This Lake Rocks! A Paleo-Portrait of Prince Edward County

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Shoreline of Lake Ontario, taken near Sandbanks Provincial Park

When there’s a need to escape the city for a quiet place with family, my boyfriend and I head to the beaches and vineyards of Prince Edward County.

Not to be confused with Canada’s tiniest province, PEC is an island on the eastern shores of Lake Ontario, halfway between Toronto and Ottawa. Perhaps once Ontario’s best-kept secret, its allure is slowly turning the heads of busy urbanites. Accessible by car, train or ferry, the island provides a perfect respite for hikers, bird-watchers, art junkies and beer, wine and cider connoisseurs like us. You won’t drive 5 km without passing a winery or a distillery.

Featured above is a snapshot of Lake Ontario from our hike through Sandbanks Provincial Park and Lakeshore Lodge. To our right, a thin strip of land lined with hilly sand dunes separates two bodies of water, with the tinier West Lake on the adjacent side. The shores of West Lake is where my boyfriend’s Dad and Stepmom reside.

In the summer, the dunes are ideal for beach time with the sands feeling warm beneath our toes. Even in the winter, we find warmth through climbing up the tallest hills. But there was no sand here, only hard stone and pebbles splashed with cold and vigorous waves. A strong gust always blows through, feeling particularly warm for this time of year. When the temperature drops, oftentimes a solid wall of ice would form, looking like a great storm levee. The hike is certainly worth clearing one’s mind post-Christmastime commotion and walking off a stomach full of pizza.

I wasn’t aware until now, that the very rocks that we tread on have a long history themselves. Their origins predate over 450 million years, situated on the opposite ends of the Earth.

Before dinosaurs existed, the County was once a small, isolated island made of granite, located 2,000 kilometres south of the Equator. The only signs of life were an amphibious bacteria that relied on solar energy for photosynthesis, prehistoric ancestors of clams, snails, corals and an assortment of other small critters. Its most fearsome creature was the conodont, a slithery, eel-like creature with sharp teeth filled with calcium-phosphate. The island in its primitive state was like an extraterrestrial habitat.

The environment was once prone to turbulent weather patterns to a greater scale than seen today. Clouds of volcanic ash veiled the sun for days or weeks, caused by eruptions from the southeastern horizon. Eventually, the ash would fall into the sea, killing several creatures and creating a layer of soft sediment that preserved their bodies. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were tiny conodont-imprinted fossils scattered along the shoreline.

It’s rather extraordinary to understand how this makes our presence seem instantaneous. It feels like a moment passed quicker than a millisecond within an endless, far-reaching lifetime over millions of years. The rock I stood on, has traveled farther distances and seen more creatures beyond my grasp.

Here are some more pictures below that I captured during our hike:

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*For more information: Wind, Water, Barley & Wine, The Nature of Prince Edward County by Orland French

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