Niagara to Tobermory – Hiking with Friends

Although Carol and I continue to enjoy one another’s company (after almost 400km on the trail), we are always pleased when friends offer to join us.  On Saturday June 27th Sid & Doug Gordon and Chris hiked just over 6km of Map 36 with us:

Group Photo2Sid is waiting for a hip replacement; Carol is waiting for a cortisone shot; Doug had recent eye surgery; Chris suffered a heart attack a year ago and I’m doing physiotherapy for a torn achilles tendon, so an easy 6km was just what a myriad of doctor’s would have ordered.  It was also what Carol and I needed after a grueling 11km the previous day.  Sid & Doug suggested 23.5 to 29.8 on Map 36.  At point 29.8 the main trail intersects with the John Bluff side trail and Doug offered to double back and pick up the car if Carol and I wanted to hike a little farther.  We had a plan.

This portion of the trail is on Cape Croker which forms part of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territories.   Cape Croker is a 6,000 hectare parcel of land that juts out into the blue waters of Georgian Bay.   The Nawash band arrived on the Cape in 1858 and farmed and fished the area.  Signs here appear in both English and Ojibway:

Stop SignAt the top of the escarpment the views over Sydney Bay are breathtaking and provided a great view of another portion of the escarpment that we have yet to hike:

ViewThe trail is well maintained, fairly flat and part of the Peninsula Club.  Although the width of the trail means single file hiking we had interesting discussions about the volunteers who maintain the trail, including Doug and Sid and our shared appreciation of the work of the Bruce Trail Conservancy.  We were happy with the absence of bugs and rain and simply enjoyed each others company:

Doug and Sid on Trail

There are many varieties of orchids and more than 20 different fern types along this the Northern portion of the trail and we stopped occasionally to try to identify and to photograph some of the plants.  Doug thought this might be an orchid or a coralroot but as yet is unidentified:


The dolomite is fascinating and some large stones contain indentations and markings that  we thought might inspire a children’s novel.  This particular specimen could well contain the footprint of a dinosaur or creature that lived millions of years ago:

Prehistoric Animal

A snack of cookies, gluten free muffins and chocolate eclairs were enjoyed while taking in the magnificent view.  No wonder we haven’t noticed any sizable weight loss:

LunchThe trail enters hardwood forest with numerous lookout points.   Some of these we hiked out to enjoy and some were just too scary to venture out onto:

View on SundayAt point 29.8 Doug and Chris circled back on the side trail to pick up our vehicles while Carol, Sid and I hiked another 2km to point 32 where trail parking is available at Cape Croker campground.  At a later date this summer this will be the starting point for another hike without us having to traverse the .7km side trail.  Every saved step is much appreciated.

It was only 2 o’clock when we got back into our vehicles and we decided to visit Kepplecroft, a beautiful garden located just East of Wiarton on Highway 1.  The couple that owns and operates the garden have done a magnificent job of combining flowers and art and the space includes a rock henge, picnic spots and a variety of nature trails:


Dinner at Cobble Beach ended a perfect day.  It was just starting to rain as we headed home.


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Niagara to Tobermory – A Tough 11km

Carol and I hiked 11km on Friday on Map 32 from 80.7 to 91.3.  I had been in Toronto on Thursday night to see Once returning to Port Elgin at 2:30 a.m. so we decided on a later start time allowing her the 2 hour drive and me a few more hours of sleep.  Our end point was Inglis Falls in Owen Sound and our start point just past Rockford.

This is a magnificent time of year for wildflowers and this portion of the trail was simply beautiful:

Wildflowers 1Farm fields bordered the trail and the smell of fresh cut hay was intoxicating:

FarmerAt Highway 10 we sat and had lunch at the tower which was a centennial project of the 2 local secondary schools.  It offers a climb to the top and promises a view of the city but with another 5km to hike we both decided to forgo the 40 plus stairs we would have to climb.

Although this first 6km of the hike was fairly flat and reasonably easy we did have to make out own path along the route:

Carol in the weeds

From Highway 10 to Inglis Falls the scenery was nothing short of spectacular.  Massive outcroppings of rocks that have broken away from the escarpment over the past few thousand years made us almost invisible (note Carol at the bottom of the photo):

Carol under rock

And all of this sits majestically less than 1km from busy Highway 10 in Owen Sound.  Large crevices that we would need to hike through were aptly described in our trail book and we were surprised and pleased at the drop in temperature as we entered:

Crevice 1

Rock spillways lasted for the next 3km and our pace slowed to 1km an hour:

Rocky decentAs we moved slowly poling our way up and down the sometimes slippery paths we were astounded as 2 runners passed us on the trail.  Oh yes they were in their 20’s (a few years younger than us) but running on those rocks!  This promoted a lengthy discussion about our youth, our life of physical inactivity and how this was our first real athletic adventure.

At 3:30 p.m. about 5 1/2 hours after the start of our hike, we thought and hoped we heard Inglis Falls.  We were at the base of the Falls and knew we had 1 more ascent but the sound of the rushing water gave our tired legs the push they needed:

Inglis FallsInglis Falls where our car was parked is beautiful and a welcome sight after one of the most grueling hikes we’ve completed to date.

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Niagara to Tobermory – Beautiful Dundas

Never would someone driving on Highways 5, 6 or the 403 realize that these noisy, polluted intersecting arteries are surrounded by tranquil paths, magnificent waterfalls, massive rock formations and a pioneer homestead that has survived hundreds of years.  All part of the amazing Bruce Trail.

20 kilometers on maps 8 & 9 were our goal for last weekend.  We were staying with my sister and brother-in-law in Paris, a lovely community on the Grand River just 45 minutes south west of where we were hiking.  We were combining hiking, celebrating my sister’s birthday and hoping to catch some of the annual  Springtime in Paris events.

Before we headed out my brother-in-law warned us to be careful as a young woman had been killed on the trail the previous week by a falling tree branch.

On day 1 the trail meandered through the historic section of Dundas.  On Bond, King and Park Streets where old homes have been gentrified we slowed to admire magnificent gardens of peonies, iris and tulips, all in full bloom.

After a tough climb up Sydenham Road and a short stint through a subdivision where the houses have magnificent views of Hamilton and the Burlington Skyway, we entered a wooded area described as land belonging to the Royal Botanical Gardens and the Rock Chapel Nature Sanctuary.  The views from the brow of the escarpment were impeded with smog and if ever there was a clear day I’m sure the views would be truly breathtaking:


After Ken’s warning of falling branches we hurried along the path past a leaning tree encircled by caution tape:

Caution sign on tree

We hiked through a wooded area maintained by the Hamilton Conservation Authority and met lots of dog walkers and day hikers.  This only happens when the main trail intersects short hiking trails within city limits.  It’s encouraging and entertaining to come across people wearing shorts and flip flops when our gear includes long pants, long sleeve shirts, hiking boots and poles, backpacks and the funny looking forest ranger hats I’ve described in previous blogs.  We often wonder what they must think of us and we wonder and worry about the young women wearing shorts and flip flops when the terrain is unstable and tall poison ivy grows along the footpath.

There were many fallen trees that had not yet been cleared by Bruce Trail volunteers:

Carol climbing log

And some that were uprooted but still standing thanks to their more sturdy neighbors:

Wishbone Tree

Day 2’s hike started by crossing highway 6 via an underground tunnel.  We had barely emerged when this old homestead came into view:

Pioneer Homestead

Some steep climbs to the lip of the escarpment and descents via wooden and concrete stairs led us into the Grindstone Creek Valley.  The trail meandered along the creek bed and in some areas consisted of nothing but small, unstable rocks:

Rock Path

or tree roots:

Tree root path

It continued for over a kilometer past incredible rock formations:

Grindstone Creek Valley

The sound of a rushing waterfall was ever present as you climbed along a switchback to an open area overlooking Great Falls.  Tourists and families were all enjoying the 20 degree sunshine and the myriad of trails surrounding the falls:


We ended at km 73.5 in Halton’s Waterdown Woods and hiked the last kilometer with 2 other women who are also hoping to hike the trail end to end and are off next week to London England on a hiking holiday.

All in all a beautiful, fun filled weekend.


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Niagara to Tobermory – Old Baldy

Friday May 29 we decided to hike 10km in the Beaver Valley.  Our start point was 42.1 on Map 26 with an end point of 52.5.  The weather was perfect with a strong breeze that kept us cool and the bugs at bay.

We had an early start agreeing to meet at 8 a.m.  This section of the trail was added in 2008 and dubbed the Falling Waters section.  It told us to watch for turkey vultures and buteo hawks.  The guide also enticed us with descriptions of great lookouts including the Old Baldy lookout which is 150m high, the highest point in Southern Ontario.  This view of Old Baldy was from the top of the escarpment:

Old Baldy 1While this view of Old Baldy was from the base of the escarpment taken when we were traveling up to retrieve our vehicle at the end of the hike:

Old Baldy 2

We hiked through old growth forest where hundreds of trilliums were turning from bright white to pale pink – denoting their final days.  We were thrilled to pass several patches of Elfin Lady Slippers, one of 52 varieties of orchids that grow in Canada:

Lady Slippers

The final 2km took us up a steep climb on property owned by OPG (Ontario Power Generation) beside the penstocks that carry water from Lake Eugenia to the turbines in the generating plant located in the valley far below.  This gave us an opportunity for a great discussion on alternative energy:

Carol and OPG

A highlight of hiking for 5 hours is the great discussions we have on a wide variety of subjects including but certainly not limited to an article one of us has read; advice we need about gardening or decorating; a program we’ve listened to on CBC radio or a specific portion of the trail we’re hiking.

We almost always see fungus growing on trees that have fallen and are now decomposing and providing nutrients to the soil.  This hike was no exception.  This fungus was growing beside a bridge which had been constructed to help us over a river that is now simply a dry river bed:


The Beaver Valley Club has positioned benches for respite that overlook incredible views  and we took advantage of several of them to rest and enjoy a cold drink and light snack:

Carol respite

Another great day on the Bruce Trail.


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Niagara to Tobermory = The Frustrations and Joys

The most frustrating part of hiking the Bruce Trail is finding your start and end points and positioning your vehicles.  Carol and I have hiked just over 350km but have driven thousands of kilometers to get to towns and cities that the trail runs through and hundreds more traversing side roads trying to find Bruce Trail parking spots.

As women who care about the planet and how our carbon footprints are affecting global warming, we have tried to figure out a better way of traveling to hike points but without success.

For this hike I left my car on a back road after our first day’s hike so that only one vehicle headed back to Barrie.  Total savings for the roundtrip = 180km.  However we got so lost trying to find our end point on day 2 that we drove up and down River Road on Map 20 so many times we probably lost a large portion of that 180km savings.  We did discuss “taxi” but these roads were so bad that even an ATV would have found it difficult to get through.  The Bruce Trail map describes them as  “rough roads“.  We would suggest a rewrite that states “stay off, not navigable, do not enter – ever“.  However we do accept some of the blame as we were trying to get to an end point that was not described in the guide as providing parking!

A frustrating start to the day.

We hiked 11km on Map 20 Saturday and 7km on Map 21 on Sunday.  Part of our shortened hike on Sunday was to accommodate Ivy – Carol’s standard poodle.  The guide was clear no dogs were allowed on a portion of the trail that ran through a farmers field.  But we were also concerned about our ability to hike farther with temperatures reaching a high of 26 degrees.

Saturday we started at Kilgore.  Carol googled the start point and we thought we would find a small town.  When we arrived there was simply a sign stating this is where the town of Kilgore once was.

We hiked through forest and farmland.  Some of the richest farmland in Ontario is here in the Pine River Valley.  The earth contains “honeywood loam” and farms still dot the area.  Unfortunately only plaques remain where many small Ontario towns once thrived:


Whitfield was approximately 28 kilometers north east of Orangeville.

Although Day 2 had a frustrating start, the hike itself was beautiful.  The first few kilometers ran alongside a fast running stream that serenaded us with that wonderful sound of rushing water:

Cedar forest

After a short time on Prince of Wales Road we headed into the Pine River Valley to what the trail guide described as a “fishing pond”.  It looked more like an  inland lake and there were 4 or 5 fishermen with poles positioned in the cool, clear water.  Delightful:

Fishing pond

The land however is dry and the dust thrown up by cars when we’re hiking on a road is brutal.  Add road allowances that are sand based and it took work to get up them.

This remarkable old barn looked like it might have been a timber mill many years ago.  Streams surrounding it have dried up but the bottom portion of the structure still contained old logs:

Old Barn

This portion of the trail contained at least 6 high climbs and steep descents so at the 7km mark we were grateful to see our vehicle.  Even Ivy got in and laid down without any coaxing.  The lows on the trail are very low but most days the sights, sounds and smells make the highs spectacular.


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Niagara to Tobermory with Ivy

Every once in a while Ivy (Carol’s black standard poodle) joins us on the trail.  If we hike 10km she runs 20.  I’ve never met an animal with so much energy.

When we have a steep ladder down a cliff face I worry about her finding a way down.    No need, she runs to the bottom and back up before either of us have worked up the nerve to start down.  When there is a style over a fence I worry about how she’ll get through, but before I finish the thought she’s found a hole in the fence and is waiting for us on the other side.   She always seems to be looking back and if I added a thought bubble it would read: “what is taking you so long” :

Ivy 0n the trail

I stayed in Barrie overnight and we finished 10km on  Map 20.  It was one of those perfect days.   The temperature was cool so there were no bugs and lilacs were in bloom with the breeze carrying their scent for almost the entire hike:


When we stop for a rest Ivy is determined to find her share of the food we carry in our packs:

Ivy in bag

This is a wonderful time of year to hike.  The average daily temperature is 10-12 degrees; the bugs are not yet invading our space and the earth is not yet parched.   Trilliums are still in bloom and the many shades of green in the forests that surround the trail never cease to amaze.


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Niagara to Tobermory – Past the 300km Mark

We finished last year at 266km and now heading out on our 7th hike in 2015 we have surpassed the 300km mark.  A milestone to say the least.

May 15th the weather forecast was for “rain” and Carol tracked whether it would first reach the Blue Mountain or Orangeville area.  We wanted to hike where the weather forecast was for rain later in the day.  The decision was made to try 11km on Maps 26 & 27 – part of the Beaver Valley Club.  We would start at km 74.8 and hike to 85.8 a nice round 11km.   We had spent the night in Barrie and gauged an hour and 20 minutes to the end point.  We left the house at 8 a.m. and didn’t get on the trail until 10:20.  This didn’t help:

Grey Road 30 sign

We actually passed three separate Grey Road 30 signs all pointing in different directions.  One very straight road on Map 27 is labelled  Sideroad 13, Highway 7 and the Eric Winkler Parkway – why on earth would one road have 3 different names.   So 2 hours and 20 minutes from home to donning our hiking boots!  Frustrating to say the least.

The Bruce Trail descriptions weren’t much better.   The notes state “the trail turns upslope” – no kidding!   A mention of the Beaver Valley ski club might have prepared us for the constant climb in the first hour of the hike:

Beaver Valley ski shot

The weather held for the first couple of hours and then a light drizzle turned to rain.  We struggled with directions not seeing the white markers with any regularity.  If this post sounds “grumpy” it’s nothing compared to what Carol had to put up with.  I kept voting to head back to the car and she kept pushing me on.

When 4 hours in, we came to an area literally carpeted with trilliums I was glad to have been pushed:

Trilliums 2

I’ve taken many shots of fungus on the trail.  Large growths that look like flying saucers have landed; brilliant red growths that are nothing short of spectacular and some that looked like steps on an old tree stump.  But this shot combined with a much needed and appreciated white marker is my favorite so far:

Fungus & white sign

The description did mention “with the aid of steps you descend steeply away from the rock face” :


By the time we reached this point in the hike we were at km 82.1 and both of us were tired and wet.  It was a slow, steady climb down:

Cheryl ladder

After another steep climb we followed a rocky path at the edge of the escarpment.  We stopped to rest, shared some dark chocolate and estimated we had about 1 km to go.  Less than 10 minutes later Carol’s vehicle appeared through the trees!  A pleasant surprise indeed.



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