A Final Thank You!

Our fundraiser finished up on October 31, 2018.

We raised a total of $10,840 with the help of each of you and our corporate sponsor, Energy Ecosystem Services. 90% of the proceeds will go to Trails Youth Initiatives and 10% to the Bruce Trail Conservancy.

We are planning a trip back to Trails to share our adventure with the same cohort of kids that inspired us to follow through on our ambitious goal in the first place.

Many people have asked us what is next for us. Well, the truthful answer is: we’re not sure! We’re taking a break from the trail to plan our wedding. But I’m sure we’ll get the itch again soon and a longer, rockier trail will call to us.

We would like to give a final thank you to each and every person that followed us, we could feel the support with every step we took.

We learned a great deal over the past 10 months. From planning each excruciating detail to walking each excruciating step, we learned how much can be accomplished with a little bit of effort and the support of some pretty great people.

If you have any questions about undertaking a big hike or fundraising campaign please feel free to reach out. Also you can read about our adventure on the CBC here.

Thanks!

Natalie and Chris

Day 37: Stormhaven - Tobermory, 943 km completed

WE DID IT! We walked from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.

This morning we woke up to the sound of crashing waves. We took our time to enjoy our last morning and watch the waves cover the ground we stood on last night.

We felt ready to finish, Tobermory was calling. We set off under similar trail conditions as yesterday. However the trail got progressively easier as the day went on. At some points we were so close to the water’s edge that we got splashed by waves breaking against the rock.

We hadn’t had service in a few days and we had some pretty big news to share. Once we got service we paid a little less attention to the trail and a little more attention to our phones. A bit too much attention — Natalie took a small spill. She may have actually been looking at her ring - she can’t help it, it sparkles too much.

But once we got to the last 5 km nothing could stop us. Chris was trying to keep up to Natalie’s near run. We were greeted by Natalie’s parents at 2 km remaining. We slowed our pace and enjoyed our final 20 minutes. We turned the corner into Tobermory and could just barely make out the cairn through the cars. Natalie’s dad ran ahead and grabbed the chilled champagne from the car. We emphatically slapped the cairn and popped some bottles.

WE DID IT. We walked from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.

943 km, 60,000 feet of elevation, 37 days and 108 packets of oatmeal.

Stay tuned for a couple more blog posts with updates on fundraising and final thank yous.

Time for Turkey.

Happy Trails,

Natalie and Chris

Day 36: Mountain Trout - Stormhaven, 920 km completed

We were spoiled this morning with 10 km of flat road. Even the rain couldn’t dampen our spirits.

After entering the Bruce Peninsula National Park we we lucky to have another 7.5 km of flat, easy trail.

The only notable obstacles were an overflowing marsh and strange tree bridges. We had to wade through one part of the road/trail and spotted a fish swimming in the middle. Definitely out of his element since the path to the marsh had since dried up.

We stopped for lunch just before the trail got difficult. We knew this because there was a steep rocky rise directly in sight.

The trail was steep, rocky and difficult the rest of the way to Stormhaven. This was what so many people warned us about.

Stormhaven is a backcountry campsite with tenting platforms and food hanging stations. It also had a beautiful bright blue flat rocky beach which just begged for some swimmers. It was my turn as I had mentioned previously.

I thought jumping into freezing cold water (a few days later and further north than Chris I’ll point out) was going to be the most exciting thing to happen on our last night.

Chris had other plans. While I was drying off and warming up in the bathroom (yes, there was a bathroom and it was luxury) Chris was “scoping out” a spot for a “photo”.

None the wiser I patiently waited while he set up the phone and told me to move over a couple inches. He was walking wayyyy too slow toward me, surely he was going to miss the timer. But it was a video and suddenly he was on one knee with the most beautiful ring. I blacked out! Way too excited.

But my fingers were swollen!!! Hiking means swollen fingers, and I don’t think my dip in the lake helped. I didn’t care, I made that ring fit! Now that the swelling has come down we’re all good, but I honestly thought I wasn’t going to be able to get it off — not that I’d want to.

We are a day short of finishing one adventure and have just begun a new one. Partners in every way. And like Chris said, it isn’t an adventure story without a little romance.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 35: Reed’s Dump - Mountain Trout, 894 km completed

We’re a couple days late with the next few posts because we were out of cell service, so don’t worry! We’re all alive and well and haven’t encountered any bears. 

This morning we woke up to huge gusts of wind at sunrise. Storms coming off the bay had blown all the warmth out of our tent, but we were rewarded with beautiful views of the lake as the sun shone down on Lion’s Head to the east. We said goodbye to some other hikers we met the night before (going the opposite direction), and set off for Mountain Trout camp. 

Despite some rain throughout the day, we had a great time on the trail as it wound over the edge of the escarpment. From up high, you can see the bright blues of water on the beach fade into deeper navy colours further out in the bay. The route got much rockier here, and in places we had to scramble with hands and feet near the edge of the cliff faces. 

By the end of the day, after sections that were almost entirely rock (sometimes I wonder if the trail blazers just saw the most jagged piles of rocks and announced “wow, this is the perfect place for a footpath!”), our knees and ankles were both getting pretty sore from all the balance work they had to manage. When we set up camp for the night, we managed to eat almost a full bag of marshmallows between us as a reward for our hard work. 

Friday Facts: Blue Waters in Georgian Bay

The beaches around Georgian Bay are known for having a bright turquoise colour around the beaches, which you can see especially well in the photos below. That’s because the rocks on the beach are all white limestone. They leach off a small amount of limestone into the water, but most importantly the shallow white beaches reflect light from underneath the water, dramatically changing the colour near the shore.

Happy trails,

Chris 

Day 34: Barrow Bay - Reed’s Dump, 864 km completed

It’s almost as if the weather gods took all of yesterday’s good weather and poured it into today. It was the perfect day. Big blue sky with meticulously placed fluffy clouds. Cool air and a nice breeze with warm sunshine.

Trail Angel Wilfred had an inspired idea this morning. He’d drop us off where he retrieved us yesterday and we’d leave the packs at the motel (Lion’s Head Beach Motel) and pick them up at lunch.

As soon as we hit the interior part of the trail we knew we made a good decision yesterday. Rocky and steep we would have struggled in the rain with the fatigue setting in.

We had beautiful views and I kept finding Chris checking out potential climbing routes. You better believe we’ll be back to do some climbing.

A new pest emerged, the gnat. Not Nat (although I’ve been known to be a bug). There were clouds of them and we had to wade through them like a thick fog. But they were no match for the Georgian Bay wind. Goodbye bugs!

After relishing in the views it was a quick walk through Lion’s Head and a nice lunch break on the beach. We treated ourselves to ice cream, a snack that would have seemed incomprehensible in yesterday’s deep chill.

We said bye to Trail Angel Wilfred and off we were again with our packs. They felt very heavy. I was seriously thinking we had been punked. I had visions of Ashton Kutcher filling our bags with rocks while we unknowingly enjoyed our ice cream.

The feeling was short lived and before you knew it we were at our campsite on the beach.

Chris kept eyeing the water and smirking, saying he was going in. I still can’t believe he did, he hasn’t always been the most fearless when it comes the cold water. He proved me wrong, guess it’s my turn next.

Thursday Thoughts
I have two opposing thoughts.

I want to be done. I want to be in my own bed and eat home cooked meals. I see the end and it is so close and this thought keeps creeping in.

I also want to stay forever in the fairy tale where my responsibilities begin and end with walking.

Two opposing thoughts. I know which one will become reality. But I still plan to enjoy every moment we have left in this fairy-tale adventure.

Happy Trails
Natalie

Day 33: Hope Bay - Barrow Bay, 833 km completed

The forecast for the day predicted some rain in the afternoon, so this morning we were clambering over the rocky terrain as quickly as we could. Which is to say, not very, because the ground was covered in big wet rocks. We passed by a set of glacial potholes, which are created when hard stones swirled around in the waters from receding glaciers. The stones would get caught up in vortexes underwater, and cut nearly perfect cylinders deep into the soft limestone. We also stumbled on some mid-sized stone walls including a semi-cave that was supported by 2 big pillars in the middle. It would make an awesome climbing route! After that, the trail dipped down all the way to the water, where we walked across a stone beach before climbing up again.

And then the rain came. 

Getting caught in a long rainstorm is a big setback for us not because of the immediate wetness, but because you know you’re going to stay wet for a long time. Even waterproof gear only holds out the rain for so long, and as soon as a bit of moisture finds its way in you know that you’re going to have to get used to being wet for hours. It rained pretty consistently from 11:00 - 3, and we had about enough when we started hearing thunder over the water. We were supposed to stay at McKay’s Harbour overnight, which is directly on the water. We were definitely not up for a night filled with thunderstorms on the coast if we could avoid it. 

Fortunately, we had a way out. We’re staying the night at the Lion’s Head Motel to dry out our gear and stay out of the rain. The manager even picked us up from the side of the road, and will drop us off at the same spot tomorrow morning so we can pick up where we left off. 

Wednesday wildlife: alvars

It’s too bad it was raining so hard today, because we passed by a beautiful piece of the trail that crosses through an alvar. We’d never heard of these before - they’re a kind of habitat around the Great Lakes where the topsoil is very thin. That means that the plants have to be specialized to grow right on top of the limestone bedrock. You see a lot of lichen this time of year, and in the summer they also grow rare irises and orchids.

Happy Trails,

Chris

Day 32: Cape Croker - Hope Bay, 813 km completed

We jumped between bays, from Sydney Bay to Hope Bay. It was a short 10 km day, which we originally had as a rest day in our early stages of planning. We were unable to accommodate a zero day so we settled for a nearo day. A nearo day is a near zero day and has the benefits of a rest day (rest) with also knocking down some extra distance.

The morning was a rainy one but we made the best of it by thoroughly celebrating reaching the 500 mile-stone. 500 more seems like a lot so I’ll stick to 75 more for now.

We got a small taste of what we should expect in the next few days: rocky and steep.

We arrived at Hope Bay campground completely chilled and were so happy to have hot showers.

We downed a bag of sweet chili heat Doritos from the campground store and also treated ourselves to some hot chocolate from our resupply.

We sat under the awning in comfy lawn furniture, sipped our hot chocolate, listened to the waves and contemplated how far we’ve come.

Trail Tuesday

Today was the second day on the final section of the Bruce Trail - The Peninsula Club. We have completed 8 sections and have this final section remaining. Across the 9 club sections there are 1,500 volunteers that help the Bruce Trail Conservancy maintain the trail. This includes trail maintenance, boardwalk and bridge building and blaze setting. Without these volunteers, this trip would not have been possible - so thank you! 

Happy Trails,

Natalie

Day 31: Wiarton - Cape Croker Park, 803 km completed

We were dreading today for a long time, not because of the terrain but because of the distance and our packs. This was supposed to be our longest day yet, but we ended off shaving a few km off by walking a bit further yesterday. Even so, we had 34 km of trail to cover. Our bags are also the heaviest they’ve ever been, because we don’t have any re-supplies between here and Tobermory. So after a very brief ride from Trail Angel Heidi to get started, we sped out of Wiarton faster than a groundhog could even see its shadow.

We kept our pace up for a good distance, hitting 18 km by lunchtime. We knew by this point that we would make it just fine. Our bags were feeling a little lighter than we expected thanks to all the distance we’ve already built our strength over. The trail itself was beautiful today - it runs over the top of the escarpment the whole way and gives great views of the islands and bays around Wiarton.

I had my head down after lunch just trying to keep the pace, when out of nowhere I smelled what I thought was burnt rubber. We were in the middle of nowhere, so this grabbed my attention pretty quickly. As I looked up, we saw a porcupine right in the middle of the trail, not even 20 feet away. We learned later that the smell is actually the animal’s first defence mechanism, that lets you know they’re ready to use their quills if needed. I waited for it to run off so we could leave it alone, but the porcupine ran away straight down the trail! We caught up to it again a few dozen feet later, and off it ran - this kept going for quite a while! Finally, it went off into the bush and we continued on our way.

When it was all said and done, we made it to the campsite in pretty good time. We’re staying at Cape Croker, which is part of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. We missed getting to the camp’s store by a couple minutes,  so Natalie (who’s always desperate for a fire) went around to vacant campsites looking for sticks and half-burnt logs for us. I have to say, she made a pretty good fire with what she found!

Motivation Monday - 500 miles 

As of tonight we’ve covered 803 km. That means tomorrow morning, at km 804, we’ll have walked 500 miles, a huge milestone that we never really believed we’d see. I’m sure The Proclaimers thought that anyone who would walk 500 miles would have to be crazy when they wrote their song, and clearly they were right - now to walk 500 more!

Happy Trails,

Chris

Day 30: Big Bay - Wiarton, 769 km completed

Happy Bruce Trail Day everyone! It is also notably Hug a Vegetarian Day and Have a Beer Day. I’ve celebrated all of these days today.

We started this morning being dropped off by my mom and dad, Trail Angels Patti and Danny. My dad was excited to hike this section with us and my mom was excited not to! Thanks mom for driving us around :)

We beat out the weather and escaped the rain today with some great views of the bay along the top of Skinner’s Bluff.

The trail takes a surprise detour into Wiarton Airport. We actually walk along the field across from where the planes would land. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the live action.

A few more kilometers into Wiarton proper and we finished up our day by slapping the Wiarton Willie statue. Wiarton Willie, as you may know, is the groundhog that predicts the return of spring. He has been the February prognosticator in Wiarton dating back to 1956. His accuracy rate is approximated at 25%. Hey, that’s at least as good as the weather reporters — at least that’s what I’m hoping since they are calling for rain the remainder of this week.

Sunday Stewardship

Does the sign below look familiar? We saw one while walking along the road today. If you have ever seen this road sign on your drive, you may not have known it at the time but you were passing through a source water protection area. In fact, by the time Chris and I finish the trail, we will have passed through a total of seven source protection areas! Are you curious to know which source protection area you are in? Find out more by visiting Conservation Ontario’s website.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 29: Fossil Glen - Big Bay, 744 km completed

The weather around here is a little less predictable than before. Since we’re close to Georgian Bay, the clouds can come out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly, so we had our eyes on the sky for most of the morning. Fortunately, it didn’t rain too much during the morning and cleared up for the afternoon.

Ever since we got to Owen Sound, we started seeing lots of these deep crevasses on the trail, and I mean LOTS. As in, every couple hundred feet there will be a crack in the trail that you have to jump over carefully, always watching for slippery rocks so you don’t fall the wrong time. The cracks can be anywhere from a few inches to 2 feet wide, and can be really deep too, sometimes over 40 feet. These things would swallow you up if you happened to slip in.

As we passed through Lindenwood forest we came across this huge erratic boulder that was mentioned in the book. I couldn’t resist - I had to be on top of it. It wasn’t too hard to get up to the top even in hiking boots, but I had to be more careful on the way down. 

One issue we’ve had on the trail is that our GPS distance doesn’t always line up with the distances on the map. Today was one of the issue days again - we ended up walking 2 km more than we expected. It becomes a psychological challenge, because we only expect to walk so far, and then you find out that you’re actually not at the end, you have 2 of the longest kilometres of the day left to go. Suffice to say, we were very happy to see Trail Angels Nici, Matt and Trigger at the end of the day. 

To finish it off our backcountry Master Chef Patti whipped up an awesome dinner at our campsite (an amazing chili skillet with cornbread to top it off).

Saturday Safety - Water Treatment

Whenever you’re in the backcountry, you often don’t have a source of naturally clean water. You also can’t bring in all the water you need, especially if you’re covering long distances. What to do? Treat what you find! There are lots of was of treating water, the simplest being to just boil whatever you find to get rid of any microbes. Many people bring along a charcoal filter, which gets rid of both pathogens and debris so you don’t have to drink anything silty. We use chemical treatment on our water, which has the benefit of being lightweight and gets rid of all the pathogens you don’t want. The water we drink may not look like what comes out of the tap, but you know for sure that it’s safe to drink.

Happy Trails,

Chris