Day 28: Owen Sound - Fossil Glen, 716 km completed

There were two distinctly fun parts today. The rest was just rain and pigs.

This morning we managed to pack a few days worth of beauty, excitement and discovery into a 5 km section through Inglis Falls Conservation Area to Inglis Falls.

Trail Angels Wendy and Jeff were with us and we told them they were in for a treat as the book described the trail in this part as an area of extreme beauty. We started in the canyon area of the Palisades. The cliffs towered over us from either side. Palisades are steel or wooden defensive walls and it really did feel like we had entered a fortress.

Jeff was on the hunt for walking fern. We didn’t actually expect to see it but then he cautiously exclaimed, “I think that’s it, let me check”. He took two steps, got a better look and was off into a run. It was walking fern! This is a rare Ontario species of fern and we had found it. I’ve never been so happy about a fern.

We knew we were off to a good start but it just kept getting better. The trail follows the Sydenham River where in the spring and fall you can see trout and salmon during their spawning seasons. And there they were! Six or so large salmon on their way upstream. We even saw a couple jump over lips in the river.

Up next: hart’s tongue fern. And I spotted it! Now in all fairness it was right next to a infographic displaying its exact likeness. But I spotted it and we all rejoiced again about another fern.

Finally we got a great look at the falls and said goodbye to Wendy and Jeff.

There’s a pretty big chunk in the middle of the day where not a lot happened. We walked, it rained and we saw some pigs. I think they were pets.

Then the second section of excitement. Just before the last section of the day we happened upon some raspberry bushes that were more than just rasp. There were fresh, delicious red raspberries!

Entering the Glen Management Area we saw signs that indicated we might get a glimpse of more of the rare ferns and some fossilized coral. We found the coral right away and then we became botany experts, spotting hart’s tongue and walking fern left, right and centre. But not actually because any botany expert would tell you that walking fern enjoys the north side of big mossy boulders.

A couple more kilometres and a few more scenic lookouts and we made it to our overnight rest area.

Friday Facts
We have exceeded our fundraising goal! It’s so amazing to see the support we’ve gotten and to know it’s going to some great organizations.

With Chris’ work matching $5,000 of the proceeds this means we have raised more than 10 grand! At least a $1,000 will be going to the Bruce Trail so they can continue protecting the trail we have so enjoyed. And at least $9,000 will be going to Trails Youth Initiatives.

Our Friday fact is that Trails estimates it costs $8,000 to put one student through one year of the program. The funds are all privately donated and we are so thrilled we have exceeded that number! It’s a small drop in the bucket but it’s something good.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 27: Bayview Escarpment - Owen Sound, 683 km completed

We’ve been getting some help from Trail Angels (and plant experts) Jeff and Wendy as we come through Owen Sound, and they came along for the first part of our hike today. We stashed their bikes about 9 km from the beginning of the trail so they could get back to the car, and we were off! 

As usual, Jeff was deep in the woods for most of the walk looking for odd native species, and once again he came across a weird one! Wild Ginseng looks almost exactly like another, very common vine (Virginia Creeper) but has opposite leaves instead of alternating leaves - a tough distinction to make for us regular folk, but a very interesting find for Jeff. Wild Ginseng was almost wiped out in the 20th century by people who would harvest it for the roots, but can still be found around the northern side of Lake Erie.

After Jeff and Wendy departed on their bikes (they tried to tempt us many times to hop on, but we had to say no), we started getting into much rockier territory. The trail followed some deep crevasses that split off from the edge of the cliff, and eventually dropped right down into the deepest of these cracks. The walls here were perfectly straight, almost like the whole thing was handmade. We followed along these cliffs for the rest of the hike before our Trail Angels picked us up right inside Owen Sound. 

Thursday Thoughts - Hiking Fast and Slow

This week’s Thursday thought comes from a news report we saw at lunch. We heard news about another hiker, Jamieson Hatt, who just completed the entire Bruce Trail in only 12 days 14 hours! That means he averaged 72 km per day, more than double our typical speed. Jamieson was helped along the way by his parents, who would pick him up at night and bring him back to the trail in the morning. 

We didn’t know it at the time, but we saw Jamieson while we were setting up camp in Nottawasaga a few days ago. Just as the sun was setting and we were finishing up our delicious ramen noodles and chickpeas, someone came blasting down the trail armed with only a headlamp, some hiking poles and a pair of water bottles strapped to his chest. It was getting dark fast, and he must have been racing for a pick-up to finish off the day. We barely got a chance to say good luck before he flew past us on the trail. 

Way to go Jamieson!

Happy Trails,

Chris

Day 26: Sydenham - Bayview Escarpment, 649 km completed

We woke up at the crack of dawn this morning. Packed up as the sun was rising and got started. We were out of water so decided to make breakfast and refill at Bognor Marsh. We were delighted to find out that there was a washroom and pavilion. Such luxury.

The marsh was scenic however the overgrown and wet vegetation was a pain.

The trail often crosses roads at fairly regular intervals and you find yourself looking for the next road crossing to feel the accomplishment of finishing a section.

So when we went a couple of hours without a road crossing it got a little uncomfortable. How much further, you wonder? Did I hear a car? It’s not that you’re tired or want a break, it’s just that you are used to tracking your progress in distinct segments. So when finally we started hearing cars, neither of us said anything. I think we were afraid of scaring away the road - we had been duped before.

We felt a great sense of accomplishment when we got to the road crossing and we were able to enter a section of the trail “known for distinct geological features” as Chris and the book would put it.

There was the glacial pothole that an entrepreneur pioneer had broken a hole through to create a basic lime kiln. There was the remnants of the old homestead. And finally the coolest thing was a very, I mean very, narrow passage through the escarpment. So narrow in fact that it warns those with big packs and claustrophobia to detour.

After lunch it was a short road section and then another long (9 km) section in the forest along the escarpment. I was prepared though, and had broken the section up in my mind. Trust me, it helps. After that it was a short 1.1 km on the road to our waiting spot. We’ll be picked up and transported to our campsite in Owen Sound.

Turns out a 35 km day wasn’t so bad.

Chris’ parents are joining us and we are looking forward to a yummy meal in town and no packs tomorrow!

Wildlife Wednesday
We saw some deer this morning! It always seems like we spot deer on our longest days. It’s like they know we need the inspiration.

Deer in North America we’re almost endangered in the 1970s but thanks to conservation efforts there are almost as much deer now as there were in Columbus’ time.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 25: Ambrose - Sydenham, 614 km completed

With the threat of a storm overnight, we packed up our tent and actually set it up inside the Ambrose camp shelter, giving ourselves a double layer of rain protection. Well, it didn’t really rain last night, but it was nice to have the extra insulation of the shelter around us as we slept.

Our hike today was a pretty short one to get between camp sites. One section was closed off for logging, so we had to bypass onto the street for a few kms to get back on the trail. On the way, we saw way more farm animals than before including horses, cows, a donkey and a miniature pony.

In other news, we’re very excited to say that we’ve reached our $5,000 fundraising goal as of this morning! Whoever donated in the last couple days must have just pushed us over the threshold which is great to see. With our matching program in place, this means we’ve now raised over $10,000 for Trails Youth Initiatives and the BTC with everyone’s help, so thank you all!

Tuesday Trails: Thru-Hiking

We’ve mentioned before that the Bruce Trail isn’t usually used as a through-hiking route - that is, a trail that you complete all in one continuous push. Most people instead do section hikes of the Bruce Trail. That means they complete the route in bits and pieces, spread out over months or even years, until they’ve walked every kilometre from one end to the other. We met one section hiker who is finishing after only 5 months, and another couple who are doing the whole thing over 15 years! This is common on a lot of long routes like the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails - it means you can complete the walk in whatever order you like, and it can be tailored to your schedule so you don’t have the pressure to finish in a certain amount of time.

Happy Trails,

Chris

Day 24: Rest Day, 592 km completed

Our third and final rest day of the trip. With chilly weather you can imagine it wasn’t significantly eventful. We spent a good amount of time in our tent. Chris read, I read and napped.

Our biggest exertion today was collecting firewood. I’m particularly fond of finding the biggest fallen branch (or tree) I can and Chris is fond of breaking them into firewood size pieces. We’re a pretty good team.

Now when it comes to song writing we are not equal teammates. I like to say I’m the muse because my contribution to Chris’ parody song is materially limited. We left our first draft in the log book for our fellow hikers to chuckle at.

Now we have a fire going and are prepping for dinner. We’re expecting some rain so are considering whether we should actually sleep in the shelter or not. There is no door and I heard raccoons last night so I’m a little unsure. TBD.

Monday Motivation
Before our trip I came across a Latin phrase, I even used it as a question at our Trivia Night: Solvitur ambulando, which means "its solved by walking".

The phrase is used to refer to a problem that is solved by practical experiment. Diogenes the Cynic responded to the argument of the unreality of motion by simply standing up and walking away. The phrase is later used in a number of sources, each taking their own perspective on it.

To me, I like the sound of it and I like the idea that by continuing to move forward we can initiate positive changes for myself and for others. We are not attempting to solve anything by walking, other than maybe some inner turmoils. We are hoping that the simple act of walking, of putting one foot in front of another, will positively impact others. By choosing an organization that prides itself on having a deep impact on a few, I am motivated to put one foot in front of the other.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 23: Epping - Ambrose, 592 km completed

Some days, the trail is full of amazing sights, beautiful nature and talks with fun locals. Other times though it’s just straight walking. Today was one of the latter.

We spent the night with Trail Angels Tia and Adam, and they helped pump us up with some tunes on the way to where we left off yesterday. Last night was starting to affect me from the moment we started - I learned my lesson that 3 Boneshakers is too many after a day of hiking and dried hummus (see me in the photos trying to nap it off). I kept my head down and just let Natalie lead us for the morning, and didn’t notice a whole lot as we walked.

So we spent the morning walking and we spent the afternoon walking, all without too much trouble otherwise. We ran into this couple that we keep passing and getting passed by over the last couple days. They’re walking a small section of the trail, and I’m guessing we’ll run into them again tomorrow.  We’re spending the night at the Ambrose Camp rest area, a spot set up for through hikers to get a dry shelter for the night. 

Sunday Stewardship - Overnight Rest Areas

The camp we’re at tonight has a simple hut that was built a couple decades ago by the BTC for hikers passing through. They’ve been keeping a logbook for hikers here since the camp started in the early 80’s, and you can read the entries from all the adventurers who stopped before us. 

Since it’s only meant for a small group of hikers, the site is very rudimentary and needs to be taken care of properly. Before we go, we’ll find some fresh firewood for the next campers and make sure the hut is exactly how we found it.

Happy trails,

Chris

Day 22: Eugenia - Epping, 560 km completed

I forgot to mention this, but a couple days ago Chris wrote a parody of “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash. It’s everything you’d hope it to be and I plan on secretly filming him sing it. We worked a bit this morning on rhyming some of the places we’ve been: Queenston, Hamilton, Caledon to name a few.

This morning we got a ride from a kind lady who was on her way to open up the Eugenia Emporium. Lucky for us this was steps to our starting place.

There was lots of evidence of yesterday’s wind storm. Fallen twigs, branches and even trees were no problem for us because without packs, we are like energizer bunnies. Chris had even taken to kicking the branches, a level of effort we wouldn’t consider when weighted down with packs.

We were finally on the other side of the valley. The side we stared at so longingly yesterday. Turns out it was a bit tougher. We crossed a lot more streams but crossing streams means you go down and up the escarpment.

We also crossed over Beaver Valley Ski Resort. That marks eight ski hills we’ve either climbed or walked across the top of. Beaver Valley Ski hill we climbed. Pretty much straight up. Big hill.

We ended our day being greeted by Trail Angels Tia and Adam! We’re so happy all our planning has worked out without a hitch. We decided to show Tia and Adam where we had started the day at Eugenia Falls and stopped in at the Eugenia Emporium to say thanks and buy a coffee from our driver this morning.

Adam, being a big fisher, was immediately down at the dock after we got to our cottage for the night. Looking forward to a fire tonight and maybe a game or two of horseshoe.

Saturday Safety
Fire safety is very important on the trail. Unfortunately hikers have been the source of some pretty devastating forest fires. For example, in Chile on the Torres del Paine route we saw evidence of a historic fire that had huge impacts. In 2005, a Czech hiker campfire’s stove turned over and turned into a 14,000 acre wildfire over four days.

It’s important to be aware that a small fire can have a huge impact. That means that when you are dousing your fire at the end of the night you should use plenty of water, spread the coals and feel if there is any heat in the fire. If there is, use more water.

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 21: Duncan - Eugenia, 530.5 km completed

We left Trail angels Justin and Eva’s place this morning for our first sight of Beaver Valley. The escarpment in this section runs down the length of the valley on the east side, then goes right back up again on the west side. It’s a long way too - the trail runs for 20 km on each side, and you spend the whole time looking across at the distance you’ll travel the next day.

We kept a cautious eye on the weather -  reports of high winds and thunderstorms for the afternoon kept us walking as quickly as our legs would take us. We made it through the day without getting wet, but the winds were howling across Beaver Valley, and all the trees were bending and creaking ominously above us. 

The trail took us through a neat slot canyon in the morning, and a pretty big re-route that went all the way down to the bottom of Beaver Valley. We stopped in at Kimberly for a quick snack before heading right back up the steep slopes on the south side of Old Baldy, the big cliffs that overlook the town below. We finished the day crossing over the beautiful Eugenia Falls. 

Before I finish up, I want to give a quick shout out to Trail Angel Danny who’s been posting these blogs while we’re on the trail. We found out at the last minute that we couldn’t update the website ourselves on the trail, so we send Danny our reports and he posts them every single night, even when he’s down in Maryland. Thanks Danny!

Friday Facts: Eugenia’s Gold Rush for Fools

The place we’re in tonight, Eugenia, got its claim to fame from a gold rush on the town in 1853. Old farmer Brownlee stumbled on Eugenia Falls and found gold nuggets at the base. He must have been hootin’ and hollerin’ something fierce about his discovery, because over 200 prospectors soon descended on the town in search of their own piece of the pie. After only 3 weeks though, the good news turned sour when it was discovered that Brownlee’s gold was nothing but iron pyrite - fool’s gold. The town still has a gold rush festival every year to remember that day 168 years ago.

Happy Trails,

Chris

Day 20: Blue Mountains - Duncan, 504 km completed

Today was a no nonsense kind of day. We packed up in the light rain and got right to it. The trail alternated between roads, fields and well worn trails with way less climbs than we’ve gotten used to.

Just before lunch we were wondering if we’d have our first day without any fellow hikers. But we passed three hikers. This is the first time we’ve actually gone by people on the trail. Most of the time hikers have been heading the other direction.

Today was also a day for small victories. Even though it was overcast there was hardly any rain, and we got a prime lunch spot. Now this is actually a big victory for us. We have continually just missed out on good lunch locations, we follow our stomachs and even though we try to stop at lookouts or benches sometimes, the hunger gets the better of us and we end up stopping along the side of the trail. And more often than not, there’s benches or in one case, a field of picnic tables, a few hundred metres ahead.

But today right as I almost gave into the hunger, we spotted a bench with a good view. It’s the little things.

We traveled passed Metcalfe Rock and stopped in at Trail Angel Justin and Eva’s place. Their house is actually on the trail! And bonus - they had prepared a guest bed for us! We were planning on camping on their property, but with this rainy weather, a shower and comfy bed was another not so small win!

Looking forward to some potentially flat trails tomorrow and killer views.

Thursday Thoughts
As we start the to see the first signs of fall I realized that we are going to witness something pretty cool. I hadn’t thought of this before. We began our trip in summer. Beaming hot and bright green.

We will be privy to a full season change in fast motion. As we travel north and and deeper into September we will feel the heat dissipate and see green turn to gold, orange and red. It is an experience that I am so looking forward to because it is rare. You have to be as immersed in nature as we are to see it happen. I can’t wait!

Happy Trails,
Natalie

Day 19: Petun Conservation Area - Blue Mountains, 476.5 km completed

Having no idea where the campsite was last night, we woke up on a wide part of the trail and hit the road immediately - with no water leftover from the night before, we decided to eat breakfast as soon as we hit a major stream. There we could gather water for coffee and relax on the bridge. 

We knew today was going to be a pretty easy hike given the distance (22 km doesn’t feel like much for us now), so we rested whenever we felt like it and took the hiking at a relaxed pace. Nat and I had no idea that we would cross Blue Mountain - the ski resort - on our hike, so it was a surprise when we rounded a corner and saw groups of armoured-up mountain bikers coming off chairlifts. Walking over the top of Blue Mountain, we have our first views of Georgian Bay which I think we’ll be seeing a lot of for the rest of the trip.

Tonight we’ve pitched our tent at an AirBnB campsite with a very friendly dog named Harley who you’ll see in the photos. 

Today’s a special day for our hike because we’re now halfway done - both in days and distance! It’s hard to believe that the walk from Niagara Falls all the way to Blue Mountain is the same as from here to Tobermory. On its northern end, the trail goes through a few southern dips and rounds across a number of bays so we end up covering almost as much ground from here to October.

Wednesday wildlife: Mushrooms

We’ve sure seen a lot of fungi on our hike because there are so many when you look closely. In fact, it’s estimated that Ontario has over 30,000 species, more than 6 times all plants COMBINED. Mushrooms are often overlooked at first glance, but they’re one of the unsung heroes of the forest. They’re responsible for breaking down many things that other creatures can’t eat - it’s not often, for example, that you find any plants growing on freshly chopped wood, but there are many species of mushroom that will do just that.

Ontario also has a wide variety of edible mushrooms, including Lion’s Mane, Chanterelles, Lobster and Oyster mushrooms. Many of them can be hard to identify without experience though, so  make sure you go hunting with someone who knows the edible from the poisonous.

Happy Trails,

Chris