What’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).
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.
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.
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