When Marian came up with this idea last year, I said, why not. I love to hike.
And to be honest the idea of hiking the Bruce Trail was not a new one for me either. Many years ago, when I was in my 20’s, my sister Elizabeth and I had a goal to hike the trail. We had just come back from our adventure in Europe – working in Holland, and then hitch-hiking through France and Switzerland and Belgium and the UK. Walking excursions had been a favourite pastime in our travels. It started with the Avond-Vierdaagse in Zwolle, the Netherlands – a wonderful celebration of walking, involving 4 evenings of 15 km walks through different routes around the country lanes and bike paths surrounding the city. Much like today’s marathons, on the final kilmeter of the final day the city feted us with live music and our friends and relatives cheered us from the sides with huge bunches of flowers. I still treasure the medal I earned that day.
Another time that summer we traveled up one of the Swiss Alps with a village family for whom Elizabeth had worked some months earlier as an Au Pere. An uncle spent the summer in a chalet high up the mountain with the village’s goats and cattle, and from time to time villagers hiked up to bring him supplies. Our summer visit coincided, and so off we went with our hosts, following the narrow cow path as it meandered up the slope. And like the song says, the hills really were alive with the sound of music – from all the cow bells and goat bells. The alpine flowers were everywhere: whites, pinks, reds and yellows. There was magic as we trekked higher and higher, and the view expanded and expanded. And finally we reached our chalet – a one-room structure with a large fire pit in one corner, with rough thick stone walls maybe 500 years old. I felt like Heidi! The uncle served us a delicious soup made on that fire, along with unbelievably good goat cheese he made up on the mountain. One of the unforgettable meals of my lifetime. And coming down was its own unique experience, seeing the vista change in reverse, watching dusk pull into the valley as the shadows of the opposite peaks hid the sun. And still the bells filling the evening air, and the flowers.
When we left the mainland for the UK, we hitch-hiked right to the Lakes District, where we hiked paths from hostel to hostel among the sheep farms and the pastures with stone wall fences. And from there we traveled to Scottish trails visiting the lochs, and to Welsh coast trails.
The two of us had clearly caught the walking bug, and back in Ontario, we were determined to carry on. We bought the Bruce Trail guidebook, invited all our friends, and started the trail at Queenston Hts. in Niagara. But like Marian says, life intervenes. In our case, in the form of a new boyfriend for Elizabeth who married her and moved her to Kentucky the following winter. Alas, my walking partner had abandoned me.
And so for many years, until Marian arrived with her invitation, my dream had lain dormant… Magdalena