Last weekend I travelled to the Niagara Region. This is where I am from, where much of my family and some of my friends still live, but I don't get there too often. This is partially for logistical reasons - I don't drive and it's a tedious trek by transit. And partially because it's not the same home as when I was a child - people have moved and changed, and I have too of course. This visit was prompted by the closing of my high school and its fifty year anniversary. A new building will be erected that is more appropriate for the declining student body. There seems to be declining enrollment trend in all schools but the French public school system seems especially low. Because we assign values and memories to places I wanted to visit the building. And my friends from high school were insistent on my presence! There was a big to-do at the school and later in the evening at the French social club. While in the Niagara Region I visited St John's Conservation Area, Mud Lake Conservation Area and Nickle Beach.
St John's Conservation Area is along the Niagara Escarpment in Fonthill. The terrain is hilly at times, with small peaks and lowlying wetlands. The trees are diverse, mature and several of them tower quite high, like the stand of tulip trees we spotted in a valley. I had been here a number of times growing up with my parents and with my elementary school. On this hike we spotted a number of spring ephemerals (including trillium, spring beauty and marsh marigold) that I had not yet spotted in Kingston. I also saw some plants (like bloodroot) that had finished flowering here that I had yet to see open at all. Some areas were such a vibrant green from all the skunk cabbage (pictured) gone to leaf!
The following day my mother and I set out for Port Colborne. We had planned to go to Nickle Beach and I convinced her to stop at Mud Lake as we were passing by it anyway. Mud Lake, as the name suggests, can be a rather wet park with its numerous ponds, wetlands, streams and other transient water bodies and features one expects in spring. There are also some dry areas (pictured), where the sun scorches the earth. Red-winged blackbirds were abundant and vocal, but there were also large flocks of cedar waxwings and a pair of rose-breasted grosbeak, both of which were pleasant surprises. On our way in to this conservation area neither my mother nor I looked at the map, as we walked by it she was telling me about my father and her strolling through here. I assumed she was familiar with the trails. This was not the case, we got a little turned around and what was intended to be a short stroll ended up being a longer trip. Fortunately the park is not particularly large and it is bordered by a highway and canal on two of its sides, making it relatively easy to find your bearings. It is also fortunate that neither of us minded having to spend more time in nature!
Nickle Beach has become a regular stop for my family. It is a pleasant walk along the shore of Lake Erie (pictured), there are a number of polished pebbles of all colours along the beach. Waterfowl can be seen bobbing up and down with the waves. Seagulls are calling out to one another. In the dunes there are more birds still. When I was visiting my parents in the winter and we walked this beach we had seen a bald eagle flying high above, but there was none today.
I was happy to have gone - it was nice to catch up with friends, family and other familiar faces - and to make some time to walk some of my favourite trails once again. It is a joy to see old friends, whether these are people or parks.
News, reflections, notes and other ramblings from the trail by PTBO Flora founder Rachel.