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The Dr. Ron Taylor Nature Reserve (Washago) Review
We were taking an alternate route to Gravenhurst, searching for the trailhead to a stretch of the TransCan, when we noticed a sign off to our right. We’d never heard of the Ron Taylor Reserve and I’d never seen it on my map searches of the area. I looked it up and found it was quite recently opened. The Couchiching Conservancy website said there were no trails, but the sign on the road welcomed walkers. ‘Course, a specific invitation to walk and explore a reserve I didn’t already know about, quickly put any ideas of the TransCan on the back burner. We pulled off into a small parking area (enough for maybe 2 or 3 cars).
From Washago, take Muskoka St North 1.7 kms to Coopers Falls Rd (County Rd #52 – which changes to Cty Rd #6 after crossing the river). Turn right onto Coopers Falls Rd and drive approx. 12 kms (Coopers Falls Rd changes name to Black River Rd enroute). The Reserve is very clearly signed on your left. Otherwise, this link will open Google Maps at the parking area : https://goo.gl/maps/op8r5MoSRCDbXNEx8
Despite what the website said, we saw a clear, wide trail heading off into the bush and followed it to a clearing, liberally peppered with wild lupines (and a set of lawn chairs). We passed a trail off to the left before reaching the clearing, which we figured we’d explore on our return. After the clearing, the tree canopy opened up to a lovely stretch of meadow through which, an obvious trail had been mown. Then it turned North and re-entered the treed canopy. We realized we were walked along the top of a granite ridge as we could see water down below on our right.
The trail entered a massive granite outcropping covered in beautiful lichens and mosses. We searched for, but couldn’t find, any further trail markers and so returned to the clearing. If you take this trail, please be very careful of the lichens on the rock outcropping. They’re very fragile and don’t respond well to being stomped upon. We could see spots where other walkers’ footfalls had crushed the white lichens. They literally shatter when disturbed and require decades to re-generate.
On our return, we passed the clearing and took the trail we saw earlier. It led through mostly mixed forest with patchy carpets of partridgeberry, wintergreen, and outcroppings of granite. It terminated at a huge pond surrounded by more moss and lichen bearing outcroppings. We thought we saw a large beaver dam at the far end of the pond, but didn’t want to go tromping around when there were no trail markers nor obvious paths on the ground. The rock base around the pond had the same collection of mosses and lichens as the other trail. Swans obviously used the pond as we saw a flotilla of preening debris on the surface. There was also a most perfectly positioned pile of massive rocks with a birch tree growing from it on the far side of the pond. It was the kind of natural phenomenon that would’ve looked like it was in a botanical garden.
The Final Take
I can’t show you a trail map since there isn’t one available. Besides, the website didn’t mention trails at all. However, we found the trail system to be well maintained, obvious on the ground, and not particularly hilly. As well, there are faded orange tape markers on trees. The trails were a blend of single file and wide enough for 2 to walk side by side. We spent an hour wandering around here, so I’m guessing there are about three kms of trails.
Have a nice walk,