Guest blog contributed by Janis Harris of Harris Flower Farm
If there is one positive that has come from Covid it is that people are getting out and enjoying local hiking trails. Once spring is upon us the forest comes alive with vibrant greens and some native wildflowers. Ontario has some beautiful native wildflowers that you can look for while you are enjoying the trail.
Here is a guide to some native forest wildflowers that you may find in Elgin County.
St Thomas, Ontario is a fairly old city that has stood the test of time. A history built through the revolution brought about by the rise of the locomotive industry. The city has that unique charm of a modern city that is still quite in touch with its roots. A great place to spend a laid back and relaxing vacation away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. But before you book any Airbnb vacation rentals check out these activities to try.
Hiking the Trail - July 30 2019
At the Railway City Tourism Office, we often give out a lot of information to visitors about Kettle Creek Conservation Area, and more specifically, the Dalewood Reservoir Hiking Trail, located just outside the city of St. Thomas. Being located so close to the city, Dalewood Conservation Area suggests that hiking the trail is easily incorporated into a day trip, or a weekly exercise routine, so we decided to test that theory out ourselves!
My name is Chloe, and I will be your virtual tour guide today, taking you along the 10km Dalewood Reservoir hiking trail from the comfort of your own home!
There are many access points along the Dalewood Reservoir Trail for you to choose from, making the length of your hike variable, but we decided to begin at the very start in order to get the full experience and check out the new bridge that was just finished! This new bridge brings a number of benefits including a sidewalk for safer pedestrian and cyclist access. After admiring the new bridge, we entered the trail and began our journey!
There are numerous walking bridges throughout the trail that provide some ease to your hike as you continue along the Dalewood Reservoir. The trail is also very easy to navigate, as there are trail markers and the walking bridges are numbered to keep you going in the right direction.
Once we hit the old bridge near Dalewood Road, it was definitely time for a snack break! This is a great rest stop as it provides some shade and great views. At this point, you’re over half way around the Dalewood Reservoir.
Nearing the end of the trail, we were refreshed and ready to conquer some kayaking! Canoes and kayaks are available to rent hourly, or for a half or full day at the gatehouse in the campground. Using this watercraft is a great way to experience the reservoir you just admired from afar. We suggest bringing a camera (at your own risk) to capture this memorable experience, lots of water to keep yourself hydrated, and a kayaking partner who will do most of the paddling for you!
When kayaking the reservoir, it was very enjoyable and relaxing. Everything was so still and the nature surrounding the reservoir was so peaceful. It is a great way to clear your mind and become one with nature.
We saw a lot of wildlife, including various species of birds, beavers, and fish jumping out of the water. Be sure to not only keep your eyes on the water, but also up in the trees because as we continued we spotted a beautiful bald eagle perched high up in a pine tree! We admired its beauty for about 5 minutes until it showed off it’s impressive wingspan and continued across the reservoir. For the bird enthusiasts out there, be sure to bring binoculars to get a better look at some of the cool species that call the Dalewood Reservoir home!
Overall, I was impressed with this hike, and I got to experience firsthand everything the Dalewood Reservoir Trail has to offer. After today, I feel extremely accomplished and I will definitely incorporate this hiking trail into a weekly exercise routine, so I can take advantage of the nature that is so close to home!
Tucked away in southwestern Ontario is the beautiful and small city of St. Thomas. Once a bustling hub with over 26 railways passing through it, the town continues to offer an abundant of recreational and economic opportunities.
Home to over 41 000 people, it’s a stunning place to visit and live. Its rich history and small town vibe play major roles in the city’s current industries and culture. On top of that, here are 5 more reasons why you should visit St. Thomas, Ontario (and see why it’s a great place to live).
1. ST. THOMAS HAS A VARIETY OF ANNUAL EVENTS AND FESTIVALS.
Don’t let the size of the place fool you. The residents in St. Thomas know how to have fun. And consequently, they know how to create one heck of a celebration - just check out their annual Canada Day Fireworks show. In addition, the city’s annual events include the Arts Crawl, the Great Lakes International Airshow, Light the Night, the Iron Horse Festival, Beerlesque, the Conductor’s Choice Culinary Tour, and the Santa Clause Parade.
In particular, the Iron Horse Festival is one of a kind. It’s even considered the greatest street festival in Elgin County. It involves various rides, street performers, food vendors, and more. The whole festival spans over 4 days in August. And it drives the funding for maintaining the old railway system (The railway system was built in 1872 and is a proud part of St. Thomas’s history). It’s definitely worth checking out.
The Railway City Arts Crawl further keeps the winter months alive in St. Thomas with a spectacular display of local artists set in various venues throughout St. Thomas creating on-site. You don't want to miss this unique event!
In addition, Beerlesque offers craft beer sampling, live music, food vendors, and more every May. The Conductor’s Choice Culinary Tour is also unique to the St. Thomas area - combining the area’s rich railway history with a culinary experience. All these events define the people and the city of St. Thomas, making it an exciting and enjoyable place to live.
2. THE CITY IS IN AN IDEAL LOCATION!
In a quick 30 minute drive to the north, you’ll find yourself in the greater London area. In other words, a visit to a big city is just a drive away!
Lake Erie is close to the south of St. Thomas - and it offers a variety of summer activities for the whole family. Beach day anyone? You won’t have to venture far. A short 20-minute drive and you’ll find yourself at Port Stanley Beach. It’s perfect for a day or afternoon adventure.
3. THE ATTRACTIONS DON’T DISAPPOINT.
Have you ever been up close and personal with the biggest elephant in the world? In St. Thomas, you can be - at least in the form of a giant memorial statue. Jumbo the Elephant was the biggest elephant of his time. He travelled around partaking in one of the biggest circus shows on earth. Unfortunately, Jumbo met his demise with an unfortunate bump with a locomotive in 1885.
The statue, erected in his honor, weighs 38 tons and stands at a whopping 4 metres. It was built in 1985 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. And today, it continues to draw visitors from miles around.
For beer enthusiasts, the Railway City Brewing Co. doesn’t disappoint. Many of the craft beers are named after historical events - such as the Dead Elephant Ale. All beers are locally made and crafted. Get a tour of the place and grab a few souvenirs while you’re at it!
You can also hop on over to the Railway Museum or Elgin Military Museum to take a dive into the area’s historical past.
4. THE PARKS OFFER A VARIETY OF RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES.
The stunning Pinafore Park covers 90 acres. If you love the great outdoors, you’ll live in this place. It has gardens galore, beautiful green space, a wildlife sanctuary, and much more. Take the family for a picnic or a stroll through the park. Make it a weekly affair!
Waterworks Park is also located in St. Thomas. This park was the first publicly owned park in St. Thomas. It’s origins go back to the 1900s. 25 acres around the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) pumping station and water treatment plant was not needed for waterworks purposes. Consequently, the land was developed as a recreational spot for citizen use. Beautiful water gardens were developed in 1932 - which still exist to this day. Today, the park is further home to a splash park as well as trails that allow for cross-country skiing in the winter months.
The community centre and YMCA further offer opportunity for ice skating, swimming, running, and more.
5. FOR RAILWAY ENTHUSIASTS, IT’S THE PERFECT PLACE.
With its rich railway history, individuals interested in the railway systems of North America won’t want to skip out on a visit to St. Thomas. Due to the city being a major junction for the railway in the 1800s, many buildings arose from this point in time and the city saw vast growth. St. Thomas wouldn’t be the city it is today without the railway system. It has even been called the ‘Railway Capital of Canada.’
St. Thomas is waiting for you! Plan your next weekend or week getaway in St. Thomas. Come explore the beautiful and quaint town, and all it has to offer.