This article was originally published in the Chronicle Herald's weekly community papers and has been republished here with their permission.
It used to be that to find the entrance to Long Lake Provincial Park off the Northwest Arm Drive someone had to show you where it was. I remember I had to park my car near the Tim Horton’s and then cross the road to search for that specific spot near a road sign where I could push aside a few tree boughs to duck into the roughly cut trail. It felt like the best kept secret in the city.
There have been a few changes since then.
During my recent visit to the newly developed trails I find that there is no mystery about where the trail begins. There is a big sign, large parking lot, a washroom and a map at the trailhead.
I’m looking forward to walking the 5-kilometre Lakeview Trail around Witherod Lake. Yes, although it’s Long Lake Park, this particular section doesn’t actually go around Long Lake, although it’s not far away from this main path.
I do notice that the gravel they’ve laid is a bit large for comfortable walking. A stroller or wheelchair would have a bumpy ride along this section but I’m hopeful this is a side effect of the newness of the trail and the gravel will settle soon.
If you are hardy enough to venture off the beaten track a little, you will find remnants of the original heart of this park, handmade mountain bike trails that weave their way in and out of the new route. Many of these are overgrown and bridges are in disrepair now, but they make for some interesting side trips, just have a good GPS with you to find your way back to the main road.
Today I stay on the main trail (as I would surely get lost in this 2,000 hectare park if I headed too far in). There are benches and bike racks regularly placed along the main path, bridges to get you over any swampy parts and the occasional historical or informational sign to provide some background to the trail.
Lots of wildlife skitter around during my walk although I can’t locate the beaver dam I’ve been told about. Despite being so close to the main roads, it’s actually very quiet for most of the walk and I encounter only a few other people.
As I loop the lake I take advantage of those side trails and pop down several of them to enjoy the views of the lake. It’s quiet and calm and there are some great flat rocks to settle in and enjoy a picnic on, or read a book or even hop in for a quick swim. I’ve heard there may be plans to create a section to launch canoes and kayaks, which would be a fantastic addition to the park.
I end my peaceful walk back at the parking lot and spend some time reading the informational signs before I leave, waving hello to a friendly family entering the park with their pup. It may not be the city’s best kept secret any more, but this is the kind of secret that should be shared and enjoyed by everyone.