Monthly Archives: June 2013

Poison Ivy – the definitive identification guide

One of the neat things about being part of the Bruce Trail Waterfalls Walk was the opportunity to spend two days with Beth Gilhespy and Marsha Russell, Executive Director and Director of Marketing and Communications for the Bruce Trail Conservancy.  Beth and Marcia

You learn things when you are in the company of these women.  Important things, like how really to identify the bane of hikers, Poison Ivy!

All my life I’ve been stumped by poison ivy.  People tell me it has three leaves – do you know how many things in the forest have 3 leaves?  Or I’ve been told to look for something vine-like.  Well, in the end, not particularly helpful either.

So when Beth promised me the definitive method, I was all eyes and ears (and camera).  Here’s the trick: the leaf structure has the three leaves we all know about, but with poison ivy the centre leaf is slightly extended, with the other two directly across from each other.  It can still be confusing.  There are different kinds of poison ivy – sometimes the leaves are smooth-edged, sometimes jagged as in the photos below.  But the common feature is that leaf structure.

Hope that’s as helpful to you as it is to me.  Thanks Beth! magdalena



A prayer for Bruce Trail hikers

Thank you to Alan Emarthle of the Six Nations Reserve for this prayer.  I wanted to include it in this blog because it sets such an appropriate tone for experiencing the escarpment.

Great Spirit Prayer

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,

Whose breath gives life to all the world.

Hear me: I need your strength and wisdom.

Let me walk in beauty, and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.

Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice.

Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.

Help me to remain calm and strong in the face of all that comes towards me.

Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.

Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.

Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.

I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy:


Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.

So when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit may come to you without shame.


The Best of the Bruce Trail

IMG_3157What’s your favourite section of the Bruce Trail?  We’re asked this question more and more now that we’re into the last stretch of our end to end.  It’s a very hard question to answer — there are so many beautiful spots, each with their own unique character.   Often, though, I respond by saying I really love the section around Hamilton (Waterdown, Dundas, Ancaster and Hamilton itself).  I love it because it’s close to home, and because it has so many spectacular waterfalls.

I was therefore delighted to be invited earlier this week to experience a new walking holiday package that features those waterfalls.  It’s called the Bruce Trail Waterfall Walks. Think of it as a “Best of” kind of package: the best of the escarpment and hiking combined with the best accommodation and dining the Hamilton area has to offer.  Then add in a great group of hiking companions, a couple of expert guides to provide interpretation, plus shuttle service to take care of the pesky logistics around getting to and from trailheads and you have the perfect formula for a healthy mini-vacation (without the cost of airfare if you live in the area). IMG_3139

Our two days started with a meet and greet dinner on Monday night at the C Hotel by Carmen’s (where we stayed for the two nights).  The evening included a First Nations blessing, the Great Spirit Prayer, which I will include in a separate post because the words set the tone so appropriately for any experience of the escarpment.At Tiffany Falls

Shuttle buses were ready for us by 8:30 in the morning.  Activities consisted of about 12km of trails with a relaxed lunch break each day.  Tuesday’s lunch was full-on gourmet at the 5-star Ancaster Mill restaurant, while Wednesday’s was more of a picnic style catered lunch at Dyments general store and bakery.  Tuesday evening dinner was an elegant affair at the Sarcoa restaurant in Hamilton’s newly developed waterfront.  Sarcoa sets its sights high with the tagline on its website: “This restaurant was made to change the way people perceive dining out in Hamilton”.  (I think by the end of this tour most of us felt like we would never perceive Hamilton in the same way, let alone dining out in Hamilton.)

In total on the two days I counted 12 waterfalls (which includes the waterfalls at the Ancaster Mill restaurant).  Some of them I had seen before when we hiked through this section – Felkers Falls, Sherman Falls  – but others, because they were located on blue side trails and we had confined ourselves to the main trail, were new to me.  I particularly loved Webster’s Falls and Tews Falls.

According to our hosts this is the first walking tour package to be offered in Ontario.  That’s so interesting.  I myself don’t follow recreation or travel trends too closely unless it involves walking (I lap up anything about Camino, or Nepal, or the Appalachians), and it seems to me that this is a growing trend.  It’s high time for something like this in our own area.  The Waterfall Walks are scheduled for the fall, which tends to offers great hiking weather and few bugs, and, of course, takes advantage of the magnificent fall colours.

imagine this view from Dundas Peak dressed in fall colours

imagine this view from Dundas Peak dressed in fall colours

If you’re goal oriented in hiking the Bruce Trail, you’re probably better off joining some of the organized hikes developed by the different BT clubs, or doing as we did and buying the guidebook and finding your own way.  On the other hand, if you just want a taste of the trail, you want some great waterfalls, and you want someone else to put it all together and ferry you around so you can focus on walking, eating [I should really say DINING with capital letters] and having a great healthy holiday, this package is a marvellous idea.

One thing I`ve learned in these last two years is that there are myriad ways to enjoy the escarpment and the trail.  It’s good to see this new opportunity added to the mix. And if it means more people will learn about and care for this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, then all the better! magdalena