By George Farrell
Published April 27 2017
The Rail Trail Rambles take place on Sundays in the spring along rail beds in the Highlands where locomotives once sped. What makes these rambles as opposed to hikes so appealing is that they’re 90 minute social events for people of all ages and dogs.
It’s very hard to talk to fellow hikers when you’re manoeuvring along an uphill trail in single file and you have to be careful where you place your feet. Not so on the flat rail trails where people can talk quite easily walking four abreast while setting their own pace. Another social aspect of the rambles are the lunches which range from brown-bagging it to stops at local or nearby restaurants.
These rambles which were started in 2009 by Pamela Marsales span the months from April 2 through May 28 and they are a delight for people of all ages who love nature. Spring flora such as mosses lichens cat-tails and numerous wild flowers can be seen and turtles tadpoles frogs toads beaver snakes numerous bird species and the occasional deer have also been observed. In addition to the wildlife several man-made historic structures relating to the railroad can be seen at various stops along each trail. These structures include rock culverts bridges and still-standing railway stations.
Four of the nine rambles have already been completed but here is a brief outline of the remaining Sunday rambles.
On April 30 it’s the Story of the old IB&O railway. The significance of the IB&O will be discussed and the walk will take place on a section of the Rail Trail spanning either side of Tory Hill. Wetlands cotton grass and tamarack fens are featured and basket weaver/naturalist Sheila Ziman will give a talk on what natural ingredients the area has to offer for the making of baskets. Lunch will be at Cheong’s Chinese Restaurant. “This particular ramble always feels more remote and mysterious than the others” Marsales says. People should meet at the Tory Hill crossroads park.
The May 7 ramble is titled History of Donald and it starts at the crossroads near The Little Tart bistro in Donald. This walk heads north from Donald and features wetlands a big rock face and beaver ponds. Lunch will be at McKeck’s in Haliburton.
The Wilderness Habitat Walk on May 14 starts at the Geeza Rd south of Gelert and heads south towards Kinmount. Expansive beaver ponds and marshes on either side of the trail are spanned by curving railway embankments. Lunch will be at the historic Dominion Hotel in Minden.
On May 21 it’s Howland Junction where ramblers will meet at the end of the road and will then be walking north over the refurbished trestle bridge which is about 25 metres high and 100 metres long and spans Kendrick’s Creek. Old stone abutments can also be seen. Lunch is a bring-your-own brown bag affair but sharing is always a possibility.
The last ramble is on May 28 and people are to meet at the Railway Station in Kinmount where they can see the model railroad the sawmill and discover the history of the area including the Icelandic settlement via a video in the sawmill and a kiosk outside it. It will be a brown bag lunch in the beautiful Austin Sawmill Heritage Park overlooking the Burnt River.
Marsales suggests people gather at the required starting points at 10:50 a.m. because all rambles start at 11 a.m. sharp. She also suggests that ramblers bring appropriate clothing and footwear as well as bug spray snacks and drinks dog leashes and cameras. The Rail Trail Rambles self-guided map is available at various locations around the county but for addition information call or text 705-457-4767 or visit www.friendsoftherailtrail.ca.