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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Niagara to Tobermory – Another 12km (11.4 actually)

Sunday May 3rd we decided to hike 11.4km on Map 27.  This won’t complete the map but certainly will make a dent in it.  Most of this hike is along road allowances, through farmer’s fields and in fact along a busy road in the Beaver Valley.

We were on the trail by 10 a.m. and the day promised sunshine and higher temperatures than either of us prefer (plus 25 degrees).  Extra water and hats essential when it’s this hot!

We hiked along the top of the escarpment and were hoping for extraordinary views.  Unfortunately it was very hazy:

bruce trail view

We found a lovely stream at the 7km mark and removed our boots to cool our feet.  The water was clean and clear and looked inviting but neither of us had a towel in our pack so dabbling our feet was not an option.  Rest assured we’ll both have one next time, you learn as you go.

Wildflowers were in bud everywhere especially the white and red trilliums that blanket the trail.  We enjoyed the flowering ‘trout lilies’ and marveled at the extraordinary way they open.    All of the petals are folded back, dropping one at a time until the head of the flower covers the stamen.  Nature is truly magnificent and gives us such pleasure:

bruce trail yellow flower

As we did with clouds when we were kids, Carol and I see and name animals and monsters and even people in the fallen logs and weather beaten trees we pass on the trail. Hiking has allowed us to surrender to one goal – live in and enjoy the moment:

Carol and natures art

9 bedroom 9 bathroom house for sale – we wish.  Maybe a woman’s co-op someday.  Single women pooling their resources to create a decent if not obscene standard of living:

bruce trail house for sale

Fodder for discussion on the trail and our discussions are far reaching and insightful.  In addition to creating murder mysteries and naming log monsters, we discuss politics, current events, the trials and tribulations of family and anything else that comes to mind.  It deepens our friendship and stimulates us.  It also helps pass the time on some of the less beautiful parts of the trail.

We are so enjoying our adventure and look forward to friends joining us this year where our goal is another 266km.  With 50km under our belt in 2015 we’re 1/3 of the way!



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Niagara to Tobermory – Sights & Sounds of Spring

Day 5 of our 2015 hike and we head out to complete Map 28.  Estimated (key word here) 10km

The day is overcast and cool but we remind ourselves the cool temperatures mean “no bugs” and we wear layers hoping to shed at least our coat or fleecy and our gloves when the sun comes out this afternoon.

We’re only about a 1/2 km in when we reach a bridge crossing a very high and fast running stream.  I’m always thankful for the volunteers who work so hard to create and maintain the trail and although it looks like this bridge could use some upgrades, I’m thankful I don’t have to wade knee high through the cold water:

Carol on bridge

Bird songs are such a big part of our hikes, especially at this time of year.  Our first 2km are straight up hill to the top of the escarpment, so we’re happy to have a break to photograph an oriole:

yellow bird

and a beautiful woodpecker:


Carol found a sign laying at the side of the trail that we had not seen before. It reads “new route” and although we’ve checked the Bruce Trail website for closed trails (we learn from our mistakes), we have not looked at the Beaver Valley section to see if in fact there are new routes.  The Beaver Valley Club has taken responsibility for 113km of the trail:

New Route sign

When we reach the top of the escarpment our map tells us to continue straight on 3rd Line D North past Sideroad 25 to Old Mail Road.  However, the white markers show a route to the left along the Siegerman side trail.   We hike 1/4 mile up a steep hill to find a second marker; back down to the bottom to reread the turn sign; back up to the top to reread the map – you get the picture…..we’re sweating and unsure of whether to trust the map or trail markings.  Not a great start to the day.

Carol recommends we follow the trail markings and I agree (because she has a much better sense of direction than I do) and so we’re off.  Up the hill once again, but with no idea of how many kilometers the total hike might now be or when this new trail will hook up with the old trail and our map will once again become useful to explain the terrain we’re heading into.  The maps detail when you are crossing a farmer’s field or climbing the escarpment; when you should  follow an old road allowance or climb a stile – but with only white markers and no details it felt like we were hiking blind.

I’m a little grumpy because I’m sure we’re hiking a longer route and 10km seems to be my limit; and my gut feeling is we’re doubling back over terrain crossed on Sideroad 25?  Either way our car is parked on the Euphrasia St Vincent Townline at marker 107.5  and we need to get there.  To amuse ourselves and keep our spirits up – we speak out loud a murder mystery we’re composing as we hike.  White trail markers moved to take us to an undisclosed location.  No one finding us as once again we haven’t let anyone know what map we’re hiking.  We imagine and add abandoned barns to the tale …. you do what you have to do!

What seems like 4 km along the new route we meet up with the old trail entering a cedar bush just off  Bruce Road 40.  No undisclosed location, no abandoned barn … only a farmer’s field; a stile to climb over and what looks like a new parcel of land acquired by the BTC (Bruce Trail Conservancy).

We have another 4 or 6km to hike once we rejoin the old trail, according to our map.  Carol’s glass is half full and she estimates 4km, mine is half empty and I’m estimating  another 6 to go!

There are beautiful sights along the way.  Red fungus on trees that always fascinate me and so there have been many photographs of these growths over the past year:

Red Fungus

Tough climbs up rocks that have naturally or with the help of volunteers been made into a stairway:

carol climbing 2

And caves that may still contain hibernating bears:


For that purpose we’re prepared.  We may not have checked on new routes or closed trails BUT we have a dog whistle that we’re sure will double as a bear whistle and keep us safe:

Carol whistleEvery time I say “cave” instead of “crevice” Carol finds the whistle which is in her pocket and blows it warning bears to stay away.  As the whistle gets tangled with gloves and kleenex and other objects she carries in her pockets I come to realize the whistle might be a psychological aid but hardly a reliable one!  We meet a woman at the end of the trail who naively asks if we’ve heard a “strange bird sound”.   She describes it sounding like “a whistle”.  We tell her about our dog / bear whistle and hurry to our car which we can now see through a cedar bush!



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Niagara to Tobermory –

After last weekend and the deep crevices that were filled with snow and ice that we needed to ascent and descend, we were careful to choose a safe hike this weekend.  Carol went onto the Bruce Trail website when we returned home last Sunday and found this:

Closeure Notice

Yes the trail we were on was CLOSED!

Map 28 takes in both the Beaver Valley and Sydenham Clubs and promised cedar bush; hardwood forest; road allowances and cultivated fields.  It was perfect!

We hiked 9.4 km in glorious 10 degree weather with sunshine for the entire 4 hours we were on the trail.  Flat terrain with very little climbing and none of the mud we were anticipating.

The trail went through what is known as a Canadian ghost town – Blantyre.  The village was settled in 1848 by 7 pioneering families but today is described as an “abandoned Canadian town”.  We saw rock fences erected when fields were cleared more than 150 years ago, but no other evidence of the village that once contained grist and saw mills; a tinsmith and a wagon maker.

The views from the top of the escarpment were truly magnificent:

Rock on Trail

Large trees had been uprooted, possibly by high winds and the trail was blocked in part by tree branches that have not yet been cleared.  Some trees had snapped but not yet fallen and we gave them a wide berth:

Tree about to fall

There was a small waterfall and a delightful old log bridge built to allow hikers to cross the fast running stream:

Old Bridge

One of those days when you are glad to be alive and healthy enough to be hiking on the Bruce Trail.

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Niagara to Tobermory – Hardest Hike Yet

Carol and I decided to get the Bognor Marsh hike on maps 29 and 30 out of the way before bug season.  Weather has been warm and all of the snow has disappeared so we felt confident tackling the trail this far north this early in the season.

We headed out Sunday morning and were on the trail by 9 a.m.  Earliest start ever.  The maps show a total of 12km and so we estimated a finish time of around 3:00 p.m.  Normally we hike 2km an hour.  Not a fast pace but we knew this portion of the trail contained language like  “glacial spillway” and “steep ascents to the top of the escarpment” so 2km an hour was a fair estimate.  With more than 266km under our belt we are able to accurately determine timing and the distances we are capable of covering.

Bognor Marsh was beautiful and the floating boardwalk was a new and interesting experience.  There were numerous species of water fowl and these interesting birds hovering around nesting boxes:

Birds in Bognor Marsh

At 1 p.m. we stopped for lunch.  Logs had appeared that were suitable for sitting:

At 2 p.m. after a difficult ascent to the summit of the escarpment we spotted another log about 6 feet off the trail and decided to rest.  My right foot went through the undergrowth into a small crevice and I found myself stuck and more than a little scared.   When hiking over the crevices you watch your step always mindful of other hikers who report broken or twisted ankles.  It was a frightening few minutes until I was able to free myself and crawl back to the trail.  We became very aware of the danger of walking on mushy, unstable areas.  I suffered only a minor scrape and small bruise and we were determined to use our poles to test the stability of the ground where we were planting out feet.  Our first scare, but not our last of the day!

We had walked only another 15 minutes when my foot sunk once again, this time to only just above my boot (the first crevice had swallowed my right leg to above the knee).  All seemed ok until we both noticed blood seeping through my left pant leg.  The only explanation we could muster was a “puncture wound” from a rock or tree branch when I had worked hard to free myself from the previous fall. Carol had an emergency medical kit and we cleaned the cut and bandaged the small hole in my leg and were once again on our way.  This couldn’t get worse; could it?

The trail map described a large crevice that we would need to “enter” to descend the escarpment.  When we reached it neither of us could believe our eyes.  It was filled with ice and snow and the rope some kind sole had strung around several rocks didn’t make us feel any more secure about getting through it:

Another icy crevice

We consulted the map to ensure we were actually on the trail and although we were both thinking about “bears living in these crevices during hibernation” neither of us spoke the words out loud.

At this point I wanted to call 911 to see if a helicopter could rescue us:

Down an icy crevice

At 4 p.m. we reread the map and although the description was the least helpful we’ve found so far, we knew there was at least another 2km before we reached our car parked on highway 26.  7 full hours of hard hiking with only three 10 minute breaks and according to the map we had only completed 10km.  When Carol had used her GPS tracker on past hikes we discovered the maps often underestimated the distance.  With my foot getting stuck not once but twice; crevices filled with ice and snow; flow ways and an impending storm, we were both hoping today wasn’t one of those when the map was wrong.  No such luck!

Our conversation over this portion of the hike consisted of how “it must be closer to 16km than 12″ and “why hadn’t we checked to ensure the trail wasn’t closed” .  Not to mention Carol asking if I was “ok” and constantly looking over her shoulder to see if blood was dripping onto my boot:

blocked trail

There was beautiful scenery; a helpful staircase built by hard working volunteers and a marsh with water fowl and floating boardwalks, but unfortunately those won’t be the things we remember about Maps 29 & 30.


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Magnificent Dundas Valley Conservation Area

6,000 acres in the heart of Canada’s 5th largest city with more than 3000 acres controlled by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.  Simply beautiful:

Bruce Trail Stairs

When considering the Dundas Valley it is important to understand just how rare and unique it truly is.  It is a vast and deciduous forest stretching from Southern Ontario to the Carolinas, known as the Carolinian Forest.  This Carolinian Forest can be found nowhere else in Canada and accounts for only 1% of Canada’s geographical area but contains 1/3 of Canada’s endangered species.  The Valley became home to the region’s first settlers: Ancaster in 1790 and Dundas in 1798. As part of the Niagara Escarpment, the Valley is an area which has taken 450 million years to evolve.

UNESCO has declared the Escarpment a world biosphere, putting it in the company of such incredible natural areas as the Serengeti, the Everglades, the Amazon Rain Forest and the Galapagos islands.

We hiked from marker 45.0 to 55.2 in magnificent weather.  A cool plus 9; no bugs; very little mud and more friendly people than we encountered in all of last year.  We saw our first butterfly:

Bruce Trail butterfly

Our first golfer:

Bruce Trail golfer And our first flowers.  The hearty “snowdrop”:

Bruce Trail snowdrops

We enjoyed Sherman Falls where Carol ignored the “no climbing sign”

Bruce Trail no climbing

We were amazed at the private property sign.  It’s wonderful that private land owners allow access to their property but disappointing that such a magnificent area could be in private hands.  Sherman Falls is 19 meters high and 8 meters wide:

Bruce Trail Falls

Canterbury Falls is described as a “ribbon cascade” and is 9 meters high and 4 meters wide:

Bruce Trail Cantebery Falls

The sight and sound of waterfalls enrich our hiking experience immensely and those contained within the Dundas Valley did not disappoint.

We hiked a total of 19kms but of course can only count 15 (remember the 2 out and 2 back that were as a result of a wrong turn).  Not bad for our first hike of the season and definitely left us wanting more!

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