THE OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF THE FRIENDS OF FRONTENAC PARK
Spring/Summer 2010 Number 57


Tetsmine Winter Scene

Beautiful Clearwater Lake on the Tetsmine Loop Trail - Photo Stefan Szrajer

Beautiful Clearwater Lake on the Tetsmine Loop Trail
Photo Stefan Szrajer

 

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Membership Renewal

By John Critchley

To all of you who have sent in your membership renewal, thank you; you may ignore the rest of this message.

If your membership expires this year, then you should have received a personalised Membership Renewal Form in the Winter Newsletter. For those who may have misplaced this form, I have enclosed a personalised Membership Renewal Form Reminder in this newsletter. Please RETURN THE RENEWAL FORM along with your cheque today.

The Renewal Forms serve as backup hard copy for the membership database and provides an accounting audit trail, so it is important that you return the form with your cheque.

Any questions about membership?  Contact John Critchley, Membership Secretary at 613-634-5475 or email at sharjohn.critchley@sympatico.ca

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President's Message

The President Herb Helmstaedt carrying a load of wood. (Photo: Jerome McDuff)Wiarton Willie saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, but winter returning to the Park after the enormous January thaw did not bring enough snow for good cross-country skiing or the building of snow shelters.  However, the weather was crisp and clear, and our winter camping weekends were as successful as ever. Unfortunately, there was again more ice than snow in mid-February, so that our snowshoe workshop was a flop for the second year in a row. We may have to think about scheduling it earlier in February next year.

Our well-attended winter lecture was presented by Dr. John Donaldson, who after retiring from a successful career as a neuroscientist spent five summers in the 1990’s retracing the canoe voyages of Alexander Mackenzie, his boyhood hero. Travelling alone and gaining experience along the way, he spent three summers (1990-1992) to travel the fur trade route from Montreal to Fort Smith. Along the way he endured countless portages and crossed numerous lakes, including Lakes Huron, Superior, Winnipeg and Athabasca. In 1993, he made his way from Fort Smith across the Great Divide to Bella Coola to reach the Pacific Ocean on July 22, two hundred years to the day after MacKenzie. Later, in the summer of 1997, he returned to Fort Smith to follow Mackenzie’s 1789 voyage to the Arctic Ocean, paddling down the Slave River, through Great Slave Lake, and down the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk. John’s recounting of some of his adventures along the way, his thoughtful observations about first-nation and environmental issues, and his many historical comments stimulated much interest and made for a lively question and answer period. For those who missed the talk, a detailed account of his momentous trip can be found in his book ‘A Canoe Quest in the wake of Canada’s “Prince of Explorers” – One Day at a Time’.

In the meantime, your Board of Directors, in discussion with the Park has decided on two major construction projects for 2010. The Moulton Gorge bridge project, which had been on the backburner last season, has now become a priority as the result of a beaver dam washout upstream (see separate report in this issue). Much of the building material (provided by the Park) is already in place, and we are planning to contract the work out, hoping to attract at least some outside funding to help defraying the labor cost. The task of replacing the Kingsford Dam bridge is planned for our Spring work day (April 24). As usual, Bert will do the detailed design and supervise construction, and the Friends will do the work. We hope for a good turnout of volunteers. Among our other projects is the preparation of a new slide show about the Park for presentation to visitors in the Park Office. Simon Smith and Peter Dawson have taken on the task of coordinating this effort. If you have any suggestions or would like to contribute some of your favored slides, please contact them.

Please mark your calendars for Volunteer training day (March 27th) and the Spring trail sweep (April 17th) and check our OUTSIDE page for other upcoming events during the season. I would also like to remind you that Dora Hunter will continue leading our informal Natural History walks on the fourth Saturday of each month, leaving at 10: 00 a.m. from the Park Office.

Herb Helmstaedt

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2010 Board of Directors

The Friends of Frontenac Park is a non profit organization whose purpose is to develop programs and materials that enhance the public's awareness, education, and appreciation of the natural environment and human history of Frontenac Provincial Park.

President: Herb Helmstaedt
Vice-President:Simon Smith
Treasurer: Jim King
Secretary: David Crane
Membership: John Critchley
Publicity: Martha Whitehead
Frontenac Challenge: Anne Hogle
Trail Sweeps: Cathy Murray
Wilderness Skills: Don Stables
Newsletter: Stefan Szrajer

Committees

Natural History: Dora Hunter
Winter Camping: Don Stables
Winter Hosting: Cathy Murray
Frontenac Challenge: Anne Hogle, Rose Jones, Erhard Frenzl
Park Management Plan: Paul Vickers
Map Distribution: Cam Hodges
Newsletter Editor: Stefan Szrajer
Newsletter Publisher: Ron Abbott
Web Master: Jérôme McDuff

The Friends of Frontenac Park publishes the Frontenac News three times annually. Note that the views expressed in the Frontenac News are not necessarily those of the Friends of Frontenac or the editor. Some articles are published to give the viewpoint of an author and to incite discussions.

We welcome your articles, notes, stories, and photographs for the newsletter. Your ideas, suggestions, and constructive criticisms are always welcome. Material accepted is subject to editing and revision.

Next deadline for submission of material:

Monday 09-August-2010

Copy should be mailed to: Friends of Frontenac Park, c/o Stefan Szrajer, P.O. Box 2237, Kingston, Ont. K7L 5J9 or sent by e-mail to: szrajer@sympatico.ca

NOTE: You can visit us at: www.frontenacpark.ca

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Outside

Here is a list of upcoming activities that maybe of interest to you. Please participate and tell your friends about them The * denotes Friends' sponsored activities Do not forget that you will need to purchase a daily vehicle or camping permit to take part in most of these activities. Contact the Park (613 376 3489) for more information.

*Sept. 1 to Oct. 31: Frontenac Challenge The Frontenac Challenge involves hiking all 160 km of the Park’s trail network between September 1 and October 31. To meet the challenge, pick up a registration form and the specific trail information at the Trail Centre and then set out to hike through the autumn grandeur of Frontenac Park. Participants who complete the Challenge will receive a certificate at the Awards Banquet on Saturday November 7, at 10:30. So come out to Frontenac Park and take the Challenge!

*Monday, January 11: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 120 at 19:00

*Saturday, January 16: Winter Camping – Planning. This presentation by the Friends will cover all you need to give winter camping a try. Make sure you book one of the two weekends (see below) to camp with the instructors. Please come dressed for the weather and the trails. Time: 10:00 to 15:30 at the Park Office. To register, contact the Park Office at 376-3489.

*Saturday, January 23: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Jan 30-31: Winter Camping Weekend #1 (or Weekend #2 on February 6-7): Choose one of these two weekends to acquire and practice winter camping skills. Food will be provided. Prerequisite - “Winter Camping - Planning” given on January 16. Cost: $60.00 ea. plus interior camping fee; Time: 10:00 Saturday to 15:30 Sunday. To register contact the Park Office at 376-3489.

*February 6-7: Winter Camping Weekend #2. See Above.

*Monday, February 8: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm.120 at 19:00.

*Saturday, February 13: Snowshoe Workshop. This is a snowshoe day for people of all ages and all levels. Mr. Edward Grenda will conduct a workshop that will discuss various topics. A snowshoeing trip will then be held in the Park. Volunteers will serve hot chocolate in front of the fireplace in the Park Office. Please dress in layers for the weather, bring your snowshoe equipment, including a small backpack with water, a hot drink, and lunch. There will be a limited number of snowshoes available for rent. Please meet at the Park Office. Time: 10:30 to 15:30.

*Monday, February 22: Deadline for Submissions for the Spring/Summer Newsletter. We welcome your articles, letters, stories and photographs. Material should be sent to the Friends' address shown on the back page or e mailed to "szrajer@sympatico.ca". For electronic items, please send articles as Microsoft Word files with minimum formatting, and photographs as 180 dpi greyscale. If necessary/possible, please compress (zip) files before sending.

*Wednesday, February 24: Winter Lecture presented by John Donaldson: The Influence of Mackenzie’s “Voyages” on Napoleon’s Plan to Retake New France (Quebec). Please meet at the Wilson Room of the Kingston Public Library (Johnson Street) at 19:00. The presentation should conclude by 21:00. Please see inside this newsletter for details.

*Saturday, February 27: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Monday, March 8: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 120 at 19:00.

*Saturday, March 27: Volunteer/Guide/Host Training. Would you like to volunteer at the Park? Come to this training session offered by the Park staff and the Friends at the Park Office. Time: 09:00 to 15:00; Contact the Park (376 3489) for details.

*Saturday, March 27: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Wednesday, March 31: Your Friends Membership ends. We need your support, so please renew your membership for another year.

*Monday, April 12: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 120 at 19:00

*Saturday, April 17: Spring Guide Trail Sweep. The Volunteers/Guides will do general maintenance on the Park's trails to get them in top shape for our visitors. Meet at the Park Office at 08:30 to 16:00. Contact the Park (376 3489) for details.

*Sunday, April 18: Historical Walk. Join the Friends on this walk down memory lane and learn a bit about the human history of Frontenac Park. A short walk (approx. 7km) down Big Salmon Lake Road past some of the old family homesteads of the area’s early settlers. Meet at the Park Office at 10:30 and return at approx.16:00. Bring water, good walking shoes and lots of questions. Please register with the Park at 376-3489 and plan to go, rain or shine.

*Saturday, April 24: Spring Work Day. Come out and join with the Friends on a day dedicated to fixing up the Park in anticipation of the busy summer season. Meet at the Park Office at 08:45 to 16:00. Contact the Park at 376-3489 or visit our website (www.frontenacpark.ca) for further information.

*Saturday, April 24: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Monday, May 10: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 120 at 19:00

Saturday, May 15 & Sunday, May 16: Basic Wilderness First Aid. Presented by SOLO Canada / Mr. Mark Halladay of Emergency Services, Kingston. This course, designed by Dr. Frank Hubble of the North American Rescue Institute, takes you beyond standard first aid. Cost $170.00 (GST included) per person plus park fee. Time: 08:30 to 16:30; Contact the Park at 376-3489 for further details and to register.

*Saturday, May 22: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

Sunday, May 30: Instructors Re-certification Canoe Clinic Presented by Barry Irish of Paddles Away Adventures of Kingston, this clinic allows ORCKA instructors to re-certify, network and practice their skills. Cost is $50.00 (includes lunch) per person plus park fee. Time: 09:00 to 17:00. See Park Tabloid for more details.

Saturday, June 5 & Sunday June 6: Flatwater Tandem Canoe and/or Solo Canoeing Certification Course. Presented by Barry Irish, Paddle Away Adventures, Kingston. This course introduces the joys of canoeing to those with little or no experience. A prerequisite for all subsequent canoeing certification. Cost: $150.00 /person plus park fee. Time: 09:00 to 16:30 at the Park Office. See Park Tabloid for further details or call 376-3489.

*Saturday, June 12: Wilderness Navigation using Map and Compass. Come and learn how to interpret and read topographical maps and then find your way in the wilderness using a variety of techniques and equipment. Cost $20.00 per person (plus GST and Park fee). Time: 09:00 to 16:00. Meet at the Park Office.

Sunday, June 13 : Canoe Clinic. Presented by Cataraqui Canoe Club, Kingston, Ontario. An excellent opportunity for beginners/first time canoeists to upgrade their paddling strokes and practice canoeing skills. A limited number of canoes/paddles/PDF’s are supplied. Cost: $10.00 /person plus park fee. Time: 10:00 to 15:30 at the Park Office. See Park Tabloid for further details or call 376-3489.

*Monday, June 14: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 121 at 19:00

*Friday to Sunday, June 18 to 20: President's Paddle. This year's paddle will depart around noon on Friday from the Mitchell Creek bridge for campsite # 8 on Birch Lake. We are planning to camp for two nights and return after breakfast on Sunday. For those wanting to join on Saturday, please paddle in via Mitchell Creek, or walk in from Kingsford Dam on the Tetsmine Lake Loop. Contact the Park Office at 376-3489 for additional information.

*Saturday, June 26: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

Saturday, June 26: Kayak Basics – “Getting Started”. Presented by Christine Showler, Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre.Come out and discover the world of kayaking in this introductory ½ day course. Kayak and paddling gear will be provided. Register on-line at www.frontenac-outfitters.com or by calling 613-376-6220. Cost: $70.00 /person (plus tax & park fee). Time: 13:00 to 16:00. See Park Tabloid for further details.

Saturday, July 10: Fishing Demonstration & Workshop. Presented by Rick and Sally Blasko, Northern Country Outdoor World. Celebrate Ontario Free Fishing Weekend and learn about proper equipment, fish locating, filleting, and casting & retrieving techniques from a professional fishing guide. Practice yours skills afterwards on nearby Otter Lake. An Ontario Fishing Licence is not required for this workshop for Ontario residents. Cost $10.00 per person or $15.00 per family plus park fee. Time: 10:00 to 16:00. See Park Tabloid for further details.

Sunday, July 11: Flatwater Sea Kayaking Introduction Presented by Christine Showler, Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre. An introduction to the most commonly used techniques, theories, strokes, rescue & recovery skills. Register on-line at www.frontenac-outfitters.com or by calling 613-376-6220. Cost: $170.00 /person (plus tax & park fee). Time: 08:30 to 16:30 at the Park Office. See Park Tabloid for further details.

*Saturday, July 24: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Monday, August 09: Deadline for Autumn Newsletter. We welcome your articles, letters, stories and photographs. Material should be sent to The Friends address shown on the back page or e-mailed to: szrajer@sympatico.ca For electronic items, please sent articles as Microsoft Word files with a minimum of formatting, and photographs as 180 dpi greyscale.

*Saturday, August 28: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Sept. 1 to Oct. 31: Frontenac Challenge The Frontenac Challenge involves hiking all 160 km of the Park’s trail network between September 1 and October 31. To meet the challenge, pick up a registration form and the specific trail information at the Park Office and then set out to hike through the autumn grandeur of Frontenac Park. Participants who complete the Challenge will receive a certificate at the Awards Banquet on Sunday November 7, at 10:30. So come out to Frontenac Park and take the Challenge !

*Saturday Sept. 4 : Bring a Friend to the Park Day. This is an informal event for members of the Friends of Frontenac to introduce some new people to the Park. Invite some of your friends, young or old, who have never been to the Park and take them on a hike or canoe ride to show them Kingston's best kept secret. Let them enjoy nature and tell them about the Frontenac Challenge and the many other events put on by our organization.
Contact the Park (376 3489) for details.

*Monday, September 13: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 121 at 19:00

*Sunday, September 18: Wilderness Navigation using Map and Compass. Come and learn how to interpret and read topographical maps and then find your way in the wilderness using a variety of techniques and equipment. Cost $20.00 per person (plus GST and Park fee). Time: 09:00 to 16:00. Meet at the Park Office.

*Saturday, September 25: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

Saturday September 25: GPS Navigation Workshop. Presented by Christine Showler, Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre.
A workshop designed to show you how to operate a GPS to report a location such as an accident, rescue location or a missing person. GPS units provided on loan. Cost: $65.00 /person( plus tax & park fee). Time: 09:00 to 16:00. See Park Tabloid for further details.

*Saturday October 2: Fall Work Day. Come out and join with the Friends on a day dedicated to fixing up the Park after a busy summer of use. Meet at the Park Office at 08:45 to 16:00. Contact the Park at 376-3489 or visit our website (www.frontenacpark.ca) for further information.

*Saturday, October 16: Fall Guide Trail Sweep. The Volunteers/Guides will do general maintenance on the Park's trails to get them in top shape for our visitors. Meet at the Park Office at 08:30 to 16:00; Contact the Park (376 3489) for details.

*Monday, October 18: Friends Board Meeting. Location LCVI, Rm. 121 at 19:00

*Saturday, October 23: Natural History Walk with Dora Hunter. Meet at the Park Office at 10:00.

*Sunday, November 7: Frontenac Challenge Awards Barbecue. Registered participants will receive a certificate of achievement, share stories and chow down on hot dogs, including vegetarian fare, cooked by the Friends. Donations will be gratefully received. Meet at the Park Office at 10:30.

*Sunday, November 7: Annual General Meeting All members are invited to attend the Friends’ AGM to start at 12:30 at the Park Office. The minutes of the last AGM will be posted at 12:00. Why not come early and join us for the Challenge BBQ? This will give you an opportunity to meet the Challenge participants.

*Wednesday, December 1: Deadline for Winter Newsletter We welcome your articles, letters, stories and photographs. Material should be sent to The Friends address shown on the back page or e-mailed to: szrajer@sympatico.ca. For electronic items, please sent articles as Microsoft Word files with a minimum of formatting, and photographs as 180 dpi greyscale.

*Monday, December 6: Friends Board Meeting Location LCVI, Rm 121 at 19:00.

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Volunteering in the Park

By Herb Helmstaedt

Although there is an excellent section on volunteering on the website of the Friends of Frontenac, we have many inquiries about volunteering in the Park. The most common questions are:

  1. What do volunteers do?
  2. What does the volunteer training involve, and do we have to take it?
  3. Are volunteers required to be members of the Friends of Frontenac?

A brief answer to each of these questions is provided below (please approach the Park staff for additional information):

Volunteers clearing the trail- Photo Jérôme McDuff1) Our most common outdoor volunteer activities involve the maintenance of trails, beginning with our scheduled annual trail sweeps on which we check the conditions of trails and portages, remove minor blockages from the trails, report major problems (damaged bridges, large fallen trees, etc.) to the Park, check and clean campsites, remove litter and check and maintain trail markers. These volunteer activities, however, are not confined to the scheduled sweeps, but can be undertaken year around. Volunteers on the trails may also be involved in public relations, such as providing information to visitors, answering questions and advising about Park rules. They will also note and report complaints or difficulties. Indoor volunteer activities most commonly involve hosting at the Park Office which is essential during the winter months to keep the Park Office open on weekends. The volunteer hosts help to introduce visitors to the Park, answer questions, advise on interior travel options, and offer hot chocolate. Volunteers are also essential for helping to conduct the affairs of the Friends, such as serving on the Board of Directors and assisting with publicity, newsletter publication, presentations, fund-raising, guidebook research and development and attending Parks booths and displays.

2) A volunteer training session is offered by Park staff and Friends each spring (see Outside page of this newsletter). The training provides instruction on essential information about the Park, its history, natural history, services and regulations, plus guidance on public relations and Park services. It also explains the requirements for proper trail maintenance and safety. Ontario Parks requires that all new volunteers attend such a session and that all existing volunteers partake in such training every second year.

3) The Friends of Frontenac is a volunteer organization, but Park volunteers do not have to be members of the Friends. Park volunteers who are not members are nevertheless required to attend the training sessions mandated by Ontario Parks.

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The Unsung Heroes

by Bert Korporaal, Assistant Park Superintendent

This goes out to all those unsung heroes of our Park.

The people behind the scenes. Those dedicated, like-minded, forward thinking people. The individuals who give from the heart and soul, for the good of the Park, the good of the environment. To those groups of individuals and associations who do the logistics to make things happen. The ones who give freely of themselves for the love of it. The volunteers, the hosts, the directors, the committee members, the individuals who are professionals in their own right, the trail guides and trail ambassadors, the volunteer workers who assist -with their labour, sweat, blood, and occasional cuss word, and the obvious words of wisdom and humour -to maintain trails, portages, campsites, signs, footbridges and walkways.

To those volunteers who have swatted enough black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies and moose flies to fill a sleeping bag.

For those of you who have helped with research, documentation of historical sites and species at risk sites, those who led hikes and informative walks, assisted in many ways with teaching and training new recruits and volunteers and students. For those who have shared their knowledge and expertise and given freely, for the joy of passing on information, knowledge, lessons learned and mistakes made… to the public and to others.
For putting your words and thoughts to paper, in images, in text, in audio visual media, things such as the Friends Newsletter, the Friends page in the park tabloid, the lesson plans of various Wilderness Skills Programs, in trail guides and the interior map; but most of all, in your own words, when you talk to park patrons in the Park Office or in the field, with emphasis in your love and devotion to this park.

Just think of the memories you have made!
We …Thank You, for Making a Difference!!!!

P.S. Don’t forget to attend the Volunteer Training Day on March 27th. Check out the Outside section of this Newsletter for details.

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Unleashed Dogs in the Park – No Problem?

By Dora Hunter

Hiking happily down the trail, one is suddenly brought up short by the sound of growls and crashing in the undergrowth by the trail, and then is transfixed by the appearance of a large black animal. A bear?! No, just a feisty black Alsatian bent on claiming the trail for an, as yet, unseen owner. When the master appears, a reminder that dogs must be leashed in the Park, brings down a tirade from the owner, accusing one of being officious, spoiling his day in the Park, and exaggerating the impact his dog has just had on one’s day. So goes the perennial problem of unleashed dogs in the Park! There are several points to be made in support of the regulation found in all provincial parks that requires dogs to be leashed and under control at all times.

It is the mandate of the park to protect the wildlife and the environment found within the Park. The impact on wildlife of a dog running loose is frequently underestimated by dog owners. It is easy to assume that a deer will safely outrun a pursuing dog, and that no particular harm will be done to the deer. In fact, fawns, young and older deer may be overtaken and not fare well in such an encounter. Every pursuit causes some degree of distress to the deer. The number of fawns a doe will produce and successfully raise each year varies directly with her health, with her ability to conserve fat and energy through the winter, to browse peacefully during the summer to produce milk for her fawns, and to store reserves for the coming winter and breeding season. Only strong, well-nourished fawns are likely to survive their first winter. Pregnant deer under stress frequently abort a fetus, or, not obvious to most, reabsorb a fetus. After the rutting season, bucks go into the winter with fat reserves severely depleted. Stressed animals of all species are more vulnerable to food shortages, predators and severe weather. Nesting birds, amphibians and reptiles have a narrow window in which to mate, produce and raise off-spring each year. Ground nesting birds and their young are particularly at risk when dogs roam freely. For all animals in the park survival is enhanced by avoiding encounters with marauding dogs.

What about the dogs themselves? It is inherent for all dogs, including lap dogs and dogs raised indoors, to chase and run. It is an unusually well disciplined dog that can resist a good chase. Park staff can relate tales of chases that have resulted in dogs getting beyond the range of their masters’ calls and thus lost with little hope of survival, of bear chases that resulted in the angry bear turning and chasing the dog back to its alarmed owners or campsite, and of dogs with faces full of porcupine quills. Encounters with larger animals such as deer or coyotes could result in serious injury or death for the dog. Out of sight dogs could easily be ingesting a diseased or parasite-ridden carcass. In more than one encounter, I have watched owners, who claimed to have their unleashed pet under control, struggle to have their dog return obediently to heel.

I have a dog, and treasure the days when my activities in the Park make it appropriate for him to be a hiking companion. I find that hiking with a dog on a leash is not difficult, and given the afore-mentioned concerns, is less stressful. The Park is here for the peaceful and healthful enjoyment of all persons. Please, when you consider hiking with your dog off the leash, give some thought to the comfort of other hikers, the welfare of wildlife and the safety of your dog. If you are determined to hike with your dog unleashed, be prepared to endure justifiable censure by other hikers and to pay the significant fine if you encounter Park staff during your visit. For a summary of Pet Rules while in a Provincial Park, see pages 5 and 9 of the 2010 Park tabloid.

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Winter Camping Weekend a Success

Getting there, pulling toboggans - Photo UnknownOnce again, an enthusiastic group of campers participated in this years Winter Camping program. A total of twenty three participants were present for the Trip Planning course on January 16th, with twenty people showing up for the two camping weekends in late January and early February.


Snow house construction was not possible due to light snow cover, so tents were used for accommodation. Participants came well equipped with warm clothing and winter sleeping bags for temperatures that approached –20 C overnight. Despite the chilly environment, the weekends were enjoyed by young and old alike.

Setting up camp - Photo Unknown

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Moulton Gorge Bridge Update

The light snow amounts experienced this winter have made it possible to hiking some trails whose lengths would have otherwise discouraged some. Unfortunately, any keen hikers who had made plans to complete the Tetsmine Lake Loop these past few months were no doubt disappointed to find that a key bridge was unusable.

This was due to the bursting of a large beaver dam upstream of the bridge.

Busted beaver Dam - Photo Stefan Szrajer

The huge amount of released water completely displaced one of the bridge’s cribs, thus pulling one end of the bridge away from the shoreline. A second dam and accompanying bridge upstream were also damaged to some extent. When one sees the size of the now dry area, which previously had held a substantial amount of water, it is a wonder that anything remains of the bridge at all.

Broken Bridge at Moulton Gorge - Photo Stefan Szrajer

Park staff, with the help of volunteers, will be working hard this spring to restore this damaged connection, so that once again hikers will be able to fully enjoy one of the Park’s trademark trails. There is already evidence that local Castor canadensis have begun work to repair the dam.

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A Tio Wulf Ramble

I think the world we live in is so much about us that we think of the wild creatures as completely separate beasts who live in a strange, bug-infested, uncomfortable world and who are oblivious to our activities and feelings. Aliens in our world of human history.

White Tail Deer - photo: Larry Gibbons)Now, I have some great Frontenac Provincial Park deer photographs, and that’s because some of these critters will stand still. So, when they do, I’ll snap, snap, snap while their ears poke the air like antennae and their heads dart, sway, and pitch about as they try to observe and understand my bizarre behaviour, figure out how fast my lens is, and make sense of my weird hiking costume. Their curiosity appearing to win out over their desire to be alone or to flee to safety.

One fellow I met on a park trail said, “It’s so funny seeing the deer standing there thinking we can’t see them.”

I’m thinking, “Maybe they’re standing there thinking it’s so funny that we’re standing here, thinking they can’t see us”.

One of my wild theories is that they’re holding their ground because they can make judgements about trust and danger. So if they make a decision that a person can be trusted then they just let their curiosity rule the encounter.

But what about those animals who appear to be way down in the intellectual food chain, and don’t look anything like us? They can show some curious, discerning and sometimes cagey behaviour too.

Sue has a special love for snakes and has been able to put feet to her love by carefully cutting a few of these reptiles out of their entanglements with wire, mesh, and fishing line. Occasionally she has had to hurt them while she was helping them. However, they seem to know she is trying to release them and so they don’t attempt to bite her.

Anyway, there are, to the chagrin of our guests, plenty of water snakes around our dock. The snakes like to sunbathe on the warm wood.
I was sitting on the dock one day and was intrigued to watch a water snake suddenly leave its sunning bed and slip into the water. He swam with a purpose, as I imagine most snakes do; I just don’t know what most of their purposes are. However I soon learned what this snake was about. He was about swimming to the other side of the dock, where he would be safely in the water but closer to me. He wanted to observe this fella who had taken up residence on the warm wooden dock. Sue and the snake apparently had some sort of friendly relationship; but I was the new boy in town and he was curious. So he eyed me and made me feel like a lad packed in Sunday clothes, sitting in his girlfriend’s parents’ living room while they checked him out for his matrimonial fitness.

I also felt connected to the world of this snake and blessed that he would be interested enough in me to disrupt his routine so as to check me out. If nothing else, he was being curious.

We feed lots of chickadees in the winter. They flitter to and from the bird feeder sounding like poplar leaves blowing in the wind. They are fairly bold little critters too. However, it did surprise me the first time it happened, to find a chickadee pecking at our window. Apparently the feeder was empty and we knew darn well what this envoy for the chickadee world was saying. “Chow time and where the heck are you guys? Get up!” That’s what it looked like to me, and it amazed me that these tiny birds with brains the size of peas knew enough to peck at the window. Again, it was the sense that they are as aware of the world as we are, and probably more aware of us then we are of them. So these wee birds could take action and make their demands known when necessary, and without saying a word. We were on their radar screen too.

European Hornet photoThere is this big hornet that flies and drones around our cabin in the summer. I’m not positive what they call this hornet but she is big. Nearly an inch and a quarter long so there is a good chance that she is called a European Hornet. Her scientific, hard-to-remember-name is Vespa Crabo, but you can call her Betty. Unless she is a he, in which case Joe the Hornet would be fine.

I always find hornets a little nerve wracking and if I’m stressed, even scary. I’ve been stung. It hurts.

This insect is the mother of all hornets and the only reason that I’m calm around her is that she seems to be flying around me as if she only wants to check me out. Like she’s curious. She doesn’t seem aggressive or hostile. I do think from time to time she might like to swap something for what I’m drinking or eating but she is a perfect hornet. She’s civil about it and follows good commercial etiquette. However her deep buzzing sure does get my attention.

There are, around our cabin, some solar lamps. The kind you put outside, and at night they turn on because during the day they’ve stored up lots of the good sunny vitamin D and energy- unless they’re suffocated by weeds and small trees. Which some of mine are , so I decided I would install one on the woodshed wall. It was only a few minutes after I’d finished hanging the solar light that my buddy, Betty the Hornet, was buzzing around the lamp, checking it out. And again I felt blessed because this bug, who is smaller than a chickadee - but not by much - was checking out my handiwork. Which, by the way, gradually sagged down the woodshed wall over the next few days, and finally slipped off and plunged to the ground. And I think- but maybe I’m just being anthropomorphic about the whole thing- that I heard Betty’s deep drone break up a tad and sound a tiny bit snickery and tsk tsky as she examined my handiwork. Probably not, but it amazed me to see the hornet flying over and investigating my solar light job.

A bug who would be curious and want to check out my projects. It is hard to mesh with what we have been taught in schools and churches, about how bugs and all critters exist for our benefit, to be categorized, profiteered on, studied, dissected, sprayed, stepped on, petted, shot or eaten.
Every year Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visit our little feeding station. A nice glass container that we fill with sugar water. I’ve read that hummingbirds usually migrate back to the same place, and even to the same feeder every year.

I find hummingbirds interesting, colourful, and super charged. I love to listen to the drone of their wings as they hover in the air like dragonflies. Because they move so fast and they are so minuscule, I don’t see them very often. Of course I have my routines and my chores to do and it’s usually only when I’m sitting in a chair outside and trying to be observant that I see just what these little munchkins are up to. And it’s a lot.

They play tag, chirp, dive bomb, squabble, and dip their long sharp bills into our red geraniums or pink asters as they suck back the cold ones. The point is they are wee little fellas. Smaller than chickadees and not much bigger than Betty the Vespa Crabo, so I kind of think that they don’t have enough intellectual filing space to produce too many emotions or have the wherewithal to actually take note of what we humans are doing. I figure they have enough to do in their lives making up their own history.

One day I was sitting outside in the sun, half-staring at a Frontenac Park island when I was inspired to try and make a hummingbird call. I failed, but it was weird enough to bring me to the little bird’s attention and he darted over to check me out. And here again I was impressed, and felt less lonely in this huge universe just because I was able to get these little fellas to recognize me. They were, in a sense, involving me in their social life for a brief instant.

A month or more later, it was fall. I felt sad that lots of creatures would soon be leaving us before winter struck. I knew that the little hummingbirds would be flying south very soon.

It was a warm autumn day, and I was sitting on a chair down by the boathouse, which is at the bottom of a hundred and twenty-foot cliff and not really in the vicinity of the hummingbirds. I wasn’t even sure the hummingbirds were still around when suddenly out of the sky came a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. She came at me like a lightning bolt, hit me in the arm, and then poof, she was gone.

I think she was saying, “Cheerio, my friend. I’m leaving now. It was nice to be able to spend some of my life with you. Keep working on your hummingbird call and I’ll see you next year.”

And the two of them were gone for the winter. We didn’t see them again. Hopefully next summer we will.

This tiny encounter was very touching, though some would say it was just coincidence. I don’t think so.

Samuel Johnson wrote, “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect...”

If that’s the case, then surely the wee ones and the big ones are quite capable of feeling and showing emotions like hospitality, friendship, compassion, empathy, humour and playfulness, to say nothing of holding opinions on my mechanical prowess and pathetic hummingbird call.

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Discounts

Members in good standing of the Friends can enjoy a discount of 10% off regular price merchandise (except canoes, kayaks and MEC price-matched items) at The Peak Experience. The Peak Experience is Kingston's only locally owned outdoor store and is located at 795 Gardiners Road at Taylor Kidd. Present your Friends membsership card with photo identification at your next visit to the Peak Experience.

Your membership with the Friends also entitles you to a 15% discount at Novel Idea, a Kingston owned bookstore located at 156 Princess Street.

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