I have been out on the North Shore Rugged Trail a couple of times over the past three days with the new snow we have received. I judge it suitable for exploring with snowshoes. Take along one or two poles, trust me on this. I don’t suggest heading out with just boots, or even skis. It’s too deep for shoes, even where I have started packing down a bit of trail. And there is not enough snow for skis. I’m planning to wait until the the Big Sound has frozen over before I start exploring on skis. Once frozen over I can go back and forth from the trail to the ice depending on the section. Those of you familiar with the trail know about the half dozen steep sections that really aren’t easy to traverse on skis. (Remember: Discretion is the better part of valour. You really don’t want to be rescued on the trail because of a broken ankle.)
A couple of days ago Thunder Creek was impassable because of the seiche pushing water in from the Big Sound. As of today it’s passable, but wear boots in your snowshoes if you plan on crossing. I recommend Bogs (available at White Squall in Parry Sound). They keep my feet warm down to -20 degrees C, and offer about 25 cm of waterproofing. As you can see from the photo below I was able to cross Thunder Creek earlier today but punched through in a few places.
Okay, time to head out there and explore. I have packed a bit of a path up to Thunder Creek that goes inland a little more than usual because there really isn’t enough snow close to the shore. It will take the Big Sound freezing over before snow accumulates along the edge. If a few people manage to get out on the trail and pack things down a bit it will be easier slogging for all of us.
In a post at Parry Sounds I outlined the need to create a North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group to be an advocate for the interests of the North Shore Rugged Trail and the people who use it. The text of that post is provided below. Here is a link to the original post if you want to follow one of more of the associated links.
North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group Needed (parrysounds.com 2016-11-13)
It seems a good time to establish a North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group. Anyone interested? If yes, please contact me at email@example.com. Let’s start a discussion of how best to support the North Shore Rugged Trail as it seemingly has become the centre of business interest.
The Town of Parry Sound recently passed a by-law that confirmed the Town’s willingness to negotiate the relinquishing of certain rights to portions of the North Shore Rugged Trail to help support development of the privately owned property that lies inland from the trail. Very limited information was provided in the by-law and the supporting documents regarding what was being considered. There was a suggestion that any concessions would be limited.
The North Shore Rugged Trail is an interesting Town of Parry Sound asset. It is a rugged trail that runs from the Smelter Wharf along the coast past Zhiishiib Rock, Thunder Creek, and Monument Point all the way to the Parry Sound / McDougall boundary. If you have hiked it you know how special it is, rugged for sure.
I hike the trail no less than once a week, and as often as five times a week. It provides for the best views of the Big Sound, sunsets, and Parry Island. While hiking the trail I often come across people who are taking the opportunity, minutes from their home, to get away from it all and challenge themselves a little with hiking over the rocks and around, or through, the water. The North Shore Rugged Trail is quite unlike the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail, the trail that runs from Champaigne to Salt Dock Road. While the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail welcomes people to take a stroll and relax, the North Shore Rugged Trail demands more physically and mentally, with the corresponding rewards. Nor is the North Shore Rugged Trail like the Voldemort Trail (see link), the informal trail that runs inland from Salt Dock Road and is a favourite of people walking their dogs. The Voldemort Trail is not mentioned in any of the Town’s official trail documents because it is an informal trail that passes over private property for which permission has never been obtained by the Town, or the users. To the credit of the property owners they have been generous in not restricting access or prosecuting those who do use the trail. It seems it is these property owners who would like to secure certain considerations regarding the North Shore Rugged Trail to better develop their property. The Town is interested in seeing the property developed so as to increase the assessment base.
It is unlikely that the North Shore Rugged Trail would be deeded over to new property owners with no access for the Public. The question of course is what kind of concessions will be necessary to incentivize development, and how will that impact public access. Who will have input and who will decide?
My major concern is that I believe Town Council and Staff have no familiarity, or love for the North Shore Rugged Trail. While I have seen members of Council and Staff on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail from time-to-time, I have never, in the hundreds of times I have hiked the North Shore Rugged Trail, seen anyone from Council or Staff on the trail. It’s my sense that they know no more about the trail than can be gleaned by looking at a Google Maps view, their distant childhood memories, or perhaps some of my photos at ParrySights (click the North Shore Rugged Trail tag for images). There has been no investment by the Town to promote the North Shore Rugged Trail or to even provide a map or guide for its exploration. Is this a conscious effort to deter people from using the trail because it is rugged? Perhaps Staff and Council believe that it is in the Town’s interest to restrict or limit use of the trail so as to limit liability. That would be a shame.
A formally constituted North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group, involving people who know and love the trail, would be able to secure a seat at the table in any negotiations to restrict public access to the trail. I would also like to sees a Users Group take a leadership role in keeping the trail tidy and suggest opportunities to make it more user friendly. (The trail does not suffer from the issue of litter and trash as is the case with the Voldemort Trail, but from time-to-time stuff washed onto the shores from the Big Sound needs to be removed.) Those of you who regularly use the trail are familiar with how Thunder Creek often makes the trail impassable unless you are willing to get wet feet, or venture further upstream. This gets to be a problem in the fall and early spring when the water is c-c-cold. Wouldn’t a footbridge be nice?
Interested? Drop me a line. Perhaps the group can form in alliance with other local nature groups who may not have the same love and appreciation of the North Shore Rugged Trail but are committed to supporting trails and ongoing public access. We all need to work together.
“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”
The Town’s lack of interest in the North Shore Rugged Trail is perhaps best illustrated with the photo below of the sign leading up to the trail. There was money for a new artist’s station, a sign announcing the new station that covered up part of the map, but not a new map?
Let’s make sure that the North Shore Rugged Trail gets the protection that it and it’s users deserve. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if there is already an initiative underway let me know how I can help.
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”
I have wandered along the Parry Sound waterfront and the North Shore Rugged Trail often enough to realize that we have a rather large population of gulls. The question of how many gulls there are was raised one evening when hiking along the North Shore Rugged Trail with my camera. As the gulls flew by, heading I imagine to Gull Island, I thought there must be hundreds of them, but, I wondered, how many hundreds?
The opportunity to get a count presented itself earlier this month as I was riding my bike, with camera, back from the Smelter Wharf. It was early enough that they had not yet started heading out to Gull Island. Starting from the Smelter Wharf along the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail I was able to capture images of them all the way back to the Parry Sound harbour. They were for the most part hanging out at Waubuno Beach and the Coast Guard base, with a few out on the water, and a dozen or so sitting on the rock out from the water treatment plant.
The number? About 370 by my count. The actual number could be as much as 20% higher, but not any lower. Counting gulls is not that simple as I couldn’t approach them as close as I would have liked because they would have moved, confusing the numbers. The majority of them were on the Coast Guard helipad deck which I could not approach, and with a low viewing angle it meant that that some gulls were blocked by others in front of them. It’s also possible that that there were more in other locations but I found none down at Parry Sound harbour or along the waterfront between the harbour and Sail Parry Sound.
So as you contemplate the troubles caused by the two or three gulls attacking your bags on garbage day be happy that the Town isn’t facing a Hitchcock style Birds situation. There are more than enough of them to terrorize the town.
Walking with a bike can actually help when crossing some of the wetter sections of the North Shore Rugged Trail. By leaning on the Giant I can more easily step from rock-to-rock without getting wet feet. And there are of course sections where it’s necessary to put the bike over my shoulder and climb up over rocks.
My preferred short bike and hike route out of Parry Sound is the North Shore Rugged Trail. From my home in Parry Sound I can head down Bowes Street, catch the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail as it crosses Great North Road and follow it over the Seguin River down to the Waterfront. The trail is a very easy ride past Sail Parry Sound, Waubuno Beach, and the Tony Agnello Water Treatment Plant, until reaching Salt Dock Road. Heading left takes you down to the Smelter Wharf, where the North Shore Rugged Trail can be accessed from behind the salt pile, aka the Great Pyramid of Parry Sound. The North Shore Rugged Trail at this point is impossible to ride and requires carrying a bike if you’ve made it this far.
Instead, heading right at Salt Dock Road brings you to the entrance of the Voldemort Trail, about 100 metres on the left. (Voldemort Trail is my name for this unnamed and unofficial trail, as per the Harry Potter reference to ‘that which shall not be named’. The Town recently went through a trails master plan process and refused to acknowledge the existence of this trail. It is probably the most used all-season trail in Parry Sound, especially by dog owners. The reason that the Town won’t acknowledge it’s existence is because it is on private property. The property owners have posted No Trespassing signs but have been generous in not actively restricting access. It seems to be one of those ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ situations, although I think it would be good to get a formalized agreement to avoid future problems. But for now the Town will not mention it by name or indirectly.)
One you are on the Voldemort Trail you have a couple of options. After a couple of hundred metres you can head left and follow along parallel to the North Shore Rugged Trail. The trail is for the most part bike friendly depending on your skill level, although there are a couple short sections where most people will need to get off and push the bike. Alternatively, heading right takes you further inland and parallel to the CP railway track. Following this path takes you to the extension of Oakridge Blvd, where if you turn left, you will catch the same path back to the Smelter Wharf that that runs parallel to the North Shore Rugged Trail, the trail you would have been on had you originally turned left when starting out on the Voldemort Trail .
Regardless of which path you take you will, in short order, end up in the ‘Hemlock Grove’ (photo below). At this point I generally walk my bike out to the North Shore Rugged Trail and follow it back to Parry Sound. It’s not rideable in my opinion. The trail is rugged at points and at times requires crossing water, depending on water levels and the wind. This is especially the case when crossing Thunder Creek. If the water is a bit too high or challenging it’s simple enough to head left and catch up with the Voldemort Trail. Turning right will take you back to the start. Turn left and you will be heading north towards Oakridge Blvd and the Township of McDougall.
The walk back to Parry Sound and the Smelter Wharf, with or without a bike, is special. it takes between 30 and 60 minutes, and offers some great views.
Enough for now, more information to come as Spring heads to quickly towards Summer. This is a great time to be out on the trails in and around Parry Sound, it’s warm enough and there are no bugs. In general the North Shore Rugged Trail doesn’t have a problem with bugs, blackflies or mosquitos, perhaps because there is always a breeze coming in from the Big Sound.