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 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. The 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.
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!
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.
I 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