TESSI AND PEARCE (John E. Pearce Provincial Park)

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The first section of the route we were hiking was carpeted in neatly mown grass bordered with a split-rail fence enveloped by trees and bushes. The manicured look gradually turned to a narrowly cut path pinched in by natural growth. It was here we glimpsed a wild turkey and a few small birds as they burst from the bushes ahead of us and flew away.* I had difficulty controlling Tessi. She yanked at her leash in desperation to give chase. Her hunter's instinct had taken over, crowding out any memory of proper leash behaviour and straining my arm in the process. Spicer Trail On this outing, I had chosen to stay near my southwestern Ontario home, where Tessi and I could explore John E. Pearce Provincial Park and the surrounding area. I turned south at the main intersection in Wallacetown onto Currie Road. (For those travelling the 401, follow exit 149.) About five minutes later, I turned east onto Lakeview Road. We quickly encountered the parking lot of the park's Spicer Trail and the Backus Page House Museum. After parking, I scanned a couple of signs, briefly absorbing the information that hiking, including hiking with a leashed dog, is the indicated activity. I noted there was nothing written about fees. Carolinian Beauty We are able to enjoy a variety of animals, plants and trees in southern Ontario, which are all a part of the Carolinian forest - a few of the trees and plants are common in the Carolinas in the States. Though I've always enjoyed nature, I've lived with this type all my life; it's easy for me to take its features for granted. These days, the research I delve into for my writing is teaching me to value my surroundings. As I revelled in the green surrounding me, I kept Tessi on her leash, though no one was about. I didn't want her chasing other birds or any other creatures that may suddenly appear, and tramping on the vegetation could destroy it for future visitors. I appreciated the cover of trees, as the day was already getting hot. We crossed a small creek, which was low on water. Tessi was panting, so I let her free for a drink. I didn't want to climb the small muddy banks in an effort to lead her to the water. After sniffing through the foliage, she lapped up a mouthful. I'm not diligent at remembering to bring water for her. She doesn't drink a lot of it and often refuses what I offer her. Usually when we're outdoors, we're close to lakes, ponds or other water sources. She seems to prefer nature's offering, even if it's muddy, over our chemically altered tap water. We covered the route in about a half hour. There is an extended .45 km  (.28 mi) walk connected to the main one. Along this extra section, a couple of signs indicated the status of a third trail, which is often closed. One sign stated, "Northern Loop-Open" and "Closed due to wet conditions" was written on the other. I didn't bother testing the information. I was surprised when the main trail ended abruptly at the highway. I didn't want to spend the time hiking back through the forest to my car, because I was interested in exploring other sights in the area. Across the road from us, an entranceway was labeled with a huge John E. Pearce Provincial Park sign. I suppose I could have continued from where I was, but considering the sign hovered over a dirt road, I assumed that section was much bigger. I realized the parking lot for the Spicer Trail wasn't too far down the highway. On our return after a hot walk on the gravel shoulder, I read over all the signs more closely. I should have read them before our hike, because I found a stack of pamphlets. Though a notice indicates returning the pamphlet after use for others to enjoy - if you are going to toss it anyway, I took one home for future reference. Great Information Offered I was impressed with the detailed information it offered. It relates a little history of the park, explains various plants and animals that make their homes there including a few invader species, and it lists 28 types of trees labeled on the trail. I had noticed a couple of the trees, such as the butternut hickory and one of the maples. After retrieving the car and returning to the bigger section of the park, I followed the dirt road, which swings through the forest to the backside at the lake. A circular embossed monument dedicated to John E. Pearce greeted us in the parking area. I let Tessi roam freely in the adjoining picnic area while I took pictures of the monument before I called her back to pose in front of it. Afterwards, I strolled over to see what inspiration for pictures I could find from the scenery below the cliff. Unfortunately, it was fenced off due to an unstable edge. It's a short fence, so you may want to watch that your dog doesn't escape beyond one of its ends. I saw a worn path made by people who had slipped past it. I had been told there are a couple of unofficial, challenging routes to the beach. From the fence, all I could see between bushes and trees was a sliver of a sandy slope broken up by small pointed mounds. Deciding it would be easier to drive down to the shoreline instead of following an iffy pathway, I grabbed the car and went in search of Erie Street. Back on Lakeview Road, passing the Currie Road intersection, I kept heading west. Within a couple of minutes, I found the narrow dirt road I was looking for. I followed it toward the lake. Exploring the Area As I approached the top of the hill near the road's end at the Lake Erie shoreline, I passed several vehicles with attached boat trailers parked off to the side. Just as I was overtaking the last of them, I had to scrunch over to make room for a truck ascending the hill. As the truck squeezed by me, the driver yelled a warning not to take the car down. From where all the boats had launched, the ground had softened. He had had a difficult time reaching the top of the hill himself. Rick, the guy who had offered the warning, was out to introduce his St. Bernard puppy, Bentley, to the lake. The four month old was bigger than Tessi. I watched Rick lead Bentley into the water by his leash and wade around for a bit. He seemed to welcome the new sensation effortlessly. Meanwhile, Tessi was able to satisfy her thirst with a big helping of water. A cement arch sits on the beach. Another piece of cement is hidden in the foliage on the hill. A friend had informed me these pieces were once part of a pier. The structures had been common long ago in a few communities on the shoreline of Lake Erie. After contemplating the arch, I looked over the vehicles and their trailers sitting on the shoreline. On my walk down the hill, I had noticed among them, a tractor sitting in the water with a boat trailer attached behind it. The tractor, a vehicle normally seen on a field, seemed out of its element in the water. Other than those sights, the beach was a typical Lake Erie beach - full of sand and stones. I guess I take that for granted too; however, Tessi enjoyed a bit of freedom to sniff around. A Treat for the Journey Home On the way home, I stopped at Empire Valley Farms, a roadside market on the Talbot Trail Highway selling vegetables, fruit, plants and a small amount of giftware. Tessi and I enjoyed some of their strawberries on our ride home. I had forgotten how delicious local strawberries are, especially after having to resort to grocery store produce, which had been shipped in from the States, over the course of the winter. They were also quite refreshing after our heated exploration through the forest and on the beach. For More Info *Can a turkey fly? According to several websites, including Kid Zone, wild turkeys can fly, unlike their domestic cousins.

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2010

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