Walking Trails Near Waterloo Ontario
N2W Contributor Carolyn Parks shares some of her favorite hidden spots around Waterloo Region for enjoying nature and each other:
“Every Spring, it seems we all affiliate with a particular symbol that we consider the true harbinger of the new season. For some, it’s robins appearing suddenly on lawns. For others, it might be the first buds on the trees.
In my house, it’s the birthing of the frog and tadpole eggs. When late April hits, my kids grab a bucket and a net and we head on down – Andy Griffith style – to the river (minus the rolled up pant cuffs and wholesome whistling). In fact, the Easter Bunny gave each of my kids a net instead of pounds of chocolate.
We live in St. Jacobs, and are fortunate to be a hop, skip and jump away from the lovely Mill Race Trail. On one side of the well worn path there is a view of the rolling farmland hills and flowing Grand River, and to the left side – tucked cosily beside our walking path – a side creek.
It is this left side creek that demands most of our family’s attention in spite of the epic vision to our right. My kids bound along the path and down the short bank to the creek’s edge, looking for frogs or anything else living that they might abscond for a night’s observation.
Over the years, I myself have become sucked into this ritual, and find myself straining my near sighted eyes to find anything new and interesting. The unfortunate part about having poor vision is that a floating leaf can definitely seem like some exciting reptilian find.
The closer you look and the more you pay attention, life is literally teeming around you. There are all the obvious sights and sounds of nature…burgeoning buds, chirping chippies (chipmunks), buzzing bugs and warbling water. But if you stay still and keep watching, you discover the more subtle offerings of the river: the dimpling of the water which might suggest a turtle on the far side, a heavy ‘plop’ as a beaver (or…?) slides into the water to make his way downstream, the mid-air dance of diving and swooping dragonfly lovers, or the tiniest sparks pricking the water where spider legs meet the surface.
We as a family spend a great amount of time at the river; I find myself there so often that I feel entitled to my own parking spot. Extending approximately 2 km from the heart of St. Jacobs to Three Bridges Road, the Mill Race Trail is a favourite destination for seniors, young familes, joggers, cyclists, photographers, young lovers, pet walkers and more.
On a recent weekend, our family broke with tradition and took in a different trail. A friendly English couple on our St. Jacobs walking way told us of a place – a mystical place (if you are my 8 year old son, Luke) – near Cambridge where you can find many turtles. So off we went in order to hit the Mill Run Trail off of Kossuth Road. It was a beautiful shaded trail following Speed River and just 5 minutes upon it, we ran into the storied turtle haven. Snapping turtles, some looking older than myself, were basking in the sun. I half expected so see some crocs slinking around the bog amongst these ancient looking creatures.
I believe that nothing can nourish our souls in quite the same way as a simple stroll along a trail. We are fortunate to have many trails in our region. You may not be froggers (I certainly never was until the age of 40!), and you may not be so keen on snapping turtles. But just breathe in deeply and open your ears to the sounds of the water and forest. You can’t help it; it will change you.”