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.

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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.

Hiking the Booth’s Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

One of my favourite parts of this trail was what my friends referred to as the mosquito farm.  This huge body of still water was perfect for mosquito larvae.  I simply enjoyed the green and reflection that was provided.  That said, this was the beginning of lots of pesky mosquitoes following us around.  Consider that a heads up if you do make a visit (pending weather and temperature of course).

Before some friends and I took a road trip to Utah a couple of years ago, I felt it was important for them to do a bit of a practice hike (as we were going to be doing a lot of hiking in Utah).  In one case it was to make sure one of my friends broke in his first pair of hiking boots.  So we hopped in the car, drove up to Algonquin Park, and settled on hiking the Booth’s Rock trail.  I actually had the opportunity to hike this in the winter quite a few years ago but attempting this in the Spring just when the mosquito season begins is probably daring on our part.
The trail is a bit trickier to get to as the trailhead isn’t accessible right off Highway 60 but it just requires one to pay attention to the signage to know when to turn off on to the somewhat unpaved gravel road that leads to the trailhead.

Booth’s Rock is considered a moderate hike.  The Park suggests approximately 2 hours but I’d say lean towards 3 hours depending on the pace of you and your fellow hikers.  Especially if there are shutterbugs in the party.

The look of the trail

As with most moderate trails I’ve encountered, the trail isn’t necessarily difficult but it requires people to pay attention to where they are stepping to avoid tripping over tree roots or rocks — as well as some uphill walking.  A fairly large chunk of the trail resembled above.

Reflection on still water

One of my favourite parts of this trail was what my friends referred to as the mosquito farm.  This huge body of still water was perfect for mosquito larvae.  I simply enjoyed the green and reflection that was provided.  That said, this was the beginning of lots of pesky mosquitoes following us around.  Consider that a heads up if you do make a visit (pending weather and temperature of course).

Lookout point

Once you get through the wet part of the wooded area, you finally make it to an awesome lookout point.  You can see it is Spring here as many trees are still bare.  This was a great place to sit down and enjoy lunch.  I’ve done this in the winter too although in the Spring, the mosquitoes were a bit of a nuisance — especially for a friend who couldn’t stand flying insects.

Booth's Rock

As you move along the lookout area you’ll come across Booth’s Rock.  Don’t be fooled by this photograph, it’s pretty huge.

A view of the lake taken while I'm sitting on Booth's Rock

Here’s a photograph of the lake while I’m sitting on a part of Booth’s Rock.

A muddy route along the Booth's Rock Trail in Algonquin Park

As we descended the trail, we came across this brilliant muddy obstacle.  This was the trail back.  This was a good opportunity for everyone to test drive their waterproof hiking boots.

Tourists on a staircase

Of course, the trail is made a little easier for most folks by this giant staircase.

Lakeside view

Along the way back to the trailhead, the route pretty much sticks to the lake which makes for an excellent and peaceful view.

Beaver dam

Even came across a beaver dam.

This is one of my favourite hikes to do in the autumn.  I love to just hike up to the lookout point, sit on Booth’s Rock and enjoy the view with some lunch.  These are just some highlights but you can check out the whole trek and a bit more in my photo album.

The Early Mornings of a Road Trip

It takes an incredible amount of energy for me to wake up on the average week day so it’s funny how I always find it extremely easy to wake up early when travelling, or starting an exciting road trip.  The advantage to waking up early in the morning are the opportunities to enjoy an experience that one rarely has the time to take in.
When I was in Boston, I would wake up at 3am in the morning, hop in a Zipcar and drive out to Provincetown.  I managed to avoid the traffic, enjoy a very peaceful and scenic drive that would normally be a pretty typical busy-sort-of-traffic road trip.  Having driven out to Provincetown early in the morning, I also had the opportunity to photograph and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the town before all the tourists woke up or arrived in town.

On the way to Manitoulin Island early in the morning

About 8 years ago (wow…) a handful of friends and I took on a long-weekend road trip from Toronto up to Manitoulin Island.  Being super excited I did not get a whole lot of sleep, my friend and I were awake waiting for another friend (the driver) to pick us up before we rendezvoused with another group of friends in a second car.

This predated the GPS era (although I did end up getting a GPS after this trip) so we were relying on the traditional map and a couple of short range walkie talkies.  We met up at a Tim Hortons and set off to catch the ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island.  I remember unfortunately losing the hold your bladder game along the way to Tobermory (albeit, it was unfair since the others did make a visit to the bathroom earlier on whereas I did not).  It was a fun trip up but one of the most memorable points of the early drive was the sunrise.

We parked on the side of the road and stood around in the chilly brisk morning air watching the sky get brighter.  Everyone except one friend who didn’t want to wake up from sleeping in the car.  We didn’t make the ferry on time (it was extremely busy that long weekend in August), but this was one of those early morning moments that I never forgot.

Time Well Wasted Out in the Snow

Stomping around in almost knee-high snow after the snowstorm

So over the past two days, we’ve experienced a little more snow than we’re accustomed to in Toronto.  We’re not the only ones who got hit but of course but it’s quite amazing how people in a rush to do their day to day tasks forget how amazing it is to have snow in our presence in the first place.  Then there are the folks who enjoy their time laughing or cracking jokes at Toronto (although I really don’t know if they’d enjoy the snow anymore than the average Torontonian).

Either way, I am an avid fan of snow and I only wish Toronto received more.  Nonetheless, I decided to stroll (stomp) around the neighbourhood and see how the public spaces were fairing.  Most sidewalks that weren’t associated to a private property or a public facility weren’t cleared leading most residents to walk on the street.

One can find it quite refreshing to see blankets of white across all the houses, trees, and fields.  In fact, snow-covered trees is one of the few favourite elements of winter that come to mind consistently.  Curiously, no one’s playing in this park?  Still shoveling themselves out of the driveway?

Snow-covered parkette

I’m always eager to see what the trees and the forest looks like after a good snowfall.  There aren’t really any forests per se in the neighbourhood but I knew of some public spaces with a fair number of evergreen trees so I did some more stomping and leaping in and over the snow.  Didn’t bother with the snow pants — I was only in jeans (I know, any outdoors person knows jeans are typically bad but I was feeling lazy). At least there were some fresh tracks made by others.

Fresh tracks in the snow

Given it was already early afternoon, I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised with a fair number of snow-covered trees.

A few snow-covered trees

Many of which were covered with icicles which was a very rare treat in Toronto!

icicles on the tree

I’m always fascinated around the use of public spaces (although I’m not necessarily one to always use them) so I went over to the community centre nearby and was happy to see people out and about enjoying a game of hockey or throwing themselves into the toboggan!

hockey and public space

I attempted to walk and leap through the deep snow only to nearly get stuck in waist-high snow — I really should have brought snowshoes but either way, it was a nice distraction and break from all the work work and school work. We may not all like the snow and the cold, but I think there’s something to be enjoyed and cherished in the brisk cold air and snow-covered landscapes (urban or nature).

trees on top of a hill

Kabeyun Trail to Top of the Giant

Ever since I stumbled across photos of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park a number of years ago, I’ve yearned to explore the area.  Unfortunately the park being close to Thunder Bay makes it a little far for me to drive there from Toronto.  It’s a 19 hour drive, if not more. Finally opportunity arose when I had a single vacation day remaining and extended the weekend.  Add on a discounted flight with Porter and bonus!

Ever since I stumbled across photos of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park a number of years ago, I’ve yearned to explore the area.  Unfortunately the park being close to Thunder Bay makes it a little far for me to drive there from Toronto.  It’s a 19 hour drive, if not more.
Finally opportunity arose when I had a single vacation day remaining and extended the weekend.  Add on a discounted flight with Porter and bonus!

One of the craziest things about Ontario is that it is incredibly difficult for majority of its population to reach some of the province’s most unique and stunning landscapes.  It is both a good and bad thing.

Had the lucky opportunity to set up camp on one of the most beautiful campsites (in terms of non-back country sites) I’ve encountered.  My tent was set up mere steps away from from the interior lake Marie Louise.  Stunning views, although we had noisy neighbours and a family of ducks that kept visiting.

Best Campsite in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

What I did not know was that the hiking trails were located so deeply within the park.  After driving to the trailhead, there was still at least a 6km hike just to get to the real hiking trails.  Most people brought mountain bikes to make the trek shorter or made use of the back country campsites.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Once on the actual trail towards the top of the giant, things got a lot more interesting as did the landscape.  Often stumbled across deer and rabbits — even the odd wolf and red squirrel!  Sorry no photos of those 😦

Crazy split tree in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

I was initially weary of the hike up the giant as I wasn’t seeing any truly good views but in the end, the climb up the giant was definitely worthwhile as we got to look out over Lake Superior.  Ran into a couple of hikers with glasses of red wine … interesting locals … and they were very kind to point out that it was worth hiking further to the Chimney rocks (cliffs).  Apparently there used to be a trail along those cliffs that got shutdown after a number of people had fallen or were injured by falling rocks.

Looking out over the lake was amazing, Ontario is often recognized for having a lot of lakes and not a whole lot of mountains.  We don’t.  But I’m glad we have steep cliffs such as these to sit on and look out from.

Views from the Sleeping Giant

After hiking further and going through some really peculiar turns and twists in the trail, the reward was one of the best places to rest and eat lunch.  The cliffs you see below are absolutely jaw-dropping in person.  I wish I were able to get a better shot but I was reluctant to get too close to the edge, although I did dangle my feet along the edge while having lunch.  You could even see Thunder Bay across the lake.

Chimney Cliffs of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

On the way back, there were people who did not carry enough water and they had not even reached the point of climbing the giant.  The way to the top of the giant is a long one and I am actually happy that it isn’t easily accessible to everyone and that there is a challenge to reaching this point.

It just wouldn’t be the same if this cliff were crowded with people.

Long Weekend at Bon Echo’s Abes and Essens Trail

As much as I loved spending time at Bon Echo, the trail was a bit bland.  Add to the fact that the mosquitoes were out in force and seemed to have a taste for Chinese food … we decided to really motor it through the trail.  That said, there were quite a few great views of the lakes that the trail weaved around.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’m afraid the road trip to Utah, work, school, and life in general has taken a lot of time.  I hope to have some photos from Utah posted soon.
Over the August long weekend (in Canada) a couple of friends and I went up to Bon Echo Provincial Park.  I’ve been meaning to hike the full Abes and Essens trail — one meant for overnight back country camping, so this was the opportunity I’ve been waiting for a long time!

After arriving at the park around noon, we hiked into our first campsite.  Took a couple of hours and it was insanely hot and humid.  We were consuming water at a faster rate than expected.  Thankfully, we arrived at the Little Lake Rock just in time to relax and take a swim.

Little Rock Lake

Alas, I forgot my swimming trunks but Little Rock Lake was very tranquil and it was a great isolated location with no one passing through.  We were surprised to find hundreds of sun fish following along hoping for food.  I’m guessing they are accustomed to having campers washing their dishes in the lake.

As much as I loved spending time at Bon Echo, the trail was a bit bland.  Add to the fact that the mosquitoes were out in force and seemed to have a taste for Chinese food … we decided to really motor it through the trail.  That said, there were quite a few great views of the lakes that the trail weaved around.

Overall, not a bad hike.  Excellent campsite at Little Rock Lake but I came out of this trek with 50+ mosquito bites.  Let’s just say it was quite the itchy time.