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The Northumberland County Forest Loop Trail (across from the McDonald Tract) Review
This unnamed trail intersects the far Eastern stretches of the Woodland Trails. The Sweet Fern and Black Oak trails run through it on their return to the Woodland trailhead and parking lot. It provides a shortcut to the furthest reaches of those trails, while Large Tooth Lane, the Hog Nosed Trail, and a logging road provide a loop trail of their own. There’s no official name for the loop, hence the rather long location descriptive name I’ve assigned it here.
We noticed the unmaintained road (Large Tooth Lane – designated by a single large toothed leaf, and erroneously named “Huckleberry Lane” On Google Maps) heading West into the forest directly across from the McDonald Tract parking lot on Tucker road. This link will open Google Maps at the parking lot : https://goo.gl/maps/gvoJiT6sWKSSFQo99. We started walking it when we came across a trail to our right which (to our surprise) had an official sign designating it, the “Hog Nosed Trail” with a rare hog nosed snake depicted on it. We made the right turn and walked through the birdsong filled trail to the North, parallel to McDonald rd.
An ORTA trail entered from the left, just before the triangle on the map. We continued taking lefts past the triangle, following the Hog Nosed signs. The road made a sharp left as another roads intersected from the right. This trail just leads back out to McDonald rd. This was the point at which we stopped seeing Hog Nosed Trail signs.
This whole loop trail is navigable by off-road vehicles and it’s obviously used by them. Therefore, it’s wide enough for up to four to walk side by side. However, there are numerous single file foot trails (an ORTA, a Sweet Fern, and a Black Oak), running through the loop. These will provide a number of alternate loops within the 6.3 km (all logging road) outer loop trail.
We walked this one very soon after finding the unexpected patches of lady’s slipper orchids on the McDonald Tract trail (linked above), in hopes of finding more. Unfortunately, we didn’t. However, the wild Columbine display was the best I’ve ever seen, anywhere.
The millipede population was oddly impressive as well (much to the Wife’s revulsion Heh-heh). They even left tracks across the sandy trailbed. There are a mess of deer back in there as well. We saw tracks ranging in size from stag’s to fawns, but, sadly, no individual sightings. However, I have no doubt there were many “us” sightings by “them”. This area of the Northumberland County Forest is remarkably quiet, save the birdsong (also unusual for the NCF actually). There will be ample natural trail snacks available later in the season judging by the concentration of berry bushes we passed on the trail. UPDATE – we walked this trail again last week, just prior to posting this review, and made out like bandits on the thimbleberry bushes alongside the Hog Nosed Trail.
You can walk the whole loop by logging roads (6.3 kms) which have a lot of long shallow grades with a coupla steep, short hills, or you can mix it up with some “through the bush” trails. I drew in one dotted crosstrail which involves parts of the Sweet Fern and ORTA Trails. The ORTA trail is marked with vertical white paint marks on the trees. I only drew in that one, as it’s the only one which provides a worthwhile trek. Any others are either not long enough to be enjoyable, or will lead you out of this tract onto a lengthy maze of trails running every which way. Just so’s you know, the exact path of that dotted trail is a best guess on my part. It’s not gonna be very accurate.
The Final Take
If you want a clear, wide, mildly undulating trail of about 6.3 kms, just follow the outer logging roads (triangular) loop. The dotted bush trail on the map above, will provide a bush walk which has some minor hills, but nothing challenging. I should mention, the bush trail may appear to be a short-cut, but it’s not. We advantaged neither time nor effort by taking it. I just included it as a walk in the woods, if you wish.
There are no facilities of any kind save the free parking lot at the McDonald Tract. The sandy based loop trail is wide enough for four to walk side by side, the bush trail is single file. The trails are quiet and wildlife is abundant (judging by the many tracks we saw). Dog walking is permitted, and no one cares if it’s on a leash or not. However, please keep in mind this isn’t a controlled conservation area and there are wild animals all around you. If Fido likes to chase things … some of the “things” here, might not be inclined to play that game.
Have a nice walk.