Sunday, March 24, 2013

The McMaster Forest

Hiding quietly within metres of a busy highway between West Hamilton and Ancaster hides one of the regions newest conservation lands. Few know of it yet, but maybe someday when its trails are finally blazed it will likely become a popular destination. It has no official name yet, but has been referred to by many as "McMaster Forest".

Oddly enough, this 115-acre "forest" seems to be more open land than woodland. It's owned by McMaster University, and until recently was under consideration for development. It appears they are opting for conservation/research uses for the land, after sitting on it since 1969. I recall hearing recently that a proper trail system may be implemented here, but I can't seem to find the reference to that online at the moment. Oh well!

It was mid-February I visited this site, and I haven't gotten around to putting up a post about it until now.

The views from the largest and highest clearing is pretty interesting -- there is an almost complete sensation of being inside a "bowl" of sorts, with escarpment visible on nearly every side. In the east, the south, and south-west the escarpment stretches until it is obscured by trees. It reappears in the north-west, where Dundas Peak is almost visible, and the treeline of pines atop the "north mountain" in Dundas is visible.

The trail system here is unmaintained. There are some clearly worn-in trails created by humans over the years, and many clearly worn-in narrow deer-trails as well. And some deer-trails that it seems quite clear some humans thought would be a good idea to follow until they lead into a nasty thornbush or very low branches. Ouch.

I've only had just over an hour of time on the trails here, in the upper section (only discovering the land continued into a valley section at the end of my walk), and it's got some very nice walks. A loop trail of sorts takes you through the more open field of younger trees and bushes, leading eventually to a well-worn trail through the older growth sections along Ancaster/Coldwater Creek.

That said, there are random trails all over the place, some leading to dead ends or obstacles with no clear direction whether to turn back or look for a hidden continuing trail.

Considering that on the opposite side of the creek in the north end is Hamilton Conservation Authority land, I'm hoping there's some future collaboration between McMaster and the HCA -- It would be pretty neat if a link trail were to be created between the Monarch Trail and this new land via walking bridge over Ancaster Creek. I don't have any idea how viable that would be (or anything about the cost/impact/etc), but it's something that would be really neat, having more inter-connectedness between trail systems.

But for now this remains in a public/private property limbo of sorts. It's "use at your own risk" open land, and while it is fun sometimes to hike where-ever you like instead of on designated trails, over time this place will need some proper trails before some species of plants begin to decline from being trampled on.

Directions: Take Wilson Street leaving West Hamilton towards Ancaster, and turn right onto Lower Lion's Club Road. Park on the right side of the road at the fences a few metres in.

Dundas mountain in the distance...

Fauna! White-tailed Deer.

Coldwater Creek. Or Ancaster Creek. Depends on who you ask.

Some nice older-growth Red Pine here.

Facing the escarpment in the south.

One of the more established trails.

One of the less established trails. For humans, that is. Deer trail!

View to the south-east.

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