Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wistful and Wild Awenda Provincial Park

If you took exit 121 off of highway 400 and traveled west on the 93 past Midland and past Penatanguishine then followed the Ontario Provincial Park Signs, you would discover a gem of a park nestled on the peninsula. Awenda is 2,915 Ha of mostly hardwood forest edged with sand and rock beaches like the one depicted above.

Arriving during that cusp in spring, the hardwood forest floor is annoited with some of the showiest and biologically interesting plants in North America. My long standing favourite (being at heart an Ontarioite) are the Red and White Trilliums that scatter the forest floor with their tidy three petalled blooms, which have been in the works for 7 years. Another neat fact about Trilliums is that their seeds are dispersed by ants (Best of the Raven, Friends of Algonquin Park). They have "oily handles" that bribe the ants to carry the seeds back to their hills, where the handles are eaten and the seeds discarded. Red Trilliums are pollinated by carrion flies attracted to the flower by "its colour and carrion odor". (Forest Plants of Central Ontario)

After going hiking 2 days in a row without my handy-dandy, well abused copy of Forest Plants of Central Ontario, I was still able (with the help of the photo above) to identify a new-to-me plant - Round Lobed Hepatica (I'll have to check the photo again - it may be blunt lobed - "distinguished by its pointed lobes"- go figure). Dutchmen's Breeches (see photo above) wins the award for most entertainingly named plant.

As for the trail, it was easy going and free of roots and rocks. The trees were largely maple, oak and beech, standing like pillars amongst large glacial accidentals (big boulders left behind by the glaciers). The beaches were stunning. The sand is white and clean (and warm on a 24 C day) and the rocks in the water looked like crooked dinosaur teeth. There are 5 beaches, including one set aside for pets. Each was different, but the first and the last were the most photogenic.

You can see that they are continuing to upgrade the park. New bathrooms and changes houses mingled with older ones, while many facilities including an amphitheatre were clearly new. We didn't get a chance to visit the kettle lake or any of the campgrounds owing to the fact that the park isn't set to open until May 10th, 2005. I would love to go back there to camp in the fall. It sounds like they have quite a bit of camping and even showers.So, we thoroughly enjoyed our hike and took over 100 photos between us. I am suprised that I had never even heard of this park until I went looking for something to do near Barrie. Its not enormous, but it is pretty and quite different that many of the parks I've been to. I would definately recommend it if you wanted somewhere to hang out on the beach (not sure if it would make great swimming) and a few short trails. I imagine that it could get busy in the summer, we were lucky to have the place to ourselves.

I'll post a few more pictures from Awenda, and then continue my saga tommorrow.




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