Farewell

It’s been almost a month since Helen and I finished our trek of the Bruce Trail from one end to the other.  We met again today to celebrate our finish and consider possible future adventures, but no plans were hatched.

Although there was a sense of relief when we arrived in Tobermory a month ago, we now feel rather sad it’s over.  Today was a crisp autumn day like the one when we first started last November.  We both miss the exhileration of discovery on the trail and it’s an empty feeling without the beacon of a big goal.

It is now time to say farewell and thank all of you for following our 10 month adventure.  I’ve appreciated every ‘like’, comment and email I’ve received.  You’ve been supportive throughout this journey and it was a pleasure to have you along.

I’ve learned a lot on this adventure – including that a journey of a 1000 miles (or, in this case, 892 km), really does begin with a single step … and then one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again.

If you have enjoyed my writing, I invite you to visit my other blog at http://www.mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com.  It’s not about the Bruce Trail or even hiking, but simply my musings about continuing to “push the edges”.  

“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”   Ursula K. Le Guin

Farewell and thank you!!

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Stage 51 – The End Of The Trail

We finally arrived at the Northern Terminus in Tobermory.  Our 10 month adventure has come to an end!

Our hike today was the final 14.8 km to complete the entire main trail end to end.  Our route today was from km 127.5 (where we had left off last week) to km 141.6 (where we had started from yesterday).  Yes – it’s a little bit confusing but that’s what happens when you deviate from the plan (see Stage 48 – Changing Our Plan).

It was an uneventful hike – we were simply eager to get it done.  The map suggested that this section included the most challenging hiking on the entire Bruce Trail.  Maybe it was just our very high spirits, but we didn’t think it was any worse than a lot of terrain we had seen before.

This section felt very remote and isolated, but like yesterday, we had many encounters with other hikers and it seemed that almost everyone we met today was also in the final stages of finishing their end to end hikes.  We found it funny that in our last 2 days of hiking, we encountered more people than the previous 10 months combined.

At the completion of this section, we then drove back to Tobermory to finish the final 700 metres of the trail from the National Park Visitor Centre, where we left off last week, to the Northern Terminus.

Passing under the archway of trees leaving the Visitor Centre made me think of entering the finisher’s chute in a race.  The only thing missing were the cheering crowds.  In fact we needed to flag down a passerby to take our finisher picture today.

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This has been an amazing adventure!

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Total hike time today was 4 hours and 50 minutes.

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Stage 50 – Doing the Hokey-Pokey

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Peninsula Section 17.0 km (from km 141.6 to 158.6) with 14.8 km remaining

Total distance to date – 877.6 km

Our second last hike to the finish and what a day it was!!  We finally hiked through Cyprus Lake and the Grotto which I had heard so much about.  It was absolutely beautiful.

We had read that this section of trail was considered very difficult and admittedly, I was rather nervous about today.  What we discovered, however, was that we had encountered all these challenges before … there was just a lot more of it.  We dodged tree roots, skipped over rocks, picked our way across rocky beaches, pulled ourselves up steep climbs and carefully navigated down small cliffs …  over and over and over again.  I found myself humming the hokey-pokey – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkDff87CR9A

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Stunning stone cliffs

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Magnificent views

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Challenging climbs

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Interesting swirls in the beach rock at Little Cove.
Does it look like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” off to the right?

What made this hike unique was the number of other hikers we encountered on the trail around Cyprus Lake.  Over the past many months, we had grown accustomed to seeing few, if any, people on the trails.   Each encounter today was an opportunity to share trail information.

Total hike time today was a very slow but steady 7 hours and 40 minutes.

To see all the pictures from today’s hike, please visit http://btphotogallery.wordpress.com/

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Stage 49 – Where’s Devil’s Monument?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Peninsula Section 15.1 km (from km 104.6 to 119.7) with 31.8 km remaining

Total distance to date – 860.6 km

Today we had to backtrack and do the section of trail we had skipped over last week.  The weather was absolutely perfect, the fall colours beautiful in the bright sun, and the views from the trail were amazing.

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That’s me on the rock ledge. Helen isn’t a big fan of heights and refuses to go even remotely close to the edge.

Today’s big target ‘destination’ was Devil’s Monument.  We had been anticipating this for months and were finally going to see this giant ‘flowerpot’ – a 44 foot pillar of stacked rock formed 5500 years ago.  We descended the spiral staircase, risked life and limb navigating boulders down to the stone beach.  No sea stack.  We were baffled.

Only later, when we had climbed back up to the ridge, did we realize that the huge stone wall we climbed around to get to the beach was in fact Devil’s Monument.

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View of Devil’s Monument from the top of the escarpment. We had hiked right around it and not realized what it was.

Our search for the sea stack did give us our laugh for the day …

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Yes – someone really did leave underwear hanging on the sign.

Total hike time was 5 hours and 15 minutes.

For all the photos from today’s hike, please visit http://btphotogallery.wordpress.com/

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Stage 48 – Changes To Our Plan

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Peninsula Section 14.5 km with 46.9 km remaining

Total distance to date – 845.5 km

For the past 10 months we have followed a very methodical approach to our hikes.  Each starting point has always been where we had previously stopped.  We never deviated from this plan – until today.

The weather forecast confused us.  We had expected clear weather for our 3 day hike but now there appeared to be bands of rain heading our way.  We were conflicted by our need for caution on rocks that were slippery at the best of times vs our desire to finish the trail by the end of September.   Our need for caution won … if it rained, even a little bit, we would risk falling and an injury.

A Plan B was hatched – we did an 8 km section of road (from km 119.7 to 127.5) further down the trail from our last end point.  Our  rationale was that if it rained, would we not be at risk on the road.  In the end, it didn’t rain … and we still had energy to burn.

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We than had to re-consider our options again and decided to leapfrog ahead to the final 7 km section (from km 158 to 165) going into Tobermory … with the exception of the final 700 metres to the end point at the Northern Terminus.  It was important to us to save this final piece of the trail as our very last hike.

We had been told this section was very easy so would be low risk.  It was a lie.  We discovered it wasn’t very easy at all but in the end, we had a successful day’s hike that brought us closer to our target.

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Total hike time was 4 hours.

To see all the photos from today’s hike, please visit http://btphotogallery.wordpress.com/

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Stage 47 – Did you hear that?!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Peninsula Section 18.4 km (from 86.2 to 104.6) with 61.4 km remaining

Total distance to date – 831.0 km

I think I had my first rattlesnake encounter today (and hopefully, last).  Can I consider it an ‘encounter’ if I hear it, but don’t see it?   It was on a clear section of trail in the early afternoon.  There was suddenly an unmistakable rattling sound to my right and I froze in my tracks … but I couldn’t see anything around me.   I then peeled out of there pretty quickly.  Helen was ahead of me and didn’t hear anything … but I KNOW what I heard.

Shortly afterward, we encountered a ‘regular’ snake sunning itself on the trail.  I almost stepped on it before I realized it wasn’t a stick and managed to leap backwards.   Needless to say, after that incident every stick seemed to be a snake!

It was an otherwise uneventful day.  Thankfully the trail was not as challenging as yesterday and it was a nice break to have relatively good footing.  The trail took us through Smokey Head White Bluff Nature Reserve and the views, as usual, were breathtakingly beautiful.

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We had a rare treat and actually stopped to eat lunch.  Normally we just eat while we are walking but the beautiful day and the stoney beach were enticing for a short break.  In addition we had a special treat to enjoy – mini cherry pies!

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The end of the hike took us through a field with cows … thankfully on the opposite side of the fence.  We definitely did not want a repeat of our last encounter with cows (https://joannesisco.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/stage-40-panic-in-a-pasture

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Total hike time today was 6 hours and 10 minutes.

To see all the pictures from today’s hike, please visit http://btphotogallery.wordpress.com/

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Stage 46 – Feeling Battered, But Not Beaten

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Peninsula Section 20.0 km (from 66.2 to 86.2) with 79.8 km remaining

Total distance to date – 812.6 km

We were finally back on the trail after a 3 week break.   We resumed our hike at Barrow Bay on the south side of Lion’s Head and hiked to Whippoorwill Bay on the north side of town.

Most of the day’s hike was within Lion’s Head Nature Reserve.   It was pretty tough going.   It wasn’t that the terrain so different from anything we had encountered in the past – rocky climbs & descents and challenging footing.  The problem was – it was unrelenting.  Progress was slow,  and being constantly focused on the difficult footing became exhausting after many hours.

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I couldn’t get Helen to go out on this stone ridge, but she agreed to take the picture. It was scarier than I was expecting.

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Helen waiting for me, as usual, at the top of a climb.

The trail took us right past our motel on the water’s edge … not a good thing when the body is begging for a break and our beds were only a few metres away …

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Miles left to go before we can rest.

…. but we pushed on for the final 6 km of the day which was thankfully easy road terrain.

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Whippoorwill Bay and the cliffs of tomorrow’s hike.

Total hike time today was 7 hours.

To see all the photos from today’s hike, please visit http://btphotogallery.wordpress.com/

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