Having patterned my life to a large extent by the principle that “the yard work which surrounds you will still be there tomorrow” – the last of my weekend days off dawned sunny, warm and inviting. Not so much inviting in terms of there is wood and brush to cut and gardens to tend, but more of the “there must a trail or two in our neck of the woods to explore” kind of invitation!
Waking up as I usually do at 5:00 am(even on my days off – don’t ask), I was pleasantly surprised to find this on the kitchen counter.
I had a couple of ideas of equally great spots that we could head off to and explore.
Over the past couple of years, we have explored large sections of the Bruce Trail in the Beaver Valley and Grey County area but missed smaller parts along the way. My plan was to start to fill in some of those missing bits. I was thinking that we head on over to Metcalfe Rock in the Kolapore Uplands and hike east from that point. Getting to the Kolapore Uplands and Metcalfe Rock is about 1.5 hours or a bit less from our house.
My second and equally sweet option was to head up and hike the McCrae Like Trail in the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve, which is located about 30 minutes from our place in north Simcoe County.
As our dog, Katie is getting up there in years and not wanting to leave her for extended periods of time and seeing as we hadn’t lined up our favourite dog sitter for the day, we opted to for the McCrae Lake option which is more or less just up the road from us.
The McCrae Lake Trail is approximately 2.6 kilometres from the parking lot off the Highway 400 SB on-ramp to the cliffs referred to as the “Eagles Nest.” The trail continues further west towards Georgian Bay for about another 4 kilometres ending at the small waterfalls that separate McCrae Lake from Georgian Bay.
Arriving at the parking lot just after 10am, I was surprised that there would be that many cars parked on a Wednesday morning. Guess I’m not the only person with an “irregular weekend” schedule. From the few people, we did see, most if not all were portaging over to McDonald Lake and over the rapids to McCrae Lake for a bit of backcountry camping.
The start of the trail from the parking lot and Lynn with her gear and ready to go.
The trail heads up a slight incline at the beginning before levelling out for a bit. For the most part, the trail is well-marked with yellow blazes located on trees or painted on rock outcroppings. It descends into and crosses a small wet area before climbing a small hill on the other side. In just a few metres the trail intersects with a trunk snowmobile trail that traverses through this area. It’s more or less 500 metres from the parking lot the intersection with the snowmobile trail.
Looking left or south at the snowmobile trail intersection.Looking to the right or north at the same location. If you were to turn right here and follow the snowmobile trail, you would end up at the McCrae Lake Bridge and Rapids, a popular day hike destination.
Bridge and rapids from our adventure in the winter. Unfortunately, as with most outings, thoughtlessness and carelessness in terms of garbage is still the norm. Oh well, our family is now 10 cents richer. Hiking a bit further we came across this small pond adjacent to the trail. Although you could hear at times the heavy transport traffic zooming up and down Highway 400 located a kilometre or so in the distance, sitting there and completely letting your mind disconnect was exceedingly soothing. After all of my years’ teaching, I developed the ability to tune out the extraneous noise in the classroom and to only focus on those sounds that were important. That ability came in handy today.
A serene location for sure.
A few more pictures.
A short video clip from this location.
Although the black flies were certainly out in force, they weren’t biting. I’ve read from a variety of other posters and bloggers that at this point(May 15) the “little devils” are out but not really biting yet. However, rest assured black flies will eventually do what black flies do best……bite and be exceedingly bothersome. And if you’re lucky, it will all be just in time for the May long weekend!!
After a bit of a water break and Lynn taking a bunch of photo’s along the shore, we headed back along the trail towards Eagles Nest and the cliffs overlooking McCrae Lake. By this time we both had noticed it was getting considerably warmer than even we anticipated. I think the screen capture from my phone definitively answers that question.
After a few more steps along the trail, we came upon this lovely beaver pond, complete with a couple of engineering marvels.
It amazes me how solid and structurally sound beaver dams can be. This one was about 2.5 to 3 feet in height.
With the warm temperatures and the sun shining brilliantly in the noon sky, seems everyone was out basking in the warmth of the noontime rays.
One or two more pics that Lynn expertly and exquisitely captured that illustrate the beauty of the area,
Leaving the beaver pond, we continued on a short way to the cliffs overlooking the expanse of McCrae Lake.
As you can see the view from the top was worth the effort. Blue skies, sun and wispy clouds made for a pretty spectacular vantage point.
From what I’ve been able to read, this area is a great destination for rock climbing enthusiasts as evidenced by the bolts and anchors secured into the rock face.
And here as a top anchor.
A short video clip from around the top of the cliffs.
A required ‘selfie” from the top.
After spending 45 minutes to an hour at the top, we started to head back towards our car at the parking lot, following the trail along the same route we headed out on.
A few pictures of the return trip back to the parking area.
I mentioned to Lynn that this looked like some sort of prehistoric lizard or something. In actuality, it’s just the base and trunk of a fallen tree. Good thing though.
Trilliums were just starting to bloom.
I had carried a grocery bag back from the cliffs picking up bits of trash along the way. Lynn took the bag at the parking lot and within 30 seconds had it full. Good for her, but a still sad commentary nonetheless about “taking out what you bring in.” I guess there will always be those careless and irresponsible ones that see the wilderness as their personal dumping grounds.
Just after 4 hours from when we started out, we were back at our car. We totalled a distance of about 5 to 5.5 kilometres. Not lightning fast by any means, seeing as we stopped at every pond along the way and spent a good amount of time admiring the views from the cliffs.
I would highly recommend checking out the McCrae Lake Trail if you’re looking for a great day trip. Easy access off of Highway 400 and more than enough parking during the week. The parking area can get busy on the weekends with backcountry canoe trippers accessing McCrae Lake.
The section of the trail we covered out to the “Eagles Nest” area, I would consider easy to medium in terms of hiking difficulty. There were a few large trees that had fallen across the trail in several locations that required either going around or climbing over them. In addition, the trail crosses a number of small streams and low wet areas. Most have crude log bridge crossings, but none that posed any concerns or difficulty.
I think that we’ll head back in the next few weeks before we head out to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in June. Following the trail to its final destination at the rapids were McCrae Lake joins Georgian Bay would make for a fine adventure.
Thanks for reading.