Over the Thanksgiving long weekend (the Canadian one), my friends and I decided to continue where we left off back in August. It had been a while since we continued on the Bruce Trail because the drive up north is just a tad too long for only a day hike. 3 to 4 hours actually. I can only imagine that as we get further north, it’ll get harder and the only way to tackle the trail will be to block off time.
It had been a cold week leading up to the long weekend but surprisingly warmer than we anticipated once we started on the trail. Weather was co-operating beautifully and the plan was to tackle at least 20km each day.
I was eager for this weekend. Autumn time is by far my favourite season to hike in. Not too cold, not warm and muggy — it’s always a comfortable temperature for physical activity. Throw in the fact that there are practically no mosquitoes, black flies, or whatever other annoying or pesky fly-in-your-face-and-buzz-in-your-ear sort of bug — I am just one happy hiker.
Then there are the colours. Unfortunately there wasn’t a dramatic change in the leaves yet despite some of the cold temperatures that we had experienced. This October, the weather actually seemed to be warmer than usual. This meant we got a few highlights now and then as we passed through the forest but we mainly saw the yellow-greens as if every tree was in a slow transition.
There are often two thoughts that come about while hiking.
“Man, why is it so boring?” or, “I wish I could check this out right now, but I can’t!”
This was me throughout this hike. We’d often find crevice holes or spot sections of the trail where there were something that one could sit and look at all day. Sometimes it is both a blessing and a curse to be on the trail with a destination in mind. You want to enjoy the experience along the way but can’t afford to let time pass.
I figure that after I finish hiking the full Bruce Trail, I will return to certain areas and simply sit down and take in the experience — maybe a draw a few sketches too.
The one thing that the Bruce Trail usually guarantees to some extent is variety or diversity of what you’ll encounter on the trail. I love the fact that I’ll take a mere dozen of steps and find myself in a completely different setting than before. The boardwalk is always an interesting medium in that sense.
I’ll walk through the woods expecting rocky terrain only to find myself strolling on the boardwalk for a few metres and then suddenly, I’m crossing a field full of grass. In this situation, we end up seeing signage indicating how much further there is to go to Tobermory. I don’t know if this is simply the linear distance between this tree and our ultimate end destination or if the 221km indicated on the sign is the length of the trail that we still have to make our way through. Either way, it’s a nice encouragement.
Now that we are tackling the Sydenham section of the Bruce Trail, I’m noticing there are some significantly bigger ascents and rougher terrain. This is perfect for training for my hike up Kilimanjaro in a couple of months. In combination to some other circuit training, I think this will put me in better shape than before when I was in Peru. I know the altitude will still be a beast where every step I take will feel like a giant challenge, but it’s still a good idea to maintain some level of fitness.
The good thing about ascents are that they usually lead to something magnificent. Like the tree below.
On the trail, we sometimes find ourselves asking the question, “How did this come to be?” … or something like that.
I look at the disfigured tree above and wonder this. It looks so horrible to some extent but at the same time, the holes and the fungi appears so fascinating.
Same idea but not at all a similar hypothetical question comes to mind when I saw this piece of wetland. A tiny stream running into the marsh. How much time did it take for this one stream (or many little ones) to turn this part of the forest into wetland? What was it like before when it was dry?
Eventually, we settled on eating lunch near Walter’s Falls. There is actually an Inn and Spa — quite popular for tourists, but we just perched ourselves on a bridge leading into the woods and observed the tourists. Lots of people out and about that day because of the beautiful weather and the autumn colours.
I was rather disappointed with Walter’s Falls. I don’t think it was the water level but maybe it was just the lookout area — it just didn’t seem very majestic. I wasn’t the only one because as soon I as hiked out from the woods and into the lookout area — tourists were asking me if there was another trail that would lead them to a better view.
On the other hand, there was a wedding taking place and some groomsmen with the groom dressed up actually approached us because they wanted to take a photo where we were sitting. We happily obliged. Looked like a great bunch and it seemed like they were going to have a perfect autumn day outdoor wedding.
Ironically, I found the old mill structure behind Walter’s Falls more interesting. It was also a great place to relax and simply chill out. Unfortunately my friends were so keen to keep moving that we quickly ate and continued on our way.
Sometimes it is bizarre what we find abandoned on the trail. I think this is a forklift of sorts and it has been around long enough that it sunk into the mud. We imagined someone may have used this to clear the trail and dubbed it Trailmaker.
As much as I enjoy ascents, they do get tiring. Descents are the challenges I tend to struggle with — particularly with uneven footing — I tend to slow down significantly. Fortunately, hiking poles have helped a lot in this area but after slipping and falling on mossy rocks so many times — I tend to be pretty cautious when descending. I find it’s harder to maintain balance.
We soon found ourselves back on the road for about 4km. A pretty long stretch actually. That said, it took us along some nice areas and we passed by a local cemetery. It’s always interesting to me where cemeteries are located. Some are located right next to a church, others are located in the middle of town, and still others are right next to a farm. In this case, right next to the Bruce Trail. I wondered how long this cemetery had been around.
This long stretch of road was a tad bland but we encountered fields full of dairy cows whose curiosity we piqued as we passed them by waving hello. A friend of mine spotted a couple of horses who were curious as well but a bit shy and would only get close enough to take a look yet far enough that we weren’t able to pet them. Too bad we didn’t have carrots or an apple.
Trekking along the road for long periods of time gets one thinking. Thoughts and ideas drift in and out of your head and that happens a lot on the trail too. Sometimes I’d just be lost in my thoughts until I spotted something that interested me. I wonder how much of the trail I didn’t really see consciously as a result of being lost in my own thoughts. I did however stop to enjoy the view of these vast wetlands across from a farm. As much as I enjoy this type of ecosystem, I wouldn’t want to be around in the spring time when the mosquitoes are out in full force!
Eventually, we found ourselves back on to the dirt trail and hiking through tree tunnels and crop fields. The afternoon sun was out in full force but it felt both warm yet cold at the same time. The sun may have been warm but the wind was really blowing a cool and crisp autumn breeze. It was comfortable.
The autumn afternoon sun is really something. I don’t think I paid much attention to it before until today. It certainly brings out some of the warm and muted colours in the autumn leaves. I may have to play around with lighting more in the future.
It had been a while since we’ve hiked 20km on the Bruce Trail. This wasn’t the toughest hike but I think my friends were tired from the drive and they were also recovering from a cold. I think my circuit training has been helping and I try to pace myself on the trail so that I’m not exerting too much of my energy too soon. I’ll have to begin training more rigorously soon as my hike up Kilimanjaro is rapidly approaching.
After picking up the cars, we decided to try to get dinner at the Flying Chestnut only to find that they are all booked up and so we end up dining at the Flying Spatula once again. They have a set dinner menu but it is pretty good! Once we filled up on food, we hit up a local hotel in Owen Sound and got ready for the next day’s hike.
Want to see more of this hike? Here’s the full gallery.