Today we went for a paddle at the Minesing Swamp. It is an area about half an hour from us that has what used to be the largest Great Blue Heron rookery in North America until some of the trees blew over recently. I have always wanted to go but it is easy to get lost so we went on a guided trip. Most of the day we paddled through trees as shown below. If you look very, very close you may be able to see a heron on a nest far, far away.
One website referred to the Minesing as the northern Everglades and I could certainly see some similarities. "It is the largest and best example of fen bog in southern Ontario, one of the most diverse undisturbed wetland tracts in Canada and is a provincially-significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest. The swamp’s hydrology provides for an interconnected network of swamps, fens, bogs and marshes". Which means it was tough going. Submerged logs everywhere. There was one spot about an hour in that we had to pull the canoes through a shallow spot so our feet were wet until we got back to the truck 4 or 5 hours later. It was only 4 or 5 degrees out today. After lunch the wind really picked up and that made it even more difficult.
"It provides habitat to over 400 plant species, of which 11 are provincially rare. Minesing Swamp is an important staging area for thousands of migratory waterfowl and is the largest wintering ground for white-tailed deer. It supports numerous plant species which are at the extremities of their natural range, including those indigenous to the arctic tundra in the north and the Carolinian forests to the south and is home to the largest pure stand of silver maple in the province". We saw 2 sandhill cranes, a swan waddling a fair distance away, a porcupine and a raccoon sleeping in trees and a dead crayfish, frog and muskrat. Later in the year there would be more wildlife but it is harder to paddle and the Friends of the Minesing Swamp only do the guided trips early in the spring.
If I had to sum up the day in one word - that word would be brutal. I am exhausted. The muscles between my shoulder blades are sore and my tennis elbow is bugging me. I thought I was in fairly good shape (because of my rebounding and gardening and dog walking I keep active) but I am embarrassed that we were almost always the stragglers on the tour so it looked like we couldn't keep up to the seniors. Our group of nine (Kevin and I and 3 of our kids and Kevin's brother and his 3 kids) had 3 canoes and 2 kayaks. We had to do some juggling to work out paddling partners. Hopefully though they will all remember this as a great family experience in the years to come.