Giving Tuesday: Prescribing Joany's Woods

Leading up to Giving Tuesday 2021, we are excited to present the stories of TTLT supporters and their relationships with our nature reserves. First up is the story of Lynn Vander Vloet and her connection to Joany's Woods.

We are extremely fortunate to have Joany’s Woods in our neighbourhood of North Middlesex. It is a fantastic natural setting available to us for hiking, bird watching, walking a dog, and to just get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It has been especially utilized during this time of COVID-19 when people were experiencing stress and were limited to where they could visit. 

I retired a few years ago and was not at all happy with my health. I was spending two hours driving to and from work and although the work is very important, it did not involve any physical activity. I was driving to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. It was time for a change.

My husband and I began hiking these woods a few years ago, as a plan to improve our physical stamina before a rigorous trip to Guatemala. We have enjoyed the new hiking routine so much, we have not given it up. I walk on the River trail and part of the Ivey rail before breakfast and the two of us return to Joany’s Woods to walk the Inch trail after supper. 

It is amazing to watch the woods come alive in the spring. It seems each plant has its own intention of when to bloom. The Ontario Trilliums emerge in white, lavender and crimson, then later in June, the Marsh Marigold comes alive in brilliant yellow along the creek. Daisies, clover, wild carrot and mushrooms emerge on their own schedule when the temperature suits them.

There is nothing more beautiful than hiking through the trails while it is raining in the summer and listening to the water as it falls through the leaves. The sunrise just east of the woods gives a pink glimmer as the day begins, or a sunset just west of the Ausauble River.

There is no limit to the traces of wildlife in the area as there are sights and sounds of wildlife everywhere you look or listen. Beavers are busy building their dams and the deer seem to know this is a safe place for them to wander through. Bird watchers frequent these woods for sightings of migrating flocks. The Yellow Warbler, Tundra Swans, Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, Blue Jays, Crows and Chickadees are common here. We are careful to watch the ebb and flow of the river on its way to Lake Huron, because the river is greatly affected each season by the precipitation, or lack of it.

Autumn is my favourite season here when the colours come alive and the leaves fall so we can once again see through the woods. The deer are on the move and I am especially careful to walk in quiet with the purpose of catching a glimpse of a buck or doe. They hear me before I can see them, but watching them move is a sight to behold. I was fortunate enough to come across two does grazing last fall. I stood still and they calmly stared at me undaunted in my presence before they slowly sauntered away grazing. What a wonderful way to start my day!

Winter in Joany’s Woods is a photographer’s dream! The trees and hills protect the trail from a nasty west wind, so when it does snow, it comes down softly in a slow vertical drop. The piles of snow on the logs, plants and twigs are stunning when the sky is clear and the sun casts a blue shadow on the white carpet below.

I have discovered how much healthier I am since engaging in this routine. I have reduced my weight and blood pressure and I owe it all to this place where I can get fresh air and exercise. During a discussion of my health with my doctor recently, he said if he could prescribe hiking and a healthy lifestyle, it would prevent many people from depending on medications to improve their health. I consider Joany’s Woods as just that! It is my remedy or prevention from illness, my daily stress reliever.

Written by Lynn Vander Vloet
Photos by Lynn Vander Vloet