I like hiking, but I always have trouble finding enough motivation to get outside during winter. I don’t like the cold and I often find the trails colourless and dull in winter. However, I promised myself that this year I would try to make the most of this season and I started off by going for my first winter hike in Limerick Forest.
Limerick Forest is located south of the small town of Kemptville in Eastern Ontario. It is a community forest, managed by the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and has several kilometres of trails, as well as an interpretive centre on the forest.
It is in fact at this interpretative centre that I started my hike. There are several access points to the forest, as well as several sectors that can be explored, but I think its most popular trails are those that are accessible from the parking lot of the interpretative center. After looking at the map posted near the parking lot, I decided I would hike a large loop that would cover most of the trails in this area.
Limerick Forest has a similar history to many other forests in Eastern Ontario. The lands in this area were first used for agriculture. It is actually an Irish settler who bought 200 acres of land for a farm who named the area “Limerick”, after his former hometown in Ireland.
But the soil in this part of Eastern Ontario was often too wet or too sandy to be cultivable, and much of the land was eventually abandoned. In 1940, the provincial government and the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville undertook a major reforestation project on these abandoned lands, and this is how Limerick Forest was born.
Today, Limerick Forest covers 5,782 hectares and includes conifer plantations, wetlands and mixed forests. The tall red pines in the forest reminded me of those of Larose Forest in Prescott and Russell and of the Pine Grove in Ottawa, two other forests that were born out of major reforestation projects on arid lands.
The snow blanket is still very thin so I didn’t need my snowshoes for this first winter hike. First, I followed the Alf Campbell Trail under the tall pines, then the EOMF Memorial Trail where there is an observation platform overlooking a large marsh. This marsh was once part of a Ducks Unlimited Canada wetland revitalization project, but as it was covered with a thin layer of ice as I walked by it, I didn’t get to see any ducks (the forest was really quiet on that day).
I continued my hike, this time on a trail where there is a long wooden boardwalk over a swamp. The boardwalk is really pretty (it actually was one of the highlights of my hike) and also offers a viewing platform.
I afterwards hikes the Lookout Trail, the Old Homestead Trail (featuring the ruins of an old homestead built in 1840) and finally the Jack Henry Envirothon Trail which brought me back to the Interpretive Centre. Along the way, I was delighted to find several interpretive signs that shared information about the flora and fauna of the forest, its history and the forest management techniques used there.
This 5-kilometre hike was therefore extremely pleasant and interesting, without being very difficult. And it reminded me that winter hikes are not that bad … I’m ready for the next ones!