HURON'S WINTERS ON FOOT
BY MANDY SINCLAIR
Special to Stops Along the Way
As the first snow began to fall in November, thoughts of colourful warm autumn days on the nearby hiking trails faded to memories and I looked forward to seeing these gorgeous paths under a blanket of snow.
This year marks the first time I plan to spend the entire winter in Huron County. While I’ve been here in years past for the holidays, I spent most of the time enjoying the beauty of winter while sitting next to a roaring fire, not brave enough to endure the cold. But with physical distancing measures in place, this extrovert is going to need a way to socialize and snowshoeing seems like the perfect option to take in the plethora of trails to take in Huron County’s unique vistas – lake and river views and the rich agricultural fields – on snowshoe. Plus, the Huron County Library lends snowshoes out on a weekly basis to library card holders.
The Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail, one of my favourites in the region, is perfect for snowshoeing given its level trail surface. The Huron County portion of the trail, extending from Goderich to east of Walton, offers up stunning wintertime views. It’s beautiful to look across the barren farmers’ fields where rows of corn and beans flourished earlier in the year while wandering over bridges covering the trickling creeks and detouring around mighty Maitland River. And the large open spaces and bare deciduous trees allow the magical winter light – hues of soft blues and pinks throughout the day - to shine through, adding a touch of warmth.
Wandering the gentle rolling hills under the snow-capped conifers leading to the natural waterfalls makes the Falls Reserve Conservation Area near Benmiller a winter wonderland. The normally gushing Maitland River becomes eerie as the unique natural waterfalls freeze over. Just up the road and perfect for an après-snowshoe, I’ll be heading to Benmiller Inn for a glass of local wine and a charcuterie board by the fire.
Crossing over the historic Ball’s Bridge on snowshoes, admiring stunning views over the Maitland River, means being able to wander down riverside for a morning coffee and reflection. Fueled up, I suggest continuing along Little Lakes Road to admire the scenic ponds and empty fields. This is one of my favourite Huron County roads and I’m looking forward to exploring it on snowshoe this winter, as I’m not sure how much this road is maintained in the winter.
The Lobb Trail on the historic Lobb farm, with its riverside rest stops and seven kilometres of trails, makes for a perfect physically-distanced afternoon outing. I’m planning to pull on my winter gear and pack a picnic to enjoy some outdoor dining with views across the Maitland River and tackle the hills on snowshoe.
When the snow truly falls, Redmond Tract sounds like it will be a true winter paradise with the white stuff falling on the pine trees towering above. Options for a shorter route at approximately half a kilometre and a main loop at nearly two kilometres take visitors through a habitat where fish (the mighty Maitland River passes alongside this trail too) and wildlife thrive.