“Just to prove to you that I have a good heart,” says Tom, having picked us up from Eugenia Falls mid-afternoon, a good 6 km short of where our car is parked at Hogg’s Falls, “I will take you on a different route back to your car.”
As if we still needed to be certain about that good heart. Tom is kindness itself. A retired farm veterinarian and professor at the veterinary college at the University of Guelph, Tom and his wife Darlene operate Maxwell’s Cabin, one of the B&B’s listed on the Bruce Trail website.
They like most of the listed places offer pickup and drop-off service for hikers, a real boon given the challenges of navigating between the trail ends and our car every day. Tom tells us he can no longer hike much himself, given his age and his physical condition. Instead he supports hikers like ourselves, providing not only ride service but also advice, information, and humour. He knows all the backroads, he loves this part of the country where he has chosen to live his retirement years.
He is the perfect team-mate for Darlene, whose strengths are played out in creating beauty and comfort for us in the cabin. Her artistic soul and her nurturing spirit are evident everywhere. They are so well suited to each other and to the role of B&B hosts.
They are a contrast to Gisela, who runs the Ravenna Hill B&B where we stayed the first night.
The B&B itself was very beautiful. Gisela’s husband Jurgen, an architect, designed their home on the hill to take full advantage of views of the stunning valley. The guest bedrooms and sitting area are on the lower level, conveniently separated from their own living quarters but still offering the grand views. Yet Gisela seems out of place in the valley. She is a self-confessed urbanite who cannot get used to the country ways. She tells us so herself. She’s been here 16 years, but she’ll always be a city girl. Everyone knows everyone else’s business here, she says, and she has learned she has to be careful. She finds the maze of country roads totally confusing with their concessions and sideroads and lines, constantly changing their names as they cross township boundaries.
Then there are Betty and Vernon, two elderly people we chanced to meet because they happened to live right on the part of the day’s trek where we had run out of water. It was the first time we found ourselves in such a predicament, not anticipating when we packed that our 3 bottles would be far too little for the 30F temperatures on Sunday.
They were relaxing in their yard under their trees, and immediately offered us lawn chairs to rest our weary bodies. Betty filled 4 of our bottles with ice cold refreshing water from her kitchen and while we rested they told us stories about living along the trail and of other hikers they have rescued over the years. University students drenched by rain, their knapsacks and contents thoroughly soaked, whose clothes Betty dried in her dryer, and who ended up sheltering from the rain overnight in their garage and were fed breakfast in the morning. They had more than one story about hikers who had lost their cars, confused about where they had parked early in the day, and Betty had ended up driving them around the country matching any clues they could provide to her knowledge of the trail access points and the country roads themselves.
I’ll end with Rose, an octogenarian from Collingwood who was out hiking the trail with her two friends. We had crossed paths with them as we were catching our breath after a very steep climb, but one came back to fetch us.
They wanted us to see the little patch of lady’s slippers just off the side trail behind us. When we told them about our quest to complete the end to end, Rose told us that she had done this years ago. It was the best thing she’d ever done, she said.
With that word of encouragement, we pressed on. magdalena