Monthly Archives: November 2012

Further to our CBC interview…

Thank you, CBC, for covering our story on last Saturday’s Fresh Air show [click for audio link] .  It encouraged to us get out on the trail one more time this season, on a day when the weather happened to be unseasonably warm and wonderful.  We ended up exploring side trails in the the Rattlesnake Point area – an amazing section not covered by the main trail.  More than that, though, preparing ourselves for the interview helped crystallize what this whole experience means to us.  Here then are some additional thoughts from each of us.

Marian’s thoughts  

So in answer to the question “why are we doing this?” … it began as an item on our bucket lists, something we both had always wanted to do “someday”.  We randomly gave ourselves a 5 year plan- we were in no rush. We wanted it to be a relaxing, fun, experience- no pressure; not an added stressor to our already too busy lives.

Since then, we have discovered so many reasons why we love hiking. Of course there are the physical benefits; it’s a great workout, a fun way to keep in shape. It‘s also a chance to socialize, to bond, developing our friendship to a deeper level, as we share our life stories, dreams and secrets. And working out problems together is emotionally so therapeutic. Then there is the mental stimulation of exploring the escarpment, all the amazing crevices, rock formations, waterfalls, vegetation, the breath-taking views, the miraculous qualities of nature; we never get bored. What a perfect opportunity for us to practice our photography skills too. And one of the best parts is reviewing and sharing all our photos at the
end of each hike. Driving to and from our start and end points has also been part of the discovery; the dirt roads that we would never drive on otherwise, getting to know small town Ontario intimately- so many places I’d never heard of before. Even chronicling our adventure through this blog has taken on  a life of its own.

And finally there is the powerful spiritual experience of being in nature, surrounded by stillness, grandeur, timeless beauty that rejuvenates our souls. We breathe deeply, “our oxygen baths” cleansing us, walking rhythmically, one foot in front of the other; a walking meditation. All our stressors are released, and we are left with a quiet inner peace.

Magdalena’s thoughts

In no particular order, here are some of the things I wish I could have talked about…

… walking as a form of travel, that our feet have already covered 574.9 km of trail, an awesome distance in an age of cars and jet planes.

… the thrill of looking at the escarpment now, that imposing geographic feature threading its way across our province, and being able to say “I walked that!”

… pilgrimages – how I’d become fascinated by them and then discovered that I was already on a pilgrimage, just conducting it in stages.

… discovery – of Ontario towns and roads and country pubs, of ancient cedars and rock crevices and mushrooms, of beauty in the dull grey of November, but also discovery of achievement, of muscles, of a community of hikers.

… the physicality – walking for hours until I can’t move another foot, climbing a steep hill until I can’t draw another breath, and then carrying on anyway.

… the amazing resource that is the trail – a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve – Canada’s oldest, longest marked trail – so close by and so accessible.  Appreciation for the Bruce Trail Conservancy and the volunteers who maintain the trail.

… it being  so easy to participate.  Comfortable walking shoes, a knapsack with water bottles and snacks, and Bruce Trail maps – and that you can even borrow the guidebook from your local library.

… thinking the challenge was going to be about being in the middle, that point when the exhilaration of starting out is gone, when the end is not nearly in sight, but finding that really the challenge is going to be the feeling of loss when we’re done.

… that being able to hike the trail is a gift, made possible because I am healthy and strong, because I found a great compatible hiking partner, because I have the economic means, because my loved ones no longer need me on an hourly basis – all things for which I am deeply grateful.

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A spectacular wintry ending

November 2, 2012.  Scenic Caves.

Snow!

Lots and lots of snow. The surprise and wonder of it – pure and clean, soft and transforming. It’s a very special gift for these two weary hikers, at the end of this demanding week.

What has been muddy and desolate all week is now suddenly magnificent, dressed up like an archetypal virgin bride.  Colours have been stripped yet again, but now are stunning in monochromatic simplicity.  Big fat flakes falling softly on ruddy cheeks, boots crunching and finding traction (so relieved), branches bent low under the weight, then impishly dropping their icy load directly down my neck as I stoop to make my way beneath…  I’m giddy with the joy of it.

Today we can see the animal tracks—deer, rabbits, a flock of wild turkeys – so many signs of life around us, always present but normally so hidden.

Look hard – there IS a blaze on this tree

We discover new challenges, like that of finding our way in a white landscape when blazes are obliterated.  Once, we made a complete circle.  We found two sets of footprints, thinking someone else had been here, only to find the “someone” was “us”, and “us” was lost.  We tried once more, this time with sharper eyes spotting the snow-covered double blaze on the big tree trunk at the bottom of a hill.

We were tantalized by brief appearances of the sun, the white landscape momentarily sparkling, breathtaking.  Then, as quickly as it came, the sun was gone, the clouds filled in once more, and the snow turned into tiny wind-driven pellets to sting our eyes.

We lost our way yet again, re-checked our maps, retraced our steps, circled once more, only to find this time we had been right, but the markers were absent.  Maybe because technically this section through Scenic Caves was closed for the season, effective yesterday…?  Waves of relief when our way was confirmed once more.

And then we found ourselves on the ridge above Blue Mountain Village, with views into the valley below which amazingly was still green and untouched by snow.

Snow up high, green below

Two completely different worlds, captured together in one camera shot, an anachronism like the tiny flowers Marian found that were still pink and perfect within a bed of snow crystals.

Suddenly, we were done.  The Blue Mountain section was complete.  With Beaver Valley already completed in June, we are left only with Sydenham and Peninsula sections.  Both are long ones, distant from Toronto.  The how and when of those are to be solved another day, in another time.

This week turned out to be harder than I imagined, but the weather and trail conditions were exceptionally difficult compared to previous hikes.  We soldiered on anyway.  Were we brave or were we foolish?  Goddesses, or idiots? No doubt good measures of each.

In a final ceremony I retired my walking stick, resting it against the trail signpost.  She served me well since I found her on the forest floor 6 days ago.  She travelled with me these 77 km, carrying me up steep hills, steadying me on down slopes, balancing me as I crossed swollen streams, clearing snow off heavy branches. Good-bye sweet stick. Good-bye Blue Mountains.  And, good-bye-for-now Bruce Trail.  Till we meet again.  magdalena

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Sobering Thoughts

Nov 1, 2012; Pretty River, Collingwood

For the first time in 5 days we don’t need our rain ponchos! I feel like Batman without his cape; no supernatural powers.  The sky remains dark and threatening, but the good news is no rain. It’s cold, with a blustery wind and snow flurries. The sun makes a fleeting appearance, a pale, ghostly version of itself; looking like it is struggling to survive.  Before we are able to pull out our cameras to record this momentous occasion it is gone again.

My mood matches the sombre, grey sky and struggling sun. My inner warrior goddess seems to have deserted me today. My body is also rebelling. I feel sluggish and bone- weary.  Surprisingly my feet are doing okay, except for one blister on my right big toe, which doesn’t really hurt.  We slog along the still waterlogged and slippery trail up and down steep inclines and descents, along the Pretty River (another interesting name choice, like the other rivers in the area the Noisy River and Mad River). A brief detour on a side trail takes us to the highest elevation on the escarpment (disappointingly there are no views but at least we can say we were there). Even a scenic walk along the ridge and the amazing moss covered crevices and boulders along the way are unable to inspire and rejuvenate me on this bleak November day.

Much of today is spent in stillness, solitude, trudging along in quiet reflection. I had been eager to spend this week on the trail and see how I cope with the regime of walking daily for days on end; wondering if I have the stamina to do a trail like the Camino. I am not a quitter but… if today is any indication, I am questioning my motivation. We are way past the mid-point now- we have less than one third left to go but this last third is going to be the most challenging in terms of time commitments. We will have to do it in longer chunks of time. I have always insisted that for me this adventure of hiking the Bruce Trail needs to be a positive experience and when it loses that element of enjoyment, I need to re-evaluate why I am doing this.  Today doesn’t feel fun; it feels more like a struggle. Hopefully it is just this day; a momentary lapse and tomorrow will be a better day. …marian

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Damn that drizzle!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012.  Nottawasaga Bluffs to Pretty River.

Well, today’s post is “brought to you by the Letter D…”: Dreary,  Dismal, Damp, Dark, Drizzly, Drip… Drip… Drip…  You get the idea.  Maybe it was because it was the fourth day of rain in a full week of rain.  Maybe it was because it was our fourth day in a row to be hiking.  Maybe it was because we were just tired – tired of being wet, tired of fighting the puddles and the mud, tired of the work it takes to keep our gear dry beneath our ponchos.  Perhaps, dare I say it, a bit of the adventure of rain hiking has started to wear off.

I could add some more D-words for Marian today.  Driven.  Determined.  Channelling her inner warrior goddess in ways I hadn`t encountered so far in this journey. I was happy enough to move at her pace. It was that kind of day, a day when you just want to “git ‘er done”, hurry back to the Collingwood condo for a long hot bath.

At least it wasn’t Dangerous.  We had finally hit a day with easier hiking where we travelled mostly on top of the escarpment – inside the cloud, as it happened, shrouded in mist.  And it wasn’t all doom and gloom – I couldn’t help but be delighted by the little fairy lights created by the water drops on all the small branches, and by the soft greys of the trees through the fog. In the spirit of Hallowe’en, our ponchos looking like brilliant orange pumpkins, we tramped through a “birch tree cemetery” in the early afternoon – a forest floor littered with white bark logs skewed in every direction.

where old birches come to die

About 3 hours in we descended from the ridge, following the muddy tracks of a snowmobile trail for part of the way.  In one long section of the downward trek the water had completely taken ownership of our trail.  A virtual tributary of the Pretty River it was, with a teenager’s sense of entitlement, leaving us dancing perilously along its edges to keep our feet dry.

At long last we reached the Pretty River itself, swollen now with the rain of the last 4 days. It rushed along to our left as we walked on the cushioned path in the shelter of stately cedars, arriving soon at our car and so ending another day in Blue Mountain.   magdalena

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