Four great snowshoeing adventures at our doorstep

When in the Restoule Provincial Park, this Stormy Lake lookout offers a must-see vista. 
Bill Steer Photo

It has been a  roller-coaster winter, weather wise.  Winter is not yet going away, and there remains plenty of time to go snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing has been around for thousands of years, almost truly a Canadian activity.  The art of snowshoeing has become more sophisticated over time.  From the early wood-frame to the aluminum-frame models, snowshoeing has garnered quite a following. Modern-day snowshoeing is made up of casual enthusiasts who hike trails for pleasure and the real enthusiasts who trek through the backcountry on their “local” trails.

One of the more appealing facts about snowshoeing is how it can help enrich a person’s health. Known to help maintain or improve cardiovascular fitness, the sport helps burn more than 600 calories per hour. And you get your dose of vitamin N  (nature) and vitamin S  (serenity).

So where should we go?

It is true we can snowshoe just about anywhere.  But often we need a destination with a reason.

Provincial parks become destinations for their natural features and trails.  The Ontario Parks website – www.ontarioparks.com – is a good place to start in your search for information on recreational opportunities. The page’s park locator function allows you to choose operating or non-operating parks, which are displayed on a Google map – zooming in provides details on nearby roads that may provide access. Set your compass for four cardinal directions for these outings.

Red Pine – Sam – East

We know of the dynamic forces of our planet, and if you are looking for the remnants of an earthquake zone Mattawa River Provincial Park is your destination.

Faults are fractures in Earth’s crust where rocks on either side of the crack have slid past each other. Sometimes the cracks are tiny, as thin as hair, with barely noticeable movement between the rock layers. But faults can also be hundreds of kilometres long, such as the San Andreas Fault in California and the Anatolian Fault in Turkey, both of which are visible from space.

Larry Dyke, professor emeritus at Queen’s University, was a long-time employee of the Geological Survey of Canada.  He now teaches part time at Nipissing University.

Dyke explained the significance of this vista location.

“Lying in the interior of a continent, as we do in the North Bay region, might lead us to believe that we are far from earthquake-generating faults. But we’re not. Looking at the line of hills on the north side of the Mattawa River at Mattawa, at the Canadian Ecology Centre and along the north edge of North Bay, you are seeing a landform caused by a fault.”

The  vista is on the Red Pine Trail (Etienne Trail System) within Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park and the Canadian Ecology Centre; about 35 minutes east of North Bay on Highway 17.  At the Etienne trailhead there is a map you can do a loop or linear trek. Great for this winter’s snowshoeing.  Try a wolf howl as your voice carries along the river below.  (If you have the time and energy do the double header and visit the nearby Eau Claire Gorge Conservation Area  via  nearby Highway 630.

Lookout – Restoule – South

One of the best views in the North Bay area is the Stormy Lake lookout situated within Restoule Provincial Park.  It is a worthwhile jaunt to the lookout at any time of the year, but the winter gives you a chance to experience the shadows of a mature hardwood forest.  It’s one of those places you want to return to experience the seasonal transitions.  It’s a favourite.

There is an easier access to experience this panorama.  Drive to the  Village of Restoule, which is south of North Bay and west of Powassan or Trout Creek on Highway 534.   The lookout trail, part of the Grawbarger Trail, is located within Restoule Provincial Park but you do no enter the park entrance.

From the Village of Restoule, just before the bridge crossing the Restoule River, turn right (north) and travel 9.3 km. toward Restoule Provincial Park. You will come to the end of Highway 534.  Straight ahead leads you into and toward the gatehouse of Restoule Provincial Park.  Veer to the right on the snow-packed road.   (In the winter you will have to park at this junction, it is a short walk of approximately 600 m to access the trail.)

Stay alert as you snowshoe toward the lake, your starting point is the pedestrian crossing sign and the blue markers.   From the park entrance junction there will be a mature red pine plantation on your left (west) If you go down the hill to the parking lot/lake access point you have gone too far.

There is no the trail head here;  as soon as you leave the road, veer to the left or northwest.   You can also take the trail to the right which is a longer loop.  The trail to the left follows along a former road.  Within a few paces, watch closely, on the right or to the north the trail will turn toward the lookout.  It takes approximately 35 to 40 minutes, one way, to walk or snowshoe to the top of the cliffs and the lookout.  (You cannot see the cliffs from the trail, you would have to  snowshoe from the lake access point  and go around the point to the east.) The predominately flat trail winds its way through a mixed hardwood stand with some hemlock closer to the cliffs.   On sunny days, you will want to snowshoe through the countless shadows.

There is a sign just before ascending.  It shows you a shorter, 1-km loop leading to the top, clockwise past a beaver pond and back to where you are standing.  This is a good option.  It is a very short but steep ascent to the top of the cliffs and the lookout.  The fire tower will appear behind you when you are at the top.  The magnificent view is from the north-west to north.  To the north you will see Clear Lake, in behind Stormy Lake, and beyond Clear Lake there is Bass Lake.  On a clear day you may see Lake Nipissing on the horizon (bring along the binoculars).

Old Growth – Marten River -North

Close your eyes and imagine an old-growth forest. Tall trees make you look up.  It is difficult today to imagine what the original white pine trees were like, to visualize their seemingly infinite reach upwards towards the sky.  If you drive a little north of North Bay toward Marten River you can see the past and the present.

There are significant areas of white pine to visit and to understand what the terms “regeneration, succession” and “old growth” truly mean.

If you are looking for old-growth white pine trees, Marten River Provincial Park has some wonderful loops.  On the Old Growth White Pine Trail you won’t hear loggers shouting “timber” but you will see remnant stands of the massive pines they felled and a 300-year-old white pine they spared. Thirty metres high it is one of the largest trees in the province.    The trail is 4.8-km long; cross the bridge to the Assinika Campground and find the trailhead that meanders through the old-growth white pine; look for the moose sign.   A shorter jaunt, closer to the Highway 11 entrance is through the replica 19th  century logging camp that brings a bygone era to life

West – Mashkinonje – Wetlands

Just where is the best interpretative trail anyway?  It is one of the few trails to have a designated snowshoe symbol, welcoming winter’s embrace.  It is an area where our ecological perceptions are changing.

The wonders of Mashkinonje  Provincial Park  (pronounced mas-kin-onj) consists of a diverse system of wetlands supporting all the major wetland types; marshes, bogs, swamps, fens and ponds; interspersed with undulating granite ridges that cover more than 2000 hectares between the West Arm and the West Bay of Lake Nipissing. The park counts among its many wetlands two provincially significant areas the Loudon Basin Peatlands and Muskrat Creek. It is a non-operating park with a wonderful system of trails developed by volunteers

Travel west from North Bay, through Sturgeon Falls  on Highway 17 to Verner, turn south on Highway 64 (stop in Verner to read the historic plaque – Reverend Charles Paradis – “the rebel priest.”).

Lavigne is 13 km from Verner on the northwest bay of Lake Nipissing; an expansive view to the east.  Journey 15 more kilometres to the Loudon Peatland Trail on the east side of the highway.  Access to the west network of trails is via the Blandings Access Point, just north of the Chemin Samoset RoS and just 0.9 km south of Memquisit Road.  Access to the north section of the loops is via Musky Island Road.  The lookout tower is located at WGS 84   17 T  E 554576 N 5123255 or    N46° 15’ 38.5” W80° 17’ 30.6”. It is a very unique view and vantage point to see the extent of the peatland.  A place to set up your portable stove and have a hot drink.

This writer has too many pairs of snowshoes but still prefers the moccasins and a wooden pair for the deep, fresh snow; there is no better winter experience.  Your tip of the day is to use your ski poles for stability and ascending, descending and traversing slopes for both new and traditional snowshoes.) Contact the author, wilstonsteer@gmail.com; LIKE and SHARE on Facebook – Steer to Northern Ontario; go to www.steerto.com.

 

 

Article Source: Nugget


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