A Fall Hike in Ontario

This is adapted from a posting I made elsewhere. It refers to a hike I took on The Seaton Trail in 2015.

The temperature is 26°. A Goldilocks fall temperature, such that it is neither too hot nor too cold.

I walk through the dew covered grass of Whitevale Park towards the beautifully sun-dappled trailhead, enclosed but welcomed by maple leaves that rustle in a light breeze. Stepping towards denser ranges of Fir, the sound of scalding chickadees and the squealing, squeaking alarm of chipmunks dashing impulsively to the nearest tree. Gripping intensely at the bark, these striped rodents dare to peek as you pass, believing for all the world in their supposed invisibility. To the naturalist, their presence is as clear as it is delightful.

Approaching denser woodland, amongst the trees, ferns compete for limited sunlight, and the trail is coated in a bed of pine needles. A distant but gentle “queedle”. Two Bluejays are considering the prospect of a difficult southerly migration, or perhaps this year they will stay and brave the harsh winter conditions that will befall many of the residents of this eco-system. For now, the only white on the ground is the shedded skin of birch trees – the wallpaper of the forest. Nearby, the unmistakable nasal retort of a nuthatch.

Seaton Trail Fern Forest

Several American Red Squirrels fight for the ownership of a single acorn, a depleting commodity as the fruits of the forest thin and fall draws to a close. No time to waste.

The forest begins to thin, the trail winding through a meadow of Bur-marigold enjoyed by the community of various bees, a collection of species we now love but maligned for so long. Can we save them?

A ridge, a vista, a meandering creek, an open view of green Southern Ontario.

Vista of creek seaton trail

Open fields. A farmer’s corn/maize is due a harvest and a couple of apple trees have deposited fruit that perfumes the air with a fall familiar sweetness. The trickling of a creek or stream, a babbling brook, the sound emanating from shallow waters over a riverbed of stones, rounded from decades of erosion. The sudden sense of geological time, the landscape out-dating and surviving generations, the irrelevance of oneself. The insignificance of life’s quarrels.

Further into the meadow, overwhelmed by whites and yellows and purples. Daisy Fleabane, Aster, and Goldenrod – beloved by, integral to the survival of, so many insects. Cabbage White Butterflies, Monarchs and Swallowtails appear to dance as they battle unseen breezes. A pale-yellow bodied dragonfly with neon-blue wings.

A pair of Turkey Vultures soar upon the valley thermals in search of, perhaps, one of those squealing chipmunks. There is unseen war in what is left of these pockets of nature, but without the circle of life, the battle for survival – without death, there would be less beauty. For all living things within this realm, there comes an end as they become the acorns of the next.

And so, the trail concludes. Towards the parking, a sudden flash of yellow, a streak of black. A small bird, most likely a warbler on a fleeting visit. My binoculars are in the car, but it is a Blackburnian Warbler, I fancy. One of my favourites.