Follow the Leader
Enjoying an invigorating Easter Sunday hike in Frontenac Park
An adventurous couple heads out on Easter Sunday to enjoy a nature hike through Frontenac Park.
Heading to nearby Frontenac Park— one of our favourite spots—my life partner Michael and I begin our hike. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on this Easter Sunday, we travel on foot. No snowshoes, no skis. It is spring and the ice on the ponds and lakes is still very thick in most places, but is melting close to the shoreline, where the sun has warmed the nowexposed rocks and earth. The streams and rivulets are rushing full force downhill towards the ponds and lakes, flooding across the surface before disappearing under the ice.
The wind is cold but the growing strength of the April sun warms us through our jackets and makes us sleepy when we stop for lunch in a sheltered spot on the edge of a pond.
Michael, as usual, acts as my guide on this hike. He has been exploring Frontenac Park for more than 30 years now, and knows every pond, lake and ridge for
miles in the southeast section of the park.
He knows what the ice is like at this time of year, and makes sure I stay a good distance behind him as we cross ponds and skirt beaver dams. He carefully tests the integrity of the ice surface, sometimes turning back and choosing another spot, perhaps only a few feet away from his first attempt where it felt spongy.
We scamper out from the edges to the centre, where the ice, still many inches thick, allows us to walk confidently and easily to the next land bridge connecting the ponds.
Stepping from frozen water to snow-free dry land is one of the most wonderful feelings at this time of year. In one spot, we step off the ice onto a sunny, grassy hillside dotted with tiny, crisscrossing pathways. There is evidence of a tiny metropolis of wintering voles or mice that engineered ways to burrow under the deep blankets of the recently departed snow.
A little farther on, we round a corner and startle four whitetailed deer. We stand and watch as they bounded off, effortlessly with their tails high in the air, signalling the danger alert.
On the crest of a hill above another pond, we pause to scan the open water below and spot a pair of hooded mergansers and a pair of Canada geese.
Down on the ice a few minutes later, we see evidence of otter antics: telltale tracks of them running and gliding. I think I would like to be reincarnated as an otter. All winter long, we see their tracks throughout the park. Long, winding trails and slides where they have been having fun tobogganing down hills between ponds and across the flats on their way to the next hill.
Overhead, turkey vultures soar on the wind. They are having fun, too, but I would still rather be an otter!
Eventually, we complete our Easter Sunday tour, stopping mid- lake to turn our faces towards the slowly setting sun and into the strong west wind. Eyes closed, we breathe deeply. The next time we venture forth, the ice will be gone and a few weeks after that, we will be swimming where we stood today. n
Daphne says she and Michael love spending time in this park—especially from September to May when there are no bugs!