Adventures With Bruce: Trail for Millions

Indian Head Cove at Bruce Peninsula National Park
Indian Head Cove on Georgian Bay: the Bruce Trail intersects some of Ontario’s most spectacular scenery

Journalist Steve Hainsworth calls the Bruce Trail “an amazing backyard adventure for us in Guelph. Over 8 million Canadians live within a one-hour drive to a trail head of the Bruce Trail. So for all of us here there is no excuse not to get out this spring and summer and really adventure it.”

A small crowd turned out at The Bookshelf’s eBar on June 18 to see Steve’s slide presentation about hiking the Bruce Trail in 2010. It was refreshing to so many interested in hearing from a self-published author about experiencing nature firsthand. Steve had blogged during the hike and  turned the story into a book, Adventures With Bruce. Many people attending who interacted with Steve expressed personal experience of the trail. Evidently hiking is a great way for everyone to connect with nature in a personal, challenging way.

The Bruce Trail in Hockley Valley, October
The Bruce Trail in Hockley Valley, October

The Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath, marks its 50th anniversary on June 24. Running 894.2 km across Southern Ontario, it provides free public access to the Niagara Escarpment. However, users should consider supporting the Bruce Trail Conservancy through membership.

The Niagara Escarpment is most famous for Niagara Falls, but elsewhere the ridge marks a distinctive feature across Ontario’s landscape. It often becomes a lightning rod for land use controversy, particularly among residents, farmers, conservationists and industrialists seeking to extract mineral aggregates. Additional ecological protection came through its designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1990.

One of the trail’s best features is its accessibility to Canada’s largest urban area, however it does not sacrifice ecological complexity or natural beauty. Steve, a native of London, Ont., who now resides in Squamish, B.C., said, “I envisioned hiking across Southern Ontario to be like maybe from one Tim Hortons to another Tim Hortons. I was so wrong….In fact the Bruce Trail as you will see regularly uncovers a lot more ruggedness and backcountry beauty than it actually uncovers urban sprawl.”

A trailside stream in Hockley Valley
A trailside stream in Hockley Valley

The trail runs from Queenston Heights in the south (near Niagara Falls) to Tobermory at the northern tip of Bruce Peninsula. It connects green belts through several urban centres–St. Catharines, Hamilton, and western reaches of the Greater Toronto Area–and approaches many smaller cities and towns such as Orangeville, Collingwood and Owen Sound. Steve hiked it in 30 days during July and August 2010. He recounts tales of hikers from all walks of life, warding off mosquitoes, friendly horses and indifferent cows, and numerous blisters. The varied landscape surprised him: wetlands, badlands and lush woodlands. He marvelled that one day he ate lunch peacefully in deep woods atop the Kelso cliff, and later the same afternoon passed under Highway 401, one of North America’s busiest thoroughfares.

These photos come from some of my own hikes along the Bruce Trail over the years. Often in the company of my daughters, I have hiked many short sections. The central section between Mount Nemo and the Hockley Valley provides especially convenient day trips from Guelph. However, my favourite section is the Bruce Peninsula where magnificent limestone cliffs overlook coral-sea-blue waters of Georgian Bay.

Steve’s story reminds me that my Bucket List identifies hiking the entire Bruce Trail as one of my life dreams. Maybe the book will fuel my determination. I look forward to reading it. Adventures With Bruce is available online, and at The Bookshelf in Guelph. On the book’s Facebook page, Steve says he will appear at Novack’s Travel Bookstore in London, Ont., on June 30.

5 thoughts on “Adventures With Bruce: Trail for Millions

  1. If you do end up hiking the entire Bruce Trail, I hope you’ll bring us along with you on the adventure—through your blog and/or possibly through a book later on!

    1. Jen, part of the reason I went to see Steve’s presentation is I knew it would inspire me. Sure enough I came home thinking, “I want to go on an adventure and write a book like that.” Over the weekend I read the book and was mildly disappointed. His thesis statement was more or less: “I did it!” It was entertaining, but if I spent so much time on the trail I would hopefully have something more profound to say.

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