Neys Provincial Park, Part 2: Under the Volcano Trail
The trailhead for the Under the Volcano Trail begins at the end of the Point Trail, which brings you to the other side of the largest headland at Neys. I was intrigued by the name (Under the Volcano?) but was even more curious when the first thing I spotted after reaching the beginning of the trail were a cluster of rotting, beached fishing vessels. Luckily, there were signs to answer my question: The boats were 1940s-era relics of the Pigeon River Timber Company used to transport laborers up the Little Pic River. The laborers in question were German prisoners of war housed at Neys during World War II. I had read that the provincial park first served as a prison camp and I had been a bit disappointed that it was still too early in the season to access the visitor center where there was a detailed model and more information, but it was an interesting surprise to see the former transport boats.
Moving on from the boats, I learned that this area had been an active volcano over a billion years ago after a magma chamber swelled and domed the earth’s crust prior to exploding. As the magma ran from the top, pressure caused the roof and walls of the volcano to collapse in on itself which plugged the volcanic vent and created a pile of rubble. Six hundred million years later, erosion and retreating ice sheets have eroded the remainder of the walls, leaving what was the magma chamber exposed.
In addition to the ability to walk on the solidified magma chamber, the trail offered an opportunity to see the rare rock nepheline syenite, formed from the magma that had mixed with crystallized alkaline minerals dislodged from the chamber walls. Also ejected from the volcano were the more common black biotite gabbro composed of a mica mix, and the relatively mineral-less lamprophyre. As the softer gabbro has eroded over hundreds of millions of years at a faster rate than the syenite, the coast has become more jagged and hills of syenite have formed as surounding other rock eroded . In addition, both the harder syenite and lamprophyre have been uplifted by movement in the earth’s crust, causing jointing and intrusions of other minerals.
I walked the 3km out and back from the Point Trail to the Under the Volcano Trail but I also ventured beyond the end point of the trail as well as explored both the coastal boreal forest and the many pools formed in the depressions of the syenite. The few hours during which I was walking were foggy and drizzly except for the last cove I saw: Inexplicably the clouds parted, then sun came out, and the sky turned blue for approximately fifteen minutes. As the sun penetrated the lake, the opaque steely blue water brightened and cleared revealing turquoise and aqua hues. By the time I was ready to turn back the fog was already reclaiming its space, and it was almost as if those moments of sunshine hadn’t happened.
Finally, I had extreme luck in (inadvertently) getting very close to a ruffled grouse and her chicks when I charged up a steep slope to find them all sitting just on the other side of the rise. I think they were just as surprised as I was since they scattered only after I had caught sight of them.