encounter a rather lovely bridge in an equally lovely location. The sound of Hwy 30 is far behind the hill you just walked over now so it’s much more pleasant.
Of course, you’ll notice the hill on the other side of the bridge. Back up you go ! The trail then wanders alongside a cultivated field for awhile, then begins dropping steeply back down to the creek again.
The Final Take
Proctor Park has good picnic facilities, some other things of interest (theater, museum, not that walkers care I suppose), and provides washroom facilities from May to October. My best calculation of it’s distance is 3.8 Km. The trail is mostly wide enough for two to walk side-by-side, and is obviously heavily used by locals as evidenced by the number of people we saw on a week-day, and the footprints along the trail. At first, I was impressed by the heart and lung health of the people of Brighton, but by the time I was through that trail, I had a whole new respect for the people of Brighton. I could not find any trace of trash ANYWHERE on that trail !!! I have never seen a cleaner trail ANYWHERE ! That includes the easier walked sections before the hills (so that’s not an excuse). I think I’d better take a bag with me on our regular morning walk on our town trail tomorrow.