A new journey

First off … here’s what happened last summer as I cycled 500km across Ontario’s Greenbelt Route. A one-minute summary 🙂

So after a lengthy time away … I’ve found some new inspiration. I’ve retired Sidetracked & Wandering as I’m spending more time working on a collaborative project with my friend Serena draw.post.repeat. At the same time, I’m consolidating what I’ve written and drawn (and continue to do!) while outdoors with stuff that I’m beginning to write about minimalism and random musings or observations.

Between studying and learning new skills for my work — I also spend a lot of time reading about and pondering life in urban environments, the way we choose to live, and the things that influence our decisions. So expect a mishmash of different areas of interest that I am exploring and if you choose to follow along, I hope you enjoy the journey (and pardon the work-in-progress as I build out this new site).

Driving towards a sunrise

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Bruce Trail Sketches for #inktober 2015

More than year ago, my friend and brilliant illustrator Serena Chen, encouraged me to restart my drawing and sketching.  I had stopped ever since I was a child.  I had lived across the street from an artist who had been teaching my sister and I how to draw and sketch.  She eventually moved away and other distractions in life (i.e. the other gender, video games, computers, school) took precedence and I just never thought about it again.

Serena pointed out the Inktober initiative which I thought was brilliant so I leapt at the opportunity to focus and force myself to practice sketching again.  I’m still a long way from reclaiming my sketching skills but I am enjoying putting them to use as I’ve attempted to sketch a different part of the Bruce Trail (BT) for each day of October.  This is of course based on my own hiking experiences on the BT over the past year or two.

I’ve been posting them regularly on Instagram but in case you missed them, here is a glimpse of a few of my personal favourites:

Perspective and the fence was really the toughest part of this sketch but I loved the challenge.
Perspective and the fence was really the toughest part of this sketch but I loved the challenge.
This was by far the most popular sketch during inktober.  I loved it because of the texture of the tree but I imagine a lot of people had their own nostalgic thoughts about the sketch.
This was by far the most popular sketch during inktober.  I loved it because of the texture of the tree but I imagine a lot of people had their own nostalgic thoughts about the sketch.
I just thought this was sketch was a lot of fun and just out of the ordinary for a hiker to come across.
I just thought this was sketch was a lot of fun and just out of the ordinary for a hiker to come across.

You’ll may notice that my favourites don’t exactly include a lot of subject matter around trees.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that aspect of the Bruce Trail but it gets a little bland when I’m sketching trees all the time.  These are some of the most unique aspects of the Bruce Trail that I’ve encountered and have had the opportunity so far to sketch.

Come on over to the full gallery to see all my sketches for Inktober 2015. They are all of the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Part 31 – Euphrasia to Grey 12

Once we finally got the cars back in position at the destination point, we got to the trailhead and set off.  The air was cool and damp from the really rainy and wet week in the Grey County area.  The running joke was that they called it “Grey” County for a reason.

The final day of our multi-day trek along the Bruce Trail for most of the week. After some discussion, we decided that since we were not in the condition to push forward after today, we’d just head home and rest up.  After some oatmeal breakfast, we initially tried to set out for Walter’s Falls.  Unfortunately, as soon as we parked the cars, my friend found that her blisters were really hurting so we had to scale back the distance to a very short trek.

Once we finally got the cars back in position at the destination point, we got to the trailhead and set off.  The air was cool and damp from the really rainy and wet week in the Grey County area.  The running joke was that they called it “Grey” County for a reason.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

I don’t know why but I could sense a difference in this portion of the trail.  It felt different and perhaps it is because it was purely through farm area.  What is really quite extraordinary about the Bruce Trail is that some times you are hiking through such a small sliver of property that feels so wild and out of place.  As soon as you step out off the trail, you find yourself in an agricultural area, and urban road, or even a large suburban zone.

In this case, we were walking in between crop fields but the sliver of wooded area we were passing through was vast in contrast to what we had experienced in the past so it made it feel so much more like wilderness when we were in the woods.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

In other sections, it was simply ridiculous.  The amount of overgrowth was just annoying and frustrating at times.  To make it worse and somewhat dangerous — some parts were covering up very rocky sections.  I highly recommend that anyone trekking through these parts bring a machete or be very careful when making your way through.  It isn’t obvious that there are some unstable rocks and the overgrowth on the trail can make the general experience quite challenging.

Of course after a section like that, we’re always happy to see a road and one with a nice view is a bonus.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

It’s ironic that on the last day of our multi-day hike on the Bruce Trail, we would encounter some of the most beautiful areas.  I’m always experiencing joy when I step through paths with trees arching just enough to create a sense of a hallway passing through tall fields of crops on both sides.

Other stunning areas incorporated more dramatic or exposed rock from the escarpment along side the trail.  A part of me would love to spend time exploring more of these exposed areas of the escarpment but we were on a mission!

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

There were riverbeds that had very little water and we’d just be stepping on what almost seemed like a stone floor.  With the vibrant green moss, the whole area felt very serene.

To form a sort of juxtaposition to the giant mushroom we encountered yesterday, we stumbled upon thousands of mini mushrooms at the base of a tree we were passing by.  It had even spread on to the trail.  The diversity we’ve encountered has been so amazing.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

Sometimes you can’t help but admire the human influenced paths like the nearly-rectangular hallway in the photo above.  Did someone cut it this way?

Other times, there are more amusing moments like the two bridges that were built in parallel to one another.  One of course is meant to replace the other — which my friend is photographing in the picture below.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

After trekking through more wooded area, we made our way past more crop fields and to what looked like an abandoned stone building where we had parked.  This was the end of our attempt to hike the Bruce Trail for a week.  It didn’t work out the way we wanted it to but it was a lot of fun — we got to complete the Beaver Valley section — and on a personal level, I was happy to have the opportunity to get out of the city and have time to think and ponder the time away.

Before heading back to Toronto, we decided to stop by and try out the Flying Spatula Diner and ended up enjoying a great brunch there.  Highly recommend checking it out if you’re in the area!

>> View the full gallery of this hike on the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Part 30 – Grey 7 to Euphrasia

In between the dirt roads for offroading, the trails would take us through small paths that cut through the trees or in the case above, across rivers with makeshift bridges.  I took a step and immediately slipped and fell on my back.  The damp bark and tree logs didn’t provide much traction but it made for a couple of hilarious moments!

It was raining on and off the previous evening and it continued to drizzle when we woke up.  After a hearty breakfast (thanks to our generous hosts!) and waiting for the rain to settle a little, we set off to tackle more of the trail.  Unfortunately, my friend’s feet were in pretty bad shape.  She had acquired blisters as a result of wearing thin socks and new boots that weren’t really broken in yet.  We had to shorten the distance that we were going to tackle and as much as we were hoping to hike the whole week, I was anticipating that we’d need to shorten the trip by a day.

It was definitely wet and cold once we got out on to the trail.  We spent the first few kilometres along the road before we’d set foot back on to dirt.

Hiking the Bruce TrailHiking the Bruce Trail

We started off hiking through a lot of fields once we were off the road and eventually took us into the woods.  This section of the trail wasn’t too interesting until we got to what seemed to be dirt road meant for folks who enjoyed off-roading with their vehicles.

I generally don’t understand why it is so much fun to drive a vehicle off road and what pleasure one derives from it but I figure it must be similar to the folks who enjoy driving their vehicles around a racetrack.

Hiking the Bruce TrailHiking the Bruce Trail

In between the dirt roads for offroading, the trails would take us through small paths that cut through the trees or in the case above, across rivers with makeshift bridges.  I took a step and immediately slipped and fell on my back.  The damp bark and tree logs didn’t provide much traction but it made for a couple of hilarious moments!

Just as we thought the trail was getting a bit bland, we enter the dirt paths for offroading once again and find ourselves hiking some pretty steep hills.  I’m pretty amazed that people drive up these paths.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

Because we simply love fields so much, we just had to enjoy another long and wet trek through a vast field of tall damp grass.  What made this field worth the trek were the beads of water all lined along certain plants.  I’m not sure what they were but if you look carefully at the photo above and observe the grey-ish areas in the fields, these were actually plants all lined with beads of water.  It was pretty spectacular to see in person.

Once we had admired them sufficiently, we made our way through the fields tall wet grass.  My pants were wet and dirty but they’d dry accordingly, I unfortunately could not say the same for one of my boots which was now completely soaking wet now.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

I have to admit, I’m not someone with an intense interest in the area of funghi but there were definitely a lot of really interesting species along the trail that we spotted.  In fact, I wonder if anyone thought of changing the section to Mushroom Valley instead?  I didn’t see any beavers so why not?  I imagine that there may be a spike in tourism if suddenly everyone was looking for ‘shroom valley.  No idea about the legal implications but could be a good marketing idea.

Further down the trail, we found some really beautiful parts of the escarpment.  Mosquitoes were also being a little too friendly so we were quickening our pace at certain parts but I really enjoyed the fact that the trail took us through the escarpment.  It is as if someone took a cross-section of it and we were hiking through it.  Lots of fun.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

Every time we crossed a road, it became part of our nature to check the map and see where we were.  I’m not sure if it’s because we were hoping to be closer to the end or if we just wanted to make sure we’re on the right track.  Either way, it made for a nice break in the hike and we’d often grab a granola bar or banana to snack on.

Speaking of snacks, we encountered the largest mushroom ever.  At least that I’ve seen in person.  My friend joked that we could harvest it for dinner. 

As long as it was safe, I wouldn’t mind a mushroom steak.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

After musing about the mushroom and made our way past through some more mosquito-infested woods and got to the car.  It looked like the Grey County area was going to receive more rain so we were very fortunate that our generous hosts offered to have us stay in a trailer on their farm even when they were back in the city.  It made our trek significantly more comfortable given that we were either injured or not well-equipped.  I really wanted to push onwards and at least complete the Beaver Valley section but I was concerned about my friend.  I was also concerned about my knee — there were a couple of times when the tall grass fields led to me stumbling or taking a sharp turn or two.  I didn’t want to cause any major injury as my knee had been known to be a bit troublesome at times.  Either way, I’d persevere!

>> View the full gallery of this hike on the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Part 29 – Concession 12A to Grey 7

After a good night’s rest at the bed and breakfast near Eugenia Falls, we made our way to the trailhead and continued where we left off yesterday.  It was cooler than my friends had anticipated and not only did one of them not bring long-sleeves, my friends also forgot their rain jackets at home.  It was definitely a bizarre situation but we had to persevere.  Weather seemed like it would cooperate for most of the day.

After a good night’s rest at the bed and breakfast near Eugenia Falls, we made our way to the trailhead and continued where we left off yesterday.  It was cooler than my friends had anticipated and not only did one of them not bring long-sleeves, my friends also forgot their rain jackets at home.  It was definitely a bizarre situation but we had to persevere.  Weather seemed like it would cooperate for most of the day.

Hiking the Bruce Trail

Starting off on the road and eventually finding ourselves passing by a very pretty waterfall, I wished that there would be a better view of it.  There’s often a public and internal debate around this matter — should there be a better view of the waterfall?  Is it worth disrupting the wildlife and natural habitat to create a trail that would lead to a better view?  Will the better view result in a greater appreciation of nature and its beauty?  I often have these questions in my mind but I can only imagine the sort of debate raging on in public institutions and organizations that manage these lands.  Perhaps it is simple and straight forward in many situations, but I can see there being times when it is a major struggle.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

I think in various counties or regions, there needs to be approval to build out a bridge.  They are definitely appreciated in many circumstances and I can see how elaborate the legal matters can get (don’t most legal matters?).

Anyhow, we eventually find ourselves at the foot of some private ski hills.  Based on some conversations I had later that day with some other people, these ski hills were only used by those with some form of membership.  I guess that explains why they are left so empty while the hills of Blue Mountain were packed with visitors.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

The lack of people certainly made for a more tranquil and enjoyable hike as we made our way up the ski hills.  I wasn’t so fond about the fact that the ski hills also had a lot of tall grass to wade through at times but I won’t get into that again.

We didn’t anticipate to get such a beautiful view of the valley here along this part of the hike and at certain times — it was so foggy that we could barely see out into the valley.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

The trail got really interesting once we passed through the private ski hill resort.  Once in the woods, we found ourselves making some dramatic descents and in one case, climbing down a big ladder!

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce TrailHiking the Bruce Trail

While a large chunk of the hike was a bit bland at times, there were some fun things along this prat of the hike.  A rather damp low-running stream had some beautiful moss-covered stones.  It reminded me of some scenes from Hayao Miyazaki films.

We eventually encountered a hay bale that had run away somehow from its farm.  It was rather funny to find it in the middle of nowhere on the trail.  Not sure how it got there but we certainly couldn’t move it no matter how much we tried!

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

It must’ve been close to apple season because along this part of the Bruce Trail, we began encountering apple trees.  For some reason apple trees were all lined up along the side of some crop fields.  As much as we wouldn’t mind some free snacks along the way, they weren’t quite ripe for the picking yet but it was certainly getting close.

The weather although cooperating so far was showing signs of incoming rain encroaching into the county area.  We could see it from a distance so we began to pick up the pace a little.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

I always enjoy these rickety fences in the middle of nowhere.  They may mark where someone’s property ends or starts, but I find them so much more appealing than the ugly and confrontational chain fences.

Unfortunately as we were hiking, one of my friends began to get blisters on her foot so we had to slow down and rest more frequently.

Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail
Hiking the Bruce Trail

As we neared the car, we cut across the trees to the parking lot because my friend was really feeling the pain.  We were also fortunate because my friend’s friend generously offered to take us in for the night at their farm after our hike.  They even fed us and I can’t thank them enough because we were able to avoid camping in the rain and in the cold which was particularly important as my friends either didn’t have long-sleeves or rain gear with them.

>> View the full gallery from this hike along the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Part 28 – Eugenia Falls to Concession 12A

Last time, it was very hot and humid and our water shortage left us needing to take a short cut to the parking lot so we made our way back to the waterfalls, climbed over the wall and hopped across the water and got back on the trail.  I was quite happy that we were going to finish the part of the Bruce Trail that was leading us south so that we’d be heading in the right direction once again — north!

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to post about our hikes but don’t worry, they’re coming fast and furious soon.  With the big site migration, I’ve had little chance to focus on writing but that’s for another post so here we are during the last week of August with the intention of making some major distance on the Bruce Trail.  We managed to get a week off work to make this happen.

After a very very very very long drive up to the vicinty of Eugenia Falls, we resumed where we left off.  Last time, it was very hot and humid and our water shortage left us needing to take a short cut to the parking lot so we made our way back to the waterfalls, climbed over the wall and hopped across the water and got back on the trail.  I was quite happy that we were going to finish the part of the Bruce Trail that was leading us south so that we’d be heading in the right direction once again — north!

Hiking on the Bruce TrailHiking on the Bruce Trail

The funny part about this bit of the trail is that it really just takes us in this loop around the river that becomes Eugenia Falls.  It was a pretty area and with the relatively cool temperature and lack of bugs, the hike was off to a pretty decent start.

We even ran across some nice graffiti as we passed by what looked to be an old shelter or building.  It definitely looked like it was being used as a shelter nowadays.

Hiking on the Bruce TrailHiking on the Bruce Trail

Once we got around the loop, we were provided with some glimpses of Eugenia Falls from a distance.  Not very impressive during the summer time but I can imagine it’d be quite a sight in the wetter months with water levels significantly higher.

As we progressed along the trail, we found ourselves with some pretty lookout areas.  While we were all grumbling about the fact that over the past few hikes, we’d be trekking in the wrong direction (i.e. Tobermory is north, not south) — it can’t be denied that the Beaver Valley section is a beautiful and lesser trekked portion of the trail.  There are places that I’d imagine would be stunning during the autumn time.  I still don’t like the amount of overgrowth on the trail — drives me nuts.

Hiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail

Speaking of overgrowth along the trail, we got to wade through a whole lot more tall grass.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a problem with it — it’s just not that much fun when everything is triggering your allergies.  My friends were even commenting on how strong of a scent the flowers and tall grass pollen gave off.

I should stop dwelling on and on about tall grass but it is a recurring issue from my perspective.  Regardless, I was always happy once we entered the woods.  This section of the trail has always provided some really great portions of challenging descents and ascents in the woods because of the valley and the ups and downs of the escarpment.

Hiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail

Eventually we reached the beautiful Hoggs Falls that the Boyne River ran through.  There were actually quite a few people either passing through or just stopping by (there was a parking lot very close by).  We sat down along the side of the river for lunch and just enjoyed the sounds of the river and the falls.

I love moments like these on hikes.  Nothing but you, your friends, and the waterfall … and may be the occasional stranger or fellow hiker.

Hiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail

Another really neat feature along the hike that we stumbled upon was a stream with incredibly smooth rocks.  Waterfalls are almost always quite a sight (even the dry ones), but streams always intrigue me because I just have to wonder how long they’ve been running that way and how did it begin?

Hiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail

Soon we made our way past another lookout point although it wasn’t as impressive as the other ones we encountered along the way.  It seemed like this was the point where we were finally leaving the actual valley.  The terrain seemed to be flattening out a little with fewer lookout areas and cliffsides.

Eventually the trail led us to more fields to cross and we even encountered someone’s treehouse! A little creepy though to have one right next to the trail. Perhaps there should be treehouses sparsely set up along the whole Bruce Trail — that’d make for a very unique experience, wouldn’t it?

Hiking on the Bruce TrailHiking on the Bruce Trail
Hiking on the Bruce Trail

As we got further along the trail, despite the cool temperature it felt quite humid so we were happy to stay at the Eugenia Falls Bed and Breakfast for our first night.  We stopped at the road and head off to get some dinner and prepare for the next day.

>> View the full gallery from this part of the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Part 27 – 9th Sideroad to Eugenia Falls

Walking further down the road, we walked through Duncan, what seemed to be a very small village.  If this was main street, it definitely didn’t feel like it because all we encountered was an old refitted schoolhouse and a couple of houses.  A couple of residents enjoying the morning on their porch waved to us.

After the last hike’s rather wet experience, I had my fingers crossed for a drier day and perhaps less tall grass to deal with.  The weather seemed to be going our way but it definitely felt hot and humid as soon as we started the this trek. This part of the Bruce Trail kept us on a small country road for a while but we were amused as we passed by a yard sale.  It was a pretty elaborate and diverse sale and there was very little traffic on the road but I do hope there are more prospective customers in the latter part of the day!

Passing by a yard sale.  A very quiet yard sale.Entering the hamlet or village of Duncan. Seemed pretty quaint but really interesting.

Walking further down the road, we walked through Duncan, what seemed to be a very small village.  If this was main street, it definitely didn’t feel like it because all we encountered was an old refitted schoolhouse and a couple of houses.  A couple of residents enjoying the morning on their porch waved to us.

A beautiful yellow-green green crop field we passed.Bumped into some fellow hikers who were trekking for a cause.  A Walk of Kindness to fundraise for ALS.

As we weaved in and out of the woods and back on to another country side road, we noticed some folks on the road and a woman approached us and explained that they’ve been hiking the Bruce Trail since July 4th raising money for ALS and for the Brain Injury Association as a Walk of Kindness.  Visit the link to read about Marie’s very inspirational story and her effort to walk the Bruce Trail for her sister.  She provided us with a card which I took a picture of above.

It's a steep hike down parts of the escarpment.... and a steep hike up the escarpment through a large crevice.

There a number of sections that were quite steep and after some climbs and descents, this hike took us further up the escarpment that led us through a hauntingly beautiful crevice section.  I wondered what it’d be like a night but this eventually took us into the Grey County Conservation Area where lookout points were quite plentiful.  We encountered quite a few young Mennonites who were enjoying the view as we hiked further up past where they were taking a break.  It’s interesting to see them dressed so formally on a rather hot day and hiking.  We would later see a number of them speeding by along the road on their bicycles.

A great little lookout area with a bench.Hiking through another field of tall grass filled with flowers.Along the hike further up the escarpment.

As we hiked up and down along the escarpment, we began to encounter small groups fellow hikers, as well as one large group — particularly where there were major lookouts.  The lookout points were fantastic places for lunch but unfortunately my friends weren’t really in lunching mood so we pushed onwards.  We would end up lunching in a rather plain area on a dirt path.

The grand view of the valley from a high lookout point on the escarpment.

There were a number of road sections along this hike and thought we initially were quite cheerful about the lack of bugs, we eventually found ourselves hounded by flying pests who refused to leave us alone.  There were as many bugs as there was plenty of blazing sun that day.  We either had to endure the thirsty bugs or the crazy hot sun.

It was rather surprising given that areas were so dry even some of the streams we passed over were completely dried out.  One crossing point that would made for a very pretty little waterfall.

On a bridge with no stream running beneath it.Looking at the stream from the bridge, it's completely dry.So many ferns...The remnant of an old bridge.

Unfortunately for my friends and myself, we were running low on water.  One of my friends had been experiencing a leaky water bladder but the hot day and tough climbs meant our water consumption rate was higher than normal so as we got to the last two kilometres of our hike, everyone was pretty much out of water.

We kept pushing forward until we got to Eugenia Falls at which we made the call to cross over to the other side of the Falls (since the water level was really low) and call it a day.  At least we had the opportunity to take a few neat photographs of the waterfall, albeit we’ll be back.

Looking down from the top of Eugenia Falls, there are a few guys starting up a campfire.A view of Eugenia Falls from the side.We ran out of water for the day so we had to find a shortcut across the waterfall and back to the parking lot.

It was a long hard day on the Bruce Trail.  It was hot (and humid at times) with plenty of bugs bothering us.  Initially, we thought we might head back to my friend’s place for some barbeque but once we go to the highway 400 — there was some crazy cottage country traffic.  So after some discussion over the cell phone in bad traffic, we decided to stop in Barrie and visit a Montana’s.  I splurged on a taco salad and poutine, which was very satisfying after such a tiring day.

We’ve got plans to hit up the Bruce Trail for a full 5 days later in August, but in the meantime, take a look at the full gallery from this hike.