High Water in the Big Sound

Water levels in the Big Sound are remarkably high and make it tough to keep feet dry if you want to wander along the shore from the Smelter Wharf to the McDougall line. Here's a look out from Thunder Creek this past Sunday. Crossing here requires a detour further up the creek, or wading in with water above the knees.

The view looking towards Parry Island from Thunder Creek.

The view looking towards Parry Island from Thunder Creek.

Rose Point Trail - Careful, Turtles are Crossing

I was out on the Rose Point Trail yesterday evening and found three turtles either crossing the trail or sitting beside it. This included a Blanding Turtle, an endangered species, right in the middle of the trail. From the looks of it, it is probably a she, and she was planning on laying eggs in the most inappropriate spot possible. I moved her to the side of the trail but can't be sure what happened later. There also was a Midland Painted Turtle laying eggs along the side of the trail, and a Snapping Turtle wandering along the side of the trail. You don't see turtles on the trail unless it's egg laying season.

So, if you are riding an ATV, slow down and keep a close eye on the trail, especially along the edges where the turtles prefer to lay their eggs. If you are walking your dog, keep it on leash so that it doesn't disturb these turtles doing their business. And if you see a turtle parked in the middle of the trail you should move it to the side it was headed towards. In the case of Snapping Turtles, I suggest you mind your own business. Not only can they 'snap' they also leave a terrible scent on your hands.

Blanding Turtle - 2017-06-14 on the Rose Point Trail

Blanding Turtle - 2017-06-14 on the Rose Point Trail

What's flowering of the North Shore Rugged Trail

The North Shore Rugged Trail in Parry Sound for all of its views and rocky beauty is not host to many wildflowers. There are some that have been blooming for the past three weeks but they will probably be ending their performance in the next week with the warmer temperatures that are forecast for the area.

Among the plants in flower now you can find blueberries, spring violets, pink corydalis and wild columbine. The columbine is rather localized and can be found where the trail overlooks Zhiishiib Rock. If you look around a little, particularly uphill, you will find several dozen plants in flower. The shot below was taken this past Thursday evening.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) on the North Shore Rugged Trail 2017-06-08)

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) on the North Shore Rugged Trail 2017-06-08)

North Shore Rugged Trail is Receiving Visitors

I was out on the North Shore Rugged Trail yesterday evening and was pleased to see a dozen people hiking along the trail. The weather was perfect, clear and without any bugs. The water is a bit high and requires heading upstream a little to cross at Thunder Creek unless you have knee high boots.

Here's a view of the water level beyond the crossing at Thunder Creek as you head north towards Monument Survey. People have arranged stepping stones to keep feet dry.

Yup, they can carry it in full, but not out empty

This is a Tim's cup that someone decided to carry in to the North Shore Rugged Trail, but then decided it was too heavy to carry out. Perhaps they chose to leave it as an offering to the spirits of the North Shore Rugged Trail.

It does boggle my mind. These people are 'sensitive' enough to make the effort to hike out on to the North Shore Rugged Trail to enjoy the outdoors, but then are too insensitive, or lazy, to not leave a mess.

North Shore Rugged Trail Open for Snowshoeing

I have been out on the North Shore Rugged Trail a couple of times over the past three days with the new snow we have received. I judge it suitable for exploring with snowshoes. Take along one or two poles, trust me on this. I don't suggest heading out with just boots, or even skis. It's too deep for shoes, even where I have started packing down a bit of trail. And there is not enough snow for skis. I'm planning to wait until the the Big Sound has frozen over before I start exploring on skis. Once frozen over I can go back and forth from the trail to the ice depending on the section. Those of you familiar with the trail know about the half dozen steep sections that really aren't easy to traverse on skis. (Remember: Discretion is the better part of valour. You really don't want to be rescued on the trail because of a broken ankle.)

the North Shore Rugged Trail trailhead.

the North Shore Rugged Trail trailhead.

A couple of days ago Thunder Creek was impassable because of the seiche pushing water in from the Big Sound. As of today it's passable, but wear boots in your snowshoes if you plan on crossing. I recommend Bogs (available at White Squall in Parry Sound). They keep my feet warm down to -20 degrees C, and offer about 25 cm of waterproofing. As you can see from the photo below I was able to cross Thunder Creek earlier today but punched through in a few places.

The crossing at Thunder Creek.

The crossing at Thunder Creek.

Okay, time to head out there and explore. I have packed a bit of a path up to Thunder Creek that goes inland a little more than usual because there really isn't enough snow close to the shore. It will take the Big Sound freezing over before snow accumulates along the edge. If a few people manage to get out on the trail and pack things down a bit it will be easier slogging for all of us.

North Shore Rugged Trail User Group

In a post at Parry Sounds I outlined the need to create a North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group to be an advocate for the interests of the North Shore Rugged Trail and the people who use it. The text of that post is provided below. Here is a link to the original post if you want to follow one of more of the associated links.

North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group Needed (parrysounds.com 2016-11-13) 

It seems a good time to establish a North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group. Anyone interested? If yes, please contact me at parrysounds@gmail.com. Let’s start a discussion of how best to support the North Shore Rugged Trail as it seemingly has become the centre of business interest.

The Town of Parry Sound recently passed a by-law (here's a link to the agenda preview summary, it's Item 10.5.1) that confirmed the Town's willingness to negotiate the relinquishing of certain rights to portions of the North Shore Rugged Trail to help support development of the privately owned property that lies inland from the trail. Very limited information was provided in the by-law and the supporting documents regarding what was being considered. There was a suggestion that any concessions would be limited.

Here is a link to the draft bylaw and supporting documents that was approved by Council 2016-11-01.

The Trail:
The North Shore Rugged Trail is an interesting Town of Parry Sound asset. It is a rugged trail that runs from the Smelter Wharf along the coast past Zhiishiib Rock, Thunder Creek, and Monument Point all the way to the Parry Sound / McDougall boundary. If you have hiked it you know how special it is, rugged for sure.

I hike the trail no less than once a week, and as often as five times a week. It provides for the best views of the Big Sound, sunsets, and Parry Island. While hiking the trail I often come across people who are taking the opportunity, minutes from their home, to get away from it all and challenge themselves a little with  hiking over the rocks and around, or through, the water. The North Shore Rugged Trail is quite unlike the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail, the trail that runs from Champaigne to Salt Dock Road. While the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail welcomes people to take a stroll and relax, the North Shore Rugged Trail demands more physically and mentally, with the corresponding rewards. Nor is the North Shore Rugged Trail like the Voldemort Trail (see link), the informal trail that runs inland from Salt Dock Road and is a favourite of people walking their dogs. The Voldemort Trail is not mentioned in any of the Town’s official trail documents because it is an informal trail that passes over private property for which permission has never been obtained by the Town, or the users. To the credit of the property owners they have been generous in not restricting access or prosecuting those who do use the trail. It seems it is these property owners who would like to secure certain considerations regarding the North Shore Rugged Trail to better develop their property. The Town is interested in seeing the property developed so as to increase the assessment base.

The Challenge:
It is unlikely that the North Shore Rugged Trail would be deeded over to new property owners with no access for the Public. The question of course is what kind of concessions will be necessary to incentivize development, and how will that impact public access. Who will have input and who will decide?

My major concern is that I believe Town Council and Staff have no familiarity, or love for the North Shore Rugged Trail. While I have seen members of Council and Staff on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail from time-to-time, I have never, in the hundreds of times I have hiked the North Shore Rugged Trail, seen anyone from Council or Staff on the trail. It’s my sense that they know no more about the trail than can be gleaned by looking at a Google Maps view, their distant childhood memories, or perhaps some of my photos at ParrySights (click the North Shore Rugged Trail tag for images). There has been no investment by the Town to promote the North Shore Rugged Trail or to even provide a map or guide for its exploration. Is this a conscious effort to deter people from using the trail because it is rugged? Perhaps Staff and Council believe that it is in the Town’s interest to restrict or limit use of the trail so as to limit liability. That would be a shame.

A formally constituted North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group, involving people who know and love the trail, would be able to secure a seat at the table in any negotiations to restrict public access to the trail. I would also like to sees a Users Group take a leadership role in keeping the trail tidy and suggest opportunities to make it more user friendly. (The trail does not suffer from the issue of litter and trash as is the case with the Voldemort Trail, but from time-to-time stuff washed onto the shores from the Big Sound needs to be removed.) Those of you who regularly use the trail are familiar with how Thunder Creek often makes the trail impassable unless you are willing to get wet feet, or venture further upstream. This gets to be a problem in the fall and early spring when the water is c-c-cold. Wouldn't a footbridge be nice?

Interested? Drop me a line. Perhaps the group can form in alliance with other local nature groups who may not have the same love and appreciation of the North Shore Rugged Trail but are committed to supporting trails and ongoing public access. We all need to work together.

"They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot"

The Town’s lack of interest in the North Shore Rugged Trail is perhaps best illustrated with the photo below of the sign leading up to the trail. There was money for a new artist's station, a sign announcing the new station that covered up part of the map, but not a new map?

Let's make sure that the North Shore Rugged Trail gets the protection that it and it's users deserve. I can be reached at parrysounds@gmail.com. Or if there is already an initiative underway let me know how I can help.

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone"