Snow Softly Descending
During the nineteenth century rush to harvest the old-growth white pine, loggers only had muscle power to work with, so they cut selectively, and had little choice but to leave behind fantastic amounts of slash. Once it had a summer to dry, it made great kindling, and fueled enormous conflagrations. The largest local fire, in 1913, tore through 175,840 acres, making it a notable disaster on the national stage, and prompting an official investigation. Locally, it was so smoky that boats could hardly see to cross Sturgeon Lake.
In the aftermath of these fires, the government took an interest in reseeding the cutover (or burntover) lands and rough farmland in the region, initially primarily to maintain a valuable natural resource, pine trees. In 1929 the former farm of Robert Maconachie became part of the Victoria County Forest. The reforestation created a regular array of pines. Since then, many parts of the pinery have naturalized to become a much more diverse ecosystem. Yet the distinctive appearance of having the old pine plantation towering over a mixed forest remains.
The Somerville Tract, also known as the Pinery, offers an ATV or snowmobile trail, plus many less formal trails through the forest. If unmarked, ungroomed, winding bush trails are your thing, the Somerville Tract is a great place for winter recreation. There are a lot of little treasures to discover along the way.
As soon as you set out into the Somerville Tract, the regular pine stands are striking, with a more diverse and natural understory beneath. In parts of the pinery, it seems like almost any route might be a path.
Among the trees in the understory are beeches, which are not as common today as they once were in the Kawarthas. Their leaves turn a brilliant coppery colour in the autumn, and often remain on young trees over the winter making a trip through the Somerville Tract a little more vibrant.
Red Pine Cone
A pine cone, reseeding a new generation in Somerville Township’s Pinery.
A striking circular burl on a sapling
This gnarly tree trunk almost looks like a face…
And doesn’t this tree have a decidedly grumpy appearance!
Swirly Snow on Fungi
One of the interesting things in the Somerville Tract is the diversity of fungi. This rotten old elm was just covered with interesting specimens, that had swirly snow cones perched on top.
Another tree nearby had brilliant fungi, that look rather like bells…
A side view of the same tree.
Fungi on a Poplar Tree
Poplar trees rot easily and often have interesting fungal colonies…
And can be equally striking when covered with moss.
Bark, Snow & Fungi
The combination of bark, fungi and snow made this tree trunk a colourful specimen.
Birch bark can exhibit the most interesting patterns.
Peeking up Through the Snow
A stone, covered with lichen and moss, peeks up through the snow.