So Bronwyn and I have packed all our belongings from our one bedroom apartment in Ottawa and put them in storage; temporarily leaving Ottawa for our year off work. I’ve been living at my parents house in Hamilton for that last little while enjoying the time with my family and friends.
My mom and I always get in discussions about camping and outdoor activities and she mentioned that I should take a look at a book she really enjoyed by Cheryl Strayed called “Wild”. It’s a story of Cheryl’s hike across the pacific crest trail of more than 1000 miles. The journey takes her across mountain passes, thick green forest, dry desert, and beautiful landscapes. It is a path into her soul, a story of love lost and the ups and downs of life. Take a look at the short video below.
The book got me so inspired about “the journey” that I decided to hike a portion of the Bruce Trail from Kelso to Hamilton spanning just over 80 kms; taking me three days to complete. Here is my account…
The red outline is the portion of trail a walked from Kelso to Hamilton. My parents house in Hamilton is right off the Bruce Trail so it was a perfect ending location.
Preparation for the trip was fairly quick. Once I decided I wanted to do the hike I planned what gear to bring by laying everything out on the living room floor. Some items included a tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, limited clothes, water purification tabs, stove, etc.. well you can see for yourself.
The main idea was to pack light because two days prior I had messed up my neck sleeping in a weird position and I could hardly move my head from side to side. After I was packed Dad and I weighed my pack on the scale. ”218 – 175 lbs = 42 pounds” crunching the numbers in my head. My Dad drove me up to Kelso conservation area and released me to the wild!
I used to race cross-country at Kelso in high school so the terrain was familiar. My trek started with a climb up the Kelso ski hill. It was a tough way to start, but got me quickly used to the idea that there were hills on this journey. Here’s a view from the top!
I had to quickly learn the markings of the Bruce (blazes). My Dad was mentioning on the ride up that he thought two marks on the same tree indicated a side trail; not so!
Once a reached the top I continued along the trail where I ran into two dudes drinking Old English. “Why are you walking the trail with a pack” one said. ”These trails are best for mountain biking!” he went on ranting. I got so distracted talking to them that I took a wrong turn and got onto a side trail. I had to back track a kilometer to get back on the Bruce.
I continued on to Appleby road; no wonder it’s named Appleby, there were apple trees at every turn. A quick sour treat for a trekker. At the crossing on Appleby road was a black container with the word water imprinted on it. I hope this isn’t contaminated I thought, pouring some in my hands and drinking. It tasted fresh so I filled my water bottle up and kept going.
As the day wound down and I was getting ready to find a camping spot I took the opportunity to fill my water bottle from a stream at the bottom of rattle snake trail. Is the water safe I was thinking? It was my first time collecting water from a small stream like this and using my water purifying tabs. Remember you need to wait 30 mins for the purification tabs to take affect.
The first day was winding down and I needed to find a place to sleep. I decided not to camp at rattle snake park because it would take me two kilometers off the main trail and would mean only eight kilometers hiked the first day. I pushed on towards Crawford conservation area and decided to camp at an east facing lookout so I would get a sunrise in the morning to help wake me up. I only traveled 15 kilometers the first day because I didn’t start my trek until 2pm. I’ve got 70 more kilometers to walk in two days I thought.
For my first dinner I made couscous, tuna, red peppers, onion, avocado melange and had a cappuccino coffee for dessert. There was a bench at this lookout! Don’t under estimate the value of a good place to sit down when you pick a spot to setup camp.
I figured out a great way to pump up my air mattress. Using my feet! I was feeling good after my first day and my body, feet, and mind were doing fantastic. I spent the evening reading more of “Wild” and writing a few notes from the day.
I woke up early to a beautiful sun rise so I could get a quick start to my day because I had about 70 km to walk over the two remaining days!
I made my way to this stream after several hours of hiking. It looked good enough for drinking water so I decided to make my way down and collect some. As I got to the banks of the stream a dog started barking furiously from the back yard of a near by house. I didn’t want the owner to come out and see why the dog was barking so I decided to get the hell out of there. I bolted back through the bushes, thorn bushes to be exact, to escape my fearful anxiety of being a stream drinker. Luckily just further down the Bruce the stream ran and I collected some drinking water.
I kept hiking and made my way to Mount Nemo Conservation Area where I discovered a pop machine at the entrance. Ahhh, it’s a nice feeling to get an ice cold pop after hours of hiking with a pack.
The view from the top off Nemo was fabulous and mezmerizing. I passed several other hikers along the trail and took a break at one of the lookouts. I could see far into the distance the contour of Hamilton city and the buildings that make up the downtown core. It looked like hundreds of miles away; and I thought “wholly crap, I got to walk there!”
I was a good part through the Nemo section when a girls dog came running up to me and when it got within a couple feet started growling. Nervous energy pulsed through my body. I said “Hey there puppy” in a high pitched voice. It stopped locked back at its owner and ran back. I looked forward and just kept walking and it was at that time when I past a sharp left turn in the trail. I continued forward not realizing that I missed the turn. I was so flustered by the dog I didn’t realize I was off the trial. I continued until I noticed there weren’t any markings on the tress. ”Am I off the main trail” I started thinking. I stopped and looked back, then at my map to figure out where I was. I could see on the map further back there was I sharp left turn out to Walkers Lane. I was walking right along the escarpment ridge a 100 feet above the ground. I could see on the map if I kept following the ridge I could make it to Guelph Line and Side Road 1 where the trail started again without having to go back. It would actually take save me some kilometers, it was a shortcut! Then the shortcut turned into some serious bush whacking!
Eventually I got through the bush whacking and made my way to a grassy trail which lead up behind a farm house. As I walked past the front of the house a gentleman came out and said “Can I help you!”. I explained I had come off the Bruce and ended up on his property and continued on my way.
I continued walking raking up the kilometers beneath my feet. I passed this ancient skeleton of a tree that was just gorgeous. It was at this point where my body was beginning to get worn out from the trekking. I decided to start looking for places to came and ended up at another look out area just of the trail that overlooked a small park close to Waterdown.
As I setup my camp and started to prepare a pasta dinner for the evening an old gentleman named Mike wandered by. He was caring a thermos holding coffee and was interested to see what I was up too. He was nice and knew a couple who had hiked the entire Bruce over a two year span. “They left as two came back as three” he said, pausing then said “Him, her, and WE”. He also told me a knock knock joke as he was leaving, “knock knock… who’s ther… MOOOOO”. I laughed a little awkwardly and said “that’s a good joke”. “I’ve been telling that one since the sixth grade” he mused.
After I finished setting up my camp I noticed what seemed to be the remains of a smoked joint laying just in between the two railings. This was a spot people came to sit, relax, and over look the view of the park. After I finished my dinner it was dark and I sat cross legged on the edge of the escarpment sipping a coffee from my sip cup with two hands and meditating on the day and the remaining journey. I felt grounded, satisfied, and embraced by the world.
That night I calculated my distances for the day. I logged just over 30 km, 32 km to be exact. While I was in the tent a discovered the red light setting on my head lamp that cast a soft red glow in my tent. I basked in the warm glow of the red light and listened to Joseph Campbell’s Mythos on my tablet.
I woke up the next day to a misty sun not knowing what time it was. I skipped over breakfast and settled for a granola bar and some Gatorade because I knew I had 40 km and I wanted to get walking quickly.
I walked for several hours until I felt that primordial urge expanding in my bowels and started looking for a place to relieve myself. I found this extraordinary stone toilet with moss covering that gently caressed my bum. I was king on his thrown in the beauty of nature over looking a rich forest.
I made it to Grindstone Creek where I has actually hiked several weeks before with Bronwyn and my parents. The waterfall was beautiful and I used this opportunity to refill my water supply.
As I made my way through Grindstone I crossed some railway tracks. Just down the line was what seemed to by a stray dog walking the tracks. I stopped, it stopped, we looked at each other for a little bit and I continued walking on, hand on my knife.
Just before the cross over to highway 6, there was the remains of an old stone fort of some kind. I had the feeling of being in the middle of a jungle because the plants were so lush, green, and moist.
I made my way up to the top of the escarpment over looking the entire corridor of southern Lake Ontario and stumbled upon this little Garter snake. He was curious about me and kept slithering towards my vibrations.
I stopped of for a break on the top ridge of the escarpemt and took a rest on this hand carved chair made out of a tree stump. What incredible craftsmanship, especially after walking 20 km and needing a rest.
I don’t know what they used to fertilize these pumpkins but god damn!
My legs were in pain and my feet sore for the last 15 km of my trip. As I made my way through Dundas Conservation Area I sat down on a bench next to a farm to take a break and heard some snorting behind me. I turned and ran into these guys who were curious to my presence. I fed them some of my trail nut mix, a little worried they would take a chunk of my finger along with it. Just as I was finishing feeding the horses one of them got too close to the fence and got shocked by the top wire along the fence. It turned, let out a big snort and galloped away. I didn’t even realized it was an electric fence and was glad the same thing didn’t end up happening to me!
I eventually made it by nightfall to the Bruce trail section that runs along the top of my parents house. As I walked the remaining kilometer, my legs hurting, my feet bruised and worn down; I wonder how long I could go? How many more kilometers could I walk?