Monthly Archives: May 2014

Beautiful Colpoy’s Bay

It’s my job this time to describe the actual walking, but I cannot resist a remark or two about what it was like for me during our 9 month hiatus.

I wish I could say I passed the time with grace and good humour, but such has hardly been the case. I have been bristling with impatience. I found it terribly hard to be grounded during the best hiking season of the year, and to have to let go of the idea of finishing in 2013. It especially rankled because I had just retired and finally really had time to hike. And now in the new year, the ankle is healed, but our schedules are not in sync. Arrgghhh. I know there is a lesson here about waiting, about allowing things to unfold in their own time, about not rushing matters and I know it applies to the way we walk when we are on the Trail itself as much as to the length of time it takes us to get to Tobermory. You would think I would have learned this lesson by now but instead I push, I chafe, I chomp at the bit.

I should learn to be this tranquil

I should learn to be this tranquil

I read with envy about others like Joanne and Helen who accomplished the same trek in the space of a year. Thank goodness I found a group, informally called Friends of the Camino, who organize day-long walks through Toronto’s ravines every Friday. They help me channel my pent-up energy into planning and preparing for my Camino which I will begin in mid-September – 780 km of walking along an ancient pilgrim’s route from the French Pyrenees to Santiago in Spain.

But back to our own hike this past weekend, which took us around beautiful Colpoy’s Bay and ended with views of Sydney’s Bay.

Much of the time we walked along the crests of the many bluffs that surround the bay: Skinner’s, Esther’s, Colpoy’s, Malcolm, and Jones. From the top we had magnificent views of the turquoise water of the Georgian Bay and could see the ridge of the escarpment on the opposite side. It reminded me of when we hiked the Beaver Valley, though this time Marian was not tempted to take the shortcut across the middle.

Overall we encountered very few real challenges, and the ones we did face occurred on the first day. It started out so cold we were glad we had packed gloves (yup, Victoria Day weekend – it’s been that kind of spring). The Slough of Despond, a name on the map that had long intrigued us, turned out to be merely a bog with a simple identifying sign courtesy of the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority. It was up to us to imagine the plight of early settlers who had named the place. Our real hardship happened soon after. The trail entered woods and then turned onto Colpoy’s Range Road. We have learned several times that a road having a proper name does not necessarily mean it is passable. Such was the case here when the “road” was covered in puddles the size (and depth) of small lakes. We clambered around the edges, steadying ourselves with walking poles and clinging to branches of bushes to keep from plunging our feet deep into murky water. IMG_5389The first few puddles were manageable but they got worse as we progressed. We hadn’t studied the map closely for some time, and when we did we were convinced we had missed a turn, surely this river of a dirt lane could not be Colpoy’s Range Road – until we checked the description which said it was “a little used one lane road”. We were indeed on the trail, and thank goodness, because we certainly did not want to repeat all of that backwards.

Willie emerging

Willie emerging

For the rest, we only had to climb up or down the escarpment a few times, once down ladders along a steep cliff that landed us in the town of Wiarton, and another time up the spiral staircase on the other end of town. We stopped for a few pictures of Wiarton Willie at the beach, noting we had completed the Sydenham section at last and were left with only the Peninsula section to go!

verified as bear poop by the folks at Cape Croker camp

verified as bear poop by the folks at Cape Croker camp

The buds on the trees were still small, allowing lots of sunshine to bathe the forest floor so the wild flowers could thrive. There were mounds of trilliums everywhere, as well as trout lilies and violets and of course the beautiful but much maligned dandelion. Little chipmunks scampered into holes, we surprised the odd snake and grouse, and one time we appear to have just missed seeing a black bear, judging by the pile of fresh bear scat we found in the middle of our trail.

 

IMG_5425I mentioned our walking poles. Yes, for the first time we have added walking poles to our repertoire, something we had long resisted but now wonder why we were so stubborn.  It was my Camino pals who convinced me of the virtues of poles, how they help with body alignment on straight stretches and take the weight off the knees on inclines. This was my first time to use them on wilderness trails and I love how they help me navigate around uneven rocks and tree roots, providing extra balance. And they certainly were a godsend in getting around the puddles.

The poles Marian used have their own important story. They belonged to Phil Thomas, the husband of my dear friend Marilyn who joined us in Wiarton for the weekend and kept us company at the Wright House B&B.  Phil passed away not long ago, on April 18. He was one of those people who truly knew how to live life to the full in every sense, physically, intellectually, and artistically, and always with great humour. When he was still able to do so he thrived on all kinds of outdoor activities like canoeing, biking and walking. And so I am dedicating this post to Phil, to his memory, to all the many ways he has inspired me and all who knew him. Thank you, Phil. I will miss you. magdalena

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

We’re Back!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Finally! After an almost 9 month hiatus, we’re back on the Bruce for the long weekend in May. It feels great to be back. Even so, there is some trepidation about how my ankle will hold up. I haven’t really practiced much, other than occasional short hikes around High Park and a recent 3 hour trek down a steep, rough mountain path in Nepal. I am also worried about keeping up with Magdalena, who has been rigorously training for the Camino which she plans to hike in the fall.
Getting to our starting point early Saturday morning, I am flooded with anxious memories of how our last hike ended. But my ankle is fine and we hike a total of 55 km over the 3 days, averaging about 3 km/hour. Not much by some standards but we are proud of our accomplishment this weekend. And we have reconciled ourselves to the fact that being slow is okay; preferring to take frequent breaks to enjoy the scenery rather than making great time covering long distances.
Physically and spiritually the breaks are as essential as the walking for me. I realize this especially now as I become more aware and respectful of the fragility of my body. One of the lessons that breaking my ankle drove home for me was that I needed “a break” from the rush and busy-ness of life. Doing nothing is a challenge for me. I have a compulsion to not waste time; to fill the void; do something, but I am slowly beginning to embrace doing nothing. I have rediscovered one of my favorite childhood “activities”; lying on the ground, staring at the sky, watching the ever changing cloud formations, listening to the sounds, feeling the grass and insects tickle my skin, emptying my mind and becoming one with the universe.
We finally completed the Sydenham section and are on the Peninsula section now; from all perspectives the most challenging part of the Bruce trail. The end is near. We now have only about 130km left to complete the Bruce trail and there is a sense of urgency to finish this summer, especially for Magdalena who is now focused on walking the Camino in the fall and prefers the neatness of ending one thing before starting the next. Planning ahead we figure it will take us about 8 days to complete, taking into account the logistics of limited road accesses. This should be attainable in 3 summer months, we think, but looking at our already packed summer schedules, we are cognizant that it will be a challenge to find a few consecutive days when we are both free. And so the adventure continues and we may be hoping for a mild, snow-free November … marian