Diana and the Four Elements – Water

The MOOSE TRAIL

12 Months of Solitude

The moose is the largest animal that inhabits our forest preserve near Dorset. While I haven’t caught a glimpse of the local moose yet, he did leave his tracks on the soft, and newly leveled surface, of the oval clearing we had just created on our property, so I know he passes through often.

The substantial wetland that we are protecting on the Lake of Bays waterfront hosts some of the moose’s favorite foods, the water lily, water hyacinth and a host of submerged plant life. These grow with profusion within the shallow waters of Rabbit Bay. This browsing herbivore is capable of consuming many types of vegetation and fruit within the surrounding forest, but the tender plants of our wetland are what most likely attracted him to our property. The fact that this aquatic plant life is high in sodium and essential to his survival, making up half of his warm-weather diet, has him searching our property for any new sources of these salty delicacies.

The moose is the largest member of the deer family and while sometimes seen at the roadside, especially in the spring within Algonquin Park, this animal is under threat from multiple sources. Roadkill has been a persistent concern as cottage country expands ever northward bringing with it increased traffic. This development is creating pockets of isolated forest, surrounded by human activity. While this habitat fragmentation has been a concern over many decades, a new threat has developed as wolves, which have recently returned in greater numbers to this wilderness, tend to capitalize on roads to gain quick access to a larger terrain. This permits them to feed more readily on the moose, especially those with young offspring. Another threat that is increasing in recent years is the parasitic brain worm and winter tick. These are carried by white tailed dear which have extended their range northward into the moose’s habitat with climate change.

It is because of these pressures that we have established the forest preserve. It ensures that the healthy population of moose within Algonquin Park can extend their range into Muskoka and the shores of the Lake of Bays.

Within the 200 acres of our property, I have designed three trails to explore this wilderness. These are confined to a small area of the site to ensure the remainder of the wilderness is off-limits to human exploration and remains the domain of the local wildlife. The Wolf Trail and the Bear Trail have been described in earlier posts, and the Moose Trail, which is the subject of this post, all begin at a central meeting point that I’ve called the Diana Monument. The arched thresholds at this site will mark the beginning of the three routes. Sculptural headdresses, modelled on the three iconic animals of this wilderness, will be placed at the apex of each of the arched pergolas. (Refer to sketch below)

The view through the Moose Trail Arch is across the shaded floodplain of Berley Creek. The small stream takes a serpentine route at this point since its waters have left the steeper, rock strewn areas of the upper valley and now meanders into Rabbit Bay which can be seen in the distance through the trees. This path continues east along the shoreline to the large swimming rock which slopes gently into the lake. (Refer to image below)

From this rock, a path leads up the hillside to where I will create the Moose Table sculpture overlooking the bay. From this elevated position on the waterfront, a large antler-like candelabra, provides light to diners in the evenings as they enjoy the view across Rabbit Bay towards the Dorset Lookout Tower.

The formal structure of the moose antlers was a driving force, even from my initial sketches, for the Moose Antler Candelabra and other objects that would be placed along the Moose Trail.

The way that the paths would be illuminated, either with natural or man-made light sources, informed the creation of numerous charcoal drawings. As I drew the Moose Candelabra, I imagined it illuminating a table set for an evening dinner, creating a halo of light in the surrounding trees. During the evening, candles will be placed atop the different horn extensions, creating a dramatic silhouette when seen against the darkness of the night sky from across Rabbit Bay.

Once hikers pass the Moose Candelabra, the pathway extends upwards to the top of a steep slope. The eye is directed in this accent, towards a small sculpture near the opening in the rocky crest.  Once reaching this destination the route then extends along a rocky ridge, where hikers can obtain views into Berley Valley with Shirley Falls in the distance.

The walk along Moose Trail leads from one distinct body of water to the next, each with unique characteristics, and providing different habitats for a host of plant and animal species.

Every spring the pond at the upper reaches of the trail is filled with the eggs of the blue-spotted salamander. Since the beavers have dammed a small spring, little water exits from this pond. This has kept fish out of these waters and therefore it provides a perfect habitat for this unusual species which cannot exist where even the smallest of minnows would make quick feast of their eggs.

The Moose Trail extends westward from the pond with views over Carl Rideout Lake, located deep within the forest. The trail then reconnects with the other routes, at the top of Berley Valley, around the Shirley Temple. It is here that hikers can decide how they want to proceed on the forest trails. (Refer to sketch below)

As they rest at the circular opening in the forest, the sound of Berley Creek and Shirley Falls reminds them that they have experienced a walk through a small sampling of the distinct natural water features of Muskoka. Whether or not they have seen a moose on their journey is not important but if they had, it would surely make for some great stories.

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