It's been a week since our first C19-era hike
. The border to the US is still closed. No Adirondacks. We're looking to get out while things are open (at this time, there's always the possibility of re-closure). Back we go to Frontenac Provincial Park in eastern Ontario for another medium-length hike.
Jenn has suggested a loop around Big Salmon Lake, in the central part of the park. This loop starts from the end of the Salmon Lake road (which is within the park boundary), and as we arrive, we find that it is barricaded. And the visitor center is deserted, with some signs that say "office closed / no permit required / keep 2M distance". We've arrived quite early in the day, and there's no one about.
With the original Big Salmon Lake Loop idea dashed (it would add a lot of extra distance to get to the start point from here), we do some re-thinking and arrive on a different loop, one that takes in some elements of the original loop plus two other loops. Together it all forms a larger loop that I'll christen the "Full Dedication Loop" (because it combines two other loops labelled on the map as Upper Dedication and Lower Dedication). It is about the same length as the original plan, and hey... well, we're here, what else are we going to do?
Compensation Prize: no fees
It's a clearer, less humid day that it had been a week before. There was even a slight breeze to freshen us up and blow a few of the bugs away as we started our walk north from the visitor center, along the main Corridor Trail, to the start of our loop. Speaking of bugs, it seemed that the black fly phase had passed - there were virtually none. Instead, we now had mosquitoes. Not in terrifying numbers, but more than enough to encourage liberal application of deet.
The vegetation's state had evolved, too. Last week it seemed like just the very first blush of spring had painted the forest - this week, things were much greener, lusher. Frequently we would walk through open stands of forest with a floor covered in a brilliant new carpet of green grass. The peak of trillium flowers had passed too, and there were only a few minor stands left, and some of them showed coloration from advanced maturity.
Much like last week's hike, the terrain was very ... moderate. The trail was mostly flat, with slight elevation gains and losses. as a result, our walking pace was pretty high and we arrived at the start of the loop portion of our hike in short order, within about half an hour. We continued north, passing trail junctions off to the left and right, starting a clockwise circuit (the Corridor Trail is naturally the connector point for many of the other trails in the park).
As long as we kept walking, the mosquito situation was fairly tolerable - less so when we stopped. That encouraged us to up our overall hiking speed, and we made good progress. Soon we began to see glimpses of the lower end of Big Salmon Lake.
The trail descended to an elevated shelf immediately above the lake, and the trail began a very nice shady traverse along the top of this ledge, close to but not immediately adjacent to the water. Puffs of breeze coming in from the lake made this part of the hike feel cooler and fresher.
Shores of Big Salmon Lake
The pleasant lake-side walking did not last all that long - perhaps twenty minutes. Then, the trail started a moderately steep ascent up away from the lake, switchbacking once as it did so, and soon, we were a hundred feet higher and in different type of forest - more open and less coniferous. There was a nice little open spot with a couple of rock outcroppings just beyond, and just high and open enough to catch a very nice breeze coming up from the south. It was a very refreshingly cool and bug-free spot, perfect for our morning snack break.
Climbing away from Big Salmon
Descending from Highpoint
As it turned out, that snack break point was the highest point on our loop (a massively-high 610 feet or so above sea level), and as we continued on, we began descending more than ascending (overall the little ups and downs of the entire loop far outweighed the outright elevation gain and loss, but from this point, things were generally more down than up). Fifteen minutes of easy walking brought us to an increasingly open and marshy area, then clearing out even more to an area with a larger body of water. This was the Cedar Lake area - and a very nice spot this was.
Apart from the large and circular body of the lake itself are a number of other marshy areas and smaller ponds. Scattered across these areas are narrow ribs of granite bedrock, and upon these elongated ribs ran the trail. In the spots where the rock descended below the surface, beavers had built dams to shore up the water level in the various catchments between the rock ribs. And adjacent to those dams, the park staff had built parallel plank bridges.
This Cedar Lake area was quite beautiful, and the artful way the trail threaded its way along the ribs and beside dams to connect a path through the wetlands was a very impressive bit of trail engineering, and fun to hike. This would be a great place to sit for a while and do wildlife observing, big and small. With today's pleasant breeze blowing unimpeded across these open sections, it was also nicely bug-free.
Soon the cool rock ribs and bridges of the Cedar Lake area were behind us, and we continued our hike south, headed for our next major destination - Doe Lake. Compared to the interesting trail and environs of Cedar Lake, the segment of trail south to Doe Lake was... rather uninteresting. It was a bit monotonous, hotter, and buggier.
It took us a bit over an hour to cover the 3+ kilometres down to the Doe Lake area (which by the way, is the lowest point on this loop, at about 450 feet of elevation).
At Doe Lake, we elected to take a small detour over to the Doe Lake Campsite (Frontenac Park's Backcountry Campsite #2), in the hopes of finding a breezy lakeside spot to cool off and have lunch.
Our hunch was a good one - the Doe Lake campsite was in a shady spot right on the shore and oriented properly to catch a perfect breeze off of the lake, and we had a relaxing bug-free lunch and a nice long break that completely dried out our sweaty hiking clothes.