By Mike Sewell — Here we are, just two weeks removed from this season’s first big blast of winter that dumped 40-50cm of snow on Lennox and Addington County over a twelve-hour period. Add to this another 10-15 cm of the highly-anticipated white stuff and we now have a wonderland in our own backyard…
Depending of course on how you feel about snow.
Personally, I like winter the way fallen snow naturally rounds out the ridged landscapes, creating muffled shapes and obscure angles. It has me process with childlike fantasy as though I was living next to Mount Crumpit or in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I like the crunching sounds beneath my boots, the swish of a well-placed carve and the odd silence I hear when snow falls past my street lights at dusk.
I am a winter person by choice, however I recognize there are people who may not share my whimsey for the season. For some, winter can be the dreaded ‘shovel season’ where adults begrudgingly brace themselves to battle their driveways, fighting on with only an aluminum plastic ally and a good deal of disdain for the long winter roar. But alas, that may be another blog for another day.
That said, assume the snow shovels are down, the accumulations are cleared, and the sunny afternoons are tempting you to get outside to enjoy a pleasant non-work related day in the snow. Whether walking, snowshoeing or skiing, the best way to enjoy the amazing conditions we have currently is to prepare yourself and your gear for whatever fun snow activity you might choose. Proper fitting gear and a layered approach to clothing ensures comfort on the trail as does visiting a destination that offers a variety of conditions and realistic outcomes for all level of personal enjoyment.
Here in Lennox and Addington we are fortunate to have several destinations that are very reachable and, more importantly, do-able for all ages and all abilities. Last week my wife, a group of friends and I decided to take the fifty-minute drive north from Napanee up Highway 41 to Flinton to take in a day of the winter’s best. The County Forest Trails in Flinton offer a wintery mix of ungroomed trails, packed powder and off “piste” vistas that are sure to satisfy all levels of day-trippers and winter enthusiasts.
When we arrived in Flinton, there is a road sign that directs us to the trailhead for “The Pines Loop.” The sign displays an embossed trail map, indicating by colour each trail and the distance of each. In total, there is 10 kilometers of defined trail. Parking is available by the outdoor rink and for those inclined, bring your skates and go for a glide, the ice is almost always clear and it too is free of charge.
At this time of year, I prefer to snowshoe the Forest Trails because I like to start out on the tracked main Pines Loop Trail and can easily jump off piste into the woods to explore deeper fresh powder and the pristine backcountry.
Download a printable a trail map and follow along with us as we journey through the forest.
Starting from the Trailhead signs our group went south on the Pines Loop but quickly made a right turn to the west and headed over to Little Rock breaking trail in knee high drifts down the Rock Bottom, over the Ridgeline before coming to a brief rest at the Fraggle Rock. In terms of difficulty there is a little elevation change no more than 15m over a 200m stretch to the highest peak. From the top of the Fraggled rock pile you can get a full view of the gnarly imperfections in the old growth hemlocks and granite outcroppings that randomly spider their way through the snow and limbs below.
From the Fraggle we turned east and single track towards the “main drag” via the Emerald City system, twisting our way along a quiet through a spiny grove of Spruce, Pine and Hemlock which in spring is spectacularly green and lush with a mossy forest floor and roiling Irish mist.
Back to the main trails, we joined the Southern Dip and slowly pushed through a snowy thicket of yielding prickly ash and dogwoods. We tramped out a recognizable pattern others will be certain to follow. The Dip leads us back to the south western edge of the Pines Loop which ultimately circumnavigates the entire property, making the trek distinguishable and the trailhead always within reach.
This section of the Pines Loop borders a neighbouring property that is lined with youthful pines and a handful of stubborn oak and maple trees. Once again, we opt for a turn into the woods and shred our way through a thick white blanket of fluffy powder taking the yellow portion of the Up and Down trail.
We headed into the centre section of the forest on route to Criss Cross Junction and the most technical parts of the network, Lost Loop and Found Again. In here you can expect some quick up and overs around downed hemlocks, standing oaks, elms and glacier-carved rock landings that form two loops which, despite the names, are mostly easy to follow. Remember the Pines Loop is never more than a few hundred metres away so you can’t really get lost.
After catching our breath at the base of Lost Loop, we decided it was time for lunch so we headed back to the vehicles for a packed lunch. We took a quick left on Hard Case and meandered our way through a managed but wavy section of tall pines leading to the Trailhead.
After stopping for our tailgate lunch we realized that the flurries, barely noticeable in the woods, had become a steady snowfall. With accumulation beginning to mount, and after almost to 2 hours already spent in the woods, we decided to call it a day.
The round trip to Flinton from Napanee is a full four or five hours of fun and activity. We all agreed that exploring more back country of County Forest plus adding in stops to the iconic Flinton Falls and the Sheffield Conservation Area.
If you like snow, there’s “snow problem” here… we’ve got lots. See you out there!