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

 

Musical motivation

Ever since I can remember there has been music in my life. My dad introduced us to Queen, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, The Tragically Hip, Neil Young, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, and Metallica, while my Mom showed us The Rankin Family, Blue Rodeo, Seal and so many others.

    

 

My sisters and momma were all in the choir at our church, and still to this day music surrounds us!

I am blaming the early exposure to music for my now current obsession with musicals and music in general.

From TV shows, such as Glee, to movies (once theatre musicals) like Chicago, Rent, and Burlesque, add music and a dance number to actors like Merly Streep to express the stress of three men possibly being the father of her child!?!?!?! AMAZING! To make it even better, add some comedy and I am tickled pink!

 

In fact as I write this, Toni and I are giggling away as we watch Pitch Perfect. Seriously!
Best!
Movie!
Ever!!!!

If you have not seen it, I am allowing you to leave this blog for the hour and a half that it will take to watch it! …. I’ll wait here. Go on!

……

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I feel you can appreciate musicals so much more. Cody also shares in my love of music, however hates that I love musicals. This may be because there is a no way to make a musical manly… even if the protagonist is shooting machine guns, while riding a great white shark, somehow adding a musical number for him or her to sing along with it would change the genre from badass to beauty queen (badass beauty queen that is)!

Not a man, but still pretty bad ass… and a little weird!

Although it’s not technically a musical, Nashville pulls at my musical heart strings. It combines my love of country music and good TV. I have been watching since the first season and tell everyone I know who also shares my love of country music about it! Like, for example, my supervisor at work. Every Thursday morning we squeal over the characters’ drama, relationships, deaths and most of all THE MUSIC!!!! I have my phone beside me as I watch to quickly Shazam any and all music that they sing in order to download it from iTunes.

 

I have music with me throughout my day, which means I pretty much live in a musical. So I asked myself what my daily routine would look like without music… My morning run would be fuelled by the song of the birds and although I do enjoy nature’s soothing sounds, somehow I don’t think I would get the same results as if I were being motivated by Beyoncé.

I sing constantly at work, whenever I am around music – my desk mates will have to agree with me. My renditions can be painful and comical but it makes the day go by faster when the sounds of the fax machine and phones are accompanied by Bruno Mars featuring yours truly.

Making dinner would be the simple sizzles of simmering sauces instead of the soothing serenading of Eric Church or Eddie Vedder.

Music makes life better. I suggest you make your life a musical. I did!

~ Jacqui