2 May 2016 – I’m off into the woods with my friend Mary — and when you have 100 acres, as she & Mike do north of Gananoque, you have lots to explore, right there on your own property.
This is Canadian Shield country, with its ancient, massive granite outcroppings, the land scraped to its elemental bones by glaciers.
We’re on a big looping walk that will take us eventually up to a road, to a farmhouse for a new supply of eggs, and via road on back home.
That’s eventually. Meanwhile, we enjoy the woods, scramble our way to a high point with sweeping views across the wetlands and the creek meandering its way from South Lake to Gananoque Lake, ultimately to dump its waters into the St. Lawrence River.
That’s Sassy — officially lives on the farm next door, but always up for a walk.
The glory of early spring in Canadian woods is the wildflowers. Glorious for their beauty, also for their ephemerality — here today, gone tomorrow, one display after another, all pell-mell for their brief moment in the sun before the tree canopy leafs out.
The cool spring has put everything a bit behind schedule. Trilliums are just beginning to unfurl.
Some, though, are fully out.
That’s the white trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, the provincial flower here in Ontario.
Soon, to my delight, we begin to see red trilliums as well, the Trillium erectum. They are typically less plentiful than the white, which — especially when happy on south-facing slopes — carpet the woodland floor.
Other treats as well.
Look! Dutchman’s Breeches! (Dicentra cucullaria)
A member of the bleeding heart family, just look at those leaves, and nicknamed for its twin-tipped flowers, quite like upside-down trousers, pegged out on a laundry line to dry.
And look again!
Dogtooth violet, I say promptly. Then I begin to doubt myself. Ummm. Trout lily, perhaps?
Later, thumbing a guidebook, I learn I am right. Both times. Two common names for Erythronium americanum. Hurray for me. (Not being at all sure of these things, I enjoy any moments of accuracy that happen to come my way.)
We reach a bit of fencing, the dividing line between this property and that of a neighbour.
Sassy tummy-wiggles through a convenient gap in the fence. We use legs, not tummies, and instead climb over the stile.
A distinctly boggy bit next, rare & welcome (even if personally inconvenient) in this unusually dry, as well as cool, spring. Sassy splashes through; we explore this way, then double back that way, and find a sufficiently narrow stretch to hop across.
Someone has carefully laid branches across the rivulet next to where we hop, creating a mini-version of the pioneer-era “corduroy road” — logs laid perpendicular to the road’s direction in swampy areas, and named for the fabric, with its distinctive ridges.
I am grateful not to be in a buggy, jolting over long stretches of corduroy road.
Instead, we climb on up a path; Sassy and a neighbouring dog shout a few half-hearted (and safely long-distance) insults at each other; we wave at a couple of young men splitting wood in a clearing — and we end up on the road.
Where we buy the eggs, and finally walk on home.