After beginning my #FirstDayHike over in McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, I now turn my sights on Darlington Provincial Park next door.
From where I’m parking between the two areas, I entered along the Waterfront Trail in the top west corner. This is a wide gravel path, that brings you to a park road. Gravel is odd to walk on when it’s wet.
You aren’t on the road long as the McLaughlin Bay Trail comes up quickly on your left. You can’t miss it – it’s a bridge opening. And then you’re in to the bush again.
Savour this as it’s likely the driest area of Darlington. It’s still squishy, but the leaves stay on the ground instead of clinging to your boots. The trail meanders through the woods for a bit then curves back down towards the parking lot on the west edge of Darlington.
I suppose this is where the McLaughlin Trail “officially” begins. The opening line of this sign says it all – I’m now walking on a sponge. A sponge that was tossed in the bay.
That’s ok. Keen’s waterproof boots are really earning their keep today! And it’s still a pretty trail despite attempting to slide my feet out from underneath me.
I made it through McLaughlin Bay Trail unscathed, and after following the tall grass to the right, was brought to the shores of Lake Ontario. I did go down to the beach, but I’m not a fan of sand so I quickly came back up to the trails.
Burk Trail runs along the south edge of Darlington with several stairs leading down to the beach. For your enjoyment, not mine.
After passing the beach by, Burk Trail leads you around the log cabin. Turns out the log cabin is the Park Information Centre. The sign outside says it’s open every day. But it was not open today.
Onwards along the Burk Trail and the weirdly spongey, wet gravel trails! Seriously, if you have never walked on wet gravel, go find some. With waterproof boots, of course.
Burk Trail comes to an end at Campground Trail. Despite it’s name, I did not venture in to the campsites. I just followed it over to Robinson Creek Trail. You know how I’ve been praising my waterproof boots? Double that.
Robinson Creek (I assume) has flooded over the entrance of the trail. Most people would turn back here. Indeed, the people that I met at this junction did just that. But this was my planned path, so I went for it hoping the rest of the trail was ok.
And it was, for the most part. A few other puddles here and there. But look at the green grass! On January 1st, in Canada. Insanity.
Also insanity – look at that sky! So blue. Straight off the camera blue. Unedited. Unaltered. #nofilter.
And not to be outdone with the insanity of things – this is the far end of the trail, before it crosses over and loops back down. Completely flooded out. There’s actually a current here. It’s about 8-10 inches deep, which is over my wonderful waterproof boots. Sigh. My tracking has a funny squiggle in this corner from all my back and forth to collect branches and make that crossing.
The other side of the trail, of course, is miraculously dry. Back down to the Campground Trail, which leads me up to the Park Store – also closed, sadly. Across the parking lot here, I pick up the Burk Trail again to take me around the north end of Darlington.
The trail forks here and you can either take the “middle” Burk Trail or head over the other side of the Park Office to take the “top” Burk Trail.
I chose the middle one, since the sign told me to take a moment to stop at the Pioneer cemetery. It gives a bit of the history of the land, which is always interesting. This is also where I started being followed.
Do you see the culprit? They were so eager to be my friend, I couldn’t even get a clear shot of the sign. Not that I mind at all!
I have never in my life had a wild bird land on me. I have apparently become a Disney Princess for 2019. These guys didn’t stop here. I felt so bad that I didn’t have any treats for them.
At the lookout, someone laid seed along the handrails for the little guys. Some of them were picking at it when I approached. I stopped next to the picnic table to try and get a shot of the chickadees with Lake Ontario in the background. Instead, I got swarmed! I had a chickadee on my shoulder, on my hat, on my lens, and my shutter finger – so I wasn’t take any photos at that point.
They eventually realized I wasn’t feeding them, so they left me alone and I headed on my way again. Some followed for a little while, but then they retreated to prey on their next victims. The Burk Trail has a connector between the middle and top trails just past the lookout, which is the way I went.
Back up to the Waterfront Trail, which runs along one of Darlington’s roads and the weird spongey gravel. Also, a lot of poop. Or I guess it’s scat, since it’s wild? Whatever. Watch your step!
Total stats for both McLaughlin Bay and Darlington:
170m elevation gain