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

 

5 road trip essentials

While most people are busy bustling babies back to school, returning from vacations and stepping back into routine, Michael and I are off on another adventure together.

We’ve taken a week, which almost never happens due to work demands and responsibilities galore. In fact, this week off is to blame for my MIA status last week on the blog. Ramping up to take a week off for me means pre-working an additional week into the weeks leading up to any time off. It’s the nature of my industry and a downside that often has me debating if time off is even worth it in large chunks.

That is, it often has me debating until I am actually off and free to spend my hard earned time in any way I so desire.

And I usually desire some sort of road trip.

There is something so exciting about travelling to a destination and having almost total control over where you wander on the journey – whether carefully planned with every detail laid out or spontaneously throwing a few bags in the truck and see where we end up, there are only a few essential ingredients to a successful road trip:

1. Tim Hortons: It doesn’t matter if we’re heading to Toronto for the day or the cottage 8 hours away for a week, our trip must begin with a hot, steamy, caffeinated beverage known fondly as a cup of Tim Hortons coffee. This essential must have is always the very last stop for us before we leave town.

Life-juice

Life-juice

2. A good playlist: While we don’t see eye to eye about the actual road trip itself, Jacqui and I do agree that a must-pack item is good music, allowing for hours of car-dancing, singalongs and general entertainment. A good playlist is mandatory for any length of car ride, road trips especially and can take the time spent in the vehicle from a 5 to a consistent 8-10 in all around enjoyment.

3. Good company: Whether your loyal fur-bestie…

Bear <3

Bear ❤

or your handsome husband-to-be…

<3

…a good road trip companion can make or break your trip.  If you’re stuck with someone who lacks spontaneity, a sense of adventure and is a creature of comfort and routine, your road trip’s fun factor will take a severe nose dive with little chance of recovery. Finding someone whose road trip style matches yours will definitely increase your chances of a successful road trip.

4. Pee stop understanding: Michael and I have such an understanding – I respect the amount of liquid, yes even the life-juice named coffee, that I consume on a lengthy road trip, and in turn he respects when I finally cave and ask for a break for my tiny, tiny bladder. While I pride myself in my ability to manage the amount of breaks I need, compared to Michael’s camel style bladder, I’m usually the one waving the white-flag long before our journey is over.

5. Snacks: Another way to make sure you enjoy your trip is by packing the right variety and type of snacks and beverages. For lengthier drives, paninis, fruit and veggies are wise. The food available to you on the road is often fried, greasy and fatty which can cause you to become lethargic and zaps your energy levels – not to mention the number it can do on your stomach.  Stick with good, wholesome foods that travel well and pack the appropriate treats for when cravings hit so you can enjoy your time along the journey.

Our home for the week

Our home for the week

I hope this week treats you all well. For Michael and I, it will be spent camping in Charelston Lake Provincial Park, relaxing, fishing and spending a little quality time together – making sure to enjoy the destination, but more importantly, the journey.

~ Toni