I was particularly looking forward to visiting the Robert Graham Conservation Area near Glen Stewart in Eastern Ontario. After exploring the conservation areas in Russell and in Crysler in the past few weeks, I wanted to visit a place a little further away, get lost on a real forest trail and take a hike that lasts more than a few minutes. The Robert Graham Conservation Area, with its 140-acre forest, seemed like the perfect place for that.
And the stars seemed to be aligned for me because when I got to the conservation area, there were no other cars in the parking lot. I knew I was going to have the forest all by myself.
After marveling at the white trillium carpet that I found at the start of the trail, I quickly realized that the hike would probably not be easy. The trail was muddy and large sections of it were covered with water.
Robert Graham Conservation Area was the first property acquired by the South Nation Conservation, the conservation authority responsible for protecting and restoring lands in the South Nation River watershed in Eastern Ontario. Since 1962, the organization has been responsible for managing the forest according to national standards, that is to say clearing it out and planting trees to ensure the survival of its biodiversity.
The organization has also created a few vernal pools in the forest, which are shallow depressions that collect seasonal runoff in the spring and thus provide habitat for different species of plants and amphibians.
I would have found everything really charming if I hadn’t had the impression that the path itself was covered with these vernal pools. My hike quickly became a real obstacle course as I tried to progress on the trail while avoiding getting my feet wet. In addition, for the first time in the season, mosquitoes were out. Fun.
The website indicates that the forest has more than six kilometres of trail, but the loop that I hiked was a little shorter (about 4 kilometres). Maybe I missed a branch as I was so focused on looking where I set foot. Maybe part of the trail had disappeared under a vernal pool. Who knows? Maybe I’ll need to go back when the weather is dryer to figure this out.
I came back to the parking lot with wet feet and legs covered in mud, but strangely really satisfied with my hike. Difficult to complain when you find yourself completely alone under magnificent tall pines. I wanted a real hike in the wilderness, and I was truly served!
I’m so happy that provincial parks and conservation areas in Ontario have opened up again. I haven’t hiked through the Robert Graham Conservation Area, but I’ll have to add it to my list. I’ll also make sure to wear waterproof boots. Those “puddles” (more like small ponds) are no joke.
Also happy we can finally spend more time outside! The water on the trail might only be a spring problem. I would need to go back later in the year to see if it’s still the same!