Saturday, December 12, 2015

Sawmill Trail Musings

December 12, 2015 arrived like a late fall day, not at all like one would expect just two weeks shy of Christmas. Wearing just a light hoodie, I found myself working up a slight sweat within minutes of navigating the hilly terrain of the Sawmill Trail. The soft ground yielded under the tread of my hiking boots and I noticed that the grass was still holding onto its green colour, determined to not fade into its winter sleep. I can’t recall a December ever being this mild, at least not in the years that I have been exploring the valley. It’s difficult to complain about it although it does seem a little unsettling for it to still be this warm.

Rounding a bend, I stopped abruptly as Stella found herself nose to nose with a young raccoon. Eyeball to eyeball, they stared at each other as I initiated a quick retreat to introduce some space between us. As a rule, I keep Stella on a flexi leash while on the trails, simply due to the frequent encounters with other hikers, mountain bikers and deer, and today I was glad that I had stayed true to that practice.

We are under a rabies alert here at the moment and based on the fact that this raccoon was fearless and not about to move out of our way, I knew that something was clearly not right. We stared at each other and I took this photo before moving on, momentarily leaving the trail to give the raccoon a wide berth as it simply watched our travels. If you are prone to allowing your canine companions off leash while in the valley, I would strongly suggest to you not to do that, particularly during this season. I know that if Stella had been off leash, this encounter would have had a much different and a potentially tragic outcome.
We eventually found our way to the Sawmill Pond, a beautiful oasis in the valley. The Sawmill Pond is a part of the Stacey Meadow, named after former Conservation Authority chairman Alan G. Stacey.

It is a tranquil and quiet spot, ideal for picnics and observing wildlife. This pond, connected to the North Spring Creek, is a source of food, water and shelter for many species and it is common to see Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and Blackbirds here as well as both painted and snapping turtles. Under the grey sky of today the surrounding cattails and trees created crystal clear reflections of themselves in the still water, and we picked this spot to sit for a minute and just take in the view.

An interesting feature of these ponds is the addition of two small gravel beds. When it was noticed that the resident snapping turtles were laying their eggs in the nearby parking area, these beds were created. This created a safe area protected from vehicle and foot traffic for them, increasing the chances for their eggs to hatch.
Hearing a sound, I looked up to see a pair of deer stepping out from the trees across the pond. They froze when they noted our presence, withdrawing back into the brush. So as to not disturb them, we chose to move on and continued back on the trail, leaving them to their drink.

Turning back, I was amused by the sign on the dock warning of thin ice. Maybe not this year, I thought, at least not for a while.
We headed back down the trail and through a stand of young pine trees, more green on this December day than they should be. This really is a remarkable December, I mused. I can’t wait to get back out here tomorrow.

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