Foley Mountain Trees

The Foley Mountain Conservation Area, overlooking Westport, is one of my special places, as it is for so many who visit there. Many of the trees there are landmarks for us, friends which have inspired us for forty years. Yesterday we made a quick trip to check in with a few favourites.

Barry and I and Magnus our dachsund started by wandering through the long grove of aged maples beside the park interpretive centre, and bordering the frozen Little Rideau Lake. Craning our necks upwards towards the very blue sky, we were marvelling as we always do not just at their remarkable size, but also at their individuality. If any trees feel sacred, these do.

From there we backtracked to a aplendid stretch of pines across from the student campground. These overlook what once was a carriageway for Jake, the First Nations man who lived with his family in a cabin at the base of “the mountain”. Standing under these lofty trees, drinking in their pungent fragrance we listened to the brisk wind in the swaying boughs. With the hint of warmth in the day, at last the winter-stiffened needles were softening.

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Yellow Birch

We couldn’t leave without visiting the stand of yellow birch, with their splendid curly bark and glistening trunks. The main one of these was a landmark for me when I had little boys. When Morgan was a toddler and Jeremy was a baby bouncing in my back carrier, the yellow birch was as far as we could walk together. No matter how difficult the day, this trek to admire the tree made things better. Yesterday, I was pleased to see just how many offspring now flourished in the boggy ground around the mother tree.

Before we returned to our car, we stopped to take joy in another favourite, one of the remarkable shagbark hickories that grow at Foley Mountain. Gently laying my hand on the long scales of bark, I promised myself to return when its large pink flower buds unfurl.

About Peri McQuay

Peri Phillips McQuay is the author of Singing Meadow: The Adventure of Creating a Country Home, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations on her experiences living for 30 years at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk is the story of her adventures with Merak, a human-imprinted hawk, who lived free but saw McQuay and her family as her special people. Also Peri has written numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. Her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher’s Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick.

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