Day #5: After finishing that last kilometre of the Niagara section in the morning, we ventured into Iroquoia. The day started strong. We crushed the first 11 km by 12:30PM. The terrain was much easier, even with the climb up Grimsby mountain early on. At some point we resorted to taking a break right in the way of the trail because we hadn’t found a good place to sit down in a long while. This forced four women to stop and talk to us as we scrambled to get our stuff out of their way. We had a long chat and learned that one of them is working on her own end-to-end, while some of the others had already completed theirs and were along to support the effort. Two offered to be trail angels should we need them further down the Bruce. The afternoon was easy enough as well, and took us to km 19.8 at Devil’s Punch Bowl where we had parked the van that morning. Mom left me on the side of the road to go collect the van from the parking lot, and discovered the reason for the sirens we’d heard a bit earlier. A man had intentionally driven through the barrier and died. An unfortunate end to the day. Naturally, we didn’t end up doing the side trail that leads there. Afterwards, we spent the evening with my Aunt Rosie, who has been a tremendous trail angel for us several times. We ate Chinese food in her yard in Brantford, did laundry in her machines, and I got to briefly see my two cousins for the first time in years, as well as meet their kids. Then we spent a hot night in the van on her street.
Day #6: Darryn was our trail angel the morning of our sixth day, and he drove us back to where we left off around the bend from Devil’s Punch Bowl. We saw two turkeys before we got back on trail. Early that morning, we came across three young people, in their late teens or early twenties, who had a campfire going under an overpass across the railroad tracks from us. Presumably they were still up from the night before. They yelled across to us, and were excited to learn we were headed all the way to Tobermory. One of them called out “If I get my backpack, can I come with you?” We took our long break at another overpass under Red Hill Valley Parkway, and were somewhat disappointed to discover that if we’d pressed on just a bit further, we could have put our feet in the water at Red Hill Creek after not having seen water in days. We didn’t get to soak our feet until we were back at the van and parked for the night. I just barely pushed through the day’s 27 km across Hamilton. We expected there to be stores or cafés to stop at, but the trail kept us away from the downtown. We did, however, have to go up some of Hamilton’s MASSIVE flights of stairs, which nearly killed me. I did note that the staircases had grooves on the sides for bikes to roll up and down, which I thought was a very clever bit of infrastructure in an escarpment city. Mom rushed me at the end, and was deeply concerned that the van might be towed if we didn’t get out past the gate before sunset (Dundas Valley Conservation Area parking at Artaban Rd). Sunset was a ways off still, which I tried to tell her, but she was past listening at that point. The heat had been hard on her that day.
Day #7: Mom and I disagreed about whether to hike on the seventh day of the Bruce. Between the potential for thunderstorms, and the state of my body, I was keen to take an early zero day, but she insisted. Sure enough, the storm didn’t come, and I was ultimately glad she had forced us to carry on. We did do a shorter day than I had planned, which was a relief. We tackled 22 km instead of the original 27 km. The morning started in the very peaceful Dundas Valley Conservation Area, where we scrambled up some rocks, saw two deer, and chatted with several hikers. A long reroute took us into residential Dundas, so I left mom at a bus stop bench with our packs, and was able to go a few steps off the trail to buy us some cold treats and a Powerade. I slowed our pace down to a crawl for most of the day because of the shape my body was in by then. Seven straight days of hiking is no easy feat. We did have a somewhat restorative break at the lovely Borer’s Falls, but my foot pain quickly returned. I tried taping my arches, which I must’ve done too tightly, because after that my feet and ankles were swollen. The last bit of trail through Clappison Woods before km 68.8 was the type of loose rock that I find very taxing on my feet. When I got back to the van after 11 hours of hiking, I took off my boots and cried for the first but certainly not the last time.
Day #8: Took an early but much-needed zero day. The storm finally hit, and we were very glad we weren’t stuck outside in it. My feet and body really needed the break. Mom got her oil changed, and the tire pressure checked, and afterwards I had coffee and breakfast from the Starbucks across the road. We parked by Popeyes and I used their free WiFi all day to start backing up the hundreds of photos and videos I’ve got on my phone. We took the free time to rework the next week of hike distances and parking spots and I lined up some more trail angels once we had our plans in place. We lost a whole day of distance with these changes, and therefore probably a zero day, but I figure that is better than my body giving out altogether. I also used the time to write the blog on the Niagara section, which is impossible to do in the evenings after we’ve hiked all day. I bought compression sleeves for my knees, as well as pain relief patches for my back. We organized our packs for the next day as we do every evening, and went to bed.
Day #9: Got a ride with Chris in the morning, and started the hike at Snake Rd where I had burst into tears a couple days before. Seeing Grindstone Creek was absolutely lovely. We saw a photographer climb right into the water to get a good angle of some of the falls there, and also ran into two women who we chatted with for awhile about our journey and my writing project. Throughout the day we saw lots of water, and were curious about whether it was due to the rain we’d just had. We stuck our feet into little creeks twice on breaks. At some point over the course of the day I got my THIRD wasp sting of the trip. The terrain was fairly easy, especially compared to some other days. My one blister became full blown, so I treated it, as well as the others that were just starting to come along. I wore the knee compression sleeve for the first time, and it seemed to make a big difference when stepping down. The back pain patches, however, did not do much and I haven’t worn them since. Probably the best part of the day was meeting two women hiking with trekking poles and discovering that one of them was someone I had already started to make trail angel plans with on Facebook the night before. She had told us she would be trail angel-ing for another mother-daughter duo soon, which prompted me to ask, “Are you Karen?!” and sure enough she was. We hashed out some details on the spot, and talked more over Messenger in the evening to finalize everything while we ate a fancy dinner on a picnic table in Carlisle, at a restaurant called Cascata Bistro. I had a delicious chicken parm, and mom had a Portobello mushroom sandwich. That day we did 23.5 km, finishing at the far side of Mount Nemo in just over 10 hours, and still had a bit of steam by the end. We had parked further up the trail that day to avoid having to deal with the conservation area’s 3-hour time block reservation system, and Chris very generously collected us up at Mount Nemo and returned us to our van on Twiss Rd.
Day #10: Aunt Rosie picked us up from our mid-point parking spot at another roadside parking area on Twiss Rd and took us to where we left off at Mount Nemo. We powered through the whole day at our fastest pace yet. After going through the first 10 km so quickly, I put on my leopard print bandana that my friend Esther had lent me, which I am using as a talisman for speed. We were able to carry less water that day because our first long break was at the van, allowing us to top up part way in. Mosquitoes were truly awful for about 2 km before and after our van stop on Twiss, but the terrain was mostly very easy, and included some road-walking. My feet started to hurt after about 25 km, and were pretty useless in the last 2 km of our first 29 km day. It was glorious to see trail angel Karen waiting for us under the 401 underpass. She applauded as we climbed the hill, and brought us cold drinks – water for mom, and homemade iced tea for me – as well as some cookies that mom liked so much we asked for the recipe. The hike took 11 hours that day, which is also how long it took us to do a little over 22 km the day before our first zero. Our pace is definitely improving!