The first time I heard about the Bruce Trail was when I met my friend Alexis at Queenston Heights for a long run. I picked the park because it’s pretty easy to find with Brock’s Monument towering over the Niagara gorge. We would meet there then head out on the paved recreation trail that took us to Niagara Falls and back. I’m sure it was on one of these long runs I saw the cairn for the Bruce Trail marking the southern terminus. That’s about as much as I knew.
Fast forward to this 2016 winter which has been slow building and incredibly mild leaving practically no snow pack in Western New York in early February. This meant that the cross-country ski weekend Scott and I had planned to take was a bust. Still wanting to get away we decided on an overnight at Niagara-on-the-Lake and kicked off our adventure by exploring the new-to-us Bruce Trail.
My online research told me this: The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest footpath stretching 890 kilometers (that’s 553 miles) from Niagara to Tobermory. (I know. I needed a map, too.) There are clubs which care for different sections, group hikes, section hikes and end-to-end hikes. It’s right in our backyard and Scott and I are already planning future adventures on the route.
But first, we needed to see what it was all about.
We found the cairn and followed the white blazes through the Queenston Heights Park. Soon we entered the woods. The path was well marked and the ground was covered in a light dusting of snow giving it just that perfect winter look — a bit of freshness over the mud. And there was plenty of mud. My boots and the cuff of my pants prove that. The path followed along an escarpment. To our right were magnificent views of vineyards and farmlands of the region. As the sun burned through the clouds it felt as if we were surveying the entire Niagara Frontier.
As the path continued, our left featured the drop off of the Queenston Quarry — a site which once was a key supplier of limestone that help to build Southern Ontario, including Toronto. (Or so at least said an article I found online about it.) We saw four monster truck sized tires sitting at the edge of the former quarry. Just a random observation.
The trail had mud and rocks and few up and downs but the section we explored was relatively tame. A sudden burst of self consciousness gripped me which led me to ask Scott if he was bored. He replied with a laugh. Why would I ask that? he wondered. Of course he wasn’t bored. He was enjoying every minute of the exploration and time in the woods with me.
Why did I ask that? Good question. I’m still wondering myself. Perhaps it was because I had an insanely packed two weeks of work which took me through two NHL cities with a crazy amount of deadline writing. That experience left me exhausted and the hike on the Bruce Trail was my coveted chance to recharge — to move in fresh air, listen to the stillness and just be. Perhaps I was uncertain if Scott would be OK with that — just being without any high adventure. Turns out he was more than OK with that. He understood it. He had experienced such times as well. The healing that comes on the trail doesn’t need to be dramatic to be impactful.
We turned around at about the 2.25 mile mark to head back to the car on onward to a late lunch, a little muddy and a whole lot of content. We talked about returning in the spring or summer, planning a full day hike — perhaps finding a parking spot to drop a car so we can hike point to point on the trail and cover more ground. There’s much more to explore and plenty more crazy that will need tending to.
Date: Friday, Feb. 5, 2016
Location: Bruce Trail
Trail: Niagara Region
Total distance: 4.42 miles
Elevation: 232 feet
Duration: 2 hour 33 minutes
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy, light snow
Hiked with: Scott