Much of our world has changed dramatically over the past six months, but our vividly green outdoors have not. One activity that remains similar to its pre-pandemic existence, is travelling along our outdoor trails. If anything, thanks to social distancing guidelines, there is simply more room to explore and experience. As we emerge from months of lock down, natural outdoor spaces will play a larger role than ever in boosting both mental and physical health, providing an opportunity to get outside with minimal risk.
While experiencing the trails, you are still required to abide by Public Health’s physical distancing protocols including keeping a 6ft distance from others. When passing people on the trail, respect their space and pace. Take a pause as far off to the side of the trail as is safe, and flash a simple smile as they walk by.
Each user is asked to be a responsible ambassador for the trails and avoid unnecessary exposure by doing the following;
- Respect closed facilities and infrastructure.
- Keep animals leashed at all times.
- Take your garbage with you.
- Safely space vehicles while parking.
- Do not start fires.
- Eliminate contact with signs, fences, and other trail amenities.
As with any trip, it’s best to be prepared! Plan ahead by doing your research, choosing trails close to home, avoiding typically busy times and becoming familiar with trail specific rules upon arrival.
Don’t forget to pack a light bag with a water bottle, sunscreen, bug spray, toilet paper, face covering and hand sanitizer. Just like that, you’re good to go my friends!
Here are five trails to have your very own #wildlyauthentic experiences, right here in Hastings County (complete with ‘bathroom break’ suggestions, because you know, human nature).
The ‘Natural Escape’ – McGeachie Conservation Area
If you’re looking for that “lose yourself, to find yourself” kind of feeling, McGeachie’s deep layered humus forest floors, granitic outcroppings, towering trees, babbling creeks and scenic vantage points might give you just that. It’s a true natural immersion.
Hot Summer Tip: Take a post hike dip in Steenburg Lake. The public beach is just down the road and on your way back out to the highway from the Conservation Area.
Bathroom Break: There is a portable toilet in the Trail Head parking lot. Bring sanitation and use at your own risk.
The ‘Picnic and Power’ – The Gut Conservation Area
The “Gut” gets its name from the large gorge, over 30 metres high, and the dynamic Crowe River that flows through it. Don’t rush yourself here. Give yourself time to sit down on the rocks and feel the power of the water; it can be invigorating.
Hot Summer Tip: Plan your route to pass through Coe Hill and stop by the Barn Chefs. Owners, Sarah and Luca will hook you up with delicious homemade bread, cheese, meats and preserves making the perfect riverside picnic. A cappuccino from the Tinhouse Espresso Bar wouldn’t hurt either!
Bathroom Break: There is a portable toilet onsite. Bring sanitation and use at your own risk.
The ‘Fam Jam Splish Splash’– Vanderwater Conservation Area
Vanderwater CA is best known for its water that cascades over long, flat sections of limestone steps along the Moira River. The cool breeze off the river is the perfect reprieve after a hot summer day on the trails.
Hot Summer Tip: There are a variety of picnic tables placed in picturesque spots throughout the Conservation Area. Pack some snacks and enjoy a scenic rest along your journey.
Bathroom Break: After your hike, take the short 15-minute drive into the town of Tweed to cool the kids down at the Splash Pad, open daily 10am-5pm. Public washrooms are available to Splash Pad users only.
The Riverside Date Night – Brian Goodchild Memorial Trail
Looking for a leisurely evening stroll? This one’s for you! Starting at Memorial Park, The Brian Goodchild Trail is a lovely paved path that winds along the Crowe River, up passed the Dam and to the public Boat Launch. There are plenty of large trees to settle under for a good view of the sunset or even just a moment or two to reconnect with each other.
Hot Summer Tip: Rumour has it the river is a good fishing spot, so if licensed, bring your rod along too. Sorry in advance to all the partners whose romantic evening just got high jacked by fishing, again.
Bathroom Break: There is a portable toilet located in Memorial Park. Bring sanitation and use at your own risk.
The Walk Through Time – O’Hara Mill Homestead & Conservation Area
Where nature meets history. Multiple trails, both short and long, run through the forested woods behind the O’Hara Homestead, meandering through old growth forests, across babbling brooks, and around marshes. It’s safe to say you may discover some wildlife on your trek. Speaking of discovery, I stumbled upon a geocache here nearly a decade ago now, but apparently there are multiple hidden throughout the forest.
Hot Summer Tip: Although the Homestead buildings are closed due to Covid precautions, QR Codes found on the signage outside the heritage buildings will allow you to take a Virtual Tour on your mobile device.
Bathroom Break: An afternoon in Nature can work up an appetite. The Centre Hastings Skate Park is less than 10 minutes down the road and is home to an Ice Cream Shop, as well as the Park Canteen. Washrooms available onsite during park hours 11am-7pm.