Have you ever driven by a forest that is an old pine plantation with row upon row of Scots pine? Usually there is nothing in the undergrowth and the plantation is basically a monoculture. It is as interesting to walk through as a corn field. There may be a parking area and a sign indicating some facility or other. You drive by without another glance or thought. Such is the case on Taunton Rd. just west of Orono, ON. I see a sign for an Outdoor Education Center and for the Orono Crown Lands, but the trees around it are the monoculture of pine. I have driven by these lands a hundred times and never stopped. However a few weeks back while hiking at Stephen's Gulch a man I met suggested it would be worth visiting. Today I did just that. It was well worth it. I entered the area from the parking lot at the corner of Station St and Ochanski Rd just west of Orono. I walked a couple of hundred feet straight into the forest to the head of the trails. Here were some birdfeeders, and today, there were numerous chickadees, a few siskins, goldfinches, and at least one of each, red-breasted and white-breasted nuthatches. In the immediate vicinity I heard blue jays and saw crows as well.
Chickadees at feeder
The trails are quite extensive and have obviously been used for cross country skiing in recent days. With gently rolling topography I can see it would be a very nice place to ski and will definitely be back out in the near future with my skiis. Farther in to the area I saw tracks of a variety of animals including coyotes and deer. Red squirrels chattered at me. The sun was shining bright on the snow and there was very litle wind. All in all it was a beautiful winter afternoon.
Deer Track through the forest
The forested areas are a mix of plantation conifers and deciduous second growth with rolling hills and small streams cutting through the area. This is all part of the Wilmot Creek watershed.
To look at the map at the entrance the area generally runs north south along the creek and is quite extensive with links across a few of the roads. It is large enough so that if you got turned around you might walk for an hour or two before coming out to a road. The main entrance sign had a pocket for trail maps but it was empty today. I would suggest you print one before leaving home. The map is one of the pages in the website run by the Orono Crown Lands trust.
This area looks to be great for mountain biking, hiking, and birding and in the winter skiing and snowshoeing. As it is only ten minutes from my house I will definitely be back!