HIDDEN AWAY IN THE COUNTRYSIDE (Elgin Hiking Trail)

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From the Talbot Trail Highway (formerly #3), between Talbotville and Paynes Mills, a short jaunt on Lyle Road leads to a section of the Elgin Hiking Trail. It’s just past the bridge and reveals itself after a steep, but short climb on a rough footpath to the top of the adjacent hill.

Early Winter Tessi and I joined our friends, Genevieve, and her husband, Dave, after parking behind them on the roadside. On the hilltop, we found an information sign. In reference to dogs, the sign states: "Keep dogs on leash, on or near farmland." (The trail guide states "Keep dogs on a leash, especially on or near farmland and parks.) I decided that meant I was permitted to let Tessi run free otherwise. Gen and Dave assumed the same for their dogs, Rupert and Huckleberry. The nearby farmland was a reasonable distance beyond the immediate grassy area where we stood, so we let the dogs dash off for run and play. (As usual, though, when we’re sharing outdoor space, I always keep an eye out for other hikers.) The landscape soon changed from open sky to forest. Bare trees and bushes hovered over mostly brown grass and dead leaves. While we took our time, the dogs easily wore off their excess energy as they leapt over fallen logs - some of which were strewn across the trail - and darted up and down the hillsides. We encountered some muddy spots. One especially challenged us as it joined an eroded abrupt edge abutting Kettle Creek, which the trail loosely follows. (It wasn’t so abrupt and narrow that we worried about the dogs’ footing, just ours.) While we carefully maneuvered through this area, Huck snatched a decaying rack of (deer?) ribs, which he then stubbornly refused to give up. Leaving Dave to deal with him, we wandered a bit farther. After considerable coaxing, Huck finally dropped the discovered treat. By then it was time to turn back. We had other plans to finish out the day. Mid-winter Helen and her new pup - a Jack Russell mix, Lucky, joined Tessi and me later in the season to enjoy the snow covered terrain. Lucky strived to jump over those fallen logs, while we found the hillsides treacherously slippery. The few available wooden steps were hidden beneath snow. This time our struggle ended the hike prematurely. Early Spring Tessi and I made a solo trip on a sunny day, when the foliage was still working on filling in winter-ravaged bare spots. I used my new walking stick to navigate the now nearly dry hills. Most of the route was obvious, but in a few places the white blazes on the trees confirmed the way. If Helen and I had continued on, we would have found that the land eventually levels out. We had already managed most the hills, facing what turned out to be the last one when we had decided to call it quits. Eventually, Tessi and I came upon a clearing with a bench, which probably once presented the resting hiker a view of a shallow tree-filled valley. By this point, however, scattered trees and bushes had grown right in front of the bench, blocking much of the scenery. Before turning back, we headed into a shadier wooded area. It took me a few minutes to notice there was more bare ground with fewer plants and bushes, leaving me to wonder if the thick forest canopy prevents any other growth. Summer We had to end a summer visit just as it barely began. Wading through the crowded, overgrown grass masking the route proved too much work on the hot, humid day. Even Tessi hesitated on proceeding and willingly retreated to the car. Future Options The trail also runs east from Lyle Road. According to the map, it looks like the entire trail runs from Port Stanley to Paynes Mills, offering us a variety of future jaunts. For More Info

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2013

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