Day 8, September 24, 2011. Hamilton to Stoney Creek.
It feels like a long while since we last hiked. We’d had to cancel one date due to busy fall schedules, so were really looking forward to getting back on the trail on Saturday. As we came closer to the date, though, the weather reports were looking worrisome. We’ve always said we’d go rain or shine, but then — well, then came Friday – a Friday filled with torrential downpours throughout the day, and more rain forecast for the weekend. OK – maybe it’s time to define what we mean by rain not stopping us. Where exactly is that line between bravery and stupidity?
Turns out, this time at least our worries were for naught and we lucked out with perfect hiking weather. We started the day near Queen and Aberdeen in Hamilton, and hiked east all the way to Stoney Creek. This section continued the urban part of the trail, and included sections that crossed mountain-access roads, went along the Hamiton Rail Trail, provided views of the city and the steel factories, and traveled alongside golf courses. And yet at the same time much of the trail consisted of rocky footpaths meandering the wooded escarpment, and the seclusion beneath the trees offered no clue that we were a stone’s throw from civilization.
A highlight of the day was Felkers Falls, a steep waterfall dropping several hundred feet into a bowl-shaped limestone cavern. Our first encounter of the falls was from the Hamilton side and gave us a tree-screened view which was pretty enough and got us busy snapping photos. Little did we know that once we followed the trail above the falls and around, we’d find ourselves with the most amazing view from the other side. Stunning, but also perilous as we perched as close as we dared to the edge of the steep drop looking for the perfect shot!
And then there was the Devil’s Punch Bowl. That came late in the day and we were already tired from hiking for more than 5 hours. The map told us it involved a blue side trail for a length of a mere 260 meters – a small detour, or so we thought. What we had failed to take into account was that the 260 meters went straight up a very steep hillside. Climb it we did – the Devil’s Punch Bowl was too much a part of Marian’s growing up to give it a pass. And it was quite a sight – the rounded sides, the enormity of the cavity. We even met a couple of 70-ish women who had stopped by for nostalgia`s sake, and told us of the parties they`d attended in the area as teenagers, and the kids who would steal cars and drive them over the edge for kicks in the 50`s.
I`ve been thinking about that little detour. It was hard work, and not that much easier going back down as the rocks were still slick from Friday`s rain. There’s an interesting psychological piece that happens when it’s a side trail where we exert ourselves, meaning, it’s not getting us any nearer to our end-to-end goal. Most of the time we`ve passed on the side trails except as means to get to the main trail from our parking area. I don`t regret this one, but I was glad to find that Ball`s Falls, the other landmark I really want to see, is right on the trail.
Janet, Marian`s sister, picked us up at our end point and drove along Hwy 8 to get us back to our car (thanks, Janet!). Marian voiced exactly what I was thinking as we drove – we really did hike a long distance. Even by car it took a while, and to think we did this on our two feet was pretty impressive.
We`re now 16.8 km from finishing our first complete section, Iroquoia, and have 98 km to go to get to Queenston Heights… Five days, if we manage to keep up our current pace. magdalena