My kids and I have a little tent trailer and camp at a handful of provincial and state parks every summer. My favourite destination is undoubtedly Bon Echo Provincial Park. Located just north of Cloyne in L&A County, Bon Echo is the only park that we make an annual visit to.
Although it's a very busy spot - upwards of 200,000 annual visitors and over 500 campsites - it doesn't feel that way at all. There's just something about it that gives me a calm and relaxed feeling that I haven't experienced anywhere else. Plus the kids love it.
Until recently, I'd never taken a day trip to the park to hike the trails on my own. I took advantage of a mild spring day and headed north on Highway 41 from Napanee. Upon arrival, I purchased my park pass at the admin office and picked up the new 2019 Bon Echo info guide. After leafing through the pages (check out Naturally L&A's ad on Page 8), I decided The Shield Trail would be as good a place as any to start my day.
The Shield Trail
The Shield Trail is a 4.8 km loop that features hardwood forests, cedar lowlands and a beaver swamp. There's nothing that can replace being here in person, but with the pictures below you can get a sense of what you will see when visiting.
The first 200 metres or so is also used as a snowmobile route in the winter, so the path was wide and relatively rock-free. As you progress further into the loop, the terrain gets quite rough so hiking appropriate footwear is beneficial.
The new spring growth was really starting to appear in all directions. I could smell the damp earth in the forest and the hear sounds of water flowing in the distance. It was a great start to the hike.
I wish I knew more about birds. You could hear many different varieties off in the distance. It would be interesting for me to learn their specific calls (and helpful when writing blogs like this). I do know there must be woodpeckers, as evidenced by the holes found in this tree.
New growth was very apparent everywhere along the trail.
As I moved further along the trail, the deciduous trees were replaced with cedars and other coniferous varieties.
This trail gives you a real sense of wilderness exploration. Other than trail markers and an occasional sawed log, this bridge was the only evidence of anything made by the human-hand.
This beaver swamp was one of the only open spots along the trail. The shoreline was alive with birds and there were many dragon flies buzzing around feeding on black flies.
I didn't see any beavers during my visit, but they must have made an appearance here at one time.
Once past the swamp and a brief climb I could see Bon Echo Lake through the trees. The only people I saw during the entire hike were a couple of kayakers paddling along the shoreline.
Not only am I not a bird expert, I am also not a flower expert. These white flowers were quite plentiful along this stretch of the trail. I made a call in to the L&A Horticultural Society and they determined it is a Hobblebush (viburnum alnifolium). And now you know.
I do know, however, that these are Red Trilliums. There were quite a few of these along the way as well.
You can find out more details about the Shield Trail (elevations, distances, etc.) on the All Trails app, which I had running on my phone during the hike.
High Pines Trail
My original plan was to hike the 3.5 km Clutes Loop of the Abes & Essens Trail. However, the Shield Trail that I'd just hiked was a bit more difficult that I thought it would be. Quite frankly, I was tuckered out. I decided to hike the shorter 1.7 km High Pines Trail instead.
It was interesting to read that the first 200 metres of this trail travelled along old Highway 41. The interpretive trail head signage at all of Bon Echo's trails are very good at describing what you'll see along the way.
This fallen log, cut away to make the trail more easily accessible, created a makeshift entrance into the forest.
Again, I'm no birder, but after a Google search I believe this is a Wood Thrush.
A nice view of the high pines in the High Pines Trail.
This white trillium was spotted near the end of the trail.
Here is the All Trails map that recorded my journey along the High Pines Trail.
No visit to Bon Echo is complete without taking some time to view Mazinaw Rock. At 1.5 km long and 100 m high, "the Rock" truly an amazing sight. The Cliff Top Trail is accessible by the Mugwump Ferry. When you reach the top you get a spectacular view of the entire park.
If you're not a camper, don't let this dissuade you exploring Bon Echo with a day pass. It truly is a beautiful spot to explore and if you haven't visited before you're missing out. The park is open now until October 20, 2019. Find out more on the Bon Echo Provincial Park website.