One section down!
After spending a full weekend touring Niagara Falls, we officially hit the Bruce on mom’s 68th birthday. Over the weekend, we were very fortunate to meet a couple who hiked all the way around Niagara Glen with us and we accepted an offer of a place to park, a swimming pool to dip our feet in, and a bathroom to use before our first day on trail.
Day #1: That first day took us from the Southern Terminus to the parking lot at Woodend Conservation Area. Trail angel Ron picked us up at our end point where we’d parked the van, and dropped us off at the cairn. Mom realized as soon as he pulled away that she didn’t have her trekking poles. I thought she might’ve left them in Ron’s vehicle, but she thought they were back at the van, so we resigned ourselves to having to share my poles for the day. A moment later, however, a young woman pulled up in her car and rushed up to us, guessing correctly that we were starting an end-to-end journey along the Bruce. She was car-camping across the country to get from the west coast to the east coast for a new wildlife rehabilitation job. After a stop in Tobermory where she saw the Northern Terminus, she decided she just had to see the Southern Terminus, even though it was a bit of a detour. We chatted for awhile with Mel, and when mom lamented that she was going to have to do the day without her poles, Mel insisted mom take hers. A bit of trail magic before we’d even followed the first blaze! Even more magical was that Mel was looking for a place to park overnight on her way to Ottawa, so mom offered up her driveway. Ultimately Mel remembered she had a reservation that night, but that place was a quick drive from mom’s, so Mel still went by the house, sent us some pictures of her there, and left mom a note on the door which we are looking forward to seeing when this trip is done.
We started the trail around 8:20 AM, and got back to the van at 3 PM, covering just under 17 km in 6 hours and 40 minutes, with one full hour break at Fireman’s Park where several people were disc-golfing. We figured we’d ease into things on the first day, but our daily kilometres escalated quickly after that.
Day #2: On our second day in Niagara, we went from the Woodend Conservation Area parking lot to a spot on Wiley Road at km 38.3. The morning was muggy, so I was pleased to come across a Tim Hortons on Tremont Drive, where I had a breakfast sandwich and a glorious lemonade slushy while mom went across the road to a Bulk Barn to buy some dates. It rained on us a bit in the afternoon, including during our long break in the water at the DeCew House Heritage Park. We saw a couple of swans there as well as a heron which was nice, but it wasn’t as refreshing as I’d hoped since I was preoccupied with maneuvering around the abundance of goose poop and the rocky shoreline. We enjoyed seeing a deer and fawn at some point shortly before that, and we both thought the trails around Brock University would be lovely for students. Started at 8:00 AM and finished by 4:30 PM. Back really started to hurt by the end of our second hike, so planned to switch to my smaller pack the next day to see if that would help.
Day #3: Picked up the trail again at Wiley Rd around 8:15 AM with the help of my Aunt Rose, and ended at the Ball’s Falls Conservation Area at km 57.9 around 5:15 PM. The morning felt easy. We were slightly alarmed by a Trail Closed sign at a bridge, but there happened to be some park staff there spraying for invasive species, and they said it was just the bridge, and that it was easy to go around since there was just a muddy puddle underneath it. Right after that, we hesitated to sit on a hollow log, but did it anyways, and I was almost immediately stung by wasps twice. I was very glad to have my large first aid kit in my pack, and popped some Benadryl and applied some After Bite. One sting was on my arm and was uncomfortable all day, and itchy in the days following, but the other was on my eyebrow. It was lucky I swept the wasp away quickly from my eyebrow, otherwise I may have been hiking with an eye swollen shut. Eventually we came to a creek bed in Rockway at about our halfway point for the day, and soaked our feet in what was essentially a puddle. The water was fairly clear, and very cold, so it was a good rejuvenating stop for us. The rest of the day after that became somewhat technical in terms of terrain, and we were within earshot of a shooting range, which was alarming and definitely took away from the peace of the woodland. My back pain persisted, even with the smaller pack, but mom offered massages throughout the day. Got a bit grouchy near the end between the pain and stepping in dog poop, and was horrified by a long set of stairs near the end. The parking lot was a little off trail, so I sat on the side of the road near the bridge with our packs, while mom zipped off to pick up the van and collect me.
Day #4: Started at the bridge again near the Ball’s Falls lot around 8:00 AM with the help of trail angel Chris, and planned to end at the Grimsby Lion’s Community Pool at km 83.3. We crushed the first 12 km of the day, and had a long break at Kinsmen Park. We got off trail briefly twice, and wished for the first time that some bits of this area were more clearly marked. We were glad to have the app on my phone to see exactly when we were off trail. After our break, the terrain got a lot tougher, offering a path of rocks jutting out at all angles, many of which shift underfoot. Much of that terrain paralled Ridge Rd. It did not do my toes any favours, and we ultimately decided to stop 1 km before we’d planned in case this type of terrain continued. We finished at 6:15 PM. Mom went up to the pool to get the van, and I sat down on Mountain Street to be rescued. I felt pretty badly about myself at this point, and almost teared up for the first time. We went straight back to the pool though, had a dip during public swim hours for under $5 each, and then enjoyed the hot showers to wash the chlorine off, along with four days of sweat from hiking. I comforted myself with a pizza and a cold Sprite parked back at trail angel Chris’ house nearby. Technically we should’ve finished Niagara that day, but that last kilometre I couldn’t handle left us just shy. It ended up being a fairly easy kilometre that I probably could’ve pushed through, but if it had been more of the same, I would’ve really struggled to finish.