July 2, 2016
The Canada Goose Side Trail is on the former homestead of one of Esquesing Township’s earliest settlers and any geese seen along the trail will be on their way to the lake that has been created by the quarry that now operates at the rear of the property.
There is Bruce Trail parking on Regional Road 43 (22 side road) but I parked on the 4th line just north of the corner where a little side trail leads to the official parking lot. The Canada Goose side trail begins on a curve in the road, right on a blind curve. There are no shoulders on the road so this is an important place to take care when emerging from the trees. The trail roughly parallels the fourth line along a ridge of escarpment. It runs for about 3 kilometers before it reaches the main Bruce Trail (White on the map). The map below is taken from the 1877 county atlas and I’ve traced the rough outline of the hike, which includes other trails as detailed below.
The trail leads into the woods through a patch of tiger lilies. Tiger lilies get their name from the spots on their bright orange petals. They are also known as ditch lilies because they commonly grow in ditches. This lily is toxic to house cats and can produce vomiting and even death. In humans a tincture made from the plant is used to control vomiting during pregnancy. Baked tiger lily buds taste a lot like baked potato.
John Nickell Jr. was born in 1821 on Lot 22, Concession 4 in Esquesing Township. John Nickell Sr. had come from Ireland in 1819 and obtained the land grant that still bears his name on the county atlas above. John Jr. lived on the farm and continued to work it until 1897, the year before he died. The records show that John Jr. was born in the log cabin built by his father on the rear of the property and that he was the first European male born in the township. The old silo from the barn still stands only a few meters away from where the quarry now extends. The construction of a concrete silo must have occurred sometime near the end of the productive life of the farm. This type of construction wasn’t common until after 1900.
The stone foundations for the barn stand adjacent to the silo. John Nickell Sr. would have built his first barn on the ground and only later it would have been raised onto a foundation or replaced with a new larger barn. Prior to the mid 1800’s the normal barn construction was timber frame. By the middle of the century stick framing replaced it using mass produced nails and boards. It’s likely that the homestead had both types of barns at one time. The county atlas shows an orchard beside the house and farm buildings.
The homestead of John Nickell, like his neighbours to the north, sat on top of 30 meters of dolomitic limestone that was accessible near the surface. This stone is critical to the construction industry and aggregates like those produced here find their way into most GTA roads and building projects. The Dolly Varden – Acton Quarry is listed on the 1904 Ontario Geological Survey and some early lime kilns are still to be found on quarry property. Dufferin Quarries owns and operates 222 hectares of land that is licenced for limestone extraction and are in the application process for an expansion. They also operate the quarries near Milton where The Gap in the escarpment is seen from the 401. The picture below shows the rock face where a fresh cut is being made. Broken stone lies at the bottom of the rock face waiting to be transported to the main part of the quarry for processing.
Here is a classic example of hiding in plain sight. This bird has built it’s nest to match the size and shape of the broken tree pictured below. There is a little wall to stop the wind from blowing in from the west.
The Canada Goose Side Trail has some challenging footing. It passes through several different types of forests. You’ll be walking on hard path, rocks, through wetlands and over stumps and roots.
Robin’s Plantain is a member of the aster family along with 23,600 other recognized species. Robin’s plantain has had several other names over the years including hawkweed a name given it by the ancient Greeks who thought that hawks used the sap to improve their eyesight. It has a common family name of fleabane. The plant grows up to two feet tall on a single stock. Four or more flower blossoms grow at the top of the stock. The plant was used by Native Americans steeped in a tea for it’s medicinal properties. It was believed to be both a diuretic and analgesic. It was used to stop bleeding, for coughs, diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
The main Bruce Trail crosses the fourth line and continues east toward Limehouse on the fifth line. The trail uses these stiles to cross over fences and over half of the Bruce Trail is on private land so there are many of these stiles along the trail.
The fourth line makes it’s way back toward where I parked.
There are lots of trails in the area of Limehouse. Following the Bruce Trail into town instead of cutting off on the Benton Brown Side Trail will bring you to the Limehouse Conservation Area where the historic Lime Kilns are.
Google Maps link: Canada Goose Side Trail
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