Trailblazers look to close loop of Ganaraska in Penetanguishene

Local hiking association seek North Simcoe permissions to bridge trail gap from Martyrs’ Shrine to Tiny Trail at Conc. 12

by Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association looked to Penetanguishene council recently with a trailblazing request to close the loop at the northern ends of the 500-km trail which nearly loops within Simcoe County.

If you’ve ever wanted to meet modern trailblazers, North Simcoe might have your solution.

Representatives from the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association (GHTA) approached Penetanguishene council during the recent regular meeting, seeking permission to blaze trails through the Midland, Penetanguishene, and Tiny Township areas to attach the unconnected ends of a popular trail system.

GHTA president Frieda Baldwin gave a presentation to council regarding the proposal.

“It’s a hiking trail 500-kilometres long from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay,” Baldwin explained. “It passes through the Peterborough area, Orillia, Barrie, Wasaga Beach, Midland, Penetanguishene, and so on. The trail is maintained by volunteers; there are nine clubs and members of each club maintain the trail.”

The hiking trail originated in the early 1960s for naturalists to enjoy unspoiled lands across the province, and by 1968 the Ganaraska hiking trail was officially opened from Port Hope to Lindsay. Shortly after, more sections were added to the overall coverage.

However, the trail was never fully connected in its Simcoe County portion. The western trail ends at the Tay Shore Trail beside Sainte-Marie among the Hurons outside Midland, while the eastern trail ceases at the Tiny Trail and Conc. 12 E. junction in Tiny Township.

“The purpose of this deputation is to ask permission from the town… to blaze a trail through Penetanguishene. We are not going to build any new trails – we are not asking permission for that – just to blaze the trail,” said Baldwin.

In blazing a trail, path markers measuring two-by-six inches are put onto visible waypoints for the purpose of navigation, whether through paint or by installing material like PVC. Blazes can be found on trees, various posts, bridges, rocks, and hydro poles among the many available options.

For the request, Baldwin offered the preferred off-road route between the Wye River to Tiny Conc. 12 through the following connections: from the Midland waterfront trail to the Mid-Pen link at Murray Rd.; to Thompson Rd. W. over to Thompson Rd. E. and along the multi-use trail; through the Thompson/Martin Valley county forest to Overhead Bridge Rd.; and using a new Kingfisher trail to arrive at the Tiny Trail.

“In 2010, we actually obtained permission from the town of Midland,” Baldwin told council, “but the other municipalities… we were not making much progress.”

Approval for the Tiny Township portion had been previously granted, according to Baldwin, with a $2,500 budget allocation for stairs to the Tiny Trail postponed until 2023. She added that the GHTA had also sought trailblazing permission from Midland council and was waiting for approval.

The request was put forward through Mayor Doug Rawson to the recreation and community services section to be explored by staff for consideration.

The Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association deputation, with slides and further information, can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Meetings of Penetanguishene council are held on the second Wednesday of each month, and can be watched live on Rogers TV cable 53, or on the Rogers TV website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

2023.01.11 – Logging Operation in Simcoe County Forest Affects Orillia Trail

Logging operations have started in Simcoe County Forest on the south side of Bass Lake Sideroad at Line 7N in Oro-Medonte. The Orillia Club Ganaraska trail goes through this area, as well as many other trails frequently used by hikers and bikers. It is best to avoid the affected area until notice is given that logging has been completed, and obey all signage indicating restricted areas if on the trails near Bass Lake Sideroad and Line 7N.

QE2 and Our Partnership with Ontario Parks – An Appreciation

The end of one year and the beginning of another is traditionally a time for reflection. In that vein, it is noteworthy that the Wilderness Club of the GHTA enjoys a special and treasured relationship with the Ontario Parks staff that manage the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park (“QE2”) – the park that encompasses about 95% of the Wilderness section of the Ganaraska Trail. With an area of 33,505 hectares, QE2 is the second largest park south of Algonquin Park with 100 habitat types and is a vast biological engine renowned for its rock barrens, and beaver fens. Hikers and canoeists can enjoy a true wilderness experience in QE2 that is not typically available so far south in the province.

The flavour of a true wilderness experience is nicely captured by the lead article of the Winter 2023 GHTA newsletter (https://ganaraska-hiking-trail.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/GHTA-Newsletter-Winter-2023-online-compressed-version.pdf) in which Kate Kostandoff describes a 3-day/2-night “cross-over” hike through the interior of QE2 completed in October. Later in the newsletter is an amusing epic poem penned by Ruth Patterson in the style of Robert W. Service. These appreciative contributions illustrate the significance of QEII to the hiking community in general and to the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association in particular, while underscoring the importance of the work undertaken by the Parks staff.

Looking back over the past 12 months, the following is a top-of-mind random sampling of highlights for 2022:

* The seasonal floating footbridge over Montgomery Creek installed by Ontario Parks in collaboration with the GHTA continues to be a great success, much appreciated by Ganaraska members as well as the general public.

* Park Biologist Phil Careless was a big hit with his enthusiastic participation as a panelist in the Wilderness Club’s overnight Zoom call hiking clinic in September.

* Trail maintenance, thunder boxes, visitor monitoring & management: we at the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association appreciate the effort it takes to manage QEII, and we know there is a lot of work behind the scenes, much of which we are only vaguely aware.

New Bridge in Pine Ridge Section

The Ganaraska Trail follows a former railway between the 4th and 5th lines of Hope Township.  Most of the trail is pretty well level, but there is one spot where the railway crossed a creek.  The old trestle bridge had been taken out years ago and hikers needed to navigate two sagging, slippery cedar logs to get across that creek. There was a 25’ horizontal cedar tree next to the logs for holding on to. To make matters worse, the trail down to the bridge and up the other side was steep and treacherous.

On December 2, 2022, life got easier for trail hikers and dog walkers.  5 Pine Ridge Hiking Club members installed a new 20’ bridge a short distance downstream from the old crossing.  Both access trails were moved and hand-shovelled to be easier to traverse.  Congratulations to Jimmy Edwards, Stan Muldoon, Jay Sherwin, John Ambler and bridge designer, Ted Van Netten.

2022.11.29 – Barrie Main Trail Re-route south of Baldwick Lane near Minesing Wetlands

A section of the Barrie main trail near the Minesing Wetlands runs across property owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). We have just finished working with NCC representatives to reroute our trail on their property to avoid foot traffic on some ecologically sensitive areas and also to avoid some areas where the invasive garlic mustard has been found. If you are hiking southbound from Baldwick Lane the trail changes when you come to the first stile. Previously you would have gone right (west) across the open field but now you veer slightly left. The new trail is actually quite nice, going through cedar forest, over some small streams, and along a ridge providing great views of the open fields looking towards Minesing Wetlands. The new trail is fully blazed and ready to use. It is very important to stay on the trail through this section as garlic mustard can be found close to the trail and it is important not to spread it by carrying seeds on your boots. Both Ondago and our website downloadable maps will be updated in the near future.

2022.11.29 – New Side-trails on Barrie Section

On June 6 of this year we announced changes to the Barrie main trail between the parking lot on Gill Road and the Midhurst Community Centre. Due to a new landowner request we had to move a portion of this trail onto Gill Road. There are now two new side trails to recapture some of the best features of the trail section that had to be moved. From the Gill Road parking lot, the Bear’s Creek side trail provides a 3.6 km loop that goes over a picturesque creek and runs along an interesting (and hilly) ridge beside the creek. In the middle of the forest the Heather Dalton Memorial side trail provides a 1.3 km loop (also with hills) that has multiple tree mounted memorial displays for a local person that loved to hike the trails in the area. Ondago has been updated and our website downloadable maps will be updated soon. Try them out.

Fall Hunting Season

Be Safe Be Seen: Hikers should be aware that hunting is taking place all year round, but is especially busy during the fall between early September and mid-December.  The exact dates vary across the Ganaraska Hiking Trail as it passes through different Wildlife Management Units.

To be safe, hikers should:

– Know when it is hunting season in the area you will be hiking in. Consult this website for exact information:

https://www.ontario.ca/document/ontario-hunting-regulations-summary

– Wear bright colours, preferably hunting orange

– Put bright colours on your pets and keep dogs on a leach

– Avoid hiking at dusk and dawn, i.e. typical times when hunters are in the forest

– Stay on established trails and avoid bushwhacking

– Make noise, so hunters know you are nearby

And finally, note that hunters and trail users both have the privilege to pursue their chosen outdoor recreation. Therefore, be courteous and respectful of all outdoor enthusiasts, hunters and non-hunters alike. Do your part to share the woods safely and respect each other and the land we share. 

More information is available on 

https://www.nvca.on.ca/Shared%20Documents/Be%20Seen%20Be%20Safe%20Pamphlet.pdf

Frieda Baldwin, President

2022.09.27 – Logging Operation Affecting Barrie Trail Now Complete & Trail Is Open

On 2022.07.23 we made the announcement posted below. As of today the Simcoe County Forestry map does not show any activity logging operation in this area. There will likely need to be some clean-up and re-blazing (to be done asap) but the trail is open – enjoy.

Previous Announcement: We have received notice from the Simcoe County Forestry organization that logging has started in the Orrock Creek South tract. This means that there is an unusable section of the Barrie trail between Old Second South and Gill Road, as shown in the attached map. Hiking in this area from either the Old Second South parking lot or the Gill Road parking lot would still be possible, but it would be necessary to turn back as soon as the logging operation signs are reached (do not hike in the signed area even if the logging operation isn’t active when you get there). The duration of the logging operation isn’t known, but a future posting will announce when the trail is fully open again.

2022.06.05 – Barrie Trail Change Notice

Effective immediately, a section of the Barrie trail running south from the Gill Road parking lot (KM 24.9 on the Ondago and Trail Guide maps for the Barrie Club) is no longer available. A private landowner has acquired property that had our trail running through it and has asked that we discontinue hiking on the property. The trail now runs south from the Gill Road parking lot on Gill Road for about 1.5 KM and then re-enters the forest. The new route is 0.3 km shorter than the previous trail (2.3 km versus 2.6 km).

The following map shows the change. Our Trail Guide and Ondago mobile app will be updated in the near future.