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DURHAM EAST CROSS FOREST CONSERVATION AREA TRAILS REVIEW
The first time we saw this trailhead was many years ago. It looked like nothing more than an ATVer’s paradise, so we paid no attention and carried on. But recently, the wife reminded me of our first erroneous impression of Orono’s Crown Land so I did some I’Net research. It’s history was encouraging, and we had to go to our birdseed place anyway so we decided to give it another look over.
There are two access points and we hit the Murphy Rd. (South end) first. Murphy Rd. turns from pavement, to loose gravel as you approach. Then it turns to sand as you cross the railroad tracks. But take heart, you can see the CA parking lot sign at the end of Murphy Rd. from the tracks. There’s ample parking, but we saw no sign of the washroom facilities showing on the map. There are no other facilities at this trailhead either. As you face the trail signboard, the South Forest Loop trail is directly behind you through the green gate. The trail to your left when facing the signboard, is the South terminus of the Main Access Trail (reviewed after the South Forest Loop).
South Forest Loop
This trail is wide enough for two to walk side by side, and we both remarked on the birdsong. I’ve rarely seen a place with so much bird activity. It’s a naturally regenerating fake forest (man planted pine forests meant to control erosion back in the 1940’s). However, you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference here. Never mind the trees, the undergrowth was well populated with rarely seen wildflowers, and walking it in the right season will yield handfull after handfull of wild raspberries.
The trail is fairly level with just one small ravine, and is very well marked with green diamonds except at intersections with other trails, for some odd reason (which can leave one a bit confused). Because of that, and a number of interfering unofficial trails criss-crossing it, I’ll make the following suggestion. At the first crosstrail , turn right, at the second crosstrail (really a bush road, not a trail), turn left. Follow the bush road until you see a trail going off to the left (at an unsigned silver metal pole, whose purpose is otherwise unknown) to complete the loop. There were surprisingly few mosquitoes on this trail, even though it had been a very wet few weeks prior, and rained off & on as we walked it.
Main Access Trail
This one runs the length of the CA North and South. It’s basically a 3.3 km (one way) walk on an old logging road which is wide enough for four to walk shoulder to shoulder of course. Pleasant enough, but nothing to write Home (nor a trail review) about. Though the Devitts Rd. trailhead (at the North end) does have a washroom and a picnic table.
Blair Martyn Memorial Loop
It’s a shame this trail was chosen to commemorate the man who contributed so much to the existence of this CA. With regard to plant life … well, if it didn’t have bark and needles, it was DSV (invasive Dog Strangling Vine). Literally, all we could see were tree trunks and DSV. There was even an interpretive sign explaining what the only plant, other than the trees, was. At the beginning, there was a stretch of this trail clear of the invader. The wonderful diversity of native plant life in that one spot saddened me as I tried to imagine what the rest of the trail would’ve been like before the DSV. The only other views were the carnage wreaked by ATVs. This trail is very confusingly marked too. The markers changed from Orange diamonds to what looked like bubble arrows in blue and yellow. Again, at crosstrail intersections, there was considerable confusion as to which of the four ways to go. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to bother going through a full explanation of how to get around this trail as I’ll never walk it again, and I wouldn’t recommend you bother to either.
The Final Take
At 2.3 kms, the South Forest Loop trail is the most rewarding of the three available here. It’s an easy walk alive with birdsong. There are many wildflowers (I mean “many” by diversity as well as numbers) with raspberry patches every coupla steps along the way. The trail is wide enough for two to walk side-by-side and is fairly level with just one small ravine running through it. The Port-a-Potty showing on the official trail map wasn’t present on our visit. There are no picnic facilities at the trailhead, nor rest stop benches along the trail.
The Main Access Trail is just an old logging road which presents a pleasant enough walk, but is lacking in anything particularly interesting on it’s 3.3 km., one way, length. Though there was a Port-A-Potty at the North (Devitts Rd) end, and a picnic table.
I don’t recommend the Blair Martyn Loop as it’s a long walk to get to, and at best, offers a negligible reward.
Have a nice walk,