Bruce Trail Part 34 – Woodford to Irish Block Road

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

After a long hiatus, we finally resumed our journey on Bruce Trail! It had been a while since I had left for Tanzania and the previous hike on the Bruce Trail.  It was another long drive up to the town of Woodford, Ontario but the rather nice day and warmer weather we had been experiencing made for a smooth trip up north of Toronto.

Having the opportunity to hike again after playing catch-up on all fronts at home and work, was nice and I was looking forward to it.  I packed up my snowshoes and a small daypack with some food and water for the trek — unfortunately this time without a water bladder / CamelBak because mine was pretty much torn apart during my month-long trip in Tanzania.  This meant I had to lug around water bottles which I wasn’t a big fan of but I hadn’t had time to run to the local MEC store to pick up a replacement water bladder.

After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods. After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods.

Initially, we were a little lost and disoriented having not been on the trail for so long and ended up walking in the wrong direction.  Eventually we found our way and followed the right markers into the woods.

The snow was surprisingly high despite the warm weather (it was +6 degrees Celsius on a early-mid February day) — and we are talking within the vicinity of Owen Sound. Just the previous week, the temperature was -23 degrees — not including wind chill!  Glad we weren’t hiking that day.

The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather. The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather.

The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods -- particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view. The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods — particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view.

The trail took us up on to the escarpment which was nice although hiking in snow again took a little getting used to after such a long time.  It wasn’t too deep — about ankle height — and though I could have used my snowshoes — the trail didn’t really allow for it.  With all the rocks bulging out and narrow sections along the path it didn’t work out with the relatively low levels of snow.

One element of the trek I enjoyed at different parts of this hike were the little valleys that the trail took us through.

The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow

It was warm enough that everything was melting, wet, or muddy so I was happy that I decided to retire my old hiking boots.  They were leaking and every time it rained or each time I stepped into a deep puddle of water — I’d feel a level of dampness in my feet.  It was rather sad in a sentimental way because those boots had been to Chile, Bolivia, and Peru with me. They now just serve sufficiently as winter boots to the office while I took out the boots that I had taken with me to Japan and Tanzania.

As much as I realize it wasn’t necessarily realistic, I was really hoping to use the same pair of boots across the whole Bruce Trail.

Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area. Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area.

The dampness of everything along the hike was getting on my nerves despite me staying dry. I guess I just didn’t like trudging along muddy and snowy conditions together. Not a good mix together and I did slip and slide a couple of times.

Just as I was going give a big sigh, the path led us into a crevice area with a full cautionary sign and warning notice.  My friends had gone off ahead while I was staying behind taking photos so I was initially uncertain whether they went through the crevice but I nonetheless stepped right in.

The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice. The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice.

Entering the crevice was like stepping into a different world temporarily.  Everything was still vibrant green despite some snow that had fallen into the crevice.  It is a tight fit so as the sign points out, if anyone were to carry a large pack — they would need to take a route around the crevice.  I figure you might be able to squeeze a medium-sized pack or a large pack that was not packed to its limit — or perhaps simply take it off your shoulders and carry it through with your hands.

It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green! It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green!

Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. We'd often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. We’d often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike.

Eventually, we found ourselves on the road.  We initially thought that this would be a short trek on the road — until we realized that a section of the trail had been closed — more on that later.

The road is always fun and this time was no different.  There were some interesting signage that provided some amusement amidst the rather dreary and cold setting we were trekking through. It unfortunately started raining and snowing on us (some sort of mix) so everything got a bit damp but had little effect on us since we had the rain and snow gear on.

Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Passing by beautiful acres of farms. Passing by beautiful acres of farms.

As I mentioned earlier, we had to take a detour because the owner of the land withdrew hiking privileges as a result of people not abiding by the owner’s wish to not have dogs on that part of the trail due to livestock in the vicinity.  Alas, some folks have obviously broken the rule numerous times and so we were left without a straight forward route.

In order for us to stay on the white blazed trail — we had to hike from the entrance of the River Kwai Side Trail [link goes to Bruce Trail documentation on the change that took place in June 2014] — which meant that we had to hike 2.1km further on the road from the trail closure in order to find a way to continue on the Bruce Trail.  Alas, we couldn’t do that either because the distance we would have to make up would end up having us hiking in the dark.  I had my headlamp with me but I don’t think my friends did, so we ended up bypassing a chunk of the trail.  So at this point — although we hiked to Irish Block Road, I’ve technically missed a chunk of the trail which I’ll have to go back and hike one day.  Bleh.

This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. Passing along more agricultural landscape. Passing along more agricultural landscape.

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

While passing by fields and farms, I’d notice certain parts of the land freezing up and it created a very beautiful effect across the field.

The road kept going and going ... The road kept going and going … Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A beautiful view from a country side road. A beautiful view from a country side road.

Sometimes, it amazes me to look out into all the rolling hills and fields into the distance.  I’m very much into hiking mountains so I have to admit that hiking in Ontario can be a bit bland at times but when I slow down to just enjoy the view — I also have to accept that Ontario isn’t really as flat as many of us think it is.  Just something to better appreciate over time in my home province.

Other times, random things would trigger peculiar memories.  We passed by some cabin or lodge and it’d suddenly got me thinking about the television show Longmire which is based out in Wyoming.  It’d be pretty funny if it were filmed here.

This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. Looking for a good spot to cross the deep “river” ditch. Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across . Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across .

We didn’t think that this hike would be so eventful with so much trekking on the road but we soon found ourselves trying to wade across or leap across the ditch on the side of the road in order to continue on the Bruce Trail.  The warm weather had melted so much snow that practically everything in the ditch was slush or water.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but it was nearly knee-high!  Trust me, at certain points to test the water level, I even stuck my trekking poles into the water and the pole practically went into the ditch three-quarters of its length.  Pretty deep…

Eventually my friend found a point at which to leap across and so I made my attempt and nearly slipped in for a dunk but fortunately I held on and pulled myself to dry land.  Dry land being a pretty muddy trail.

Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork. Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork.

I wasn’t sure at certain points what was more dangerous. The fact that there was a combination of mud, ice, and snow on the ground making it slippery — or the fact that it was very difficult to see what we were stepping into or on to as the snow and ice at times would cover up what might be a hole or a log or rock.  For fun, Mother Nature decided to create mini obstacle courses.  At certain sections, fallen trees and broken branches were all over the place forcing us to either squeeze by or clamber over this stuff near the edge of the escarpment.  Fortunately, we eventually made it through.  The adventure wasn’t over though!

Passing by someone's property. Passing by someone’s property. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn't cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn’t cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high.

Just when we thought things were getting better, I slipped on mud and snow but my snowshoes that I had brought along and not used actually saved me from getting covered in mud (huzzah!). Unfortunately as soon as I got back up, my friends pointed out that we had to trek across the powerful stream.

Now, I am pretty reasonable but this was just getting out of hand.  How many times do we have to cross large bodies of water in the middle of winter?

After some grumbling on my part, I followed my friends across the stream via a number of large stones that weren’t completely immersed in the stream and some fallen branches.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  Thank goodness I had trekking poles because I would not trust my sense of balance in this scenario after wiping out on mud and snow.

We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon.

Fortunately, none of us got soaked in this crazy winter climate. We surprisingly finished relatively early in the afternoon so the initial thought was to drive south back towards Toronto but stop off at the Mono Mills Inn.  Unfortunately by the time we got there — we realized they were closed until mid-March. Sadly, some of the best places to eat outside of the city are closed for the off season.

Despite the rather challenging and partially disappointing experience on this hike, I was happy to have the opportunity to get back on to the Bruce Trail.  I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity again because the distance is getting further and my schedule is becoming busier. I’m also beginning to plan out how I’m going to train for a 75km bike ride.  More on that coming soon!