SHEFFIELD CONSERVATION AREA
Challenge yourself to a hike at Sheffield Conservation Area
The contrast was immediately clear to me as I sat down and pulled out my picnic lunch. With one ear I heard the hum and rush of traffic on the nearby highway, with the other, cocked towards the forest, I heard the call of birds and the twitter of chipmunks. I was in between two very different worlds, and in my mind there wasn’t much competition as to where I’d rather spend my afternoon.
Sheffield Conservation area, owned and operated by Quinte Conservation and located just south of Kaladar off Highway 41, is a rugged gem for hikers seeking adventure close to home. Paddling enthusiasts can also access Little Melon Lake and Devil Lake right from the parking lot. Sheffield Conservation Area is certainly not lacking in lakes; the looped trail winds around the five interior lakes (Little Melon Lake, Devil Lake, Haley Lake, Mud Lake, and Round Lake), offering some spectacular views overlooking the lakes, but also occasionally dipping down to touch their shores. If you bring your rod and reel, you may get lucky since these lakes are known to be rich with several different species of fish.
I arrived on a humid day with thunderstorms rolling in the distance. Undeterred, I packed up my water bottle and my raincoat and hit the trail. Almost immediately, I was struck by the terrain beneath my feet. The downtrodden path of packed earth gave way to great swaths of stone, swirled and layered with shades of salmon pink and iron grey. Here was the Canadian Shield. This great backbone of Canada contains rocks more than 570 million year old and runs through at least 6 provinces and 2 territories, including two thirds of Ontario. Long ago, glaciers carved out many of the basins and paths for the innumerable lakes, rivers, and streams of the Canadian Shield, but here it was still, at my fingertips and beneath my feet.
Vast forest regions also typify the Canadian Shield, and I passed through some of those too. It had rained earlier and the smell of damp earth made the woods seem intensely alive. I scared a few birds as I passed, or rather they scared me as they scolded me noisily for disturbing their tranquility. Sheffield is also home to Ontario’s only lizard, the five-lined skink. I didn’t see any on this particular day, but the careful observer should keep an eye out for their distinctive blue tails.
For a Sunday stroll with Grandma and the kids, Sheffield Conservation Area is perhaps not the most suitable destination. Solid shoes are a must and I’d definitely recommend bug spray if you’re out on a humid summer day like I was. At one point, I lost the trail and had to backtrack to find it again, so do keep an eye out for blazes (usually orange) marking the trail to ensure you don’t stray off the path.
That being said, the hike was exhilarating and the scenery breathtaking. Stretching and working my muscles, I felt in tune with my body, and felt in turn that my body belonged to the nature that surrounded me, as a piece to the whole. The hugeness of the dark sky, the steadiness of the towering granite, the plunging depths of the lakes; all of these things made me feel small, but not insignificant. I was a visitor here, a passerby glimpsing for a second something bigger and far more ancient than I. But I was glad for the glimpse. I had no desire to tame what was here, only to see it, to drink it in, and leave it in peace. This was a feeling I couldn’t capture in the pictures that I snapped, and the reason that Sheffield Conservation Area would draw me back again.
Melissa Rodgers is a student at Carleton University. Her passions include history, cooking, reading, and the great outdoors.