The Last Hike for 2015

Carol and I decided we needed one more day on the trail to complete our annual goal of 250km (we were at 246 at last count).  The weather in November has been great and Saturday November 28th didn’t disappoint.

It was cold and there was a light dusting of snow so we decided on a short hike on Map 21.  This map crosses over from the Dufferin Highland Club to the Blue Mountain Club.    We parked at marker 49.6 with our end point on Lavender Hill Road at kilometre 56.2.  With Ivy (Carol’s black standard poodle) by our side we set out at 10 a.m.

The majority of the hike was along a road allowance and it was both  “fast” and “easy” going:

Buddies on the trailA bridge on a new portion of the trail not outlined on our map and of course not checked in advance online – will we ever learn – was the prettiest part of the hike:

BridgeThere was a short section where we had to climb over and duck under a few fallen trees but we did so with little difficulty.  It was much less difficult for Ivy who scooted back and forth several times urging us on, especially when we slowed down to untangle our backpacks that had become snared on a broken branch:


In just over 2 hours we were back in our vehicles and headed to our respective homes having completed just over 6km for a grand total of 252 km this year.

We are already planning our Spring 2016 start with an overnight stay already booked, thanks to Travelzoo, at the Glencairn Inn in mid April.  It’s been another amazingly beautiful year on the Bruce Trail.

See you in the Spring!

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Niagara to Tobermory – 19 Degrees in November

Who can resist hiking when the temperature on November 2nd is a forecasted 19 degrees.  We were determined to complete Map 30 and met in the community of Woodford at 9 a.m. with a goal of just over 13km.

The leaves were dry and crunched under our feet and the air smelled like Fall.  We hiked without jackets, it was glorious.

We came across an old lime kiln less than 1km west of Highway 26.  Settlers made use of  natural sinkholes to build the kilns and limestone was used in agriculture (to improve soil); to cure animal hides and for mortar:

Lime kilnThere was a deep crevice on this portion of the trail and although I tried to ease my way through, it was simply too narrow.  I retraced my steps, climbed back out and followed Carol on the blue side trail around the crevice:

CreviceWe were to enter a farmer’s field after 1km on the St. Vincent Townline according to our Bruce Trail map, but the white blazes took us over 3km up the road.   A posted sign indicated several new trail routes but none of them were marked as part of the main Bruce trail.   We were frustrated and when Carol checked the Bruce Trail website on her phone it showed the portion of the trail through the farm field was CLOSED.   It was a lesson for us – check online for updated maps before heading out.

It was such a beautiful day and we were both looking forward to a long hike so we headed to the endpoint where our car was parked, enjoyed our lunch and completed a 4.5km loop trail.  It took us along the fence line of the Meaford Land Forces Training Centre, land  owned by the Department of National Defence.

There were moss covered rocks scattered everywhere and I dubbed them chia pets:

Chia PetIt will take a certain age group reading this blog to remember the chia pet craze.

It was a magnificent day for a hike and with the reroute we completed 11.0km




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Niagara to Tobermory – 15km of Fall Hiking

After more than 6 weeks without hiking, Carol and I made a decision to get back on the trail and try to reach our annual goal of 250km.  We made plans for October 31 and November 1.

It had rained for 2 days straight before Carol arrived and although Saturday was dry, the ground was wet and slippery.

We chose Map 33 and headed out to complete from 115.0 to 125.4

Fall hiking is beautiful but when wet leaves cover the trail it’s treacherous and difficult to cover more than 2km an hour.  But the scenery didn’t disappoint.  The Owen Sound area contains the largest rock formations we’ve encountered on the trail and many of those formations contain deep crevices.  We maneuvered through several, although the guide book indicated that if you were claustrophobic or carrying a large backpack, an alternate route around was available:

Entering creviceThere were  steep ascents to the top of the escarpment and large overhanging rocks that were suppose to contain fossils.   We looked but didn’t find:

Fossil huntingThe moss that covered the rocks was lush and the most amazing shade of dark, rich emerald green:

Thick mossWe had a quiet night and listened as the rain drove away “trick or treaters” and pounded the roof and windows of the house.  We weren’t hopeful for a Sunday hike.

Sunday’s weather was overcast and threatening rain so we decided on a short 5km hike on Map 32 (Inglis Falls) followed by a leisurely breakfast.  We hiked from 91.3 to 95.6

There was a lot of road hiking; not much pleasant scenery and very few opportunities for good photographs.  However when we stopped to rest we noticed this incredible fungus:

Frilly phallic fungus

Frilly lace-like centre and according to “google” a phallus indusiatus or long net stinkhorn.  I’m amazed by the fungus we’ve encountered on the trail but was shocked to learn there are more than 5,000 species in Ontario.

As we neared our car there was a pig in a pen in a farmer’s front yard and Carol was determined to feed it 2 granola bars we hadn’t consumed:

Pig and granola bar

We headed back to Port Elgin for breakfast although we both agreed somehow bacon and eggs didn’t seem appropriate!

All in all a great weekend and another 15km toward our 250 annual goal and the 1/2 way point of our 4 year adventure.



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Venice Under Water

After leaving Slovenia we headed back to Venice for 2 more days of exploring this magnificent city.  Our first 2 days here were sunny and 22 degrees and we were looking forward to seeing more of the sights.  The Doges Palace, St. Marks Basilica, Murano Island, the Synagouges in the Jewish Quarter.  We had a list and were determined to see as much as we could.

We saw hundreds of magnificent buildings especially as we rode the water bus to Murano Island:

Venice 3While on Murano we watched as a master glass blower created a beautiful piece of art.  Murano glass is famous the world over and we admired the jewelry, glassware and large center pieces that ranged in price from 20 euros to 35,000 euros.  A pretty bracelet left Murano on my wrist!

At another artist’s studio we stared at pieces of clothing, hats, bags and umbrellas that had been carved out of wood.  One large crate in the shop was addressed to Alan Alda in California:

Venice 2The rain we experienced in both Croatia and Slovenia followed us back to Venice.  The  canal levels were high and a high tide warning was in effect.  The streets were starting to fill up with water so Wendy and I bought plastic boots – nothing can stop we hardy Canadians:

Venice 1Venice use to get high tides 2 or 3 times per month between November and March but climate change and the actual sinking of the Island now results in high tides 2 or 3 times per week between October and April.  It was truly awful.

The beautiful piazzas were flooded:

Venice 5

The city erects walkways and thousands of tourists, especially those not equipped with plastic boots, line up on these raised platforms trying to get from one place to another:

Venice 4Cafes where we sat sipping cappuccino only 2 weeks prior were literally under water:

Venice 6We managed to take a tour of the Doges Palace and lined up on the walkway inching our way to the Basilica where beautiful mosaic tile floors were covered in salt water.

It was sad and exhausting and not a pleasant experience but one we’ll certainly never forget.

We headed to the airport Friday for a flight from Venice to Frankfurt on Lufthansa and  an Air Canada connection to Toronto.  We travel standby on my Air Canada employee passes and just our luck there were 2 seats left on the international portion of the flight, both in first class.  What a wonderful way to end what has been a most memorable trip!

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Crossing the Border – Slovenia

I have to admit I knew nothing about the country of Slovenia before heading across the border from Croatia on October 12th.   We had purchased a guide book for Venice; a friend had given us 2 guide books for Croatia – which left only Google for Slovenia.  More research when I get home as I fell in love.

We stayed at the Hotel Park on Lake Bled.  The air was clean as we were surrounded by the Julian Alps.  Our hotel room and balcony had a beautiful view of Bled Castle and the lake with its’ small centre island.  It was so picturesque.   Bled Castle, built in 1004 sits high atop a granite and limestone precipice.  This photograph doesn’t do it justice as I dropped my camera and lost the zoom feature and while we were there it never stopped raining.  Trust me or go online, you will be amazed:

Ljubljana Bled CastleWe headed for  Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia for a morning guided tour and a few hours of free time.  Slovena has a population of 2.05 million with Ljubljana’s sitting at just over 200,000.  I’m in love with the architecture and beauty of Prague, it is one of my favorite cities and Ljubljana is every bit as appealing:

The city has 3 main bridges spanning the Ljubljanic River which meanders through the old town and the city:

Ljubljana riverOne of the attractions of many European cities is the pedestrian only streets and there were several in this capital city with lovely shops selling local honey and brandy, magnificent porcelain and hand made chocolates.  No big box or chain stores in sight.  It was delightful.

The churches were magnificent:

Ljubljana Church

As were the buildings.  They were a combination of Baroque and Venetian architecture.  The government house was stately:

Ljubljana government house

The old school of music (Academia of Philharmonicorum) where composers such as Bach created their music was inspiring:

Ljubljana music hallThere were pizza parlors that were delicious to look at (pardon the pun):

Ljubljana pizza parlour

There was such a mix and I took hundreds of photographs so I’ll just share a few hoping to entice you to visit this beautiful country and magnificent city:

Ljubljana 2nd red building

Ljubljana red buildingStaying on the Lake and enjoying a stroll around the perimeter (7 kilometers) and venturing out to visit major attractions and cities provides a perfect mix for the perfect vacation spot.  I hope to return.  In the nice weather you can canoe or row the lake; swim or ride bikes and then take day trips to beautiful towns like Ljubljana or cross into Austria, Hungary or Croatia in only a few hours.

Who knew!

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Dubrovnik – Croatia

The magical city of Dubrovnik:
Dubrovnik 13

Over 6,300 feet of reinforced walls reaching a maximum height of 82 feet, originally built in the 12th century, refortified in the 15th century:

Dubrovnik 2We walked the entire circumference of the old town along the walls which took just over 2 hours and required a lot of climbing.   We then wandered the narrow streets of the old town which has been given over to tourism.  Souvenir shops abound with just over 1,000 people still living within the walls.

Less than 25 years ago the citizens of Dubrovnik were hiding under the structures of the old town trying to stay safe during the 1990’s war when Croatia fought for their independence.  Some here call it the Serbian War; some say it was a religious war while others refer to it as  a territorial war.  Some even referred to it as an aggression by the Yugoslavian National Army.   We learned a great deal about the history of Croatia on this trip.  Our local tour guide told us that of course bad feelings continue to exist between Serbia and Croatia but most people are simply trying to get on with their lives.  She recommended a BBC documentary called the Death of Yugoslavia and I plan to download it from You Tube when I get home.  A map at the entrance highlights the number of bombs that fell in the old city (black triangles) and the cathedrals and other important public structures that were hit (red squares).

Dubrovnik mapWe learned that the red roof tiles were replaced after the war while the brown roof tiles are original:

Dubrovnik 11

We rode the cable car to the top of Mount Srdj and enjoyed the magnificent views.  We sat and enjoyed a beer on the craggy rock bar just outside of the portion of the wall that borders the sea:

Dubrovnik 6We admired the beautiful churches:

Dubrovnik 3

The majority of the population is Christian with over 86% of Croatians declaring themselves Roman Catholic.

The medieval town and architecture is simply stunning:

Dubrovnik 5

We would have spent more time exploring the city of Dubrovnik outside of the old town, especially along the shores of the new port but the rain drove us indoors.

Dubrovnik is a city I could return to.  The old port is beautiful when the sun shines and is surrounded with cafes and restaurants where you can simply soak in the view:

Dubrovnik 7

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Split – Croatia

We left beautiful Opatija this morning enroute to Split.  We made a short stop in Zadar, once an important trading post for the Romans (timber and wine) now trying to reinvent itself as a tourist destination.  The Zadar archipelago is made up of more than 300 islands surrounded by crystal clear waters.  The archipelago is what remains of a mountain chain most of which is submerged.  Only about a dozen of the islands are inhabited.

In Zadar we spent time in the Church of St. Donat, one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture in all of Dalmatia:


And we walked the waterfront listening to the “sea organs”.  Special  pipes have been laid under the stairs that lead from the promenade to the water.  Holes have been cut into the marble of the promenade and the combination makes sounds like that of a pipe organ with the pitch dependent on the roughness of the sea.  It was eerie and beautiful at the same time.

Our final destination was Split and we checked into the luxurious Radisson Blu Hotel.

Wendy & Cheryl Radisson

The old town centre of Split is lovely and all streets and alleyways lead down to the port and the beautiful waters of the Adriatic:

Split 6The town grew up around the Emperor Diocletian’s vast Roman palace.  With the help of a local tour guide we learned he retired from public life in the year 305 and moved to his palace in Split.  The structure was 300,000 square feet; took 10 years to build using 20,000 slaves – most from Egypt.  The local guides are terrific and they relate the  history through interesting facts and stories and we learned more than we ever could have from the guide books we haul around.  Squatters took over the palace when Diocletian died and what was once the main floor of the palace now houses shops and private homes:

Split 2

Diocletian had an entire replica of the palace built below ground and that is most of what remains of the original structure.  At the exit we were serenaded by a group of men singing traditional Dalmatian songs:

Split 3

It was heavenly.

We wandered through the beautiful streets admiring the architecture:

split 5

and stopped in souvenir shops looking for a special item to bring home as a reminder of our trip.  Before getting back on the bus for the drive to Dubrovnik we sat in the sunshine looking out at the Sea sipping a Croatian beer.  Another glorious day!





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