First Hike in April

Spring! It’s my favourite time of year. I live in South-Western Ontario and the magnolia trees are in full bloom, along with countless bulbs exploding their colourful life into the world.

It’s the time of year where I take any opportunity to get out of the city and explore one of the many hiking trails in the area. We are lucky to live close to the Niagara Escarpment and the 885 km Bruce Trail that runs along it.

Last weekend, the family and I decided to explore a new space: the Silvercreek Conservation area. The drive there was an exciting, winding journey up and down the escarpment on steep, narrow, dirt roads. Though we were only an hour from Toronto, the biggest urban centre in Canada, we felt that we were in some distant backwoods.

We parked our car on the side of the road, behind all the others and noticed a trail opening up, so we decided to explore. This particular trail was a side trail of the main Bruce Trail. It took us along the side of the escarpment’s cliffs, bringing us down rock staircases, to discover beautiful views of the valley below with majestic turkey vultures riding the wind currents up and down the gorge.

The birch trees were putting out their long, worm-like catkins and the maples were flowering. All of my favourite spring woodland flowers were coming into bloom: bloodroot, trout lilies and wild ginger. Plants were not the only things waking up.

We also saw our first mosquitoes, buzzing lazily down the path, not yet embodying the blood-thirsty bane of any hiker. My nine year old commented how the first mosquito is not as big of a deal as the first mosquito bite and we joked about how, this early in the season, we could still outrun the mosquitos.

Once at the bottom of the trail we heard a gurgling sound. We explored the limestone rocks to find the spring thaw dripping into tiny pools in the leaves, creating a watery symphony.

The walk back up is never as fun for the legs, but we discovered some limestone caves, a hallmark of the Escarpment that made the journey worthwhile. My partner and my daughter explored them but only because the spiders are still tiny, as my daughter was quick to point out.

We headed back to the car with much complaining. At nine, my daughter’s patience for hiking with her mom is fairly low and an hour and a half is about her limit. As there were many more trails to explore in the area, my partner and I will go back for the day without my daughter, but definitely with our bug shirts.

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