Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Discover Muskoka...Naturally!

The Muskoka Trails Council (MTC) has a new website!
There you will find:
  • Route maps and descriptions for all the trails in Muskoka
  • The Trail Challenge
  • Trail Etiquette and Safety
  • Photos of the trails
  • A link to the Twitter feed
  • Information about upcoming events

Speaking of events...MTC just launched the registration site for Muskoka's 2nd Annual Amazing Race! The race is on August 14th and pits contenstants against the best Muskoka has to offer on its trails and active transportation network. www.

Exploring Muskoka's trails is a great way to gets hints on different trail building techniques. What methods have you observed while hiking Muskoka's trails?

Happy Trails!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nature Quest Stewardship Series

There are lots stewardship related events going on in Muskoka and elsewhere this summer. Check out the "Stewardship Workshops and Events" section of the blog and the "Events Outside of Muskoka" section on the right-hand toolbar.

In particular, I want to let you know about the Parry Sound-Muskoka Stewardship Network who is putting on some great workshops this summer. They are designed to provide hands on experience while fostering knowledge and understanding of land stewardship.

Hike up Your Tree ID IQ
Tuesday, July 13th, 1 to 4pm
Arrowhead Provincial Park, Hwy 11 Huntsville
Having trouble identifying your tree species? Can you tell a sugar maple from a red maple? Why do some trees look healthier than others? What is a "wildlife tree" Not to worry, these and many other questions will be answered during our hike through the lush hardwood forest of Arrowhead Provincial Park. Together we will key out 25 trees, identify a variety of tree defects and diseases and examine the overall forest ecology. Participants will be introduced to forest management techniques and the tools used by forest professionals.
Presenter: Mike Walsh, Tree Marker Instructor

Managing Your Woodlot For Wildlife- The 7 Steps
Tuesday, July 20th, 1 to 4 pm
Bracebridge MNR, Hwy 11 & High Falls Road
Up to 220 species of wildlife use our local forests throughout their life cycle. This session will walk you through seven simple steps to enjoy your woodlot to its fullest while maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitat in the process. Following a short inside session we will take a hike at the Bracebridge Resource Management Centre to see first hand how wildlife needs are being incorporated into a managed forest.
Presenter: Jan McDonnell, MNR Biologist and Mile Walsh

Wildlife CSI
Tuesday, July 27th
9am to 12pm, Bracebridge MNR Hwy 11 & High Falls Road
Bag it, tag it, check for prints, saliva, DNA, spent ammunition. Welcome to the world of Wildlife Forensics. This family oriented program is filled with hands on activities that will introduce participants to various aspects of solving crimes and wildlife protection. Learn now to identify tracks, furs, skulls and more. You will become the investigator, examining clues and following evidence to determine the "who done it" in a wildlife crime scene.
Presenter: Conservation Officer John van Geene, Ministry of Natural Resources

Programs are limited to 30 participants. Children are welcome and must be accompanied by adults. The costs is $5 for adults and $3 for children. For information and registration, call Hazel Walsh, MNR Area Clerk at 705-646-5538.

All sessions run rain or shine.

See you there!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Muskoka Farmers Markets

Summer weather is here and that has got me thinking about fresh produce! There are some fabulous farmers markets in Muskoka where you can buy locally grown produce and other goodies.

{strawberries are now in season- yipee!}

Monday: Bala (municipal parking lot by the train bridge)
Gravenhurst (wharf)
Thursday: Huntsville (Canadian Tire parking lot)
Baysville, Rosseau, Hunstville (Commerce Park)
Saturday: Bracebridge (Memorial Park)

{the gravenhurst Farmers Market}

Brooklands Farm offers produce baskets you can pick up for have delivered as part of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Savour Muskoka has a list of farms that range from veggies to fungi!

benefits of farmers markets:

  • reduces food miles, thus vehicle use, noise and fossil fuel production
  • reduces packaging
  • encourages environmental production practices such as organic and pesticide free
  • encourages farm diversification and thus biodiversity

Farmers markets also benefit the community and the local economy as well as the producers and consumers. Read more here.

Farmers markets and CSA are all part of the Local Food Movement.

Where does your food come from?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trail Building: Lessons from Cape Breton Highlands National Park

At the end of May, my partner Chris and I took a little road trip to Nova Scotia. One of the reasons we went was to hike some of the trails in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It is an absolutely beautiful area of our country. Along with the stunning landscapes and oceanscapes, we saw moose, a fox, some snakes, birds, and listened to the coyotes bark at night while camping.

The park sees a lot of visitors each year. To keep the trails in good condition a lot of hard work is done to build, maintain, and upgrade the hiking trails. While hiking, we observed some really interesting and solidly build bridges, culverts, stairs, and boardwalks. While you may never build anything to this scale on your property, there are several concepts and ideas that you might consider. The following is a photo journal of the trails we walked in Cape Breton:

{The skyline trail, complete with moose droppings! Note the wood-covered culvert near the top of the photo and the trench dug along the side of the entire 3 km trail to aid drainage}

{an up close shot of the trench and small box culvert. These were placed every 20 metres or so along the trail. Notice also how the individual boards are placed diagonally to aid traction. The entire culvert is also on the diagonal}

{an explanation of how they built the boardwalk and platforms and the underlying land. Click on the photo for a larger view}

{the boardwalk built to protect the fragile growing environment of such a harsh climate}

{I couldn't resist showing you this plaque about stewardship ;)}

{Chris resting on a bench near the side of the worn path on the other side of the Skyline trail}

{an example of a culvert on a trail}

{cribbing and bridge along the river on this trail}

{these giant rocks made walking on this ocean-side trail particularly difficult!}

{the wood on this bridge is rough-sawed to aid with traction}

{a sign informing hikers about the ancient sensitive mosses of the area}

{a creatively designed staircase with rocks along the edges for support}

Below are two really great trail building resources I would like to recommend to you:
The Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance, 4th Edition, 2008 by Appalachian Mountain Club Books

Ontario's Best Trails - Guidelines and Best Practices for the Design, Construction and Maintenance of Sustainable Trails for All Ontarians

Also, be sure to check out the Muskoka Trails Council and get out and explore some of the amazing trails we have right here in Muskoka!
I would love to hear from you. What techniques have you used on your property in building your trails?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Freshwater Summit & Water Issues

The Freshwater Summit was held last week on June 1 and 2. The outcome will be a communiqué policy statement that will presented to all levels of government as well as the Canadian contigent for the G8. There was also a Youth Summit that ran in conjunction where high school students from Muskoka and Orillia drafted their own communiqué.
The main messages from the Summit: "Water is our most valuable resource" and "All citizens must recognize their individual responsibilities in relation to water".

The speakers were Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians; Henry lickers, director of the Department of the Environment for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne; Gord Miller, Ontario Environmental Commissioner; Dr. David Schindler, professor of ecology at the University of Alberta; Dr. John Smol, Canada research chair in environmental change; and Dr. Norm Yan, professor of ecology at York University.

For more information on the speakers, their talks, and the summit go to

Water is vital to our existance. This means we must all be education about water issues on local and global levels. It also means we must all take actions in water justice issues. It is a big responsibility! There is so much to think about: cleanliness, conservation, scarcity, water as a commons, and water as a human right are just the begining of a long list of water-realted issues.

A great place to start for Muskokans is the Muskoka Water Web at It is a phenomenal resource to link to to start getting educated about some of these issues. There, you will also find a link to the 2010 Watershed Report Card that was released in May 2010. It assesses the health of the Muskoka watershed and links to sub-watershed reports.

On a global level, check out A fantastic resource for global water issues and what you can do to help. If you will be in Toronto on June 25th, be sure to check out to hear more amazing speakers and network about global justice issues.

If you missed the Freshwater Summit or want to re-visit it then stay tuned to TV COGECO during the week of the G8 (June 21-26) for a re-broadcast of the talks. Paul Kennedy from CBC Radio 1 show Ideas will also be compressing the talks into a 2-hour segment on June 24th and 25th.

So much to think about and do! What are you doing??