Hiking Ontario

If you know me personally, you know that it is quite hard for me to stay still. And by this I do not mean that I fidget and fuss, but that I crave adventure and movement on a scale that most people just don’t understand.

While up to and including this point in my life, travel on a grandeur scale has not been possible – whether monetary tightness or family obligations or school requirements, or, or, or, there has always been something trumping my wild heart’s need to run.

That being said, I have not let that stop me from getting my fix when I can and instead, has made me quite the well-rounded guide for trails and destinations within our beautiful province that just have to be tackled. On a weekend or day off I am often up before the sun and off – solo or with company – hitting the open road with a destination in mind, ready to feed my soul the nourishment she craves of nature, adventure and exploration.

Wanting to get your feet wet with some of the best treasures I’ve found so far? Here are a few to get you started:

1. Spencer Gorge Conservation Area: This location contains some of the best hiking within a 30 minute drive of Cambridge, Ontario and boasts gorgeous views of the escarpment.

upper tews

Overlooking the gorge toward Tews Falls side

There are well traveled paths already available for the less crazy than me type (which lead up to the peak, featured in the above photo), or if you are willing to be a little more daring, (and slightly…illegal), then you should prepare for a 6 hour hike down the basin into the gorge itself where you can meander your way to the bottom of both sets of falls. This area can be reached through a gated off access point on the Webster’s Falls side of the trail, or near the rail way tracks at the bottom of the hill heading into Dundas. Come prepared with proper, sturdy footwear, some water, snacks and enjoy a day playing at the base of waterfall giants. Michael and I did this hike last in the winter and while incredibly challenging in full snow gear, totally worth it to stand in awe of this:

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

Feeling so small at Tews base January 2015

2. Beamer Memorial Conservation Area: This beauty of a spot was first visited on a fall day where I was feeling particularly restless and needed a new perspective. Not knowing where I wanted to head, I Googled ‘best Escarpment vantage points’ and this beauty popped up in the search results. It really is something to take in.

Lake Ontario for days

Lake Ontario for days

Roughly an hour’s drive from Cambridge, this trail is located in Grimsby Ontario and is part of the Bruce Trail system that runs along the Niagara Escarpment. There are multiple access points (I have found 3 so far) boasting views of the escarpment cliffs, terraces, Lake Ontario as well as the upper and lower falls. If you’re a bird fanatic, try to visit during the spring Hawk migration (roughly March 1 – May 15) where you can catch these stunning birds of prey on warm sunny days between 10:00am and 3:00pm.
New to hiking? From the main gate the trail is fairly flat, roughly 1.9km and easy to navigate for even the most novice hikers. With multiple lookout points and even more challenging trails leading into the basin, this area needs a whole day’s dedication if you can manage. If you’re able and wanting a little more challenge, climb your way down from the back entrance or end of the top trail from the front; here you will find the upper and lower falls just waiting for you to explore them.

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

Linda and I reaching the top of the lower fall deck

3. The Bruce Peninsula National Park: While the furthest of my favourites, clocking in the drive at just over 3 hours from Cambridge, this breathtaking wonder located in Georgian Bay is well worth the drive. A part of the 885km of Bruce Trail, this section offers hikers the unique Northern landscape, incredible turquoise waters and four trails within the park to choose from.

That really is the colour of the water

That really is the colour of the water

As it’s located in the heart of a biosphere reserve, you’re sure to see your fair share of wildlife and interesting vegetation, massive rugged cliffs and limestone barrens. Make sure you make your way down to the Grotto – a natural cave on the shoreline that was formed from the waves from the Bay washing in over thousands of years.

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

Dancers pose over the Grotto #yogaeverydamnday

If you’re feeling extra adventurous and the park just isn’t enough for you (ha, yeah right), head over to Flowerpot island via boat and spend the day on an additional 6.5 km of trail, admiring the natural sea stacks, navigating massive caves and touring the historic light station.

Kelso: Located in Milton, just a 40 minute drive from Cambridge and easily accessable from the 401, Kelso is a location I would consider when I am looking for a slower pace, less challenging climb.

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

From the mid-point, overlooking the top

Still providing great heights for views, it also houses 22 km of hiking terrain which is also suitable for mountain bikers looking for a challenge, 396 hectares of camping, and a network of incredible caves to explore. With the perfect Western views, Kelso is a great place to head with a picnic, your favourite person and find a spot to perch while the sky gives you an incredible show at sunset.

Sunset at Kelso

Sunset at Kelso

If you’re wanting the same proximity to home as Kelso but a little more adventure, on the alternate side of the escarpment you’ll find Rattlesnake Point, accessible from Kelso or a short drive, which hosts three rock-climbing areas and an additional 12.7 km of looping trails.

These are just a few of my favourite spots in our gorgeous province of Ontario – I’ll have to write a few posts to fit them all in as there are still plenty of places in Muskoka, Niagara, through Huron and Bruce Counties, Sarnia, etc. to be shared. What are some of yours? Any different ones you might recommend for me?

~ Toni

 

I was LIED to!

I have a bone to pick with Walt Disney – he has set me up for failure! Ever since I was a young girl he has spewed lies and set unrealistic goals for my life. Well, Walt, I have had it up to the top of the tower in my non-existent castle!

First there was Cinderella, who taught me that when I get older and am too busy to plan my outfit for a night out, there’s not a fret! The mice and birds who live in my attic and sub-basement will be happy to whip something up. I can spend more time at work and cleaning my house now because of all the free time I will have not having to make my own clothes!

My reality? I live in an older house, and am no stranger to mice. I do not live in a land far far away. I live in the real world where mice eat through your electrical wires, shit everywhere and are a general nuisance. There are entire sections in hardware stores dedicated to the riddance of these creatures. Cinderella would be mortified! Not once have I come home to a mouse-made couture dress delicately created with the knick knacks and rags around my house. Instead I come home from work after a long day and where are my clothes? On the ground where I left them. Now I have to struggle to figure out the perfect outfit for the ball.

Then, there is Snow White, who lived with 7 men and made it look like heaven, a party with music and dancing every night, and yes she cleaned the house, but before she came along they were getting by just fine. Now I know not all men are grody, but in my experience I would never want to live with 7 of them, dwarfs or not!  Could you imagine the smell? The grocery bill? THE ARGUMENT OVER THE TV REMOTE?  I am shuddering just thinking about it!  Snow White, either you are a goddess who has managed to tame 7 men, or you are one sweep away from a nervous breakdown! Either way, you did not prepare me properly to live with ONE boy by myself let alone 7. (I love you Cody.)

Rapunzel and Ariel may have told me the biggest lie…about MY HAIR! Let’s start with Rapunzel who let her hair grow out to unimaginable lengths, with no product, no trims, just au natural! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!? Apparently, in this land far far away, there is no such thing as humidity or split ends or GREY HAIR! I get up an hour earlier than I technically have to just to make sure my hair is tamed enough that when I walk into work I am not asked to put a bag over my head. Straighteners, products, curling irons, hair spray – nothing? Really Rapunzel? You are really going to tell me that you sat up in that tower of yours and just let it grow and grow?  Her poor neck is all I can keep thinking! Every time I watch that movie with my nieces and nephew, my mind races: She had to have at least a chiropractor on call? How is she not a hunchback?

AND then there is Ariel! With her graceful rise from the water during her big musical number. For years girls around the world have been immersing their heads in water and trying to find the perfect flip technique. If you are sitting here reading this, pretending like you have never done this before you are LYING to yourself. This past summer I spent a good 20 minutes attempting to get the perfect flip, each time suffocating myself with my soaking strands of hair. Finally, after one flip too many, my neck advised me quickly that I am not suited for the hair-flipping life. I have since then removed Beyoncé from dream jobs. I have learned my lesson…the hard way.

Yeah, right.

I live my life every day knowing that I met Cody the good old fashion way. That he didn’t come into my tower and kiss me as fate brought our lives together. I have to work to get my hair the way I want it. Small critters will not make me a new wardrobe, and frankly my singing voice does not entice birds to join in with me; instead, I am sure, it scares them as it scares my two dogs.

I may have been fooled, but you have a chance to spread the word so that other little girls don’t grow up with high expectations like I did. It’s been a tough road, but I am doing just fine taking it one day at a time.

~ Jacqui