The Sweetest Day: Maple Sugar Bush Hike at The Jack Smythe Field Centre (with photo album)

March Break has long come and gone, and now that we’ve had a while to get back into our groove and sift through the photos of the kids’ annual Spring reprieve, it’s official: The sweetest day was our Maple Sugar Bush Hike at the Jack Smythe Field Centre. Yep, we hit up the tried and true traditional, Canadian sugar shack and it was grand!

Français : « Une érablière » par Allan Edson, ...

"Sugar Shack" by Allan Edson (1872)

“Sugar shacking” is a well worn Canadian tradition, but I’ve only ever been during the winter months. I wasn’t sure what to expect as we drove up and down the huge hills to get there. The weather had been wonky for a few weeks (huge ups and downs in temperature) which left all of Spring’s new greenery and flowers in my area frostbitten, dead, half bloomed, or just plain pathetic looking (some of you may recall my Magnolia lament ;)).  I worried that the maple bush would be brown and withered, that the promised “friendly chickadees” would be holed up in their nests, and the kids woefully disappointed with the whole thing. I didn’t want their first maple sugar bush experience to stink – they’re half Canadian for goodness sake!

As you’ll see, however, Mother Nature pulled out all the stops and gave us a truly splendid day. I put up a teaser a while back promising this post would include “a sugar shack, mammoth teepee and some funkaliciously weird mossy rocks”.  Well, read on! Funkalicious – and delicious! – are right around the corner…

(Just a few of my favourite shots below, followed by the full slideshow/thumbnails with lots of additional pics!  Captions on my photos should tell the story :))

Arriving!

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No idea what kind of trees these are but the buds were remarkable

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Bud on tree

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Ava, Ben and Daddy entering the trail

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Spring was beginning to paint the place with some new life and colour...trees were beginning to green-up again

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Looking into the wood

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Tree that had recently been felled

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Mock up "person" with two cans for hands. The cans held bird seed that the kids could put in their hands and raise up in hopes of a chickadee landing, in palm, to eat. (I thought the scarf was a nice touch) We saw many chickadees, but none seemed hungry.

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Our first encounter with trees that had been tapped and were set up with buckets to catch the sap. It takes 40(!) of these buckets full of sap to make 1 small, glass bottle of maple syrup!

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Clear drop of sap about to fall into the collection bucket

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Finally, we made it to the back of the Sugar Shack! (Yes, that really is moss on the roof)

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Syrup is released through the tap and into a cheesecloth-type bag lined bucket. The cheesecloth removed any leftover impurities (or tree "stuff") from the syrup.

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After the presentation on how maple syrup is made, we were given popsicle sticks to dip into the fresh maple syrup....DELICIOUS! (Unfortunately, we were all too busy tasting to get a good shot of our "oh yummy!" expressions. With the exception of some syrup in the hair, all parties were impressed with the flavour :)

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The most funky moss rock we saw. At least 3 different kids of moss (completely different texture and shape!) all growing in different directions on the same rock. Each one of them even felt unique!

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The teepee is actually much larger than it would have been when the Aboriginal people lived in them (my husband, pictured, is just over 6"2 to give you an idea of it's size). It's been made this big so that visitors to Jack Smythe can enter and see a demonstration inside

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Looking down: More moss, foliage and leaves...at my feet.

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Looking up...trees and light

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Moss growing up tree trunk

The full slideshow is here:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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To enlarge any thumbnail, click on image

All that sweet, mapley goodness got us in the mood for waffles and pancakes! Fortunately, I was able to find an absolutely wonderful recipe for egg free pancakes that my kids could eat (See my Eggless, Vegan Pancakes post).  As you can imagine, we all ate, breathed and oozed maple for many days after!

Coming home from Jack Smythe, we stopped into Montana’s Cookhouse for my favourite veggie burger…but that’s a story to be saved for another day :)

In the meantime, if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Jack Smythe Field Centre, I’d highly recommend it! It’s located at 14592 Winston Churchill Blvd., Terra Cotta, Ontario  N0B 1H0. Telephone number (905) 877-7771. Rates were $5 per adult and $4 per child 12 years and under.

Which of the pictures did you enjoy best? What did you do on your March/Spring Break? And (most importantly) does anyone know what the heck kind of tree that was with those huge, gorgeous, red buds??

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