November 2, 2012. Scenic Caves.
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.
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.
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