After a break of almost two months and a long-distance hike in Ireland, I was happy to get back on the Rideau Trail. And as I still intend to hike it entirely before the end of the year, I really needed to add a few kilometres to my log!
Last time I stopped my hike when I arrived at Murphys Point Provincial Park boundary. In April, I had plan to hike the portion of the Rideau Trail that passes through the provincial park, but when I tried to go there I ran into a closed gate. The park was not yet open for the season, and I ended up exploring the lovely Beveridges Locks nearby instead.
But now it’s June, it’s hot, the weather is nice, and the provincial park is open for the season. Yeah!
I must confess here that I was a little nervous about hiking the Rideau Trail in Murphys Point Provincial Park. In addition to its old buildings and abandoned mines, the provincial park is known for its large population of black rat snakes, the largest snake in Canada. And since I REALLY don’t like snakes, the thought of finding myself facing the biggest species in the country worried me a little.
But I have a goal to reach, so I got back to the point where I stopped my hike the last time to start following the Rideau Trail through the provincial park.
Murphys Point is located at the southernmost point of the Canadian Shield, making it a geologically interesting place. The trail passes through several rocky escarpments and bypasses some beaver ponds. Nothing very steep, but enough to make sure you look where you put your feet.
Anyway, I was keeping my eyes on the ground, for fear of stepping on a crawling creature. But finally, it’s another type of crawlers that caught my attention: caterpillars. They were everywhere. Really. On the trunks, on the leaves, on the ground … and on me.
I even thought it was raining lightly, until I realized that the incessant plip-plip-ploop sound that I was hearing was not the sound of water drops, but that of caterpillars falling from the trees.
So in addition to being afraid of snakes, I began to constantly check my clothes and my boots to remove the caterpillars that had clung to it. Fun.
I eventually arrived at the junction of the trail leading to the Silver Queen mica mine. This 2.5-kilometre trail is not part of the Rideau Trail, but leads to some of the provincial park’s interesting attractions. The place has long been mined for its mica deposits (like the portion of the Rideau Trail I hiked last time) and the Silver Queen Mine is arguably one of the most interesting remains of that era. The open pit is 40 metres deep, and it can be accessed via an underground tunnel (unfortunately only during guided tours in July and August).
Around the mine, there are old buildings and artifacts from the time when Silver Queen was active. The building that housed the miners is still standing.
It was while I was walking around the building that I saw it. One metre long, shiny black scales, body moving slowly in the tall grass … My heart stopped for a few seconds. I had just found my first black rat snake.
Like me, the snake stopped moving and we stared at each other for a few minutes. Although I knew that this type of snake is not dangerous for humans, I was still paralyzed by fear. Was it better to slowly back up or run away? Another snake, a tiny garter snake, then slipped close to my boots and I decided running was the best option.
I saw other garter snakes on the trail. After my fourth, and after removing an umpteenth caterpillar from my clothes, I was ready to give up my hike for the day.
But the sun came out and the Rideau Trail was so beautiful that I was ready to forgive it everything. In the following kilometres, there were still many caterpillars, many dragonflies, a fox, a deer, woodpeckers and some squirrels, but no more snakes.
I almost crossed Murphys Point Provincial Park in full. I’ll be back in a few weeks, when all the caterpillars will be turned into much less intrusive moths.
My journey on the Rideau Trail:
- Km 1 to Km 5 – Year goal: 150 kilometers on the Rideau Trail
- Km 5 to Km 25 – Along the Ottawa River
- Km 25 to Km 35 – In the wilderness of Stony Swamp
- Km 35 to Km 50 – On the country roads
- Km 50 to Km 80 – Marlborough Forest and its horseflies
- Km 80 to Km 100 – Hello Rideau Canal
- Km 100 to Km 125 – A fall hike in Smiths Falls
- Km 125 to Km 150 – 150 kilometres later
- Km 150 to Km 155 – I’m back, and with a new goal
- Km 155 to Km 175 – Entering the Mica Mines area