Hiking the Bruce Trail: Epping to Wodehouse

In my quest to hike all of the Beaver Valley section of the Bruce Trail, I continued by journey on my most recent trip to Canada last week.  I picked up the trail where I had left off back in December in Epping at Sideroad 19 at the 66.4 kilometer point.  Over the span of two afternoons I was able to hike to the 56.4 kilometre mark on Sideroad 7 in Wodehouse overlooking the now-defunct Talisman Ski Resort.

Here is my progress as of this most recent hike.  My most recent section is bracketed in blue.

After driving for a day and a half to southern Ontario, I usually collapse on a couch and slowly slip into slumber.  Then I am a lump for a day and not much company.  I tried something different this trip.  After a yummy lunch (my mother does make the best sandwiches in the world), we all headed out to the trail.  This day I would hike with both of my sons (the oldest one took all of the photos included in this post) and my father.  We did four of the ten kilometers this day.  It was a beautiful day, maybe the best day all week for hiking.  The sky was bright and blue, and the leaves were absolutely gorgeous, probably at their peak.  All of the pictures here were from this day.  I slept soundly that night, but I was much better company the next day.

Much of the trail skirted farm fields but also dipped into hardwood stands that look like they were harvested about 25 years ago.  My father noted the great number of tall, straight beech trees.  He said this with the kind of gleam in his eye that only a lumberman gets.  With all the rain they have had in this area recently there was no wonder that there was fungus everywhere, everything from bracket and shelf fungi on trees to thousands of mushrooms of all sorts.  Halfway through our hike, we dashed over a small stream right below a beautiful little cascade illuminated perfectly by the late-afternoon sun.

We came upon some wild apple trees and even a few apples high enough that the deer had not dined on them yet.  This is especially notable as the cold, rainy growing season earlier this year killed most of the apple blossoms so much so that the apple harvest in this area is down by 90% this year.  My mother picked us up and off to a tasty bacon cheeseburger and poutine at Stevens in Markdale.  I would enthusiastically recommend this fine establishment.

The next day I woke up quite congested and again decided to do the opposite to what I would normally do.  I set off on the trail again, this time alone, intending to hike off this cold.  I would say I had moderate success.  I arranged to meet my father at the 10th Sideroad on what from my map looked like a paved road that intersected the trail.  Almost as soon as the trail turns south from Sideroad 16 there is a twenty-five yard side trail that leads to a small spring bubbling out of a small crevice in the escarpment wall.  For the next couple of kilometres, the trail meanders across the top of the escarpment.  It was at this point, halfway between Sideroad 16 and Sideroad 13, that trailkeepers have cut a hole in the trees right at the edge of the escarpment to reveal an absolutely breathtaking vista of the Beaver Valley.  I wished I had my son with me this day to take photos.  The valley was awash with green, red, orange, yellow and maroon.  Beautiful hardly describes it.  I watched turkey vultures riding the wind just above the trees below me.

Old Baldy across the valley

For the last half of the hike the trail dips down to a mid level along the escarpment face, weaving among moss-covered, sofa- and car-sized boulders.  It was here that five or six times I walked up on ruffed grouse, an experience you simply can’t prepare for because they are impossible to see ahead of time, camouflaged in the woods by their brown and tan feathers.  Only when you are feet away do they explode out of their hiding spots with an awful racket that sounds to me like a horse snort.  It was an unnerving experience every time.

At one point to came to a narrow, rocky roadway with a sharp turn up the escarpment that I figured was some farmer’s path through the woods.  I kept on trudging along.  It turns out that was Sideroad 10, where I was supposed to be picked up by my father.  I see now on the more recent map of the trail that hangs on my wall in Memphis, Sideroad 10 is not a maintained road where it intersects the trail.  That would have been good to know.

At the end of the hike as I approached the Talisman property, there was a steady, steep climb out of a gully with a small waterfall at the base.  Trailkeepers have put in a great system of steps and even a ladder to help one out of the escarpment.  Once at the top again, the trail runs through a grassy field until it ended for me this day at the top of the ski slopes.  Sadly, since the ski resort has gone under it is clear that it has become a hang out for graffiti artists and teenage drinkers.  A phone call to my father confirmed that he was two kilometres back, sitting in the middle of the woods on that “farmer’s path” that turned out to be our rendezvous point.  Twenty minutes later and we were reunited again.

By all accounts, the next thirty kilometres will be much more rigorous as I am taken up and down the escarpment several times in the new Falling Water section of the trail.  But that will be another trip.

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