Sara and I have done a lot of running over the years at Puzzle Lake. It’s an undeveloped provincial park that is also surrounded by an abundance of crown land, as well as lakes which are suitable for winter running. It offers some beautiful rugged terrain that sees very little use.
Last year, we discovered a route (see links one & two) that was new to us and opened up the opportunity to more trails. We had heard about other trails beyond this section, however we were limited that day by having to run in a long distance to get there and then of course having to turn around. After getting a great tip from a blog comment about that run, we decided to explore from the Eastern side of these trails and see if we could connect to where we’d already been.
We were told about a trail that goes in from the East called the Welly Smith Road. Upon finding this road, it was in fact, not much of a road, but more of an old road allowance that had grown over with ATVs and Snowmobiles using it as a trail. Google helped us with some more information about this route as apparently it is used as a hunt camp by many, as well as geocaching.
We weren’t sure what type of footwear that we’d need for this run, so loaded our trail shoes, hobnails, microspikes and snowshoes. There was still a lot of snow on the trail once we arrived, but we felt that MicroSpikes should be adequate.
Our run started on a flat section of trail that the snowmobiles and ATVs had packed down reasonably well. After almost 3km’s of running we found the turnoff to Arney Mountain. Truth is that Arney isn’t really much of a mountain, though is a substantial climb, is the highest point in the area, provides a rocky summit and offers a beautiful panoramic view of the area. The ruts from the ATVs and the soft snow made for challenging running in places, but we were able to get up and down from the peak without much trouble or getting too wet.
Once off of Arney, we got further into the trails passing a number of hunting camps. There were countless lakes and ponds in the area, and what was really amazing was all of the beaver activity. Everywhere you looked there was a beaver lodge or dam.
The largest beaver dam was a spectacular display. To our amazement, an ATV had been able to get past this section probably up until a few days ago, but there’s no way it could get through now with the open water. We looked at the dam closely and decided to scramble across the top of it in the hopes of not falling in. We had come too far to turn around so soon.
We negotiated the dam well, though as with a few points during our run managed to post-hole up to our knees in snow in places. As we got past the dam, our excitement heightened as the terrain was looking that much more rugged and similar looking to what we had seen from the other end.
The snow on trail continued to get deeper as there was less traffic at this point, but we were still finding that we were running at a decent pace. We had been able to get around some deep sections of water on the trail, but each one seemed like it was getting a little more challenging.
Just as it was looking like the trail might be coming to a familiar looking lake, we came to yet another beaver dam and stream crossing. We took a moment to weigh our options and decided that there was no easy way of getting around or through this section of icy water without getting very wet. It was getting late, and time to be heading back soon anyhow.
This beaver dam was also incredible and we took a few moments to marvel at the two tier system these ingenious creatures built. Then we caught sight of two otters close by who were playing along the edge of the dam. They were sliding down the snowy slope into the water, and then would climb back up and roll around on the ice and snow. They did this a number of times and were having a blast. It was so much fun seeing this couple interacting with each other, enjoying each others company and having such pure joy on this beautiful day.
Seeing the otters was a highlight of the run and gave us a lot to talk about on our run back to the trailhead. We felt just as happy as the otters with our own form of fun on this great trail run.
As we finished our run and were packing up and getting ready to leave, we were treated to a visit by a friendly nearby property owner. To be honest, we were expecting to be told that we were not welcome, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Jim gave us some great information about the trails in the area, and seemed happy that we enjoyed the little bit of his ‘paradise.’ He even offered us a beer that we unfortunately had to turn down as we still had a significant drive home.
From our description, Jim thought that we probably got to within about a 1/2 mile from connecting the trail we were looking for (which upon checking my Ambit2 data, he looked to be right).
As much as we really wanted to piece these trails together, it gives us a great excuse to return to try again soon. With many other trails connecting to this trail, it seems like we may be spending a lot of time on the Welly Smith in the upcoming months.
* Note how close the two trails were from connecting at Dog Lake.