It all began with a Father's Day gift four years ago. When our children presented my husband with a Bruce Trail Guidebook, we wondered what was in store. The Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest footpath, stretching from Queenston to Tobermory, is almost 900 km long.
Our first hikes that summer took us to our own backyard: the Niagara Peninsula. The terrain along the Bruce Trail is often rugged with moss-covered rocks and roots protruding at every step. As we traversed the escarpment, we were treated to beautiful vistas of rolling vineyards against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Ontario. Bruce Trail hot spots such as Decew, Beamer and Ball's Falls became recommended sites for friends and other hikers.
The following year took us to Hamilton, a city associated with steel production. However, our travels revealed a different picture of this bustling city. The Bruce Trail from Stoney Creek to Waterdown is amazingly rich in waterfront, waterfalls and protected green space. Tiffany, Sherman and Great Falls invigorated our spirits and left us in awe of the resources we have been blessed with so close to home.
As we continued our journey, Mount Nemo beckoned us with stunning views of the Toronto skyline. Suffice it to say that by the time we came in view of Highway 401, we were hooked on Bruce Trailing. Free weekends became opportunities to continue our pilgrimage northward.
As we wandered north, we stumbled upon the Cheltenham Badlands. Rolling hills of red soil from years of overgrazing and soil misuse had left their mark on the area. Using the white blazes painted on rocks and trees, we meandered the picturesque hills of Nottawasaga and Hockley Valley.
The gifts of nature
The summer of 2012 brought us to Beaver Valley. Persevering in temperatures of 30 degrees, we navigated through endless changes in elevation. Dehydration, leg cramps, bruised ribs and thunderstorms threatened to put an end to our obsession. But the amazing view of the sweeping Beaver Valley held us firmly in its grip.
Winter 2012-2013 gave us time to refuel and shape up with workouts at the YMCA. In early May, we were back on the trail with baited breath. Well-seasoned hikers told us the best was yet to come.
The spring of 2013 had us wandering through trillions of trillium. Thus far, we had not been privy to much wildlife as the bear bells on my backpack gave most animals ample time to escape. However, my worst fear became reality as we descended Malcom Bluff. All the warm fuzzies I tried to create while reading Winnie the Pooh stories with my Kindergarten students escaped me in that moment. The bear paused for my husband to snap the perfect photo and then thankfully ambled off.
As we continued our trek northward we were thrilled to discover wild flowers enjoying their finest hour. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” Exquisite orchids welcomed us at every turn.
Near Bruce Peninsula National Park we were stopped dead in our tracks by a Massasauga rattlesnake slithering along the path. Pressing on, we feasted our eyes upon magnificent views of mighty cliffs towering over Georgian Bay. Incredible scenes of turquoise waters splashing on boulder beaches had us snapping scores of photos.
As we approached the cairn of the trail’s northern end, our hearts were filled with thankfulness. Our adventure had begun with a gift of a trail guide but in the end the gift had multiplied itself many times over. Jules Renard remarked, “On earth there is no heaven but there are pieces of it.” We had seen and experienced a piece of heaven. The Bruce Trail is an incredible natural resource that needs to be promoted and passed on to succeeding generations.