Can a Pair of Old Friends Go All the Way?
Mike and Nick Take on the Bruce Trail
Mike and Nick are old friends, figuratively and literally.
Mike (70) is a former senior civil servant.
Nick (65) is an emeritus university professor.
When they retired, both moved with their wives to the Hamilton, Ontario area. Mike and Nick are the kind of guys who have always liked a challenge. But is hiking the Bruce Trail end-to-end at their age biting off more than they can chew?
The Bruce Trail, currently 898 km long, is Canada’s oldest long-distance hiking trail. (Map above courtesy of the Bruce Trail Conservancy.) Crossing southern Ontario, the Trail runs from Queenston Heights near the US border in the south to Tobermory at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in the north. (This Peninsula, which gives the Trail its name, divides Lake Huron from Georgian Bay.) The Trail’s course follows the Niagara Escarpment.
The Niagara Escarpment is a massive geological feature (a cuesta) that runs for 1609 kilometers through the Great Lakes region of North America. (It’s the red line on the map above). It takes its name from its best-known section: the “edge” over which the famous Niagara Falls cascades. The whole length of the Escarpment in Ontario is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve thanks to its diverse habitats and rich flora and fauna.
Mike and Nick are not competing with anything except their own mortality. The only material gain they seek are badges indicating they have completed the Bruce Trail end-to-end. Both figure they are too old to enjoy camping, and neither is fond of bad weather hikes or snowshoeing. As they start out, they estimate that they’ll be able to hike about 12-13 km in a single day. After each day hike, they’ll need a day or two to recover! So they plan to take about three years to get those badges.
They don’t want to hike the Trail twice over by always having to loop back to their start point. So they will need two cars. (Note: Canada is in North America, a continent where, sadly, cars are still the only efficient way of getting anywhere off the beaten track.) So: they’ll drive to their next end point, leave one car, drive to their start point, park the other car, hike to the end point, then drive back in the car parked there to the car left at the start point. It sounds complicated, and it does require careful forward planning. Mike and Nick are both from one-car families, and their wives’ agendas will have to be taken into account!
The Longer Term
Once Mike and Nick get to a point on the Trail too far from home to drive there and back on the same day, even more planning will be required. Rental cars, motels, and even … horror upon horror! … hikes on subsequent days will undoubtedly be required. But in the short term, living as they do in the Hamilton area, the southern part of the Bruce Trail is easily accessible within a day.
This photo blog records their progress, starting at the Trail’s southern terminus at Queenston Heights. Each part of the blog will describe one of the estimated 70+ legs of their trip. So as not to make a long journey seemer longer with tedious detail, there’ll be no more than one photo plus description for each kilometer travelled, or about a dozen per leg. We hope you will find this account of their trip entertaining … or cautionary … depending on what happens!
The Bruce Trail Conservancy maintains the Trail, chiefly using volunteers.
Though the Trail is free to hike, we strongly advise hikers join the Conservancy.
The annual membership fee is modest, and the benefits are considerable, but the most important benefits of all are the financial and moral support you give the Conservancy in its quest to protect the beautiful and precious Niagara Escarpment.
The Bruce Trail Guide, now in its 29th edition, is the essential hikers’ reference guide to the Trail.
There’s also a Bruce Trail App for cell phones, which (as long as you have a bar or two of reception) indicates where on the Trail you are.
The main Trail is waymarked along its entire length using a system of white blazes. Blue blazes indicate side trails. Hikers need to be continually aware of those blazes and their meaning. If your trail has no visible blazes, you have probably taken a wrong turning. (It will happen!)
So, without further ado …