I am intentionally going to leave this spot a bit of a mystery, when in reality, anyone can go there today or tomorrow.
On Google reviews, this place had only six people chime in with their various star ratings. The only review which involved actual writing, reads, “Great place to be naked and hunt squirrels.” In all hopes this person was joking, it made me laugh, and spoke to the low-key and quirky presence of this environment.
Take that silly visual out of your mind, and replace it with the photo you see accompanying this article. In both an ecological and spiritual sense, this place is powerful. This is what most of Niagara Region once looked like, and you could feel its originality and fragility alike in the soil.
I spent nearly four hours trekking around in this mysterious, spellbinding environment with my partner. The weeks prior were demanding with emails and other tasks in life, so I suddenly found myself feeling totally decompressed as I walked beneath a sky of red, white and green buds. The treetops hummed with endless swarms of honey bees, while the forest floor squished beneath my boots. I carefully stepped around the clumps of precious vegetation, fully understanding that rare ferns or mosses are no match for size 13 boots.
An intense, luminous green layer of growth sits at head height across the forest. Spicebush and buttonbush are reflecting off the water, which is sometimes coated with artistic layers of pollen and nature dust. The frogs call, the sun breaks through the clouds, and you suddenly find yourself thinking – wow, I hope this place can remain in this state forever.
There is an unwritten law I learned as I studied more about nature. With regards to certain areas or species, one must be careful not to overly advertise the good stuff sometimes.
In some instances, a certain rare species of snake, salamander, or tree may exist in just one remaining area. A part of you wants to yell out, “Hey, come check this out on your next free weekend! There’s something really special out here!” Another part of you says, “the last thing I want is too many people here — it should just exist as it is for as long as possible.”
Even if there are no confirmed rare or protected species in the area, the environment itself may be very delicate and complex. Humans are clumsy creatures, even those of us who walk with a “green foot” and look very closely at where we step. The environment I was in a few days ago could have your boot stepping on multiple species of moss, lichen, and fascinating fungi at once if you weren’t careful. The fringes of the vernal pools were lined with tadpoles and tiny spring flowers, supporting a constant drone of pollinators around the edges. The connections are small, but numerous and invaluable in their nature. This is not an environment to carelessly romp and steamroll through.
One thing I’m hearing more of these days is, “where can I go where there won’t be so many people around?” Well, not to sound like some sort of empowered secret bearer, but I can’t tell you exactly where this place is for that exact reason! I’ll show the people closest to me, and maybe some fellow biology geeks, sure. But, in today’s day and age of social media glorification, it doesn’t take long for a quiet spot to become popular quickly. We have seen this theme come to fruition during the pandemic.
As I drove out, I smiled and felt puzzled about the future of such places. I asked my girlfriend, “can you imagine the day where even a place like this has dozens upon dozens of cars lined up outside of it, like we see at Short Hills Provincial Park, Woodend, or the Gorge?” We enjoyed some good dialogue about that as we cruised back home.
This also strikes a healthy drive to find your own special place, of which, there is something intrinsically rewarding when you visit. Can you keep a good secret?