Sweat, Mathematics, Western, Party, Bugs, Sweat, Watermelon Magic!

The blogging position for tonight — in which I promptly napped , waking at 11:30 to actually write

Hikers sweat. Hikers sweat and stink. Hikers sometimes don’t dry out …

Been there. Doing that. But the heat has broken with the storms that rolled across to the south of us, and missed us entirely. 

Today, I lost count of how much I drank. Almost 2 litres by time I had breakfast. I filled up 4 litres, drank almost all of that, and refilled to 4 litres again. Drank much of that. Refilled again. Was brought fresh water by a pair of Angels. Have 2 litres left. 10 litres seems like more than I actually drank. But I think that might actually be close …

How much have I peed? Not much … Not measuring that output. Supposed to be clear. Nope. Nope. Nope. But not peeing much …

That’s hiking in hot and humid weather. And it’s not really been hot. Only the upper twenties. Can’t imagine truly hot weather! …


Yesterday we were joined by Stewart and his hiking partner, Dave. They met us several hours into our day after having driven from Simcoe! 

Roadside morning nap while waiting for thr mathematician

Stewart and I have worked together for decades, he a math teacher who did tremendously creative things with students at the outdoor education school I worked at. Then we were both curriculum coordinators at the newly-amalgamated Toronto school board, sharing challenges, issues, and joys. 

So when Stewart said he’d join me, I was thrilled. Especially since Thorpee was also coming, surely the most entrepreneurial teacher I’ve ever known. And a fellow field botanist and friend! With bad knees, so Thorpee wisely withdrew. 

Stewart and I had a great chat as we rambled from forest to forest. I tried to point out what I saw as the salient features of grazing, lumbering, and species and spatial diversity. 

Cutting trees on the back forty tends to happen in cycles after related to economic cycles, and is often a stimulus to other obvious changes in the farm. Grain treaties with the US after the Civil War led to a shot of prosperity in rural southern Ontario. This coincided with the need to replace the original log home. Clearing part of the back forty (often reducing it to the back ten or less) fueled — floored, actually! — the urban explosion of the 1870s and on. The sold lumber often paid for the fancy new two-storey boxy late-Victorian house so typical of the 1880s and on (while the valuable grain fed the developing cities and paid for the early farm mechanization making the Massey and the Harris fortunes. 

Grazing cattle, often the dry cows and the beef steers, were frequently stuck back in the recovering forest to find shade and food instead of using valuable pasture. Grazing compacts soil, and in the extrene, cattle eat  everything, depleting seeds and rootstocks that allow plants to recover when grazing ends. 

Grazed forests show uneven age classes of trees, with the oldest showing when the forest was cut, and the straight-boled trees showing the fierce upward competition for light. The cattle eat seedling trees, eliminating the middle and lower storeys of a mature and diverse forest. With the ephemeral plants almost eliminated, only a few survivors are available to repopulate the ground cover storey when grazing stops. Hence a heavily grazed forest shows huge masses of a few species. We have passed through kilometres of White Trilliums in almost pure stands. Or Yellow Trout Lilies. Or Blue Cohosh. Stunning for sure to see, especially swelling this Ontario heart to see (unnatural!) carpets of White Trilliums stretching nearly as far as one could see!
(Check back through previous blog posts to see examples of all of this. Yes, I should compile these into a coherent photo sequence. Not here, not now, though.)

When grazing ceases, or if it never happened to any serious degree, then the uniform carpets are broken into troops of Trilliums, or small stands of Cohosh, or in the extreme — and I’ve seen half a dozen stunning examples of these botanical paradises! — a few plants of White Trilliums are intermixed with a clump of Blue Cohosh, a patch of Trout Lily, a bowl full of a Wild Leeks, with a Dutchman’s Breeches peeking out, a Sedge tucked in there — oh my!

Two forests, side by side, one on one farm, the next separated by a stone pile fence on a different farm, but otherwise on similar land, can show dramatic differences as we cross a stile. Perhaps the same species, the same number of species even, but spatially so much more diverse in the ungrazed forest. 

Why is this important? … Diversity and stability seem to be closely related. Instead of  stability, think resilience. More parts, more completely interrelated, allow for …  

Hhmmh … My undergrad ‘thesis’ was about a hundred pages of scratched-out and scribbled handwriting trying just to define ‘diversity’ and ‘stability’. Never did finish it …

So, back to Stewart and mathematics. We bounced around ways of measuring and analyzing spatial diversity. Species diversity has many formal calculations. (I won’t elaborate. Get a good ecology textbook. None existed when I was in university.) Spatial diversity is more complex. I wondered if fractals could be used. (Does the spatial pattern repeat at every scale?) Could a graphical drawing of the outline of each species clump be turned into an index of spatial diversity? Could a distance between individuals of the same species be used to determine an index based on nearest-neighbour analysis?  

Great chat. No answers. Just further questions. Success, then! Thanks, Stewart!

Small Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Cyprepedium calceaolaris var, parviflora

Ah — and we picked their brains about their favourite backpacking trail, the LaCloche Loop through my favourite Killarney Provincial Park. Yep! Who’s coming? Not this September, but next? Yep! Wow!!

Western, with whole wheat and bottomless cup

Hikers’ Hunger. It’s getting real!

The fancy inn at Walter’s Falls doesn’t allow dogs, and was closed for a wedding anyways. So we wandered up the hill to the Corner Gas. 

Complete with dandelion bouquet!

Oh my! Made from scratch! Perfectly done! Gone in a flash. Two big mugs of coffee. Two pints of water. (Water, pure water. Not …) A pecan buttertart. And I could have done it again without blinking. 

The proprietor recognized Kookork and Delta from five years ago! 

The Party

Shortly after leaving Walter’s Falls,  we passed a party by the side of the Trail. I briefly phantasized crashing it to actually assuage my hunger. Should have. Turns out it was a Bruce Trail Conservancy celebration of the new Nature Reserve we’d just walked through!  Shucks!


Yup. Bugs. Black flies, mozzies, and today, deer flies. Suppertime is short before we dash to our respective abodes. 

Break spots are determined by breeze not scenery. 

I have not yet resorted to bug spray. Instead I have adopted Kookork’s ‘shemagh’ (Farsi spelling of thebStab word), a Middle Eastern cotton head scarf. My wife got me one in the non-Arab colour of purple. My mother’s favourite colour: “When I am old, I shall wear purple.”

Turns out to have many uses. Keeps bugs away remarkably well, with lots of wrapping options. Keeps sweat out of my eyes, and spreads the cooling around. Great wash cloth. Soaked in cold spring water, it’s like an external ice cream brain freeze to a hot head. 

o bearded old man!

Water, Watermelon, and more generous Trail Angels!

Today we did the longest away-from-a-road hike so far this month. About 12 km through the Bognor Marsh and up towards the Bayview Escarpment. It was shown as dry — though we found two small but excellent spring-fed streams. Jill & David, our two favourite Trail Angels (family aside, I hasten to add!), stopped off on their way back from Owen Sound to bring us water galore, two bags of cut demicious watermelon, some of Orangeville’s own Hockley beer!!!, more fruit, veggies, and cheese! We scarfed the watermelon and the beer, refilled our water, and headed off up the hill to camp. Oh my!


Goodnight. The air is cooler and dryer. The breeze came up and is dropping yet mildly gusty. The sky is clearing — I just stepped out to micturate … The coyotes.have announced the weather change. Miscellaneous farm dogs are getting told by their owners to shut up and go to bed. I am obeying. 
PS: I thought I was seeing flashes of lightning after I crawled back into the hammock. I checked the weather radar to see if some late storm might be coming behind the front whose passage the coyotes just announced. Nope. But the flashing crawled around my bug netting. … I just released the lampyrid beetle back outside. 

6 thoughts on “Sweat, Mathematics, Western, Party, Bugs, Sweat, Watermelon Magic!

  1. Mark – Seeing the picture of your hammock reminded me of a question I wanted to ask… do you carry a hammock because its more comfortable than a tent…? Or maybe lighter to carry…? or is there something on the ground you want avoid during the night…? I’m curious!

    Such a great blog – I’m really enjoying following your journey! I’m looking up all the flora and fauna you mention – so interesting! Those Dutchmans Breeches are amazing!

    • Hammocks area out as light as a good lightweight tent. Surprisingly hard to find flat tent spots… Easier to find two trees 7–8m apart. Comfortable once I learned how to trick out the setup. A learning curve, as for everything.

  2. I hope you said “Hi” from me to Jill and David. I am still hoping to catch up with you somewhere. The Scottish Dance celebration is over so maybe I can think about something else.

    • Jill had a great story about hearing your voice through a crevice and recognizing your laugh! Where is your section? We’re already in Owen Sound. Off to Wiarton for Sat night in B&B. Then the final push! Actually still have to do 75km in Caledon when we finish Tobermory. May try that in 2 days slackpacking. Did 33+ today with packs. When will we see you? Caledon? Up here?

  3. following you three along…in spirit and blog at least. Hope the weather and bugs co-operate for the final push! Hugs all 🙂

    • Been so dry! Which is good for hiking, but hard to find drinking water … Hope that’s no worse …

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