She had me at "time travel". As we walked on a path through twisted wintering oak trees, Alison the naturalist whispered secrets of the forest, taking our imaginations on a journey to learn how time had changed the landscape we visited on that winter day.
Our walking group had come to Pinery Park to ski and experience sleeping in Yurts. We came ina van loaded with cross country skis and snowshoes, full of hope, with no snow in sight. We silently wondered how we would entertain ourselves for three days in the dead of a snowless winter.
Pinery Provincial Park hugs the shoreline of Lake Huron, boasts the largest tract of forest in southern Ontario adn the largest piece of Oak Savanna in North America. Within the 25 square kilometre park are forest covered dunes, sandy dunes beside the lake, wetlands, and inland waterway, and wooded areas. Several camping areas provide overnight visitors with a place to pitch tents, park camper vans and sleep in yurts. Built into a hillside, the Interpretive Centre brings the park to life through displays and many guided programs. The Secrets of Song, Ooze to Gooze, and Rum and Spirits are a few of the enticing summer programs that entertain, while telling the stories of the history and teaching nature of the park. Guided hikes and programs are offered on winter weekends.
Our home for two days was a modern version of the Yurt, an eight sided insulated tent, designed to give travellers a touch of comfort while experiencing the outdoors. We opened the door to a brightly lit, warm interior with two wide bunk beds, a table and chairs. Outside on the deck a gas bbq would be our stove, and the winter air our refrigerator. Our yurt quickly became home. After grilled pork tenderloin, and a glass of wine, we read aloud to each other, a welcome change from the television screens, at home.
In the dead of night, when the round walls of the tent were darkened and the wind howled ourside, I dreamed myself deep in Siberia, where Yurts are the cloth and wooden frame homes of nomads travelling the vast plains. I woke up Ontario, ready for a day of walking the Pinery.
"Coyote scat," said Alison Lake the park naturalist who offered to take us walking on the Heritage Trail. We stopped to look at the muddy ball of course fur and she explained that if we took it apart, we could piece together what the coyote had eaten for dinner. We asked Alison if we might hear owls if we dared to take a walk in the dark. We identified wild turkey tracks, fragrant Juniper berries used in cooking, indigenous trees, and wild grasses. We noticed colours, the subtle browns, greens of moss against the grey sky. We learned how the oak hills around us were really 6000 year old sand dunes that had travelled further back from the lake's edge with time, as the land filled in what was once water. "Crooked trunks made poor lumber and saved this forest," we were told.
What had looked like a dead winter forest, was coming to life.... on an Alison in Wonderland walk.
In the interior of the park we visited The Old Ausable Channel. It was built in the late 1800's when man tried to change the flow of the Ausable River, eventually draining it, only to be surprised when it quickly filled up with water again. The waters in this channel have become a "time capsule" of clear spring waters giving us a look at a river that could have existed 500 years ago. Vivid green, teal, and blue algae grow where the springs come from underground, filling the channel with water that Snapping and Blanding turtles, fish, muskrat and beaver call home. Visitors canoe this 10 kilometre stretch of water, catching glimpses of nature's underwater life.
The last morning, we walked on a frozen sand winter beach of Lake Huron's shores. Icy artistry created sculptures set against a backdrop of dunes, to the of sound of powerfully wild waves.
Such unexpected sights the Pinery Park unfurled during ouro snowless winter stay. We all agreed that the coming seasons would be a whole new experience in this park. Snowflakes fell as we drove away... with a promise to return.
Just the Facts
Pinery Provincial Park: http//www.pinerypark.on.ca/camping.html
Arriving: Pinery Provincial Park is located on Lake Huron, 8 km. south of Grand Bend.
Sleeping: Yurts can be rented, year round for $91.50 per night, sleeping up to six. Camping is also available from $37.25 a night. Reservations should be made at: phone (888) 668-7275 or http://www.ontarioparks.com/english/reservations.html
Dining: Winter dining at Pinery is self catered. In the summer groceries and a restaurant are open.
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Jan FeduckI have travelled to over 40 countries since I was 20 years of age, all on small change. Learning about people, ways of life, the landscape and wilderness of each country is what fascinates me. In my writing I try to inspire others to step out and discover their world creatively. Recently I have discovered visiting places to experience the history in clothing of the past. Adventures are to be had at any age or stage of life. "It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves" Sir Edmund Hillary.
Located: Elora Canada
Likes: World Travels ( budget travel in out of the way places) Travel in History's Clothing, Adventure Travel, hiking, cycling. Volunteer travel