Bearbells by Leslie Noonan
Feb.3, 2024 – I was curious about a trail near the Big Chute marine railway station. At this time of the year the tourist area is closed but the huge metal carriage system is easily visible. As is the massive volume of water flowing through the chutes down into the lake. This is the only marine railroad of its kind still in use in North America and is a fantastic chance to watch how boats move up the system in the summer months. Today there are no boats, and the walkways are covered in ice and snow. I was never able to find the trail head and will have to come back in the summer to see if I can find the loop trail. Instead, I headed back to one of my favorite trails, the McCrae Lake trail off Crooked Bay Road and highway 400.
It can be confusing to people new to this trail system. You would assume the trail starts near the signs regarding bear management. However, this route is a very short hike to the local inlet and what in summer is the canoe launch. Today there are parallel lines leading across the lake where a person has schussed across the thin ice. Not for me, as I have a terror of being on ice and falling through. Instead, I headed up the main trail, which starts in the west end of the parking area. The trail is an upland hike, full of mud and ice, but easily managed with my poles and boots. At the top of the climb the trail then dips down into a small gorge and back up again. Thank God for my poles, as the trail is icy and slippery, and those poles provide support from an unexpected face plant.
This is a real outback trail and needs to be treated as such. There is an app called Three Words, which is vital for anyone who uses these back country trails, just in case things go wrong. The trail is easy enough to follow, with bright red blazes. It travels up and down and around the Canadian Shield, with areas where you will have to clamber up the pink quartz rock. Eventually the trail leads out to the Eagles Nest, which is a high cliff overlooking the lake. The view is stunning, and here is where most people make camp for the night. However, for the more adventurous, the trail less used heads farther north, through scrub and areas with little trail markers, and towards the waterfall. This is a difficult trail in the warm summer months; at this time of the year the trail is difficult to find and is icy and challenging. I only made it a mere 5 km round trip before deciding to head back to my car.
I worry about this mild winter. While it is great to not have to shovel tons of snow, it worries me how this will affect our ecology. Without those cold winters, we are at increased risk of insect infestations. We need those cold temperatures to kill off the caterpillars and other insects that devastate our trees. Climate change is real and happening in our own backyards. We need to rethink our footprint on this beautiful planet.