For having such a cool summer, we’ve been enjoying an unseasonably warm Fall here in Southern Ontario. The sun was out and shining brightly this past weekend, so it was the perfect opportunity to go for a hike through the forest. You might remember (or maybe not, as this was a long time ago) that Justin and I had planned the lofty goal of hiking the entire Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail is a hiking trail in southern and central Ontario that stretches out almost 900km in length. The trail follows the edge of the Niagara Escarpment (one of 13 UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves in Canada). The most southern point of the trail begins in Queenston, Ontario, and it ends far north in Tobermory, ON. Here is a map to give you an idea:
I realize that this isn’t something that will happen overnight – it will take many years to hike the entire trail! We are going to take our time. However, there are some adventurers out there that participate in end-to-end hikes, hosted by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, where hikers will complete lengthy sections of the trail over a few days. Just to let you know, people do attempt to hike the entire trail all at once. The current record for a solo hiker has been set by Cody Gillies, who completed the entire Bruce Trail in 12 days, 7 hours, and 39 minutes.
Justin and I had the original goal that we would hike the entire thing, which we started back in May 2013. Then, we didn’t end up doing another hike along the Bruce Trail for a long time! Many times, our work schedules don’t properly match up and when they do, we end up planning other things to do. He also told me that while he really enjoys hiking, he doesn’t know if he wants to commit to hiking the entire Bruce Trail. So, he said that he’ll do some of the hikes with me, but I could do sections of the hike with other friends if I felt like it. So…I went on this hike with my best friend, Shannon! You might remember Shannon from our Put-in-Bay, Ohio trip from the summer of 2013. Shannon loves hiking, so she’ll likely be featured in more of my Bruce Trail hikes in the future!
Leaving off from where I stopped hiking with Justin the last time (at the 4.2km mark), here’s where we hiked. If you want to make sense of this in comparison to the larger map above, we were hiking down in the lower right hand corner of the big map where it says “Queenston”, except we were slightly beyond Queenston and hiking through parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls:
We parked the car on York Rd (Regional Rd. 81), just east of Concession 2. Directly across the street, we were able to start on the side trail, the Upper Canada Heritage Trail. From there, the side trail linked directly up with the main Bruce Trail. You know you are on the Bruce Trail when you see the white trail markers painted on trees. The side trails have blue markers. By properly following the markers on the trees, you will not get lost or wander off the trail; this can be easy enough to do as multiple trails often emerge in the forest! I highly recommend that you pick up the most recent copy of the Bruce Trail Reference Maps and Trail Guide if you’re serious about hiking the trail. It is filled with useful information, maps, where to park your car, and so much more!
Early on, we came across a ladder with some chain link fence that was along a fallen tree limb. I’m not entirely sure why the ladder was necessary, but I have a feeling that someone wanted to ensure that no one would be using bicycles, dirt bikes, or anything other than their own two feet to get them down the path. This sign was posted up on the tree beside the wooden ladder:
There were some dirt bikers that we encountered later on in the day, but I imagine that they are only allowed to stay in designated areas. You might notice that the sign states that the trail goes through private property. There are many sections of the Bruce Trail that pass through private property. The property owners have given permission to the Bruce Trail Conservancy to allow hikers to walk through the private property in order to allow the trail to completely link from north to south. We hope that no one revokes these rights at any time as that would truly be a shame! As long as everyone follows the rules, we should be fine!
For most of the day, we didn’t see another person in sight. It was surprising as we figured many people would be out hiking on such a lovely weekend day, but perhaps this area of the forest wasn’t as popular as other spots. At one point, we emerged from the forest and came to a city street. This part of the Bruce Trail wasn’t actually in the forest at all – we had to walk beneath a highway overpass and across the road to meet back up with another section of trail. It wasn’t the most scenic journey, but a necessary walk to continue along with the hiking trail on the other side.
As you can see from some of the photographs, the leaves are already beginning to change colour here. While most of them are still green, you do get bright pops of colour now and again in the leaves – red and yellow. I can’t wait until the trees start to fully change colour as it looks so beautiful!
Shannon and I continued our walk along the winding path, which ascended and descended around imposing trees and meandered around large tree roots. At times, the ground beneath us felt almost sandy, which was very interesting as I’ve never encountered anything like it before on a hike in Ontario. I didn’t think too much of it until we got back to the car later and there was sand all over the car mats, as well as inside my shoes!
We came to another clearing and walked up another small street that crossed some railroad tracks.
We reached Kilometre 9.0 on the map and decided to call it a day. After all, we had to hike all the way back to where the car was parked! As it turns out, I’m likely going to end up hiking the entire Bruce Trail twice – there and back from where I parked. Until we can figure out a better system, this is the way it will have to be. We could have tried to call a taxi to pick us up and drive us back to the car, but it’s hard to describe where you are when you’re in the middle of nowhere! It seemed like a good place to stop as I could tell there was room to park the car here when we would return (on Mewburn Road, Niagara Falls). There was a clearing here with a small bridge high above the railroad tracks.
The hike back was equally as lovely. We saw some volunteers maintaining the trail, trimming away small tree branches that spread out too far onto the path. We saw several chipmunks, squirrels, many birds, and even some little caterpillars. It was such a wonderful day to go hiking, and hopefully the weather will stay this nice so we can go on many more hikes before the winter!
To read about my entire Bruce Trail journey, please take a look at my Bruce Trail hiking articles.
|Date||September 28, 2014|
|Location||Map 02, St. Catharines|
|Total Trail Distance||9.0km (885km remaining)|
|Start||4.2 Upper Canada Heritage Trail|
|Finish||9.0 Mewburn Road|
Where are your favourite places to hike? Have you ever hiked the Bruce Trail?