Returning to the Adirondacks

In a month or so my friends and I intend on visiting the Adirondacks again in the late Spring. It’s been quite some time since we visited at this time of year.
I had just started in a new job for a few months and this was my first little bit of time off over a long weekend.  My friends and I drove into the Adirondacks region for the first time.  Unfortunately we arrived when it was raining so rather than try and set up camp immediately and make dinner, we found a small local restaurant serving mainly the campers in the area.

My friend noticed that they served fiddleheads and exclaimed we had to try them.  I had no idea what they were but apparently they were only picked at this time of year because they eventually will grow and become too hard to eat.

Anyhow, after we finished enjoying our meal and got back to our campsite, the rain had stopped.  At least, long enough so that we could comfortably set up our tents and avoid the rainfall later that night.  The next day was a beautiful sunny one.

fiddleheads... apparently a delicacy in the spring... who knew?

I’m looking forward to hiking in the Adirondacks once again in the Spring.  A nice quick road trip to satisfy the travelbug until July.  Don’t know if I’ll have fiddleheads again but we’ll see!   Currently, we’re looking at what trails to hike while we’re there for a few days.  Recos would be great if you’ve got any!

Bruce Trail Part 2 – Woodends to Glenridge

Following our last trek on the first part of the Bruce Trail, there was a slight delay for a few weeks in tackling the next part because my friends were either busy or I was sick (caught the flu two times, not fun).  We nevertheless finally found a good day to the Niagara region and continue our trek.  I tried to carry a heavier pack this time as part of my training.

The initial part of the trek from Woodends

Following our last trek on the first part of the Bruce Trail, there was a slight delay for a few weeks in tackling the next part because my friends were either busy or I was sick (caught the flu two times, not fun).  We nevertheless finally found a good day to the Niagara region and continue our trek.  I tried to carry a heavier pack this time as part of my training.

Continuing where we left off at Woodends Conservation Area, we immediately noticed how wet it had gotten.  No longer were we faced with icy conditions — it was all slush!  This made for splashy and slippery situations.

Thirty folks part of a Bruce Trail Chapter hiking the opposite direction

Along the way we did encounter a 30-person group which was a first.  I never thought I’d see so many people together on a trail before in the winter.  Lots of nice people from the local chapter of the Bruce Trail Association (I think).  The closest situation I’ve encountered was a Chinese tour group taking a rather large group of folks hiking in the early sections of Bon Echo’s Abes and Essens Trail.

Some scenery along the way

As typical of a Bruce Trail experience, we always end up walking by some interesting places.  I wasn’t sure if this has historical significance but the house looked quite nice and had a nice view positioned along the escarpment ridge.

The common permitted use property ladderPassing through a golf course

Somehow we end up hiking through and past parts of a golf course.  It was seriously wet and slushy in these areas.  While stomping through the slush, my entire foot took a dunk in water that was quite a few inches higher than my ankle.  Thank goodness for waterproof pants and wool socks because there was some water that definitely seeped through into my hiking boots.

Remnants of an old mill?

We finally get past the golf course and end up finding ourselves passing by remnants of an old mill perhaps?

Rusty remains of a car

Looking ahead, we noticed a rusty frame of a car sitting on the side of the stream.  You have to begin to wonder why someone decided to push or drive that car there or rather, how it got there in the first place.

Taking a look back at the mill or canal along the trail

It was a relatively pleasant day although it seemed to get windier (and thus colder) as we progressed on the trail due to the gradually decline in the number of trees surrounding the trail.  We also ended up walking on the side of small highways which made for some interesting photographs but it’s not what I’d consider ideal if you want to feel closer to nature!

Hiking down a local roadWe were inclined to stop by for some brunch, it was tempting but we pushed on.

Eventually we found ourselves on a local road and even passed by a diner.  We were pretty tempted to pick something up or even stop for a nice hot brunch!  Nonetheless we pushed on despite some pretty serious wind chill until we found a great spot for lunch.

Crossed a nifty bridge. I think these are vertical-lift bridges.

Last time we stopped for lunch near the train tracks, but this time we stopped right next to a vertical lift bridge along a canal water route!  Can’t wait to see where we end up next time for lunch!

Snowmobiling upside down is not allowed!

It’s always fun to observe the local surroundings for peculiarities or just things that you just rarely notice on daily basis.  This is what I appreciate most about doing the Bruce Trail hike … it provides that opportunity to hike a long distance but also forces us to focus let go of expecting the sexiness of really stunning views we see in travel magazines and focus more on the local surroundings and just ponder about it.

Spotted our first lock but not much water

We continue hiking on pavement for a while until we encounter a lock, but that’s when we take a turn and head back into more wooded area.  A nice mix of technological wonder and nature perhaps?

The trail was pretty wet and in some parts really slushy and icy.Always interesting to see how the Bruce Trail passed by a factory.

We would walk by a lot of suburban houses and sometimes they would be very close to these industrial or commercial areas.  It really triggers you to think about how that ended up to be.  “No trespassing signs” are probably the most frequent sign you encounter along the Bruce Trail.

The trek takes us through a residential neighbourhood.

It wouldn’t be the Bruce Trail if we weren’t to end up on a residential street.  The interesting thing about it is that as we were walking down a residential street, we could hear a stream rushing through even though it was underground.  We suspected that there used to be an old mill built along the right side of the street you see in the photograph above but the land has now been converted.

Somehow the trail takes us on to a busy street with big boxes.

I had anticipated suburban streets but never did I think we would be walking down main street where all the malls and plazas were.  We were amusingly so out of place, I wasn’t sure who was laughing at the situation more.  Us or the folks driving by.

Might as well photograph the moment in suburbia.

We knew that there would be a large hill to hike near the end of this section of the trail we wanted to complete.  Originally thinking that it would be slushy and wet, we weren’t sure how that would work out but it turns out we didn’t even need to worry because the trail took us up the large hill (dare I say mountain?) via the classic suburban residential route.

Trying not to slip and slide down the muddy and slushy conditions.

Of course once we got to the end of the street (seriously, the very end), we found ourselves slipping and sliding down this slushy and partially icy hill.  We were trying to find all sorts of alternative ways to get down the hill — sometimes snow is better than no snow!  Even when trekking up hill.

Quite a number of muddy and slushy hills to climb!Hiking up the last bit of this section of the trail on the sidewalk.

The last chunk of the trail leading to the next section was just sidewalk.  Not exciting but I can’t say I expect anything less (or more) from the Bruce Trail!

And we're done!  Here's where we'll start next time.

While there were some interesting parts to the trail, I didn’t like this section as much as the first.  There wasn’t as much to enjoy and the trek through a commercial strip wasn’t ideal although it made for lots of wisecracks and funny moments.  Nonetheless it is still something that we need to work through to tackle the full Bruce Trail.  Hopefully next time, I’ll be able to bring more people along.

While waiting for the next section of the Bruce Trail, you can take a look at the full gallery for the Woodends to Glendridge section.

How I ended up sandboarding

Some really cool snowboard designs I spotted in Chile

When I was in school, many of my friends made visits to Mont-Tremblant for ski trips. I didn’t have a chance to try skiing or until quite a number of years later after university. Still struggling to figure it out. I still haven’t tried snowboarding but I did surprisingly have a number of opportunities to sandboard!

It was during my travels in Chile when I had my first opportunity to sandboard. I hadn’t tried snowboarding yet but the fact that sandboarding was significantly less expensive was already enticing! What made it even more enticing was the fact that it seemed relatively straight forward and didn’t require as many pieces of equipment as snowboarding.

Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile is where lots of folks go sandboarding

Passing through San Pedro de Atacama on the way to Bolivia, I had the opportunity to stay for a day or so in the town.  One of the major activities in the area is sandboarding so a group of my fellow travellers and I took a brief truck ride into Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley) to join in on the fun.

To sandboard, you just need a board and the will to hike up giant sand dunes.  Then strap yourself in and slide down!

While many folks might point out that sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding, I’d say that it is actually a bit more challenging for those who sandboard.  You have to hike up the giant sand dune with your sandboard as opposed to an enjoying a ride on a ski lift up a mountain.  Those who have hiked in sand will recognize the extra effort involved.  Nonetheless it was totally worth it, even if all my pockets were full of sand afterwards!

I also had the opportunity to sandboard while travelling in the United States.  In Colorado, there are the amazing Great Sand Dunes.  It is — simply put — a stunning natural environment to be in with such a diversity in the area.  Sand dunes, forest, marsh, mountains.

The Great Sand Dunes in Colorado

There is a great opportunity to hike (bring lots of water!), or alternatively, you can rent some sandboards nearby and have some fun on the dunes!  These are not just snowboards, they are actually designed for sand dunes so be prepared to remove your shoes and either use the sandboards with bare feet or with socks.

Hiking up the sand dunes

Of course, once again in Colorado, my friends and I were hiking up the sand dunes which was tiring after a number of times.  During the summer, I’d recommend heading out into the dunes early in the morning.  It isn’t hot yet and by the time you’ve made quite a few runs (at least 20) down the dunes, you’ll probably be tired out and ready to kickback in the shade.  The sand itself can get pretty hot by late morning to noon depending on the time of year.

sandboarding with friends in the Great Sand Dunes

Just like snowboarding, be ready to fall lots of times.  I can’t even count the number of times I fell or rolled down the side of the dune.  Other times, my sandboard was lacking wax so it’d slow down to a grind half way down the slope which made for some amusing times.

Yours truly, sandboarding for the second time

I’d love to go sandboarding again but just wish there were some places closer to Toronto.  I’ve heard about larger sand dunes in Sand Hill Park and will have to check it out sometime.

Bruce Trail Part 1 – Queenston Heights to Woodends

We started the trek on a pretty darn cold winter day but it turned out to be quite sunny so that made up for the chilly temperature. Once we got into a more wooded area, it helped shelter us from the wind.

Back in November 2013, as my friends and I discussed the possibility of hiking Kilimanjaro, we decided that as part of an on-going training routine, we’d work away at completing the entire Bruce Trail. It is approximately 890km (885km according to wikipedia) so it’ll take a while given that we intend on completing the entire trail in parts. I figured we’d begin in January but there have been some delays with myself getting the flu twice and other things in life that keep us busy. My optimistic self thought we might be able to tackle this in a year if we divided up the complete length of the trail into 52 weeks allowing us to tackle about 17km each week. Given that we’ve missed a number of weeks and we’re not tackling 17km just yet, I’ll aim for 2 years to complete this journey 🙂

The trail goes from Queenston in the Niagara region all the way up to Tobermory. I’d highly recommend purchasing a Bruce Trail membership and map because it isn’t the most straight forward trail with a lot of side trails and sections that pass through shared pieces of private property. I doubt we’d be able to find the trailhead in Queenston without the trail map!

We started the trek on a pretty darn cold winter day but it turned out to be quite sunny so that made up for the chilly temperature. Once we got into a more wooded area, it helped shelter us from the wind.

Starting off at the Bruce Trail Cairn in Queenston

Locating the cairn was pretty amusing.  We drove around and around this restaurant and Queenston Heights park until we finally spotted it.   Made for a great group photograph with some sort of government building in the backdrop.

Icy conditions on the trail, it was an interesting downhill slide

While the beginning of the trail was a walk through part of parking lot, it eventually transitioned into a more wooded area.  The trail began to get more interesting as we got closer to the sections of the trail that covered parts of the escarpment.  Some areas due to the conditions of the trail and the weather we were having in Ontario were pretty icy.  To avoid the really icy areas, we sometimes had to improvise and find a different route to get down hill.  I guess we could have tried some bum sliding!

Heading down some well maintained steps along the trail

I am pretty accustomed to actually hiking trails that are quite isolated from urban environments so it was a different experience to be walking through the wooded area and see that the road was just next to us.  I understood why — it was just … different, but I appreciated it because it made for an interesting juxtaposition and perspective of urban development and growth in these areas against the conservation efforts of many organizations and individuals.

Sections of complete layers of ice on the trail made for a longer trek

Along the way, there were sections of the trail involved walking down small gravel roads meant for vehicles.  Unfortunately these had turned into one long skating rink.  This meant a lot of shuffling on our hiking boots.  Fun for the inner kid, but made for a longer trek.  We came across other hikers who were shuffling along as well and were mutually amused by our situation.

Trekking past a nice partially frozen pond or reservoir

Once we got past the “treacherous” skating rink, we came across a beautiful pond or reservoir near some undeveloped land.  I’m guessing the land was cleared but it just wasn’t put into use … yet.

Tranquil wooded area and stream along the way on the Bruce Trail

There were a lot of sections of the Bruce Trail that were just plain road or in some cases crossing through a part of the backyards of suburban areas.  We’d joke about how we’d probably end up hiking past a Walmart at some point but thankfully, we enjoyed sections of the trail where it was more tranquil.  We also stopped on a part of the trail near the railroad tracks to enjoy lunch.

We were supposed to cross through this tunnel but due to water levels, we went another route

Further into the trail, we had to cross bridges and some pretty deep streams (only because of the weather).  This meant a lot of stone hopping or creative bridgework.  At one point, the trail map had indicated we were supposed to walk down this tunnel below the railroad tracks but the water level was too high for our boots so we climbed up and over the railroad tracks over to the other side.

Dirt road section of the Bruce Trail

Eventually after making our way past some more suburban backyards, we found ourselves on this dirt road.  Heading down this road, there are some side trails that you can take so keep your eyes peeled.

Finishing off the first part of the Bruce Trail - note the mall in the distance

There are some more interesting sections of the escarpment to see along the way and we finally ended the hike at Woodend Conservation Area.  Not too far away from the conveniences of civilization too.  While it wasn’t the most exciting hike I have been on, the trail has been interesting — especially in the way that it winds through neighbourhoods and some areas with historical significance — like Laura Secord’s route to warn the British of an American attack.

Looking forward to tackling the next part of the Bruce Trail!  In the meantime, take a look at the full gallery from this trek.