Exploring the Cataraqui Trail in a Nissan Titan (Part I)

May 15, 2015

There’s a fascination with forbidden spaces which strikes deep to the heart of every owner of an off-road vehicle, so as soon as my neighbour Lloyd Stone bought a used Polaris Ranger, I was eager for an expedition.  Actually, there was a bit more to it than that.  Lloyd volunteers maintenance services to his section of the Cataraqui Trail, clearing fallen trees and occasionally making a pass or two with his rotary mower.  Such work’s not hard for a retired farmer with an embarrassment of tractors and related equipment still on hand.

Lloyd wants me to take over the section which runs past Portland, but I’m still holding out for the Chaffey’s Locks end.  My argument throughout the winter remained that we need to make a thorough inspection tour so as to understand the challenges of the western half of the trail before firming up the maintenance schedule.

The list of objectives grew as the landscape turned from snow to mud, to wildflowers.  Then it became a matter of recruitment and scheduling.

Doug Good, Chairman of the Cataraqui Trail Management Board, has a key to the gates and his group funds the building of boxes for trail newsletters in my shop, so he became a natural member of the tour group.

Dwayne Struthers is a member of the Leeds County Stewardship Council with a particular expertise in bird habitat, so Lloyd wanted him along to plan the placement of new nesting boxes along the old railway bed.  I got to come along because the trip was my idea, and because of my obsession with the invading Dog Strangling Vine (DSV).

So in best bureaucratese, our objectives:

1. to identify what type(s) of bird houses should/could be installed on the different types of terrain along the trail;
2. to determine the extent of DSV infestation along the Trail, and consider remedial measures, including spraying with Arsenal on the shoulders of the trail;
3. to examine lines of accountability and finance to facilitate objective #2 (above) before the seeds take to the air like milkweed fluff in September;
4. to allow Doug to show other participants points of interest and historical significance along the Cataraqui Trail.

Enthusiasm for the use of UTVs for the trip wilted quickly. Lloyd said, “We’ll take my truck,” and that was that. I didn’t quibble because I had recently broken my gas-pedal toe, and was pleased to be a passenger.

Equipment for the safari consisted of Lloyd’s four-door Nissan Titan, an assortment of birdhouses, a few fence posts, a driver for the posts, and three Dewalt cordless drills and a jar of Robertson screws. Lloyd produced one 5/8″ wrench to tighten u-bolts.

Precisely on time we joined the Trail through Lloyd’s private entrance and proceeded to the site of the old Forfar rail terminal where the crew leaped into action to install a bluebird box.  Then we crossed Hwy. 15 and encountered the first gate.

Doug managed to unlock the gate, but had to tie the heavy barrier shut with baler twine because the needed sledge hammer or 1″ wrench to adjust the barrier’s alignment with its post had not made the trip.

Off we went to gawk at the surprising beauty of Little Lake and gaze with growing consternation at local DSV infestations.

DSCN1251

-More later-

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