Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 15, 2017
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Autumn Breeze

Follow the path of the wind in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park

A cool wind combs through the water, sending ripples to the shore. It rises against the hillside, pushes through the grass and rustles into nearby trees. This hillside is where I like to stand on a cool autumn day, to close my eyes and feel the wind's force against my body.

There is a special quality to the air during the fall. Not only does it carry brightly coloured leaves, but it has a crispness to it. It conveys a dual sense of departure and renewal.

On days like this I enjoy wandering with the wind. It's easy to follow its path in Forks of the Credit Provincial Park. The Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest marked hiking trail which runs for 800 kilometres along the Niagara Escarpment, leads through a cross-section of the park.

The park's rolling landscape and its kettle lake are reminders of a time when glaciers scoured the region. Cutting through the park is the East Credit River, which drops 68 metres as it runs from the north end of the park to meet up with the West Credit at the fork that gives the park its name. From this point it becomes the Credit River. This forked valley, carved into the escarpment, has a deep narrow gorge between Belfountain and Credit Forks.

Heavy tree cover along the Credit River helps it to maintain its status as one of the most important coldwater fish spawning areas in the region. The north-facing valley slopes are part of a 40-square-kilometre area that provides habitat for a diverse group of species. Sixty-six species of breeding birds have been recorded here, including the rare Cerulean Warbler. Ten species of amphibians and reptiles are in the vicinity, including the Pickerel Frog and Jefferson Salamander. The Credit Forks is a provincial ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest) and includes plants such as Hart's tongue fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). A walk in the woods

From the parking lot, follow the meadow side trail through a prairie habitat and past the kettle lake. Walk past farmland ruins and an abandoned apple orchard and turn right onto the main trail. When it reaches the Bluff Side trail, follow this pathway to the falls.

Along the bridge towards the falls, you'll see a calm flow of water to your left, while to your right, it plunges down the drop. At the falls, two geological time periods make contact as the grey sandstone of the whirlpool formation meets the red shale of the older, underlying queenstone formation.

If you want to reach the Credit Fork, continue on the main trail at the Bluff Trail intersection and walk through the river gorge until you reach the Forks of the Credit Road. This trail portion follows an old road allowance. You can take the Brimstone Side Trail back to the parking lot.

Alternatively, continue onto Belfountain Conservation Area via the Trimble Side Trail. It follows one of the old tramway lines used to transport rock from the valley to the Credit Valley Railway. From 1840 to 1870, geologists and entrepreneurs documented the potential commercial value of the brownstone found in Caledon along the Niagara Escarpment, by 1879 this stone was being quarried and used to construct Ontario's legislative buildings at Queen's Park. The Trimble Trail passes over the Crow's Nest quarry, eventually leaving the old tramway lines to continue on the original Belfountain line that went to the Forks of the Credit. This heritage road was once used by locals in horse and buggy. The beautiful spring

Belfountain was first settled in 1825, when the village was known as Tubtown because of a large tub in the town centre that was used by a blacksmith to cool forged hot metal. Its more recent name, Belfountain, is derived from the French belle (beautiful) and fontaine (spring), noting the clear spring water that seeps out into the West Credit River.

Follow the West Credit River into the Belfountain Conservation Area, which was once owned by Charles W. Mack, a philanthropist who invented the cushion-back rubber stamp. This area was his summer retreat and stone stairs can still be seen leading up to where his house once stood. On his property, Mack built lookouts and displays: he thought the dam resembled a miniature Niagara Falls and the caves reminded him of Yellowstone.

Within the conservation area there is a 12-kilometre circular route along Shaws Creek Road and the Elora-Cataract Trailway. You can walk a number of network trails within the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park (Dominion Road Trail, Ruins Trail, Bluff Trail and Meadow Trail). It's also a regular hub for a number of long distance trails that link with the Bruce Trail: the Elora Cataract Trailway, the Grand Valley Trail and the Trans-Canada Trail.

As you roam, don't forget to follow the autumn breeze. It's in the forest that the wind delivers an array of sensations: the musty scents that rise from decaying leaves, the cool air that rests in the valley. You can also follow the wind for the sounds it carries: the rustle of leaves as they rise with a gust and scatter at your feet, the chatter of squirrels collecting their caches and the yearning calls from geese flying overhead. When returning to the car, make sure you stop by the bench near the lake. Close your eyes and face the wind. Feel autumn.

 

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