11 May 2017
Like the trees clinging so tenaciously to the rock, I am not normally one to give up and turn back in the face of adversity. Today was not a normal day though. If I’d been on my own I may have tried to find a way around the blocked trail. This might have led me to become hopelessly lost. It might not. Although Commando wasn’t complaining, I knew his leg was still giving him pain and I didn’t want our short walk to turn into a very long one, especially as we have to drive back to Toronto tomorrow. The only thing for it was to turn back.
So we clambered back over the rocks we’d just crossed and soon enough we were back on the ridge looking over the wetlands and the sliproad to Highway 11. It’s no secret that I’d rather walk a circular route than turn around and retrace my steps. Whenever I do though, I never cease to be amazed by the things I missed the first time. Things like the creamy white shellf fungus on the tree clinging to the rock face or a few dried leaves left on a branch, almost transparent and mottled with age but each vein visible.
The rocks we’d stepped over so carelessly earlier were worth a closer inspection too. Each one was a work of art, painted with colourful textured lichen and moss. Some seemed like miniature worlds with mossy grass crazed with little riverbeds and fungus trees.
Somehow I’d missed the blue berries on some of the pines on our first pass. Were they junipers? Then there were the bright new leaves just unfurling on the maples, so much like their autumn colours I forgot for a moment it was spring. When I looked closer though I saw the graduated colours, reds and golds on the leaf tips slowly changing to green in the centre as if they’d been dip dyed.
Almost back at the inukshuk, we spotted a tree with a stream of dried sap down its trunk. This was a pine, not a maple but it made me wonder if the maples here get tapped for syrup? Over the side of the ledge a clump of dandelions made a bright splash of yellow. How did I not notice this before?
Soon we could see Tom Hortons over the ridge. We were almost back where we started. If we carried on we’d reach the inukshuk and the steep rocky climb down. Experience told me this would be far more difficult than climbing up. When we set out I’d anticipated ending our walk on Pinedale road with no climbing involved. Then I remembered the route down through the three tired garden on the road opposite MacDonalds. It was steep but nowhere near as precarious as the rocks.
On the way down I stopped for a moment to take a closer look at a purple flower that looked very much like a vinca of some kind. Beside them I noticed an acorn separated from its cup, at least I think it was an acorn, it was far rounder than the ones at home. It seems as if everything here is familiar but, at the same time, strange.
From the bottom of the slope we could just see the inukshuk standing on guard up on the rocks near where we’d just been standing. The garden was not nearly as colourful as it was in 2015. The mosaic of coloured stones were gone, replaced by green leaves, probably soon to become tulips. Here and there the odd daffodil poked up its head and the grass was dotted with dandelions.
We were now right opposite MacDonalds and Tim Hortons. Seeing them made our stomachs growl with hunger. Lunch in Huntsville had been four hours ago and supper with Maggie and Alan was a long way off.
“Shall we get a burger and a drink to keep us going?” Commando suggested.
So we crossed the road and headed towards MacDonalds. There were chenille like flowers on the sumach and the wonderful sculpture of a bear catching salmon on the grass opposite the restaurant to distract me. While I was taking photographs a yellow school bus pulled up, disgorging a crowd of teenagers. They all piled into MacDonalds,
“Hmm, bad timing,” Commando rolled his eyes but, in the end, we were served surprisingly quickly and the students were far more polite and subdued than the ones we’re used to at home. From their clothes and snatches of overheard conversation it seems they’d been on some kind of orienteering adventure in the woods. I wondered if they knew how lucky they were or if they thought this kind of thing was just another boring school trip?
After a return to our little chalet to pack for tomorrow’s trip to Toronto and our flight home, we set off for a last supper with Maggie and Alan. We were a little early so we stopped off for a wander around Gull Lake Park. Last time we were here the trees were dressed in their autumn colours. Tonight it all looked far more subdued. Somehow this suited the mood.
We strolled slowly along the shore, looking at the open air theatre where Gravenhurst’s Music on the Barge plays ever Sunday in summer. Maybe one day we will be here at the right time of year to actually see it. We stopped for a moment or two to read a few of the names on the stones on the path. Later we found out one of those stones had Maggie and Alan’s names on. If we’d known we might have stayed a little longer and found it. Then it was past the baseball court where some lads were practicing and back to the giant car.
In 2015 we came to Gull Lake Park on our last evening in Gravenhurst too. Back then we still had a few days in Toronto to look forward to and a marathon. Now it was a flight home and goodbye to Canada. All good things come to an end but knowing this didn’t stop us being sad.
Please see my copyright information before you copy or use any of the above words or pictures.