Part 63: Rush Cove Side Trail to McKague Road
Date: Tuesday 22 September 2020
Start: Rush Cove Side Trail, Northern Bruce Peninsula
End: McKague Road, Lion’s Head
Distance Covered: 11.5 km
Total Distance Covered: 792.8 km
782. Another beautiful day for a hike. This is the view across Barrow Bay from near our start point in Rush Cove. That’s the southeastern flank of the Lion’s Head peninsula on the horizon. We aim to follow that distant coastline from left to right in the near future. The actual Trail between here and the hamlet of Barrow Bay differs considerably from its description in our Trail Guide, as there’s a new 6.5 km section that follows the shoreline both above and below the Barrow Bay Cliffs, replacing what used to be an on-road hike of almost 8 km.
783A & B. Descent to the waterfront is indeed steep, though fortunately today the Trail is quite dry. We go down hand over hand along a rope slung between trees.
784. This is as close to the waterfront as the Trail gets. This area, now a nature reserve, was considered a critical acquisition by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, as it represents relatively unspoiled “deep woods,” and is thus an important wildlife habitat and refuge for uncommon species such as American redstarts and black-throated blue warblers, black bears and fishers. No, we didn’t see any of these creatures. Perhaps they didn’t fancy abseiling all the way down here on that green rope.
785. This is green-leaved rattlesnake plantain (Goodyera oblongifolia). It isn’t a plantain at all but a native member of the orchid family that’s a fairly rare denizen of Ontario’s deep woods. It’s so called because the patterns on its leaves vaguely resemble those on the skin of a snake. (In truth, it’s the bolder reticulations on the leaves of the downy variety of this plant that more closely resemble the skin of a rattlesnake.)
786A & B. Having come all the way down the Escarpment to the lakeshore, now we must go all the way up, once again with the help of guide ropes. We scale the last section up the steep cap by this magnificent new ladder, or rather staircase, as it has handrails on both sides. We can only marvel at what must have been the heroic effort undertaken by the volunteers who assembled such a massive, solid structure in this precipitous spot far from a public highway.
787. At the top of the staircase, there’s a new Side Trail dedicated to Beth Gilhespy. She was the highly successful chief executive officer of the Bruce Trail Conservancy for more than fourteen years (2004-18), during when, among other things, she helped raise $33 million in grants and donations, oversaw the protection of 152 properties comprising 6,500 acres of Escarpment land worth over $23 million, and initiated the change in policy that saw the Bruce Trail Association become the Bruce Trail Conservancy. An expert in the geology of the Escarpment, she’s currently the Executive Director at Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy.
788. From this height we overlook two bodies of water divided by a narrow rocky spit of land. On the right is Barrow Bay, an inlet of Georgian Bay, while on the left is Little Lake, which is … a little lake! Judge’s Creek runs left to right, cutting through the isthmus and flowing into the Bay. Once upon a time there was a sawmill on the spit of land in the middle of the image, and Little Lake was used to store timber from the interior of the Bruce Peninsula to be processed in it. Now cottage roads almost entirely surround Little Lake.
789. After joining northbound Grey Road 9, we enter the hamlet of Barrow Bay. According to James White, author of the article “Place-Names in Georgian Bay,” in Papers and Records of the Ontario Historical Society, vol. XI (1913), p. 6, Barrow Bay is named after Sir John Barrow, who served as Second Secretary to the British Admiralty for 38 years (1807-45). The namer was Henry Wolsey Bayfield (1795-1885), who between 1819-22 surveyed Georgian Bay and the North Channel of Lake Huron in his capacity as admiralty surveyor of North America. Bayfield, unlike Barrow, spent a lot of time in Canada and was responsible for many place names in the Great Lakes region. Barrow, on the other hand, was strongly associated with promoting Arctic exploration, and Point Barrow in Alaska, the northernmost point of the United States, is named for him, as is Cape Barrow in Nunavut. [Please see entry #779 above for a possible correction based on the James White article cited in this entry.]
790. Two massive stone monuments on concrete pedestals greet us on the east side of Grey Road 9 near the turnoff to South Barrow Bay. But their plaques are frustratingly short on details about this pair of McIntyres, a father and son. A Google search reveals very little additional information: the monument (left) to pioneer Dan McIntyre was erected many years ago; the one to Jack McIntyre (right) was unveiled on 4 July 2010, and “Jackintyre,” as he was known, was a beloved local character and both he and his dog named “Stupid” are the subject of many amusing anecdotes. We’d love to hear some of these McIntyre anecdotes, so please, Barrow Bay, put them online! Doesn’t it seem a pity to go to all this trouble of public commemoration but not preserve in accessible form the reasons for it?
791. At the height of its lumbering activities, Barrow Bay also boasted a grist mill, hotel, general store, and boarding house. No longer. This is the doorway of an abandoned roadside building, until recently part of a restaurant. At present no store or services remain on the main road as it passes through Barrow Bay.
792. Barrow Bay isn’t exactly a hive of activity, but there are two other hikers interested in the photographic possibilities of the abandoned buildings across the road. We stop for what turns into a long, delightful chat with them: they are Lynn and Ray Varey, also visitors to Barrow Bay. And as is often the case with serendipitious coincidence, we find out that they live in Dundas, a 3½ hour drive from here but only a few minutes’ walk from Nick’s place!
793. At our end point on McKague Road, Freya, a magnificent Irish wolfhound, waits patiently with her owner. Irish wolfhounds are the tallest of all dog breeds and supposedly one of the oldest: the ancient Gaels called these dogs Cú Faoil (literally, “hound-wolf”), though their huge size is the result of more recent selective breeding. In spite of their formidable appearance and their wolf-killing reputation, Freya’s owner confirmed that Irish wolfhounds are of very mild domestic disposition: loyal, affectionate, intelligent, good with children, easygoing with other dogs. Their lifespan is, however, rather short at 6 to 8 years. The poem “Beth Gêlert” (ca. 1800) by William Robert Spencer, which retells a well-known Welsh legend about the titular wolfhound, gives an excellent and touching portrait of the character of these dogs. An excerpt:
“O, where doth faithful Gêlert roam,
The flower of all his race,
So true, so brave,—a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase?”
’Twas only at Llewelyn’s board
The faithful Gêlert fed;
He watched, he served, he cheered his lord,
And sentineled his bed.