Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Falling into nature and falling in love
“Can he give you a kiss?”
It wasn’t the first thing I expected to hear when my family and I reached Kelso Conservation Park on this chilly but beautiful Saturday afternoon. Then again, I didn’t expect to be greeted by a three foot fork-tongued grizzly lizard named Oreo. The charming fellow was part of the reptile show at Kelso over the Thanksgiving weekend and one of many activities that are part of Conservation Halton’s Fall Into Nature festival.
My daughters Emma and Katie and I laughed as we reeled back when Oreo’s tongue darted toward us. Oreo is owned by “Adventure Ed” who brought his Safari Science show to Kelso for the event, which continues this weekend.
My family and I had been looking forward to checking out the cornucopia of events at Halton’s six parks (Kelso, Hilton Falls, Mountsberg, Rattlesnake Point, Crawford Lake and Mount Nemo), especially since the escarpment is now ablaze in full fall foliage. The events continue October 13 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
We were looking forward to rediscovering some of the parks in the area which we don’t always get to. What we didn’t expect - and I’m embarrassed to admit this since I grew up in Burlington - was that we would discover a treasure trove of natural gems we never knew existed.
The list of activities was long - wagon rides, pumpkin painting, chair lift rides, bird of prey shows, and, of course, hiking. We decided to start our adventure at Kelso and, after greeting Oreo, headed over to the chair lift for a ride up the hill.
There was a brisk wind and I was glad we were wearing mitts but the panoramic view of nature in all its fall glory was well worth it. It was spectacular seeing the escarpment lit up in an artist’s palette of reds, yellows and golds.
The girls then did some pumpkin painting and then we popped in for some hot apple cider as we waited for the Arashido-Taiko Japanese drummers to play. The drummers looked chilly in their light clothing, especially those in sandals, but warmed up as they vigorously pounded their drums.
The next stop was Hilton Falls Conservation Area, a five minute drive away. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been, especially now that I’ve seen what it has to offer. After Emma and Katie made their own pine cone bird feeders, we headed to the trails.
“Boy, you would think we’d have to go up north to find this but it’s all here,” said my husband, Mike.
So true. The trails were breathtaking in their beauty; the archway of trees, the beaver pond, the carpet of colourful leaves. If Spielberg designed a Hollywood set of the perfect hiking path, he couldn’t have created anything as beautiful as this.
The scenery kept us going as we made the 8-kilometre hike to the waterfall and back. By the time we arrived back at our car it was after five so we headed home to rest up for Sunday when we planned to take in Mountsberg and Crawford Lake.
While Mountsberg is known for its wonderful Birds of Prey show, we also had a delightful visit with a corral full of charming goats. My Katie swears one of them winked at her. Emma spotted the most beautiful grey horse in a nearby fenced area who we learned was a 21-year-old Percheron, a breed that originated from northern France.
“She looks like a statue,” said Katie, as we gazed at the beautiful still creature.
Next we tried our hand at painting the mural of large farm animals on the side of the barn. We headed for the wagon that would take us to see the bisons. As we rode along the bumpy trail, resource interpreter Erica Lagios explained to us that bisons are the largest mammals on the planet and that they once numbered in the 30 to 60 million range but by the late 1800’s there were only 600 left.
Due to conservation efforts, they are back up to around 25,000 and Mountsberg has ten of them. That includes a very macho-looking fellow named Steve, who has a wicked set of bangs that flopped up and down when he loped toward our wagon.
The bisons obviously love the mix of grain and molasses Erica feeds them. My daughters laughed as Steve’s bangs bounced up and down like an overteased hairdo as he ran toward us, obviously looking for more granola.
“Wow, where else can you get this close to bisons,” I said to my daughters.
After our ride, we headed to the bird sanctuary where we met Echo, the owl and Duchess, the kestrel falcon and learned how they are cared for.
Back in the car, we headed off to Crawford Lake to see the longhouses. Chief Topleaf had drawn a crowd as he shared stories about First Nations culture.
After a quick game of lacrosse, which showed off my less than athletic abilities at the game, it was time for a walk around the lake. For all the fun activities we enjoyed, the best part of each park for us was the natural beauty of the surroundings and Crawford Lake was no exception.
It’s an absolutely gorgeous area and we were again reminded again of the hidden gems around us here in Burlington.
As we walked along the wooden boardwalk that wound through the trees, we could hear the lovely sounds of The Playford Players on the hammer dulcimer and guitar. There was nothing quite like seeing the reflection of those trees on the lake while being serenaded by the music.
From the smiling goats and majestic bisons of Mountsberg, to hiking the boardwalk around Crawford Lake, and the breathtaking trails of Hilton, I can’t think of a better way to spend a weekend.
On October 13 and 14 you can experience Fall into Nature by bus. It will run from 10.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., starting at Kelso Conservation Area Info. tent. It includes a chairlift ride followed by a BBQ lunch then at 12.30 the bus will leave for Crawford Lake. At 2.30 you’re off to Mountsberg for a birds of prey demonstration and wildlife walk. The bus will leave for Kelso at 4 p.m. and arrive at 4.30 p.m.
Cost is $36 per person plus HST. Reserve your seat by calling 905-336-6684 or register online at www.fallintonature.ca.
Guest Blogger - Denise Davy
"Denise Davy is a freelance writer who has lived in Burlington for more than 40 years. She is an award-winning writer who wrote news stories, feature articles and columns for The Hamilton Spectator for 26 years. She has travelled extensively and visited India, China, Japan and the Caribbean, thanks to being honoured with three national journalism fellowships. She now specializes in writing about travel, parenting, and health and women's issues. She is proud to call Burlington her home and lives here with her husband and their two beautiful daughters." You can contact Denise through her web site and blog at www.denisedavy.com