We got there. Just in time.
I didn’t know it then, but my dog Victor and I made it to the last day of Bronte Creek Provincial Park’s Maple Syrup Festival on March 26, 2017. Every weekend in March – and throughout March Break – this provincial park celebrates one of Canada’s favourite sweet and sticky substances: the sap that oozes from trees. Maple Syrup.
We’re also cheating because this really doesn’t fit my quest. Each month in 2017 – Canada’s 150th anniversary – I vowed to take Victor to a Parks Canada National Site using our free 150 Parks Pass.
Bronte Creek isn’t a National Park. It’s a 6.4 square km provincial park in Oakville, Ontario boarding the busy QEW highway and dense development of the city. Apparently, many people are getting their parks confused this year because Bronte Creek posted a big note on its website: the 150 Park Pass isn’t valid here.
I knew this and I knew I’d have to pay the $17 per car admission.
But … I also knew this park is very dog friendly, hosting two off-leash sites including a designated leash-free – yes, leash-free – hiking trail through forest surrounding the park’s campsite open April to October.
The park’s day use section is open all year, including March. To bring more people outdoors during the frigid months, Bronte Creek lures people with the promise of sweet treats, family activities, a maple syrup making historical tour, and costumed interpreters in the Victorian Spruce Lane 1899 farmhouse. There are also barns and paddocks. Cows and turkeys made up the farm creatures today, along with two ponies from Fox Lair Stables in Canfield, Ontario.
Dogs are welcome on site, leashed of course, but Victor did well walking, moving and smelling. A few other dogs crossed his path but for the most part, the cold temperatures kept the crowds thin today – though the food didn’t. Pancakes got top menu billing but classic Canadian Beaver Tails set up shop too.
Dogs can’t go in the buildings or on the tractor-pulled wagon heading to the pancake house – also known as the pool in the summer. A massive pool, actually. At 1.8 acres in size, it’s the biggest in the province.
Today though is about bundling up and walking around. Victor’s comfortable in his Kurgo Loft jacket, harness and leash that attaches to my waist leaving both my hands free to photograph the steam lofting above the maple syrup boiler. The sample syrup is light and pleasingly unlike its thick icky corn syrup cousin.
Victor wasn’t interested. He didn’t even lick the syrup sample I gave him, which surprised me. So I drank it. That didn’t surprise me.
Victor also didn’t notice the day’s highlight: a herd of white-tailed deer in the distance grazing in an open field – close enough to identify, but very far from the curiosity of a crazy terrier. Other wild animals calling the park home are coyotes, raccoon, opossums, and brown bats.
We end the day away from the deer, the syrup and the crawling kids at the leash-free zone.
Remember I mentioned two dog parks? In addition to leash-free hiking trails, the day park reserves (with parking spaces) an open field for untethered romps over a few hills and through high grasses and low brush.
Today the wind was fierce and even crazy Victor called it a run after about 20 minutes. I think we’ll return in spring.
Interested in other provincial parks? Check out the Ontario Provincial Parks Trail Guide from Boston Mills Press available from Amazon.
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