Beneath the canopy

Forest canopy

A trail beckons
Overgrown, almost indiscernible
Leading me away from my thoughts
Between fallen branches and stumps
To the secret waterfall

Silent and barren
Waiting for spring’s rebirth

I gaze up to the canopy above
Soft green leaves
Cradle the sky
Enfolding me in their arms
Protecting me

I stop and listen
And am rewarded
The forest reveals itself
Chattering like two old ladies on a park bench

The jays’ jeers and caws
Echo through the leafy canopy
Overpowering the faint chirps and peeps
Of warblers and songbirds

The rustling leaves dance in the wind
A lone leaf spirals downward
Swaying back and forth
Down, down
Landing gently on the forest floor

I look down
The canopy above is reflected below
A sea of scattered yellow leaves
An early surrender
To fall’s call to arms

This week’s #HappyAct is to spend some time beneath the canopy.

Editor’s note: I wrote this poem in the woods near my house. I’ve always found the woods a very peaceful place and studies show spending time in nature can be directly correlated to a person’s happiness.

I wanted to comment on a recent trend, Forest Therapy Walks. The whole idea of calling a hike in the forest a “therapy walk” makes me cringe, but nomenclature aside, I’d advise against joining a group of people. Group walks are great if you want to learn about the native species or meet new people, but if you truly want to connect with nature, explore on your own.

Forest canopy looking up
Sunlight in a forest

Happy trails

Girl at trailhead

Eastern Ontario is a hiker’s and biker’s paradise thanks to the miles of abandoned rail beds that have been converted into trails.

A couple of weeks ago, Clare and I hiked a new portion of the trail. We started in Harrowsmith, which is the junction of the K&P Trail and Cataraqui Trail. It was a windy spring day, and the fur of our great Pyrenees Bella shimmered and rippled in the breeze like the rushes in the neighbouring wetlands. It was a great day to get out, enjoy the spring sunshine, clear our heads and get some exercise.

Dog in breeze

The Kingston and Pembroke trail was an old railway that ran from Kingston Renfrew. It was abandoned by Canadian Pacific Railway between 1962 and 1986 before being taken over by the City of Kingston and Township of South Frontenac. Most of the trail is now complete up to Sharbot Lake, except for a small stretch near Tichborne.

The Cataraqui Trail is 104 kms long and was the rail line operated by Canadian National. The 78.2 km section from Smiths Falls to Harrowsmith is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Harrowsmith is an excellent starting point since the two trails connect there with four different routes to hike.

We watched ducks and geese in the marshes, saw baby cows in the farmer’s fields and ate lunch overlooking a beautiful vista.

I’m always surprised how many people in Kingston don’t venture north of the city. This week’s #HappyAct is to get out and discover the beautiful trails north of the city. And best of all, it’s free!

Signpost on the K&P Trail

Listen to the lull of a waterfall

At our secret waterfall

Like most Canadians I long for the sounds of spring. The returning honks of Canadian geese gracing the sky on their flight path home, the high pitched chirps of spring peepers in the early evening, and the sounds of rushing water as our lakes, streams and rivers run free, washing away the remains of winter. They are music to my winter weary ears.

As I write this, I look out at my lake and it is still frozen, covered with a fresh skiff of snow. Most people think ice breaks up on the lakes. It doesn’t. It turns blacks, and then honeycombs before sinking, so one day you come home to the marvelous sight of open, shimmering water and the promise of warm, summery days ahead.

One of our favourite walks in the spring is to our secret waterfall. I don’t know how many people on our road know about it. We are the only people we ever see there. It only runs for a few weeks during the spring run off, but it is magnificent. We throw sticks at the top and watch anxiously to see if they navigate the rushing waters and make it over the crests of the rock to the pools below. The kids make forts and splunk in the channels, getting soakers but not caring. The dogs splash and drink from the cool, fresh water. It is a magical place.

This week’s Happy Act is to go for a hike to a waterfall and be lulled by its soothing sounds. Here is my list of favourite waterfalls in our region and some farther afield for you to discover.

  1. Jones Falls on the Rideau canal: a beautiful afternoon hike off of Highway 15, featuring a stone arch dam built in the 1830’s. Park in the upper parking lot and follow the trail along the dam down to the canal below.
  2. Bedford Mills cascade: small, but spectacular scenery off of Division Street north of Kingston half way to Westport. We’ve done a family photo shoot here.
  3. The Waterfall Tearoom in Yarker—yummy homemade fare overlooking a gorgeous little waterfall, open from Victoria Day to Thanksgiving.
  4. Frontenac Park, Slide Lake Loop—a challenging 21 km hike that passes Labelle Gorge and a series of waterfalls.
  5. Montmorency Falls just outside of Quebec City. It’s been many years since I’ve been there, but I still remember its magnificence.
  6. Cataract Falls in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park in Caledon—lots of great memories here as a child.
  7. Elora Gorge on the Grand River—my girlfriends and I had lunch in the restaurant overlooking these falls a couple of years ago on one of our girls’ weekends.
  8. Niagara Falls—never disappoints, I’ve never seen them from the American side though…maybe next visit

WaterfallRushing waterMoss on rocks