Blogger Mike Hector and photographer Heidi Csernak explored some fantastic and authentic locations in Lennox & Addington County in 2018.
For their first foray into Lennox & Addington, they gave readers a tasty sampling of L&A’s pristine outdoor spaces that are ripe for exploring. Lush, sprawling parks and conservation areas where travellers can reconnect with nature in a region that is so close to home.
Without further delay, let’s jump right in for a first-hand look at the unspoiled beauty of Lennox & Addington County!
Starting the Day Right in Odessa
To get our day off to a good start, we headed to the Village of Odessa, Ontario for a proper breakfast at the Jiffy Grill. Situated right off Highway 2 on Odessa’s main strip, the Jiffy is a popular stop for locals and travellers looking for a classic diner experience. It’s a bright and inviting restaurant with a menu consisting of traditional items.
We’d be walking several kilometres worth of trails over the course of the day, so a hearty breakfast was key. Heidi went with the Breakfast Special – consisting of a traditional two eggs with home fries, bacon and toast. Being the traditionalist that I am – the Western Omelette was an easy choice.
Paired with a few cups of freshly brewed coffee, it was a great way to kick off our day trip.
Exploring An Untouched Wetland Sanctuary
Ten minutes South of Odessa lies Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area, a breathtaking 289 acres of protected wetlands, forests and rolling fields teeming with wildlife. Parrott’s Bay has been a popular public outdoor recreational space since its designation in 1969 by Ernestown Township. The surrounding lands have since been purchased by the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, the last parcel of land being acquired in 2006.
Here, you will find six kilometres of captivating trails to explore, amid the rich biodiversity of the surrounding wetland, woodland and shoreline ecosystems. This is a prime opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life – and reconnect one’s self with the less complicated and elemental aspects of life.
As we arrived at the conservation area’s South entrance the skies were cloudy and grey, but sunny skies were forecast for later that morning. We followed the number 1 trail which led to an observation deck overlooking a vast marshland area which embraced the bay itself.
From the observation area, we spotted several Red Winged Blackbirds as they flew about the tall bullrushes heralding the new day’s arrival with their song. Contrary to what you might think, only the males feature the black feathers and signature red markings on the wings. The females sport a vivid pattern of beige and tan feathers with speckled breast plumage.
Next, we doubled back on the number 1 trail, then walked along the number 2 trail North, to where it veered to the right and became the number 3. This trail stretched through a gorgeous wooded area that was bustling with activity. Squirrels and Chipmunks darted to and fro across the trail, and throughout the forest floor – chattering and squeaking as they crashed through the underbrush, and clambered up and over trees.
The air was filled with the jubilant chorus several species of birds, each singing to one another as we meandered along the trail. There is nothing more personally refreshing or profoundly therapeutic as taking a nice leisurely walk amongst nature. The stress of our daily routines and the dreaded daily grind literally melt away amid the tranquillity of it all.
As we wandered along the number 3 trail we came to a small bridge that crossed a stream that was connected to the bay. As Heidi peered over the edge, she spotted long slender shapes swimming amongst the shallows beneath the bridge. “Hey, come check this out!” She exclaimed.
To my amazement, there was a trio of Longnose Gar swimming in a courtship formation in the shallow water beneath the bridge. These long slender cousins of the pike are a versatile predator fish, sporting long slender “beaks” filled with needle-sharp teeth. Garfish are an ambush predator that rely on their keen eyesight and astonishing speed to snap up their prey in a flash.
This prehistoric looking fish is a common bucket list fish for anglers, that put up a ruthless fight when hooked. The nearby Napanee River is a great place to target longnose gar. As a matter of fact, my fellow blogger and local fishing expert Ashley Ray just recently hooked an impressive specimen right here in L&A County!
Here Comes The Sun
As we continued to wander along the trails of Parrott’s Bay, the sun began to break through the clouds casting shafts of golden light through the forest canopy. It seemed that in the blink of an eye, the grey cloud cover was replaced by a brilliant blue sky. Throughout the remainder of our walk the forest seemed to celebrate the improved weather. The chipmunks and squirrels grew even ever more feisty – and the birds were chirping away in blissful excitement.
We spent a total of four hours at Parrott’s Bay Conservation Area and covered just under five kilometres of trails. Heidi and I were absolutely enthralled and captivated by the experience – and likely could have spent the rest of the day getting lost, wandering about the breathtaking trails and panoramic views.
Cruising the North Shore of Lake Ontario
After returning to the car, we proceeded West on The Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33) hugging the North shore beneath that beautiful blue sky. The Loyalist Parkway is one of the region’s most scenic drives – with plenty of roadside rest and picnic areas where you can pull off, shoot some photos or just soak up the sun at the water’s edge.
With the windows down, and the stereo up, we followed the Loyalist Parkway through Millhaven and past the historic village of Bath which made for a picturesque lakeshore drive. I’ve driven this route numerous times throughout my life, but that view never seems to get old.
After passing the immense Ontario Power Generation station, we turned North on County Road 22 toward Napanee, marvelling at the rolling rural landscapes stretching out all around us like a never-ending emerald carpet. After several hours of walking through the wilderness – we were more than ready to hit up Downtown Napanee for a late lunch.
A Hearty Lunch in Downtown Napanee
By the time we arrived in Napanee via County Road 22, we were more than ready for a late lunch. All that hiking we did earlier had worked up quite the appetite! After parking near Centre Street, we made our way to Napanee’s main drag (Dundas St.) and headed to the Loaf N Ale.
For lunch, Heidi went with the LNA’s signature burger: The Loafer with added cheese, bacon and a Caesar salad on the side. It came with a rather plentiful hand-made beef patty and was stacked high with fresh onion tomato lettuce and pickle.
I had a huge chicken caesar wrap that was packed with fresh romaine, dressing and generous chunks of oven roasted meat. It also came with a pile of crispy golden, thick-cut fries, that were exactly what you’d expect from a true pub.
Our late lunch was more like dinner as it was 3:30 when we sat down at the Loaf N Ale. The food was great and really hit the spot. We couldn’t have asked for better after a four-hour hike!
A Scenic Walk Along Greater Napanee’s Waterfront Trail
A short six-minute walk south along Centre Street brought us to Greater Napanee’s Conservation Park situated on the south bank of the Napanee River. It is a brilliant outdoor space with tall Silver Maples stretching into the sky and several mature Weeping Willows drooping their branches around the water’s edge.
This lovely park looked like a surreal vision from a Claude Monet or Georges Seurat painting. Absolutely stunning. I could picture a crowd of people wearing Victorian-era attire, lazing in the grass while enjoying a picnic just like the paintings, only this was life imitating art.
We wandered East on the trail, walking along the vivid scenery of the riverside trail stopping every few seconds to shoot pictures of the many birds, waterfowl and other animal species residing on the banks of the Napanee River. We spotted several ducks, some Canada Geese (which we steered clear from as they had babies) turtles, frogs and sunfish!
The riverside trail is an incredibly popular outdoor leisure area, perfect for walks, family picnics and even fishing. In fact, several people were casting lines into the water as we walked along the path. By the time we reached the East side of the trail that we noticed a particularly seasoned “fisherman” who’s been frequenting this portion of the river for years.
At the foot of the rushing waterfalls, we spotted a large and majestic Great Blue Heron holding perfectly still, waiting to snatch a fish from the rushing water. Herons are seasoned anglers, using their quick reflexes and superb eyesight to snap up prey in the blink of an eye.
This elegant bird was able to spot the silver glint of small fish in the rushing water – and snatch them into its scissor-like beak in a flash. It was quite the spectacle!
After watching the Heron catch a few more fish, much to the annoyance of the nearby human anglers – we slowly began to make our way back as the sun dipped toward the horizon. We certainly covered a lot of ground during our visit to Lennox & Addington County and as a result, had many lifelong memories to bring home with us.
Experience Lennox & Addington County!
We’ve reached the end of our first installment, but don’t worry – more stories are on the way! Heidi and I had the time of our lives rediscovering the natural beauty of Lennox & Addington County and can’t wait until the next trip! This spectacular region of South Eastern Ontario is so close to other major urban centres like Kingston, Ottawa or Toronto – and is often overlooked.
The next time you plan a staycation or road trip, consider taking the road less travelled – and discover a treasure trove of hidden gems that are surprisingly out in plain sight. To help you get started, we’ve included a custom Google Map that tracks the route we chose for this trip. Try it for yourself, or create your own custom adventure!
This article was originally published in June 2018.