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      It was actually the husband who suggested a hike today. Not that I wasn’t thinking it with such a beautiful day like today, that had no plans, but his suggestion was enough to confirm those plans for me today. It wasn’t until I started driving with the hubby and the two little guys in the van that I asked, “So where are we going?” I jumped online (www.ontariotrails.on.ca) to figure the answer to that while we got some fuel. On my quick search I found a place just outside of Wheatley, ON (I really have no idea what town it is officially in) called the Hillman Marsh Conservation Area. The main things that won me over out of the many choices of Conservation Areas in the Essex Region was I saw it was near some form of water and it had washrooms. Win!

      When we got there we did have to pay $5, but it was worth it, especially when you know the money goes back in to the conservation areas. There was some picnic tables, some choices to start different trails, and a nature building (that was closed- but it did have an observation deck on the back).

View from observation deck

       All of the trails there are wide and grass or stone. We didn’t have the wagon today as it was in the shop (in the backseat of our van), but the sit-and-stand stroller did well enough- not ideal- but it worked. We had a marsh on one side, wild flowers on the other. Now this trail goes through the marsh according the map and so you have water on both sides of you- unfortunately there was a sign saying we couldn’t go that way due to hunting that takes place on certain days, Saturday being one. Lame.

       We were still able to do some of the marsh that had a boardwalk so you could walk out on it for a bit. I never had a fear of boardwalks in the middle of water though until today. Having your 3.5 year old that has no fear, who will walk without looking, randomly walk backwards, or even just run to find something to throw in the water for that matter is insanely frightening on those things. Luckily we were able to stay dry today, but there were definitely some times when it got close (at least felt like it was). It was probably thanks to the fact that I remembered an extra pair of pants for him this time that he stayed dry. 

     We got to see tonnes of little critters on our walk which included 3 praying mantis, 8 frogs, lots of butterflies, and a 2-3 foot long snake. It was getting to the point where I wasn’t sure where to point my camera with the added beautiful nature all around us. We were also lucky enough to catch quite a few Monarch Butterflies in the area as they are low in numbers sadly this year.

Praying Mantis
Monarch Butterfly

    Not only did we get to see lots of neat things but we also got to hear them. At one point there was a tiny boardwalk over a mucky pond area and it was surrounded by trees and filled by Blue Jays and other song birds. I attempted to take a recording of what we could hear, which also includes the 3 year old in the background, which is him trying to be quiet to the best of his ability. Sadly I am not skilled enough (or more realistically just not patient enough) to figure out how to add the audio- I did try, but no luck; I will have to look into that when I have some free time next.

      We kept hiking after a little visit with a mother and son who were ‘trail’ing (sorry I couldn’t resist that one) behind us most of the way. It was getting pretty warm outside and there was a lack of shade which intensified the heat. As I said the trail was a bit hard with the stroller, especially while pushing two kids in it. There was a lot of sweat, heavy breathing, and sore tired muscles happening, and I wasn’t even the one pushing it. My husband is a champ. We saw a few more frogs on this part of the trail and introduced the oldest boy into the terrifying world of flying grasshoppers which covered the trail in some parts. In case you are wondering what the 1.5 yr old was doing- he was busy trying to stay awake in the stroller the whole time but the bumpy travel made him super sleepy.


Eventually we hit another ‘No Hiking’ sign due to hunting so we had to retrace our steps back and headed to the car, excited to sit for a bit.

      
 We didn’t sit for long though as down the road there was a little beach that we drove by earlier that we knew we had to come back to visit. The waves were big today and crashing and spraying against the rocks. There was a bit of a ridge so it made two levels of the beach that was pretty cool. Both boys had a blast at the water edge, with one doing his best to not leave a single rock on the beach by throwing them in the lake, and the other one digging and trying to sneak the odd bit of sand into his mouth (which he succeeded with doing a couple of times).

Both boys were asleep by 7:30pm tonight- which is a near record for them both being down and so early. That is just how much fun we all had today. What a great trail. Next time we will be sure to come though on a day that is safe to walk the rest of the trail!
 

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