While Larry & Curly are on vacation, Fenton & White have been doing small day trips with a rental car. Our first destination was the Secord Forest and Wildlife Area located near Uxbridge, Ontario just a short drive north of Toronto.
This conservation area is special to me. My great grandfather farmed the land, built a mill pond and opened a small sawmill here.
After the White family moved onward to Stouffville, the property was sold to Dr Alan Secord who was a famous veterinarian. Dr Secord built a small cottage and a house on the property. After Dr. Secord passed, his wife gave the land away to the province to create a conservation area to ensure that the property couldn’t be sold for redevelopment or profit. In later years the conservation area was expanded to include the Secord Tract and is blessed to have trails that take you through sections of the Oak Ridges Moraine.
If you are ambitious, you can follow the trails all the way over to Durham County. We chose a small 5 kilometre loop and then a side journey to see a rather special trail, but more on that later.
After walking a pleasant circle through the woods, we came to the barn that used to house the horses that pulled the trees into the saw mill and hauled the cut lumber up the road to market. It is uncertain how much of the structure is actually original, but inside there are still stalls for the horses.
It is not currently used, (well, I’m sure a few local teenagers sneak in there and party once in a while). The stalls are filled with piles of old wood and bits of old farm machinery.Outside the barn, the wildflowers have grown high, covering a few of the vintage farm vehicles and small tractors sitting outside the barn … likely for show.
We returned to the trail head, but this time, took a short walk to the left up an overgrown road to the pet cemetery. This is a rather strange experience. The animals buried here were so very clearly loved. Inscriptions show the names and ages of the dog or cat (we didn’t see signs of other animals buried there) and many of them seemed to have lived into their late teens (which of course would be much older in dog or cat years). The biggest of monuments is for a dog named Bambii, who’s marker is a stone column with a brass sculpture on top.
The cemetery hasn’t been maintained and is quite overgrown. Smaller stones in the ground have their names washed away, and the newer graves have miniature headstones, or small statues nearby. The wildness of the area seems to match a place where an animal would enjoy roaming around and exploring. It wasn’t a place filled with sadness, but it did seem like a place that time has somewhat forgotten.
At the end of our visit we went a short distance along the original trail, and cut up the White Family Side Trail. This small loop takes you to the top of a hill where the apples from former orchard trees are now outnumbered by the forest trees, but a few apples still litter the ground.
A wide range of mushrooms and fungi sprout in beautiful colours.
We found one puff ball mushroom that was over a foot in diameter. Apparently they are edible, but without more knowledge, I wouldn’t be easily tempted to try a forest mushroom.
There are parts of the property that are so densely forested that the light literally diminishes as it trickles towards the ground. It feels like someone has put a filter on the outside world, and looking into the gloom near the base of the trees, one can imagine that J.R.R. Tolkien must have seen something similar in England when he was writing of the Mirkwood Forest in The Hobbit.
As we looped back, we ran into the remains of the old sugar shack. Bricks indicate where the chamber would have been where the fire was built, and other pipes and pieces of metal trough show where the syrup would have been poured and boiled down. At least we think it was a sugar shack. Similar buildings have been know to house stills … but I don’t think the farm was known for its moonshine.
As the day drew to a close, we found our way to Stouffville and located the house my grandfather built. This was a place that I visited in my youth when we drove west from Calgary to visit the grandparents … usually in the summer, but on one rare occasion, we came out for Christmas (we flew). There was something comforting about seeing the house and knowing after all these years that it is still standing. Many of the other homes on the block have been knocked down with newer homes being built.
If you are ever in the Uxbridge area, and you are looking for a pleasant stroll through the forest … consider the Secord Forest & Wildlife Area. Until next time, wishing you happy travels on the trails … Fenton & White