Spring’s almost here and that means two things: melting snow reveals and the stagnant smells hiding beneath, and Maple tree sap start flowing.
The two are unrelated … unless you’re my dog. He spends more time on walks with his head down sniffing in circles than he does moving forward, and he gets to check out maple syrup festivals at many outdoor dog-friendly historic and conservation sites.
Saturday afternoon, the tail end of March Break but the middle of maple syrup season, we headed to Mountsberg Conservation Area in Campbellville, Ontario, about 40 minutes west of Toronto to experience Maple Town (March 2 to April 7, 2019). We haven’t been here before and I’m surprised because it’s within an hour drive of home.
Highlights of Mountsberg Conservation Area:
- A Raptor Centre dedicated to teaching visitors about Ontario native birds of prey
- On-site farm animals including goats, sheep and a team of Percheron horses that pull wagons
- A play barn for kids offering old fashion jump, leap and play in the hay fun
- A paddock of bison
- Adjacent lake-like reservoir full of fish
- On-site chain saw wood carver
- Multiple hiking and mountain bike trails through marshes, forest and sugar bush maples
Not the biggest conservation site in the Halton area, but interestingly it’s best known for the Raptor Centre. No, not a Jurassic Park experience, but a zoo of birds of prey, all unable to live in the wild due to injury or imprinting. (Note: barn owls do not make good pets, so don’t try). Dogs are allowed almost everywhere at Mountsberg, except near the birds, in the goat barn and in the pancake restaurant in Maple Town.
And Maple Town is why we’re here.
The Maple Trail is about half a kilometre from the Discovery Centre near the farm animal barn at the entrance. Of course, I’m distracted by the beautiful Percheron horses greeting people in the paddock. Usually they pull a wagon tour through the sugar bush, but today that wagon is pulled by a tractor.
Eventually, we walk past the kettle corn vendor, across the railway and down the trail to Maple Town. Steaming cauldrons of sap hang over fire pits demonstrating old fashioned ways of distilling syrup, while more modern machines inside a log cabin produce syrup for sale at the gift store.
While my dog waits impatiently at an outdoor picnic table, I order what turns out to be almost raw pancakes with yes, maple syrup – fortunately, my pup has no complaints about the accompanying sausages (one advantage of traveling with a vegetarian).
Most snow has melted leaving the trails muddy. But that’s not our biggest obstacle, however. Thanks to ACL damage in his other leg four months ago (check out our previous experience), my dog’s been moving slower these days and he’s currently wearing a custom brace for stability – more details to come on dogtrotting.net.
We’ll see what the summer brings and how well he can travel. In the meantime, we’ll be moving slowly through muddy trails, pausing to sniff every pile of rotting leaves and eventually making our way back to the car near the caged owl – after stopping for a scenic pic along the still icy reservoir.
TRAVEL GUIDE: Mountsberg Conservation Area, part of Conservation Halton, is located off Campbellville Road near Milton, Ontario about 40-minute drive from Toronto. Nearby is the Halton County Radial Railway Museum, open during the summer, were you can ride a historic streetcar on 2 km of scenic track – your dog too.