Into the Wild Blue Yonder
By Sylvie O'Rourke
Today we are off to a far and mysterious place to explore a future outing location for the club. In fact, we are travelling to Leeds and Grenville which is not so distant at all, but with Covid, that is all relative. Locating an area that we have not yet explored becomes a growing challenge when boundaries are restricted.
Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Blue Mountain we go to hike a 9.5-km trail in the most elevated spot in the counties, a whopping 194 meters above the surrounding farming fields. We are not expecting much in the way of technical difficulty. There will be no scrambling over rocks or exertion from steep climbs here; However, I am so unbelievably excited to be hiking anywhere that has the word “mountain” in its name that I have been looking forward to this all week.
The descriptive sign in the tiny parking lot mentions that the mountain got its name from the blueberries and huckleberries that grow there. Apparently, in the late 1800’s this trail was so popular that an entrepreneur built a restaurant at the top. Although this structure has long since vanished, it goes a long way in feeding my curiosity.
The trail starts off on a wide and muddy road riddled with large murky puddles but that does not faze me at all on such a beautiful spring day. I think my husband feels the same way as I can hear clips of his whistled tune floating back towards me. Eventually we arrive to the wooded path where a cool breeze carries earthy fragrances of pine and damp moss. The path is strewn with acorns, a good sustenance for the wildlife residing here. There are several wooden bridge crossings along the way and beautiful lichen-covered rock formations. In fact, the further we go, the rockier the terrain seems to become. We eventually reach a crossroads sign. We can turn right for the trail circling the lake or go straight for the summit. We choose the latter and soon discover that the route takes a roundabout way to reach the top. We hear voices and turn to see a family climbing down a cliff into a crevasse in what appears to be a shortcut down the mountain. It seems like an unnecessary exertion since we surely are close to our destination at this point. The trail continues around the bend at the next rockface, and I expect to see an incline on the other side, but that does not happen for a while yet as we continue to circle the base for at least another kilometer. Once we begin a very gradual climb, we start to see more signs of erosion. There are long stretches of exposed bald rock where, apparently, the gray ratsnake, Canada’s largest snake, likes to bask. I am relieved not to encounter any today. They may be harmless, but they are squiggly and a tad repugnant.
Finally, the long-awaited summit is in sight. Immediately. I notice a change in the vegetation. The pine trees seem stunted and somewhat twisted growing more horizontally than vertically. I will find out later that I am probably looking at pitch pines, a provincial rarity. My fascination with these trees almost makes me miss the delicate alpine ground cover which I would typically see on summits of a much higher altitude.
After a short rest to admire the view, we choose the long way down going from the wild blue yonder into more familiar territory. We are left with a feeling that although we do not have the elevation of our neighboring Adirondacks, we still have some beautiful hiking destinations, and had the border been open, we may never have discovered this Canadian gem. We will most definitely add this mountain to our list of future club outings.
Published in The Cornwall Seeker, 2 in 1 Flip Magazine, August 2021, theseeker.ca, Page 13