Twenty years ago my best friend, Paul De La Franier and I loaded up his Aunt Anne’s late 70’s Thunderbird and headed north to Tobermory. We were to spend two days on the Bruce Trail followed by a week of diving before delivering Paul up to Peterborough to start at Trent University. The car was so huge that you could land a helicopter on the hood. Yet, by some miracle of 70’s engineering there was no room to put anything inside the car. It so closely resembled the Bat Mobile that I actually purchased a Batman poster, cut out the emblem, and taped it to the hood. I was not permitted to drive since Paul was certain that I couldn’t see over the hood. How his 150 cm (5′) tall Aunt managed to drive the car we will never know. It drank two 80L (20 gallon) tanks of fuel to drive the 450 km to Tobermory.

Me with the Sir Edmund Hillary Pack

Our gear was similar our transportation. Paul borrowed his father’s pack “the same pack Hillary used for the final assault on Everest”. Never mind that Hillary climbed Everest in 1953! I had the smallest cheapest external frame pack that I could find at Canadian Tire. It had no hip belt so I made my own. It didn’t really work, so my shoulders bore the majority of the load. We had giant incompressible sleeping bags, 2 kg rubberized canvass air mattresses, and no clue how to pack a pack. There were things jingling and swinging everywhere throwing off our balance and catching on trees. But somehow, in two days we made it the 24 km to Tobermory and I fell in love with backpacking. I did several trips every summer during University and Paul and I dreamt of hiking the Bruce end to end like his father did. (OK, I dreamt about it and Paul wondered why I wouldn’t rather go to a nice all inclusive resort.)

Paul on the Bruce Trail

Paul passed away last year before I could convince him to do an end to end hike. So tomorrow I am starting the 885km trail on my own. I’ll be carrying a part of Paul with me in the form of his Pharmacy class ring. It will be one a thong around my neck like I’m Frodo Baggins on the way to Modor. Paul would think that is perfect. At 183 cm (Paul was such an ardent proponent of the metric system that his height cannot be measure in imperial units) in height, Paul always though my 171 cm (5’8″) made me a Hobbit!

Day 1, Friday June 15, 2012

Mom and Joan dropped me at the cairn at 2pm. Mosquitos in the woods. No water at Woodend conservation area where I planned to camp. Had to keep going to St. Catherine’s. Crossed 3rd and 4th Welland canals. Saw a deer on golf course. Dinner and water at Harvey’s. Camped in Mountain Locks park around 10pm. Feet blistered and hips raw. Covered 22.8km.

At the Queenston Heights Cairn

Day 2, Saturday June 16, 2012

Slept until 8 am. Was absolutely exhausted! Walked back to where I left the trail. Saw another old Welland canal. Back at Mountain Lock Park for lunch. Tried to bust the myth that you must add cream soup mix to the water while cold. Myth confirmed: the mix cooks instantly into a sort of bread when it hits boiling water. Met an 81 year old man who completed his end to end hike in sections 9 years ago. Hiked through campus of Brock University.  I passed DeCew House where Laura Secord delivered her warning of the pending American invasion in 1813.  She also started at Queenston Heights so I have basically covered her route.  Two hundred years ago she covered in one night what took me a day and a half! Camped near Terrace Creek Falls in Short Hill Provincial Park. Repositioned pack higher and moved water from hip belt to pack. Hips better. Stopped wearing liner socks. They were supposed to prevent blisters. I think they caused them. Still got a second blister on right foot. Covered 15km today, 38km total.


Day 3, Sunday June 17, 2012

Up at 6, hiking by 8am. Passed Swayze Falls. Watered at Rockway Falls. Lunch at the edge of a farmer’s field just outside of Louth Conservation Area. Trail was pretty tough just before lunch. I actually used the walking sticks. Camped at Ball’s Falls. Visited here with Paul three years ago. It was spring or fall so it was pretty closed up. It is sort of a pioneer village. I was able to go into some of the buildings and see the displays. Covered 18.2km today 56.2 total.


Day 4, Monday June 18, 2012

Great night at Ball’s Falls. Total luxury: picnic tables, water spigot, garbage disposal, and bathrooms. Sure beats a bivy at the side of the trail like I’ve done for the last two nights! Shared the camp with three cats. Forecast was a 40% chance of rain so I put the fly on the tent for the first time and covered the pack with the rain cover. Good thing I did. It rained pretty hard during the night. I stayed nice and dry in the tent, pack contents stayed dry, and food stayed dry in its SIL sac. Saw a school group at Cave Springs. The kids were pretty amazed by the man with the giant pack used hiking sticks. Lunch on some convenient rocks at the side of Quarry Road. Three people stopped and offered me water. The old gent I got water from was featured in a book written by an end to end hiker who called him “a grizzly old grape grower”. Went into Grimsby for a pizza dinner. Camped in Beamer Memorial Conservation Area. Feet are feeling better and pack is getting lighter. I started with 20kg (44lb) because I needed 10 days of food before my next resupply. I think the pack is less than 17kg (37lb) now. Saw a deer in the dark on the way into camp. Two eyes were glowing at me out of the woods. It just stood there fascinated by my light. I guess that’s where the expression “like a deer in the headlights comes from. Covered 25.8km today, 82 total.


Day 5, Tuesday June 19, 2012

Pretty tired today. I walked too far yesterday and didn’t sleep enough. Most of the hiking was in the woods along the slope at the base of the escarpment. Got water for lunch from a young mother living next to the trail at ? Road. Found a lawn chair around a fire pit for my 3pm granola bar break. I actually fell asleep in the chair until a mountain bike came screaming down the trail and woke me up. Camped at Devil’s Punchbowl above Stoney Creek. Annette and Dave across the street gave me water and offered me dinner. The park is really popular, with lots of people coming and going to look at the view over the city. Covered 18.5km today, 99.4km total.

The Devil’s Punchbowl

Day 6, Wednesday June 20, 2012

Disaster! I got robbed during the night. There were people coming and going into the wee hours. At one point I heard some teenage voices say, “f–ing pack”. When I woke up at around 3am my pack that was lying in front of my tent was gone. I called the police and they told me there was nothing they could do. Annette and Dave fed me breakfast and Dave drove me to MEC to buy new gear. I lost a lot of expensive gear, my perscription sunglasses, and several homemade items like my map pocket and repair kit. And it is all totally useless to the bastards who stole it. It was all just for the fun of pissing me off.
Susan, the Outreach Co-ordinator of the Burlington MEC, bought me lunch, then Barbara, a family friend from Dundas picked me up at the Co-op and drove me all over town to get replacement gear and food. She and her husband Phil fed me and put me up for the night.
I’m trying to keep mind that a lot more people helped me out in this situation than hurt me by stealing my pack. Also I’m sure I will enjoy the new gear I was forced to buy better that the old stuff. Besides, I think we need to have bad experiences to help us recognize the good. How else could you tell heaven from hell, blue skies from pain, a green field from a cold steel rail, or a smile from a veil? (appologies to Pink Floyd)

Barbara and Me

Day 7, Thursday June 21, 2012

Got my last price of gear, a new French press coffee maker, then Barbara took me back to Devil’s Punchbowl. Took a break and did some writing at the bottom of the punchbowl until pieces of the cliff started falling on me reminding me that it is an active erosion zone. I got the heck out of there in a hurry! Lunch at Felker’s Falls. Granola bar break at Tim Horton’s. This is very urban hiking! Dinner at Chedoke Civic Golf Course. Camped in the woods behind the golf course. Covered 19.1km today, 118.5km total.

Urban Hiking through Hamilton
Day 8 Friday June 22, 2012
Beautiful morning of hiking past many waterfalls. I discovered that they do ice climbing at a couple of them. Ice climbing in Southwestern Ontario. Who would have thought? Lunch at the Dundas Valley Trail Centre. They had ice cold Coca Cola to rinse down my lunch and a Klondike bar for dessert.
This afternoon’s granola bar break was at Starbucks. Had a Canadian moment as I was filling up with water at Borers Falls. I had a chat with a couple who were looking at the falls. His parting line was, “Keep your stick on the ice.” Camped in the woods just past Borer’s Falls. Covered 23km today, 141.5 total.
Sherman Falls
Day 9, Saturday June 23, 2012
Got a 6:30 start. I’ve been pushing it all day to get to Rattlesnake Point tomorrow to meet Paul’s father, Joe for my resupply. Lunch at Fisher’s Pond outside Waterdown. Mount Nemo was very cool. There are cracks in the rock sometimes going 10m (30ft) down. Great views from the top of the cliffs toward Toronto and Milton. At the highest point the cliffs are 85m (280ft) high! There were a few climbers climbing but it was too late in the afternoon to try to join them. Camped by the River and Ruin Side Trail. Covered 34.8km today. My first 30km day! Total 176.3km. I have now walked further than I have ever done in a single trip.
View from Mount Nemo
Day 10, Sunday June 24, 2012
6:30 start again. Hiked like hell to get to Rattlesnake Point by noon to meet Joe. Joe and Joan rolled in just after the friendly man at the gate told me that he didn’t care what trail I was hiking or how far I had walked I still had to pay $50 to camp. Joe ran me into the Co-op for a few more last minute replacements for my stolen gear then to a truck stop of a shower and laundry. We had a great dinner at got back to Rattlesnake Point just after the friendly gate keeper left for the night so I was unable to pay him his $50. I set up camp then went for a walk down memory lane to the climbing area. This is where I learned to climb 19 years ago. I found the first route I ever climbed then sat and chatted with the last group of climbers still climbing. Covered 14.6km today, 190.9 km total.
The first route I ever climbed
Day 11, Monday June 25, 2012
A cold front went through last night. Lots of lightning but it never rained. The few was so heavy that the tent fly would have been drier if it had rained. I’ve been dragging my heels all day. I couldn’t move when the alarm went off this morning and that’s how the whole day went. It was all I could do to keep moving. I had to resort to listening to music to keep me going. At least it is cool today. Sure beats the 38C (100F) days going through Hamilton. I went through Kelso Conservation Area, passed the ski hills of Glen Eden, and crossed the 401. The trail has been fairly rough, I’m tired, and my pack is heavy. I covered 22km today, 212.9km total.
Glen Eden Ski Area
Day 12, Tuesday June 26, 2012
A good early start. I felt much better this morning. Before lunch the trail went through a hole it the escarpment known as hole in the wall. My feet got pretty sore in the afternoon. Feeling to tired now to write much. Covered 27.9km today, 240.8 total.
Day 13, Wednesday June 27, 2012
On lucky day 13 it finally rained on me! I hiked this section about 18 years ago with Ruth Lampman. I went through the Cheltenham Badlands without seeing the extensive badlands I remember from last time. I did see a trail crew at work improving the trail. It was an incredibly steep descent down the Devil’s Pulpit just as the rain was starting. After that I went through Brimstone. The rain made it seem appropriately like hell. Walked up the old Dominion Road that serviced the sandstone quarries where the stone for Queen’s Park and the old Toronto City Hall were cut. Fortunately, the rain let up for a late lunch. The falls at Cataract were the only thing I recognize from my last trip through. Although this time they wouldn’t let you get anywhere near them. Last time we stood on the edge! Had to carry all my water for camp the last three kilometers since I won’t see water again until lunch time tomorrow. My feet felt much better in clean socks so I cleaned the dirty pair in the Credit River at lunch. Covered 31km today, 270.8km total.
Route down the Devil’s Pulpit to Brimstone
Day 14, Thursday June 28, 2012
This is now the longest I have lived on a trail. The heat is back! Yesterday’s rain was the warm front moving through. It was 34C this afternoon. A long road walk on Escarpment Side Road this morning. Great lunch at Glen Haffy Conservation Area. There were picnic tables bathrooms and a water spigot. I’m camped on a cat track in an abandoned ski resort. I’m going to cache my food by hanging it from the T-bar cable! Covered 30.4km today, 301.2km total.
Food cached over the T-bar Cable
Day 15, Friday June 29, 2012
The mosquitos this morning were so thick you could cut them with a knife. Hiked through the actual Hockney Valley Ski Resort. In Hockley Valley Provincial Nature Reserve I hiked a section of the trail that is twinned with the Jeju Olle trail that I hiked coming down from the summit of Hallasan, the highest peak in South Korea on American Thanksgiving 2010 with Megan Mikus. Gourmet lunch at the Mono Cliffs Inn in Mono Centre. I needed something to avoid getting scurvy from my camp food! Thankfully the bugs let up mid morning. Before lunch I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was starving and weak. I saw an out of date sign saying “459 km to Tobermory”. When I got to the real one that said “570km to Tobermory” I nearly died! The afternoon was marvelous after that great lunch and a little inspiration. There is a local guy from this area who is training to break the record for running the Bruce Trail end to end. His target is 10 days to beat the current record of 11. I can’t whine about having to average 30km a day from here on when he has to average 90! Things got a bit “Man vs. Wild” when I reached camp. The stream on the map had dried up. The next water was a good kilometer and a half away in a marshy area I really didn’t want to camp in. Nothing to do but keep going and search for water. It didn’t come down to wringing water out of moose dung or anything. It was more like how to extract enough water for camp out of a puddle in a trickle I found along the trail. Covered 36.1km today, 337.3km total.
The Mono Cliffs Inn
Day 16, Saturday June 30, 2012
Fairly tough hiking today. The trail was rough, it was hot, and I was tired. I didn’t get nearly as far as I was hoping. I had just watered up from a stream and found a decent place to camp in the woods when I noticed a lane way and a good sized sign through the woods. I walked down to check out the sign expecting “Those caught trespassing will be shot on sight” and found instead “Unicamp. Guests please register at administration office.” So I have stumbled into Unitarian Bible Camp! Covered 30.7km today, 368km total. Sorry no pictures, my phone battery died.
Day 17, Sunday July 1, 2012
Happy Canada Day! The bible thumpers were thumping their bibles loudly last night. Apparently, they know how to party! My left foot was really hurting so I called it a day at Lavender and had Joe and Joan meet me there for my second resupply. Then we went to Shoppers Drug Mart and bought one of every blister remedy they had. Subway for lunch. Real bread and fresh vegetables! Pizza Hut for dinner, then caught the Canada Day fireworks. Slept in a real bed in a hotel in Collingwood. Covered 9.2km today, 377.2km total.
Joan and Me in Lavender
Day 18, Monday July 2, 2012
Breakfast at McDonald’s then back to Lavender. My foot is feeling great. Mainly walking through meadows today. The camp at Nottawasaga Bluffs Conservation Area is not what I remembered from my last trip through here with Michelle Docherty. I remembered a full service campground with a view overlooking the Devil’s Glen ski area. This place is just a primitive campsite in the woods and I had to walk for a half hour to get water. Michelle and I must have stayed at Devil’s Glen Provincial Park which is no longer listed as having camping. Covered 21.4km today, 398.6km total.
View from the Escarpment
Day 19, Tuesday July 3, 2012
Never did find that full service campground. Hiked through the Devil’s Glen ski area and provincial park but no campground. I did get to see the parts for a new chairlift they were installing. Lunch at Duntroon View. Had to beg the land owner for water. The river I was hoping to fill up at would have required repelling gear to reach. I visited standing rock. I hiked through here 19 years ago with Michelle Docherty. We had read about standing rock, a 10m (30ft) chunk of limestone broken away from the escarpment. The was supposed to be a fixed rope to help you climb it. When we got there, there was no rope to be seen. I decided that someone must have pulled the whole rope up to the top and left it there. So I proceeded to free solo climb it. It is probably a 5.8, but the crux is at the very bottom. Once you are past that, it’s easy. When I got to the top I found the broken of end of the rope. I also discovered that down climbing is far more difficult than climbing up. I ended up sending Michelle back to our camp for a rope so she could use a tree to belay me while I climbed down. That was the moment I decided to take my first climbing course!
I also passed our old campsite where Michelle retrieved the rope from. It started to rain after lunch but let up before I got to camp. Camped along the Pretty River in Pretty River Provincial Park. Covered 26.6km today, 425.2km total.
Standing Rock
Day 20, Wednesday July 4, 2012
Lots of ski resorts and two significant points today. I started the day by visiting the highest point on the Bruce Trail. Again it was not as I remembered it. I remember and unmarked lump in an open field. This time it was a marked tree in a forest. Just after that I met a group of retired ladies Who had been working on their end to end hike for eight years. Every summer they spend four days doing 15km a day with a car parked at each end to bring them to a hotel with a hut tub. Pretty rough! Then I walked through Scenic Caves Cross country ski area. That was followed by Blue Mountain and Craigleith Ski Club. After that I hit the half way point between Queenston Heights and Tobermory. Last was Georgian Peaks ski area. Covered 26.2km today, 451.4km total.
Camped at km8.2
The Hard Way up Blue Mountain
Day 21, Thursday July 5, 2012
I haven’t done a 30km day since my resupply, so today I concentrated on speed. I think it worked! I am now heading south into the Beaver Valley. I passed the Metcalfe Crevice Caves. Joe told about a place with caves full of ice and an ice water spring outside. This was the place, though there was no ice. The caves were so cold you could see the mist lying in the bottoms. What a wonderful escape from the hot day! Afterward I drank all the ice water and ice water Gatorade I could drink! I lost a good half hour this evening because my watch fell off. Amazingly when I went back I found it! I camped just north of Old Baldy. It was more “Man vs. Wild” water. The stream at camp was dry. You go downstream to find more water. No luck. I thought I was in for another hour of walking then I noticed mud upstream. I found a mud puddle I could wring dinner and breakfast out of. Worst water I have used yet, but it will work in a pinch. And this is a pinch! Covered 32.9km today, 484.3km total.
A Flowerpot in the Woods
Day 22, Friday July 6, 2012
You know it is going to be a hot one when your shirt comes off before 8am! There was no speed to be had today because it was just too damn hot. My first stop was Old Baldy. An impressive view over the valley to the Talisman ski resort, and some incredible cliffs 150m (500ft) high. At one point there was a narrow spire about 5m (16ft) wide and 40m (130ft) tall. I ran into a Bruce Trail volunteer preparing to cut down a rotten tree that was about to fall on a bridge. I spent most of the day hiking the Falling Water Section of the trail that was added in 2008. It is 29km of pretty much nothing but trail (no roads) leading all the way to the head of the Beaver Valley. After Eugenia Falls I went up into the town of Eugenia and had lunch at the Eugenia Falls Emporium. I thought a hearty lunch would make me strong for the afternoon. Boy did that backfire! Not only was it too hot to move, I was too bloated to move! Hogg’s fall was fairly impressive but I’m not sure it was worth hiking all the way up the valley for. I camped at a small stream on the west side of the valley. Covered 26.1km today, 510.4km total.
Hogg’s Falls
Day 23, Saturday July 7, 2012
Thankfully, a cold front came through. But what a morning it brought me. As I ate breakfast it was getting darker instead of brightening as the sun rose. I just got the dishes cleaned up, the rain cover on the pack and the Gore-Tex on me before the rain started. My gaiters didn’t do much good because I was walking through waist deep grass. The water was pouring down the front of my legs, into the the gaiters, and filling my boots with water. It was rough walking in the rain all morning. Climbing up and down muddy hills, over slippery rocks, and through weeds up to my armpits where I needed to use my hiking sticks like a blind man’s cane to feel for the trail I couldn’t see. The waterfalls were amazing in the rain. Climbed all the way up the ski hill at Beaver Valley Ski Resort. The rain stopped just before lunch. I planned to stop behind the Talisman Ski Resort, but irony of all ironies: after all the morning’s rain, the stream was dried up. At 2pm I finally found a seep I could wring a liter of water out of for lunch. After lunch the trail I got above the escarpment and the trail leveled out. Finally, I could open the throttle and cover some kilometers. Joe and Joan pulled up to our rendezvous point about two minutes before I arrived, and surprise: they brought my parents! Another shower, laundry, and night in a hotel. Dinner at the Pirogie Palace. Covered 27km today, 537.4 total.
Why it is Called the Falling Water Section

Day 24, Sunday July 8, 2012
Got a late start because I was too tired last night to sort out the food for my resupply or update my blog, so I had to do it all in the morning. I had breakfast at Tim Horton’s with my father then did my resupply. Hit the trail at about 11am. I tried to go as fast as I could all day. I have to average 30km a day from here on to make it to Tobermory before my Climbing Wall Instructor course. I’m getting worried that I won’t make it. I finally finished the Beaver Valley section of the Trail today. What a relief! Camped at the Ambrose Shelter, a three sided shelter provided by the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club. It meant stopping 40 minutes early but it seemed silly to pass up a shelter for the sake of a couple of kilometers. It is nice to have benches all around and a floor. I pitched my tent inside to serve as a much needed bug net. Covered 21km today, 558.4km total.

With My Parents After My Resupply

Day 25, Monday July 9, 2012
A good day today for covering kilometers. Stopped for lunch at the Falls Inn in Walter’s Falls. Again, I ate the gourmet food strictly for its antiscorbutic properties. I did not enjoy one minute of it! The falls themselves were pretty cool. There was a viewing platform right over the falls along with the old pipes and machinery in the ruins of the old sawmill. Camped in Bognor Marsh Management Area. Not surprisingly I am having some mosquito issues. Covered 32.9km today, 591.3km total. 304km to go!

Walter’s Falls

Day 26, Tuesday July 10, 2012
This is starting to feel like a race for the finish. I feel like I will only have truly succeeded if I complete my end to end on one shot. Since I am on the very edge of being able to do that I getting a bit obsessed with speed and distance. It creates some ironies. For example: the best and most enjoyable terrain to hike through is the most challenging and therefor the slowest, which is making it less enjoyable for me. That was what this morning was like. It was difficult rocky terrain and really beautiful, but I kept thinking, “Dammit I need to go faster!” Roads on the other hand, are the most boring and ugly part of hiking. They are hot, they hurt your feet, and you have to deal with drivers practicing for attempts on the land speed record. But, man are they fast walking! That was this afternoon. I was so relieved to get to the roads so that I could make up all the distance I didn’t cover it the morning. Admittedly, part of the morning’s slowness was due to the ripe raspberries along the trail. I encountered a couple of bulls in an enclosure I had to walk through. When I first spotted them, they had their horns locked and were standing right on the trail. I was more interesting than the debate they were having, so they stopped and watched me. They never moved from the trail so, in following the Bruce Trail Guide’s advice to give them a wide berth, there was about 40m (130ft) of the Bruce Trail that I didn’t walk. I’m camped at Beaver Springs. Covered 29.5km today, 620.8km total.

No bull! I had to walk by these boys with no fence between us!

Day 27, Wednesday July 11, 2012
It was 10C (50F) when I woke up this morning. Breakfast was had wearing long pants, gaiters, my down sweater, and Gore-Tex. Nice fast road walking after first getting soaked walking through waist high, dew covered grass. I walked by the outside of a cattle enclosure. This one was full of cows and they were far more timid than yesterday’s bulls. I actually started a stampede just by walking past! I visited the “spectacular” Lloyd Laycock Cave. It really was pretty spectacular. You walked through a canyon with lots of great potential climbing routes on one side, then it narrowed into a crevice and descended into the cave. The cave branched in two, one route climbed up and dead ended, the other went right and down. I went right and ended up climbing through a very narrow crack containing what looked a whole lot like Black Widow spiders. I didn’t get a good enough look at the bottom any of their abdomens to be sure of whether that was a red hourglass or not. I ended up at the top of the other route. It was either climb straight down 6m (20ft) or go back through the Black Widows. Then I saw the third option: there was a ledge on each side of the crevice sloping down while the ground below was sloping up. It as narrow enough to comfortably place one foot on each side and travers my way down.
Here’s another irony of trying to move fast: Mosquitos aren’t such a bad thing. At one point this morning they got so thick that despite the repellant I could feel them bouncing off my arms. And of course, the whine around my ears was enough to drive a man mad. Here’s the good part: that makes you walk like a madman to try to get away from them.
I had lunch at the Eastside Snowmobile Club’s clubhouse. There was no one there but it was open and it’s was nice to have a table and chair. I passed Inglis Falls. Paul brought me there to watch the salmon spawn when he was living in Owen Sound. Then we hiked through to Jones Falls that turned out to be completely dry. I’ll be getting there tomorrow. I’ll see if there is any water this time. I went into Owen Sound to visit my Aunt Bud. She put me up in a nice bed and breakfast to stay in since she had no room in her retirement home. Covered 33.7km today, 654.5km total.

Inglis Falls
Day 28, Thursday July 12, 2012
My feet were pretty raw after how hard I pushed it yesterday, but I somehow have to find it on me to do it again. The man from the Bed and Breakfast drove me back go the trail for 8am so I only started walking an hour late. Then I made myself later by stopping at Country Style Donuts at Jones Falls. I finished the hike I did with Paul past the quarry where Paul and I climbed with my sister to Jones Falls, which had some water flowing over it this time. Still the doughnut shop was far more attractive! I wasted a good 20 minutes by walking a kilometer in the wrong direction on a poorly blazed road. Uughh! I had lunch by a stream on a rail trail in the middle of a cattle pasture.
Well I couldn’t find it in me. I got all the way around The Glen but I still fell 3.4km short. I camped at the side of a field in some Bruce Trail Conservancy land near Lindenwood. It was 8:30pm. I started an hour late so I finished an hour late. But, more than anything it said on my watch, I just couldn’t walk any further. Covered 26.6 km today, 681.1 total.
Jones Falls had some water, but not much!
Day 29, Friday July 13, 2012
I didn’t break camp this morning, I bugged out, literally! Last night the Mosquitos were bad enough that I had to pace while eating my dinner to escape them. That had happened at a few camps. But nothing could have prepared me for the morning. There were none when I climbed out of the tent, but as soon as I was out they came in like Zeros into Pearl Harbor. I had to use my head net for the first time this trip because I couldn’t breathe without inhaling them. They are attracted to heat, so they covered my coffee mug and pot of oatmeal like mayflies (aka June bugs or fish flies) on a light post. I actually had to eat breakfast in the tent to escape them. You never saw a guy break camp so fast! Fortunately, they were a localized phenomenon, so after ten minutes walking I could remove the head net.
I thought I was going to be making lunch with water I literally extracted from a mud puddle, but I unexpectedly came across a spring just before lunch.  After lunch a herd of four deer sprinted past in the woods.
I hiked this section from Owen Sound to Hope Bay fourteen years  ago. That was the last time I did an overnight hike on the Bruce. Paul joined me from Concession 24 to Bruce’s Caves. I had yet another water catastrophe. There was supposed to be a large pond next the the road. It proved to be a damp field. This was the water I needed for camp. My options were to go back down the road and fill up in a mud puddle or try to find the spring that was not filling the pond. I found a spring, but it was only 1cm (3/8 inch) deep. It was great water but it was impossible to scoop it out without getting a lot of sediment. It took a good 45 minutes to scoop it out one teaspoon at a time.
I’m camped up on Skinner’s Bluff. My hypothesis was that with the height, I would be away from the water where the Mosquitos breed and in the wind which should blow them away. Well, I had to pace to eat dinner. I brought my pant legs and head net into the tent incase I need them in the morning. Let’s hope not. Covered 29.4km today, 710.5 total.
Sunset from Skinner’s Bluff
Day 30, Saturday July 14, 2012
My hypothesis was correct. The Mosquitos were trying to attack in the morning but it was just too windy for them up there. I passed the Bruce Caves that I visited with Paul. I got to walk past the Wairton airport. In Wairton I saw two sculptures of Wairton Willie (the weather predicting groundhog).  At the marina they had two of my favorite things: sailboats and Volkswagen camper vans. I had a pizza and ice cream for lunch in Wairton. I saw Duncan’s old boat Razzmatazz in the Wairton Marina.
I also entered into my final section of the Bruce Trail: The Peninsula Section. “Warning: You are now entering the Peninsula Section. Poison ivy is common. Cell phone service may frequently be unavailable. Rattlesnakes and bears inhabit this section. Please use extreme caution.” says the Bruce Trail Guide. So far, they are right about the poison ivy. I waded in it up to my knees all afternoon, while wearing shorts. Let’s hope I am still one of the lucky few who don’t react to it. I met Joe and Joan at 6:30pm for my resupply. They took me to Tobermory to have dinner with my parents who had sailed up there. Then we went to the nearest hotel Joe could find which was in Owen Sound. We didn’t get to bed until midnight and I didn’t even get to shower let alone do laundry. Covered 31km today, 741.5km total.
Wairton Willie
Day 31, Sunday July 16, 2012
I slept until 6am because I needed to get at least some sleep. I had my shower and sorted my food for the final assault. I left Joe and Joan with my laundry but I still didn’t get to start hiking until 9:30am. Lots of poison ivy again. Thankfully, I still am not reacting to it. Joe and Joan met me at lunch with clean laundry, a Subway sandwich, and new insoles for my boots. From Jones Bluff I had great views of the Cape Croker Indian Reserve including Sydney Bay, one of my favorite anchorages. You are anchored with the limestone cliffs of Jones Bluff and Sydney Bluff on either side. You have the Bruce Trail and some caves to explore, and Sydney Bluff has rock climbing routes marked out on it. I’ve never convinced anyone to climb it with me because the talus slope below  the routes is nothing but poison ivy. As I approached the Cape Croker campground I was greeted by a very friendly dog. He accompanied me all the way to the park office. Later, I came across a sign in book. A group of end to enders passed by yesterday, and a solo end to ender passed by earlier today. I should catch them soon. I camped at the Hope Bay Campground. I didn’t get here until 9:30pm because of my late start. At this point I have no choice but to keep hiking until I reach my planned campsite, or I won’t be making Tobermory by Thursday. Covered, 30.6km today, 772.1km total.
Sydney Bay
Day 32, Monday July 16, 2012
I saw two backpackers leaving the campground this morning while I was washing my dishes. It was a rough morning climbing over Cape Dundas. There was far too much time climbing over boulders on the talus slope below the escarpment. I had lunch at Rush Cove with my first taste of Georgian Bay water. There was a long stretch of road after lunch allowing me to get back on track though I still didn’t make camp until after 8:30pm. I’m camped at McKay’s Harbour between Gun Point and the Lion’s Head. I’m now halfway to the north pole. I passed 45 degrees north just before I got to camp. I visited here with Paul once to find the 45 degree geodetic benchmark. The backpackers from this morning are here. Covered 32.1km today, 804.2km total. 91.3 km to go!
Be careful to avoid the poison ivy! (That’s the trail right through the middle.)
Day 33, Tuesday July 17, 2012
What a day of highs and lows. It started low when I woke up to find that once again my pack was gone. While this made me sick to to my stomach, I knew it couldn’t have gone far, because I was at least a two hour walk from the nearest road. Either some critter dragged it off or my neighbors had a sick sense of humor (I had told them about what happened in Stoney Creek). It turned out to be the former. I found it 7m (20ft) out on the beach. My neighbors woke up to a raccoon trying to get into their food cache, so it must have been him. The only damage was that my Gore-Tex jacket had been pulled partially out of the closed pack and the exposed section was dirty from being dragged out onto the beach. Then came the high of hiking across Lion’s Head. The views and the cliffs were spectacular and there was a Bald Eagle soaring in the updrafts! When I reached the town of Lion’s Head, I officially became an end to ender.  I hiked from there to Tobermory 19 years ago with Michelle Docherty, so I have now hiked all of the Bruce Trail. I celebrated by purchasing a new string for Paul’s ring and having a second breakfast. Then came the afternoon low. When I woke up at 5am, I was uncertain that I needed a shirt. Then the wind piped up as I got to the top of Lion’s Head. It was blowing so hard I had to tie my hat on. I was sure this was the expected cold front. Wrong! As I climbed White Bluff, it got so hot and the trail was so rough that I thought my dream of finishing the end to end it one shot was going to die a day from the cairn in Tobermory. To add insult to injury, at lunch I discovered that I had lost my shirt. I must have forgotten to tie it back on the top of my pack after I removed it in Lion’s Head to empty my garbage. It is not a huge deal because it was pretty much reduced to a rag and I have a second one. Fortunately, the cold front did arrive and by my 5pm granola bar break I was actually cold.
The next high was seeing my first endangered Massassaga Rattlesnake. Yes, you read correctly, I was happy to see a rattlesnake. My only previous encounter with one was as a kid on an island off the Bad River with Ryan Lampee. I heard the buzz, but never saw the thing. Ryan yelled “Rattlesnake!!!”, and we ran like hell back to the boats. Afterwards, our alpha male fathers beat the poor sucker to death with paddles in defense of their young. To be fair to our fathers, none of us understood that this was not the snake they shoot at in cowboy movies. I once heard Bob MacDonald interviewing an American snake expert on Quirks and Quarks, the CBC radio science show. This guy was arguing that since there is no place in the contiguous United States that is more than an hour from a hospital, and no American snake can kill you in under an hour, no one should ever try to treat their own snake bite. Bob challenged him with the fact that Canada has large roadless areas and it could take a long time to get to a Canadian Hospital (not to mention the Emergency Room wait times!) The expert danced around the issue for quite a while. The man loved snakes so he didn’t want to insult ours. Finally, he came out and said it, “The only venomous snake in Canada is the Massassaga Rattler, and it is about as venomous as a bee. The only person to ever die from one was a little old lady who succumbed to an infection.”
Most snakes run away, and you are lucky to get a picture. The rattler, on the other hand, was quite confident in his wimpy venom. He posed for pictures, rattled on demand for a video, and generally refused to get off the trail so I could pass until I threw a bunch of rocks at him and jabbed him a few times with one of my hiking sticks.
During my 7pm granola bar break, I heard another buzz. This one was a humming bird! Next low: it started to rain. Thankfully, it was just gentle enough to save me the trouble of sweating. Next high: a rainbow. Low: running out of daylight. This forced me to abandon the trail and take a short cut to the water. Low: getting to camp at dusk. This is not just inconvenient because you can’t see, it is also when the Mosquitos come out. High: bring buzzed by dragonflies rating the Mosquitos. Low sleeping on a cobblestone beach with no food cache. High: forgetting it all and crawling into my sleeping bag, Covered 30.5km today, 834.7km total.
Click to hear the rattle.
Day 34, Wednesday July 18, 2012
While making it to Cape Chin North last night makes success possible, it is by no means a sure thing. When I did Lion’s Head to Tobermory 19 years ago, I did it in five days. This time I have two and a half. There are some differences though. Nineteen years ago I was a boy, with cheap overweight gear, who had just spent a year with his nose in his University text books. This time around I am a man, with the best and lightest gear money can buy, and I have the accumulated strength of five weeks of hiking.
I passed two glacial potholes and Devil’s Monument this morning. A pothole is created when a granite bolder is swirled around in a whirlpool of water draining through cracks in the ice. The rock drills right through the glacier and into the underlying limestone. Devil’s Monument is a sea stack created when the glacial Lake Nippissing eroded a headland until it formed a free standing pillar. There are two similar formations created by the current Georgian Bay on Flowerpot Island. I had lunch on the pier at Dyers Bay. It was a hard morning of walking. I hope I am right about the afternoon being easier.
The afternoon was easy. It was road walking that turned into walking s dirt track in the woods. I’m camped at High Dump. Nineteen years ago there was nothing here except the emergency shelter at the top of the hill. Since then, the park service has built a five star hotel including nine tent platforms, a gallows for hanging your food away from the bears, and a composting toilet. I was supposed to reserve a site, but I didn’t have the patience to work my way through the menus in their telephone system. Nineteen years ago I also had a broken watch. We had nothing but the sun to tell time by. The emergency shelter is in pretty deep woods and it was pretty dark in there in the morning so the sun didn’t wake us up. While we were eating breakfast, a hiker stopped by. He seemed to think it a little odd the we were eating breakfast. Before he left, we asked him the time. “12:30” I guess we slept well!
I hope I sleep well tonight. I got here by 7:15 so hopefully I’ll get some much needed rest for the final assault tomorrow. The first 7km in the morning are the most difficult on the entire trail. Covered 30.2km today, 864.9km total.
Five Star Camping at High Dump
Day 35, Thursday July 19, 2012
It was a day full of memories and emotion.  The first 7km where as hard as advertised.  I frequently needed both hands to scramble up a rock, just to climb down the other side.  The end of that stretch was Emit Lake Road, where Paul and I started our hike 20 years ago.  It didn’t get a whole lot easier from there.  Our first impression of the trail was, “That’s the trail?” It just looked way too hard to walk down while carrying a pack.  The next landmark was Stormhaven.  Paul and I somehow missed Stormhaven.  The following year as I was hiking through with Michelle, we stopped for a break on a ledge.  We noticed a roof below us through the trees and decided to check it out.  There was a narrow ledge leading down the 6m (20ft) cliff.  At the bottom was a cabin with a note naming it Stormhaven and welcoming everyone in.  There was firewood, a wood stove, and plywood bunks.  We were planning on camping at Loon Lake like Paul and I did, but Stormhaven was too good to pass up.  We started a fire and had a wonderful night.  I returned several times.  It was one of the most wonderful places on earth.  Not only did you have this amazing comfortable cabin, it was located in the most beautiful location on entire trail.  It is a rocky shoreline with an incredible view of Cave Point.  On our first visit, we could not find away to scale the cliff into the huge Bootlegger’s Cave.  Later we discovered that if you wade through the water around a corner, there was a climbable spot.  Sadly, the Park Service decided to tear the place down.  When I learned about this, Ruth Lampman and I did a winter hike into Stormhaven from Emit Lake Road.  The cabin was locked, but the window wasn’t, so we got to be about the last people to stay at Stormhaven.  It seems I gave my parents the wrong date for our return from that trip, so they sent a search party looking for us.  It was pretty embarrassing to be visited by the Police on snowmobiles during the night while we were camped at Emit Lake road.  Today Stormhaven is another five star campground like High Dump and the cabin site is home to a bear gallows.
After Stormhaven comes the most popular part of the trail: Cyprus Lake.  In the first bay at Cyprus Lake, there were more people than I had seen on the trail since Queenston Heights.  The next bay contains The Grotto, a cave with an underwater opening that I have SCUBA dived through.  And finally Overhanging Point.  Paul and I were walking along on a alvar 12m (40ft) from the edge of the escarpment when we spotted a hole in the ground next to the trail.  This demanded exploration.  We climbed down through the hole and discovered that the entire alvar was hollow.  It was all a huge overhang.  We spent a good hour exploring around finding various overhangs and caves.  This time I just dropped down the hole long enough for a picture.  When I came back up, there was a group of hikers who I advised to go down and check it out.
From there, I pressed on to Loon Lake for a late lunch.  Paul and I chose Loon Lake as our camp because it was outside of Bruce Peninsula National Park and therefore free of the associated excessive rules and required reservations.  It was also the last the place to camp before Tobermory.  Today there is a new landowner who is threatening the Bruce Trail Conservancy that he will close the trail if any hiker steps one foot off of it.  As a result the campground is long gone and the remnants are well hidden.  It took me a good 20 minutes to even find it.
I was hoping for an easy hike from there out.  I remembered a lot of road and fields.  I think the trail has been rerouted.  There were still plenty of spots where I needed both hands to scramble.  At one point it just felt like the trail routers were just purely being sadistic.  There was a nice smooth gravel snowmobile or ATV trail running parallel to the trail 6m (20ft) away, while I was being forced to climb over huge boulders.  Finally, it became a smooth gravel trail that lead to and through the huge new Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitors Centre.  From there I reached the streets of Tobermory.  I took a moment to compose myself, then as the sun was setting I took the final steps to the terminal cairn.  I covered 30.1km today, and the complete 895km of the Bruce Trail in one five week shot.  It has been 20 years since my first Bruce Trail hike with Paul, 40 years since Joe’s first end to end hike, and 50 years since the trail was started.  And Paul was there with me, at least in spirit.
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