Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Queenston- Ground 0 of the Bruce Trail

At 9:30am, the temperature was a cold -8, feeling like -14 with the wind chill when our group convened in the parking lot at our hike end point in Niagara-on-the-Lake. There were eight of us in the group.

As usual, we left our van at the 7km end point of our hike. We then left Louise and Lance’s car at the Old Firehall Restaurant in St David’s where we planned to stop for lunch and Barry made two trips to get us all to the beginning of the Bruce Trail, Point 0km in Queenston. Organizing the car situation is like planning a small invasion.

The Bruce Trail starts near the Brock monument. We were delighted to see that there were heated washrooms.

After taking pictures at the Southern Cairn, we began our day’s hike.

Once again we started walking off in the opposite direction, but quickly figured it out and turned around. 

Being so cold out, I really layered on the clothing. Soon into our hike I began feeling hot and sweaty.

The trail was well marked with white blazes leading the way. Starting at the top of a bluff, we followed along the old shore of Lake Iroquois (which was the predecessor of Lake Ontario). We walked through woods and passed a quarry. It was icy in parts and quite steep when we had to descend to the old railway bed. Some of us decided to slide down on our butts...graceless but effective.

We left the trail at the 5.3km point to go to the Old Firehall in St David’s for lunch.

We had reserved in advance, so our table was waiting. By the time we finished lunch it was much later than planned and we were forced to make a difficult choice; finish the last 1.7km of our hike or go for tastings at some nearby wineries.

Lance (whose car was parked at the restaurant) took Barry to pick up his car from the beginning point and we drove to the first winery, Ravine.

This small winery was delightful. Because we were a larger group, they gave us our own table in the tasting room. It was $10 for a flight of four wines. You got a discount of $4 if you bought one bottle of wine and the whole $10 back if you bought two bottles.

Our wine hostess was very knowledgeable and attentive to our needs and questions. We also checked out their gourmet grocery boutique.

With bottles and food in hand, we piled back into the two cars and headed to Chateau des Charmes. This is the second oldest winery in Niagara. We enjoyed more tastings, a cheese tray and hot chocolate with ice wine infused marshmallows.

Our last stop was to Louise and Lance’s for a delicious chilli dinner paired with Niagara wines.

When we reached home, John relaxed   in front of the tv while I pulled out my mat and began to stretch...waking up on the mat a half hour later, I dragged myself up to bed.

It was unanimous, we all slept like babies that night. 

5.3 km hiked on the main trail Jan 26

14.2km of the main Trail hiked in 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019

Bruce Trail Hike 1- Terra Cotta

Our first Bruce Trail weekend warrior adventure began on a cold (-7 degree) day in mid January.

Garbed in layers that included long johns, hiking socks, hiking boots, numerous tops and my son’s University Under Armour  winter jacket (emblazoned with the Mustangs crest), I was set for a long hike. I was further prepared with a light weight backpack containing a water bottle, extra gloves and liners, a necker and the maps from my trusty Bruce Trail guide.

One of the great things about the Bruce Trail guide is that it lists all the places to park and which kilometre of the trail they are at.

We met our friends, Carol and Allyson where we planned to end our hike and parked our car there. After moving numerous items (including, tires, bags and bongo drums) from Carol’s car to our car, we drove in Carol’s car to where we would begin our hike.

Keep in mind that since the Bruce Trail is 898km long, we were just doing a small section of it (from 38.9km-47.8km).

With great excitement we posed beside the Bruce Trail sign for a few pictures, entered the trail and began our journey.

Although there was no snow in the city, there was snow and ice on the pathway. There was also a lot of uphill climbing. Note to self: bring the metal ice grips which attach to my boots for the next hike). I was very happy to have my hiking poles with me.

Twenty five minutes into the hike, something didn’t seem right. John consulted the map and Allison and I checked our phones. Sure enough, we were hiking the Bruce Trail but going in the opposite direction.

We turned around and hiked back, passing our car as we walked in the direction we should have taken in the first place.

The trail lead us into the Terra Cotta Forest Conservation Area. It was lovely with its streams with intricate ice formations.

Unfortunately, despite our map and cell phones, we ended up going through the side trails which extended our planned hike. Note to self: get the Bruce Trail Map app for my cell phone.

We had to leave the trail to make our way to the Terra Cotta Inn (the half way point on our hike) where we had a delicious lunch in front of the fireplace in the pub. I had planned on a light lunch but lost all self restraint when I noticed fish and chips on their menu.

Refreshed, we began the final half of our hike. Although delicious, I regretted consuming the fried fish and chips because I felt sluggish. Note to self: when planning the lunch point of a hike, try to stop at the 70 percent point since it’s easier to hike before you eat, than after.

Convinced we knew how to stay on the main trail, we found ourselves back on the Rockside Side Trail (an extra 2.6km). It was worth it. I felt like I was in a enchanted forest of hobbit hills and picturesque streams.

Concern grew as the day grew old. Would we make it back to the car before dark? At 4:30 Allyson (who was way ahead) called out that she was at the car.

We drove Carol and Allyson back to Carol’s car and headed home.

This being our first time out, by the time we drove home, my muscles were complaining. After stretching, a candle lit soak in Epson salts with a glass of wine was just what I needed.

I look forward to our next adventure on the Bruce Trail.

14.63km walked.

8.9km done on the main Bruce Trail

Hiked January 12, 2019

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Hiking the Bruce Trail

Every new year I tend to reflect on what I want to accomplish and improve in the upcoming year. This year, I want to spend more quality time with dear friends and family, I want to exercise more, lose weight and explore new places.

A few years ago my sister walked the Camino in France and Spain. Besides the beauty of the trails, what she speaks of the most are the people she met and the conversations they shared along the way.

In Ontario we have our own beautiful trail. The Bruce Trail is 898km long (with over 400km of side trails). It starts in Queenston and ends in Tobermory. This not only is Canada’s oldest trail, it is also the longest and spans the entire Niagara Escarpment. It has also been named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations.

And so a resolution was born. In 2019 I will hike a minimum of 100km of the Bruce Trail.

In preparation, I purchased the Bruce Trail Reference guide created by the Bruce Trail Conservancy. This guide is filled with detailed maps and trail guides describing terrain, parking areas, sights, history, plant and bird identification, mileage and much much more. I purchased mine (during the Boxing Day sale) at SAIL, but it is available at many more outdoor stores or on line through www.brucetrail.org for $39.99. You receive $5.00 off if you are a member.

I next purchased a family membership to the Bruce Trail Conservancy for only $50 a year. This membership keeps you updated on organized hikes in your area, sends you a regular newsletter, a quarterly magazine, gives a discount on the reference guide and discounts at select retailers. You also get a charitable receipt for the full value of your membership.

I look forward to the adventures we will have, the sights we will see and the conversations we will share along the way.

For more information on the Bruce Trail, check out www.brucetrail.org