Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bruce Delivers an Orchasm

And it came to pass at last that the wayfarers emerged from the cold wet dark insect-plagued wilderness and entered a land of light and beneficence. They rejoiced and offered gratitude to the cosmos.

Your dutiful correspondents fled Northern Ontario at Espanola, traveling by ferry to the Bruce Peninsula. During the crossing of Georgian Bay we learned that the Bruce is paradise for those who love the wild orchid. Some 44 species flourish among the limestone-rich habitats of the peninsula. That was good enough for us.

We camped in Bruce Peninsula National Park. Yellow ladyslippers ran riot everywhere. Everyone said take the trail to The Grotto. We did, and were gratified as promised. We sought local intelligence and succeeded in finding one of the most beautiful of all orchids, the Calypso, including a rare albino individual. Acting another hot tip we carried on to Dorcas Bay and found our main quarry, the complex and subtly exquisite Ram’s Head Ladyslipper, a long-desired lifer for both of us.

Already spoiled rotten we were given more. A fellow wildflower nut steered us to the Bruce Alvar, an Ontario Federation of Naturalists site, just one of 16 places in the whole world to find Lakeside Daisy. We found and photographed this rarity then reaped one final floral reward, the rare, diminutive Dwarf Lake Iris.

The Bruce delivered a memorable day, one of our best ever in the truck and camper, but we tore ourselves away to revisit another southwestern Ontario jewel, Pinery Provincial Park. We were smitten with Pinery the first time we saw it and liked the encore every bit as much. Less than one tenth of one per cent of North America’s once-enormous oak savanna habitat survives. Pinery preserves the largest of three remnant patches.

We spent pretty much all of Saturday outdoors, tramping five of Pinery’s fine trails, revelled in the dunes, oaks and pines, and boosted our trip bird list to 158, adding several special birds including eastern bluebird, hooded warbler, red-headed woodpecker and whippoorwill.

Two fabulous days in a row. The rain and blackflies of the north are a fading memory.


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