Bruce Trail: Beaver Valley

***It’s a new year, so I figured it’s about time I carry on with the last few Bruce Trail blog entries. Thanks for your patience and continued interest!***

Day #23: On the way to our parking spot for the day, we stopped and watched two foxes playing in the road, in the orange light of the early morning. I could’ve watched them forever, but eventually a car came over the hill and scared them off.

Trail angel Dan collected us at Duncan Crevice Caves, and returned us to 6th Line. Even though I had felt the night before like I needed another break, it turned out to be a nice day. – I actually wrote “nice day” in my journal entry, and in my trail conditions tracking notes, which is pretty rare looking back over the course of our entire journey. We had just under 20 km to hike that day – a short day –  so we let ourselves take some long breaks since there was no need to rush. We spent 8.5 hours on trail.

At 9 AM we stopped at a bench and wrote a bit about ourselves in the Trail Tales hiker log before carrying on again. About an hour and a half later, we came across the sign about Old Mail Road, which connected post offices in several hamlets from the 1830s to 1850s.

Before arriving at Metcalfe Rock, I remember speculating about why the rock would be named. Once we were there though, it was obvious. It’s a very impressive cliff face, both up close and from afar. Definitely the highlight of the day.

Finished hiking a little bit before 3:30 PM, and hung out for a while where we were parked before heading over to our trail hosts’ house. Lilla and John were remarkably generous with us. When we got there, John built us a campfire, and provided s’more fixings. (I thought it was quite smart that they use cookies with chocolate coating, rather than the usual separate graham cracker, with a huge chunk of chocolate that is too thick to melt properly. The thin layer of chocolate was perfectly melty after I applied my roasted marshmallow. Yum!) They let us use their machines to do laundry, and they even let me sleep in their spare bedroom, which allowed mom to have the van to herself for the night.

Day #24: In the morning, Lilla and John provided coffee! This place would’ve been a paradise, even without their breathtaking view of Beaver Valley. I sat outside with my coffee, and looked over the valley that we would be hiking all the way around over the coming days.

They drove us themselves from our parking spot at the Beaver Valley Lookout lot, back to Duncan Crevice Caves. Just before arriving at our trail head, we saw a family of turkeys on the road.

The 19.27 km day was relatively easy, with some rocky bits that were mostly decent footing regardless. Walking down Sideroad 7B was much less scary on foot than it had been when we drove down it in the van.

We took a long break at Kimberley General Store and shared a pint of chai ice cream. I took a photo of mom’s socks and boots, which she had laid out all over the sidewalk, and later wrote a short poem about it:

Climbing Old Baldy wasn’t too bad, but we were disappointed to discover the real pay-off view was down a side trail that we were not going to go down.

By the end of the day, we were still in decent shape, compared to other days. Mom went for the van, then picked me up at the roadside, and we both returned to the Beaver Valley Lookout lot to hang out in the sun. I thought about writing and my book for awhile, but didn’t get any actual writing done.

We bought a rotisserie chicken and made it into a salad, which we ate at in Markdale Foodland parking lot along with some potato wedges, then finally returned to Lilla and John’s for the night, and I slept in a real bed for a second night in a row.

Day #25: Grabbed a coffee for the road before heading out to be shuttled by John. We parked at the Johnston’s Sideroad lot, and started back on the side of the road just south of the Beaver Valley Lookout lot.

Just before 9 AM we found ourselves at the base of two towers. Around 11 AM, we put our feet in a lovely creek, where we were blessed by two young Catholic priests. Up until that point, the day had been manageable, but afterwards, we started to succumb to the relentless hills. Over the entire course of the day, we estimated that there was maybe a cumulative kilometre of flat terrain. There was no single notable hill, just endless ups and downs with no relief.

Eugenia Falls – up the creek from where we’d taken our long break – was pretty spectacular, and I stayed shortly to admire it, while mom meandered on ahead of me. We had many long conversations with other hikers, which slowed us down further, but broke up the day.

Eventually, we saw those towers again, but from the other side of the valley, right before we finished for the day. It was a hard 21.75 km, but the towers put it into perspective somewhat. We ate dinner in the parking lot, and I spoke to my partner on the phone.

Finally, we headed back to Lilla and John’s for my final night in that cozy bed.

Day #26: Had one last shower at Lilla and John’s, then followed them in the van to Sideroad 19, and they drove us back to Johnston’s Sideroad. Started the day in freshly mown dewy grass, which clung to my boots.

Mom seems to remember this day with horror. The dreaded day twenty-six, where things really changed for her. I think after feeling somewhat demoralized by those relentless hills the day before, she wasn’t in the best state to take on the actual ski hills. I, on the other hand, was finally getting stronger.

I took the lead and motored along until my feet hurt. – I developed a new blister on my pinky toe that day.

At one point we got slightly off trail, heading up a hill below some ski lifts. I went back down and found the blazes again, but mom was very reluctant to join me. Finally she descended, only to end up in exactly the spot where she would’ve been if I’d let her continue. There are no short cuts on the Bruce.

I was grateful we ended the 20.6 km day by walking along farmer’s fields instead of what looked like unimproved roads on the map. As always, it was nice to finally see the van on the horizon.

Day #27: We took our second, and what turned out to be our last zero day. I had coffee at the picnic table at the Beaver Valley Lookout lot. We moved there to let the van’s solar panels get some full sun while we relaxed. I pulled out my typewriter for the first time, and typed out some point form notes for my book.

A bunch of bikers came throughout the day, including a large group of veterans from Owen Sound. One woman from that group took interest in my typewriter, and we chatted for a bit. Her partner’s dog was riding in a sidecar, and that was the first and only time I’ve ever seen that in real life. Adorable!

Mom and I spent some time developing a new parking plan that lost us a zero, but would still get us to our camping reservations in the Peninsula on time without too many hard days.

I wrote my blog post about the Caledon Hills section, and it upset mom. Since then, I have struggled with writing about the trip at all. I’m trying to push through that now. The last thing I want to do is hurt her feelings, but I also want to be as honest as possible about my experience.

Day #28: Trail angel Kristina met us at Griersville and took us back to Sideroad 19. Over the morning, we only met one other hiker and his big dog Blue. We moved through the terrain with ease, and finished in record time. We spent less than six hours completing our 18.6 km day. It was smart to do a shorter day after our zero day.

We enjoyed Webwood Falls, and lots of pretty colours, especially a stretch of yellow fields with a red barn near the end of the hike. A nice woman who was part of a hiking group took a few photos of us before she carried on in the opposite direction.

Overall, this was the easiest hiking day to date. There were several benches, and very easy footing except some rock hopping in Griersville near the end.

Day #29: Trail angel Rob returned to hike with us on this incredibly rainy, 22.7 km day! He picked us up at 4th Concession, and we all went hiking together starting at Griersville. We had a nice day chatting about writing, mom’s van-life, and whatever else, but boy did we get drenched.

We were okay through the early morning, but got absolutely poured on midday. I forgot to cinch up the cuffs of my raincoat, and so much water got in that my elbows were sitting in puddles as I walked along with my trekking poles.

There was one spot along the edge of the field that could really use a boardwalk. Once mom and Rob were across it, they stopped to watch my reaction to having to walk through the flooded area. Rob even snapped a picture of me mid-puddle, but I haven’t seen it. I imagine I don’t look too impressed.

Fortunately, the rain let up for our lunch break, and then completely for our road-walking at the end. A huge storm loomed on the horizon though. At one point mom turned back to say something to me as we were nearing the van, and she audibly gasped at the sight of the gathering darkness. She said “nevermind”, and rushed her final steps back to the safety of the vehicle.

We popped Rob back to his car, exchanged some hugs, and said goodbye, both to Rob, and the Beaver Valley section.

Bruce Trail Here We Come!

Big news! My mom and I are officially doing a Bruce Trail end-to-end in summer 2022!

Some of you likely knew that this was an adventure we were dreaming about, but what you may not have known is that I’ve been trying to access arts funding to make it a reality. After a failed attempt last year, I was feeling like my second grant application was a total moon-shot. I actually applied for about nine different arts opportunities at the end of last year, fully expecting an onslaught of rejection, and for some time it was that. I didn’t get the local residency, or the national mentorship, or the bigger theatre workshop grant, or several of the small theatre grants I applied for (though eventually one of those was approved, and honestly I would have been pretty content with just having one small win). But then yesterday morning I got a notification for the grant I honestly thought I was LEAST likely to actually get. It was APPROVED! And even more shocking, it was FULLY FUNDED!

I want to express my immense gratitude to the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting me in this endeavour in #BringingTheArtsToLife.

For any artists out there reading this, the moral of the story of course is not to give up on your projects if you don’t get funding right away. Persistence does pay off sometimes. I changed my application a bit, adjusted my budget, and resubmitted what was in essence the exact same concept. So now we’re doing the Bruce Trail, and I’m writing a book!

What’s the book going to be about?

The book, which I’ve titled Caprock Poems, will be a feminist collection of poetry about my relationship with my mother, explored through the lens of the Bruce Trail’s landscape, and accompanied by photography and prose.

I will also be maintaining a social media presence here on the blog, and on my @elisha.hikes Instagram account where I will be sharing our experiences, and playing with mixing video footage and poems.

The coveted Bruce Trail End-to-End Badge that I have been itching to earn!

What’s the Bruce Trail?

For those who don’t know about the Bruce Trail, it is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, running 900km through Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory and following the Niagara Escarpment.

The Niagara Escarpment, a VERY long cliff, was created from unequal erosion. It’s the caprock, dolostone, that is resistant to erosion and remains as vertical faces of exposed rock. The caprock protects more easily eroded shale beneath. – The idea of erosion will come into play as a theme of the book, hence the title Caprock Poems.

The Bruce Trail reports that they have issued over 4000 official end-to-end certificates, but many of these have been accomplished as section hikes over long periods of time. To put that 4000 in perspective, that is about the same amount of end-to-ends as there have been successful summits of Mount Everest. Sadly, the Conservancy does not track thru-hikes separately, so it is hard to say how many people have accomplished that particular feat.

The tricky thing with a Bruce Trail thru-hike is that it is illegal to camp through most of the trail. This stems from the remarkable fact that a huge portion of the land the trail passes through is owned by private landowners who have graciously agreed to allow use of their properties.

The other tricky piece for my mom and me is that I don’t drive, so we will be doing the trail with only one vehicle, and relying on trail angels for rides. Every morning we will park the van where we intend to end for the day, and then we will get a lift to where we left off the previous day. That way we are always walking towards our van.

I’ve already been offered several places to stay, as well as rides in certain sections, so I think the enormous task of organizing this each day will actually come together fairly easily, while simultaneously restoring my faith in humanity. Mom has wisely suggested that I start a spreadsheet organized by trail sections, so please get in touch if you’d like to be a part of our trail angel network.

The Bruce Trail Map with Sections Marked

How can you help?

Although rides and places to park or camp will be our number one needs from the community, there are lots of other ways you can support this project as well.

Specifically, I want your feedback before we get started! What are you most interested in hearing about? I’ll be creating a TON of content while we hike, and I want to make sure it’s what my friends and followers want to see.

I have a lot of ideas already, like highlighting the local flora, fauna, and geology as we go, as well as Indigenous landmarks, tourist spots we enjoy, historical plaques, people we meet (trail angels especially!), gear we’re using, food we’re eating, and more!

But I’m sure there are plenty of great ideas out there I haven’t thought of as well. Please share what you’d like to see by emailing me at

Part of the project will also be getting to know my mom better. We are VERY close, but there’s a lot about her youth, for instance, that I don’t know. What questions should I ask her? Is there something you wish you knew about your parents that you never felt you could ask? I’ll be writing a list of interview questions to pepper throughout our journey (when I’m not too out of breath to ask), and would love ideas on that front as well.

You all helped me develop my (very detailed!) trackers for my Western Uplands journey last year, and I’m hoping I can get that same kind of feedback for this project as well.

I so appreciate you taking the time to read about our big adventure, and hope you’ll reach out with any and all ideas! We can’t wait to get started.

Day hiking with mom in Algonquin Park in 2020

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.