Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017: Do you remember a hike in September?

It was hard to believe that it was our penultimate hiking weekend, but indeed, the next weekend was to be our final one, when we were to reach Tobermory! The September 16 hike was #58 out of 61, from Cape Chin Road to Dyer’s Bay trail parking lot–18.0 km.

We were blessed with a sunny, warm day, and our spirits were high.

My two photographers beautifully captured the day

Thanks to them, we have records of many glorious scenes:

4 IMG_5466.beautiful rock and bluebay3 IMG_5448.more shoreline w treesin 4ground5 2017-09-16 11.23.13.trees in water

They also captured beauty that appeared on a smaller scale:

2017-09-16 11.25.49.yellow flowers

IMG_5408.fungus and tree stump

Sometimes I can’t decide which is more impressive—the artistry of nature or of the photographers:

IMG_5333.trees inwater.artistic

2017-09-16 14.59.47.red leaves.against birch

IMG_5331.trees in water w leaves in foreground

IMG_5485.bigger rock face like bricks

IMG_5435. 3 hikers in distance.sunny

JR and MJ also had a good eye for nature’s whimsies:

2017-09-16 10.34.40.julie pointing

2017-09-16 11.40.09. sarah julie

And for the whimsies of homo sapiens:IMG_5457.sadhana.waterhead.

They even captured primates grooming each other:

IMG_5415.inga.louise.grooming

And who knew what good portrait photographers they are!

The photographers also captured the most dramatic encounter of the day:

The Tale of the Sign and Matters Bovine

We had been forewarned by our fearless leader, absent from the day’s hike, about the unusual sign—“AVOID FARM ANIMALS”-and about the cattle. She had regaled us with a long story of the cows’ curiosity and prodigious products. Yet no less an expert than her sister declared that the leader’s tale may be BS, so we approached the field with more frivolity than fear.

2017-09-16 12.01.46.hikers by sign

But as we approached we could see that indeed, the cattle were numerous…

IMG_5375.approaching.probly not use

IMG_5389.cattle

and curious…

IMG_5394.cattle watching

and fearsome…

IMG_5393.fearsome cattle

So we planned our approach carefully.

2017-09-16 12.11.49.planning our move

Finally, we were led by the farmer in the group. Her expression may have been fearless, but note that she carried a big stick.

2017-09-16 12.16.03.Louise farmer

Emboldened by our numbers, however, soon enough we crossed and were all safely on the other side of the pasture. And we left in stile.

2017-09-16 12.19.19.inga descending stile

Somehow along the way a poem started taking shape in my head. I have no idea what inspired it…

IMG_5418

Here is the poem (It’s not a haiku—it’s a hike-oo)

Why do we hike?

Oh, why do we do it? Why do we hike?
When we could travel by car or by bike?
It’s not for the pain in the knees and the hip
Nor for the tree roots that cause us to trip
It’s not for the bruises, the bunions, and blisters
We hike for the vistas…

IMG_5448.more shoreline w treesin 4ground

And fun with our sistas…

2017-09-16 15.49.00.Sadhana.jW.dianne

It’s not ‘cause we like rising so early on Sundays
nor for the stiffness that greets us on Mondays
It’s not for the rain, and getting soaked
And the sun in July can bring on heat stroke
But we love the splendour and solace of trees…

 

2017-09-16 11.11.37.trees.

And laughing together…

2017-09-16 20.08.32.laughing group Anne

and smiles like these:

Oh where is that blaze? We dread getting lost
And we don’t even want to think of the cost
of the gear we have purchased–the boots, poles, and gaiters,
Paying for parking, motel rooms, and waiters
It’s not for JR’s collections for gas

2017-09-16 15.46.06. JR

Or the kind that, while walking, we inadvertently pass.

But we like mossy canyons and soft forest floors

The smell of the cedars and the flowers galore

2017-09-16 12.08.55.purple flowers

We don’t relish the complex and changing logistics

it’s a wonder it doesn’t drive DS ballistic

It’s not for the mosquitoes, the ticks, and the bugs

It’s for the talks…

IMG_5493.ellen dianne.not as good as rest

IR’s stories…

2017-09-16 09.51.16.inga sarah funny

and the hugs…

IMG_5496. ruth. louise.martha

We like the challenge and cardio workout

And savouring the spectacular lookouts

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We can forget the scrapes and the gashes
The toenails we lost and the poison ivy rashes
Because we love the views of the bay…

IMG_5407.blue Bay

And a buttery tart at the end of the day…

IMG_5352. pat

We like the space and the time for reflection…

IMG_5311.walking away

but most of all, we love our connection…

IMG_5328.bridge w Mary

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October 28, 2017: The Richness Of Our Blessings

It’s a cruel habit that time has: speeding up when you are doing something you love.

It seems like just yesterday that we took our first (slippery) steps along the Bruce Trail in Queenston…….. (sound of a time warp as we travel back five years)…….

September 2012:  An email was sent out to a group of hardy adventurers, offering them a seductive experience they would not be able to resist:

Ladies,

Are you looking for some excitement in your lives?  Perhaps a thrilling weekend getaway or a love affair that lasts several years?  An opportunity to feel young, vibrant & energetic? 

Then let me introduce you to…. Bruce! 

Bruce is handsome and rugged, strong and silent.  Bruce has many moods, all of them enticing.  Bruce will challenge you and energize you.   

As many of you know, I have a long-held dream to hike the entire Bruce Trail.  As it is now inescapably obvious that I am not getting any younger, I would like to get hiking now!  The plan is to hike a section on one Sunday per month, throughout the year (winter hiking is awesome!).  Obviously, the whole trail  (885 km) will take several years. 

You are invited to join in this project if it appeals to you.  You can hike some or all of the trail as it suits you.  The requirements are that you have a pair of sturdy shoes, an adventurous spirit, don’t mind sweat, bugs and rain, and are prepared to fall in love…. with Bruce!

I would like to organize a planning meeting for those who are interested, at my place, some night after supper.  September 24 and 26 are possibilities.  Let me know which date is best. 

Fran
P.S.  Please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who might be interested.  Bruce can handle many women at once!

Here we are, September 2012, safe in a warm living room, discussing the possibility of hiking the Bruce Trail.  Little did we know what we were setting in motion!

One month later: Setting out from Queenston in October 2012 – in the pouring rain.

Over the ensuing five years, we doubled our numbers, recruiting new hikers wherever we could: symphony concerts, family reunions,  sipping wine at a New Year’s party, huddled around the office photocopier.   We wore out socks and boots, broke out in poison ivy, got accused of hot tub vandalism,  sampled B&Bs all over the escarpment,  and endured every type of weather known to humankind!  It was all so good!

I had grown to believe that the trail was infinite,  that we could continue forever with blissful weekends in the company of great friends and beautiful surroundings.

But the Trail has an end and we were about to meet it.  This prompted me to reflect on the past five years and how this journey has transformed our lives.

It occurred to me that there are certain things that all people want in their lives.  Across the world and through time, people have always sought things that fulfill us, nourish us, and reaffirm our shared humanity.

We want to be safe and to be loved.  We want a place where we belong.  We want to share our lives with others, especially the things that bring us joy and meaning.  We like to know that there are others in this world who share our values.  We enjoy feeling connected to nature.  We want to be healthy and strong and happy. We would like to be surrounded by beauty.   And we wish to be part of something that is bigger than our individual selves.

How fortunate we are, to find one pursuit that provides all these benefits:

Within the Limestone Ladies, we feel safe and cared for by our friends.

Friends dressed up after a day of hiking!

Friends enjoying a meal of butter chicken, moussaka, spanakopita, mango salad and decadent desserts. This group contains an abundance of fantastic cooks!

Being part of the Limestone Ladies gives us a sense of belonging.

We get to share our love of nature with our friends!

Each one of us is an important member of the group.

We get to be intimate with nature and its varying moods and hues.

We can fall in love with a tree.

We climb down many times per day.  It makes us strong and healthy!

We climb up many times per day. It makes us strong and healthy!

There is nothing better than a day spent outdoors to bring on the happy smiles.

Within the Limestone Ladies, we are safe and cared for and have a sense of belonging.  We are part of something so much bigger and older than ourselves: a timeless energy that has propelled explorers and pilgrims and wanderers to seek the wonders of unknown places and the wisdom of the journey.

What is miraculous to me is that there was no rule book or recipe for this to happen.  It was the alchemy of the group that created this special gathering.  As time went on, each one of us poured her own talent and energy into the group and we grew stronger and richer.

The view from the National Park observation tower. So close to the end now!

Some creative hikers composed an original song  for us to sing as we marched into Tobermory.  At the trail’s end, we were met by a lovely couple from the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club.  They did not recoil from our singing!  They welcomed and congratulated us with a speech and kindly presented us with our Peninsula end-to-end badges.  More than a few Ladies developed a case of the snuffles as we contemplated the significance of the moment.

Here we are in Tobermory, with our badges and our new friends!

The Woolwich ladies raise a glass to the splendours of Tobermory.

The Toronto-area ladies can’t stop laughing! (note the dancers in the background)

A closer look at those dancers! They just couldn’t hold it in!

The Waterloo gang dried their tears and enjoyed the champagne!.

So, we find ourselves at the end of something wonderful.  Something that exceeded all expectations and has enriched our lives.  But it’s not really the end.  The Limestone Ladies will carry on and the Bruce Trail will still beckon hikers to discover its allure, so all that is ending is the intersection of the two.

Thank you Bruce, for fulfilling the promise of five years ago.  You really did challenge us and energize us, charm us and delight us.  You made us stronger, healthier and more resilient.  You gifted us with new friends and time spent with old friends.  Your blessings are abundant.

And it did turn into a love affair – a five year long love affair… with Bruce!

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Sept 17, 2017: Summer’s Last Sweet Kiss ..or ..How I was taken in by a Duplicitous Psychologist

Our second day of hiking proved to be just as stunning as the first.  The Limeys headed off from Dyer’s Bay to our destination of Crane Lake 12 kilometers to the north.

limies - start of hike

With the official start of autumn only 5 days away, amazingly, Tee Shirts and sun screen were the preferred attire.  We were missing only one hiker from the previous day – apparently she slipped away in the middle of the night and drove off to her waiting lover.  The rest of us hiked into the waiting bosom of a hot, breezy day.

Limies - sun dappled

Could there possibly have been a more perfect day for the third last hike of our years long trek to Tobermory?

limies - ladies in the forest

As the day went on and the temperature rose, a daring hiker chose to shed some habiliments, not in the shadows of the forest but in the middle of the road!! Our hiker was going to make sure that as many people as possible saw her getting comfortable.

Limies - stripping

Perhaps she is getting “downsized” and is practicing for a new career. If this blog could speak you would hear in the background a rousing chorus of “Patricia The Stripper” accompanying our shedding hiker.

Those readers with sharp eyes will have noticed the sign in the background of the last picture indicating that travelers in need of showers, groceries and camping should head off to the right.

Limies - confusion re direction

This led to some confusion among the ladies, while some hikers headed off in one direction, others were convinced that the exact opposite direction was where our destination lay.

We were surprised to come across an anatomically correct replica of the middle-aged hikers knee kindly supplied by a sympathetic tree.

Limies - Wooden knee

This hike was no different from the other hikes of 2017 with poison ivy being in abundant supply ready to caress the unsuspecting hiker with its itchy fingers.

Limies poison ivy 2

This time it was a stunning red hue perhaps sun burnt by the long summer of rays. Hopefully no souvenirs from this overly friendly plant were taken home after the hike.

As it was late summer there were signs all around that autumn was fast approaching.

Limies - wild asters

Tough yet delicate flowers like this fall aster dotted the sides of the road.

Limies - red leaves

The ubiquitous red maple leaf, a proud Canadian icon.

Limies sisters Mary and Anne

Note the creative use of wild roadside flowers to create a tiara for our own “Queen Anne”. The milliner is on the right.

We saw some sandhill cranes noshing in a farmer’s field fattening up for the long migration to the southern U.S.  Sandhill cranes have been our frequent hiking companions on the northern sections of the Bruce and we have come to marvel at their striking size and distinctive call. Limies sandhill cranes2

Sandhill cranes mate for life which can mean more than 2 decades in the daily presence of their partner.  Anyone who has been partnered for even a short period of time can attest to the amount of patience and devotion this amount of togetherness requires.

The apples along the side of the road were abundant and some hikers were quick to avail themselves of the fruit.

Limies apple picking Ruth

There were many options for apple tasting and the fruit from numerous different trees was sampled.  We did however come across a sobering reminder not to eat too many apples in the middle of the road.

Limies poo

This poor apple eating creature was caught short of the loo by the powerful peristaltic effect of the forbidden fruit.

No Limey’s hiking blog would be complete without the obligatory “view” picture.

Limies - view

No one ever seems to tire of the spectacular views from the escarpment to the Great Lake below.  Those who have escarpment view fatigue probably also dislike kitten videos and breakfast in bed.

Our photogs were able to nab a rare picture of the normally talkative Homo Bloomingdalicus hiker (we are using formal anthropological terminology here for clarity) in a pensive moment.

Limies - quiet

The road to the Crane Lake parking spot was more lake-like than road-like on our first hike of the year and was serving as a thoroughfare for muskrat and beaver in the spring.

Limies original flood

But, by the end of the summer, the water had ebbed chased away by the heat and lack of recent rain.

Limies water over the road

No lake here, just enough brown water to seep into the boot of a careless hiker.

So the ladies lament the passing of the summer and will soon be facing a parting of our own. To paraphrase Leonard Cohen:

Everybody knows that the summer’s over

Everybody knows that its winding down

Everybody knows that the light is fading

Everybody knows that the leaves are spent

Everybody knows that the weather’s changing

That’s how it goes

Everybody knows

Everybody knows that it has to happen

Everybody knows that all good things end

Everybody’s got this broken feeling

That their losing a good friend.

 

But remember – “There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.”  Cecilia Thackster

Acknowledgements  – Thanks to MJ, JR and DE for the photographs.  Without them this blog would not be possible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 25, 2017: What to Wear with a Moss-Covered Rock

Today’s hike coincided with the Peninsula Bruce Trail 50 km challenge – a fund-raiser where fit and energetic participants hike 50 km of trail in one day .  As we departed Jackson’s Cove, we met some friendly BT event organizers and stopped for a chat.

Here we are with our new friends at Jackson’s Cove.

As made our way north the trail was a lush and verdant green:  emerald moss draped over massive rocks, fluttering green foliage overhead,  green poison ivy underfoot.  In the distance, heavy clouds massed on the horizon and the low rumble of thunder vibrated  around us.

It was a romantic and inspiring setting.  If we had been songwriters, no doubt we would have tossed off a song along the line of:  “Thunder in my Heart” or “Home from the Forest.”  Were we poets, a quick poem would have risen to our lips, no doubt extolling the restless tree nymphs in their beguiling mossy glades.

But, we are the Limestone Ladies, so the question on everyone’s mind was: “Are we properly dressed for the occasion?”  We would not want our outfits to clash with all that green!

To answer this question, I turned to the Wise Person’s Guide to Everything: the Internet.

The first thing I learned is that the Pantone colour of the year for 2017 is “Greenery.”  So, yay, we are already in style!  But, advises the Vancouver Sun, it is best to tone down the brightness of all that green, by pairing it with a soft colour such as grey or camel.

Here we see a savvy stylista, pairing the mossy green of the forest with her neutral grey tights.  To achieve the pinnacle of fashion, she could have complimented her outfit with a real camel, although it might have had difficulty with some of the crevasses.

From a site called “Fashionisers,” I learned that “Emerald green with beige (as well as with milk, white and light gray) makes the clearest and calmest combination. For instance, you can pick emerald green shorts and wear them with a breezy white blouse, a thin brown belt and camel ankle booties. You are sure to look very fresh and romantic.”

Here we have two fresh and romantic hikers, pairing their beige jacket and beige pants with trendy  ankle booties!  No doubt they are wearing breezy white blouses under their soggy raincoats.  They look so clear and calm against all that green!

The same site also offered this advice: “Emerald green with soft blue is a soft and light color combination, which comes like a breath of fresh summer air. Think, for instance, an emerald green flirty dress accessorized with a pale blue bag, blue bracelets and green high heel shoes. This outfit is ideal for a romantic date or for a cocktail party.”

Here we have our flirty hiker showing off the recommended colour combination. She is on her way to a romantic date at a cocktail party immediately after the hike. Naturally, her pack contains a soft blue purse and some green stilettos.

There is no end to the possibilities.  It seems that pink is also wonderful with green, as advised:  “From pale pinks to juicy fuchsias, pink tones look amazing with emerald green.”

Here we see an extremely fashion-forward hiker in her pink T-shirt, happy with the knowledge that it is the perfect accent for green foliage.

Another article advised:  “It’s also a nice idea to wear an emerald green outfit and finish it off with beige accessories, such as shoes, sunglasses, hats and jewelry pieces. Your bag can be beige or green. Beige footwear will calm down the deep emerald green look, giving a touch of sophistication to it. ”

Here we see a sophisticated hiker correctly accessorizing with beige: hat, sunshirt, shoes and purse (not shown). Knowing you are correctly attired for the occasion gives such a boost of confidence!

Now let’s analyze our hikers and see how they’re doing:

As you can see, most of our group is correctly attired and accessorized in beige, pink, blue, camel and grey. We have a few outliers who insisted on wearing purple. They will, of course, be reported to the Bruce Trail Fashion Police.

The Internet really let me down with this one:

I googled: “What to wear with a limestone cliff?” and didn’t get an answer. However, I believe that in situations like this, you can never go wrong with a camel.

Several more fashion dilemmas arose before the end of the hike.  For example, what to wear that complements the warm and earthy, but possibly drab tones of mud?

A number of us became intimately acquainted with this muddy, slippery, and treacherous descent. The correct attire for such a situation is: brown pants. If you’re not already wearing them, you will be by the time you are finished !

As the trail wound down to the water’s edge, we came upon this tranquil landscape: muted greys and grey-browns predominate.

A beautiful, but dull landscape.

The Huffington Post recommends wearing grey with grey for a monochromatic look.  I say that’s fine if you want to get lost in the fog!  How about a bright, high intensity colour, so the rescue squad can find you?

Look how the red and purple pop against the muted greys. Much more suitable for the setting!

In answer to the question, “What to wear with a field of yellow wildflowers?” I offer the following suggestion:

Orchid!

The last fashion dilemma of the day occurred as the skies opened just as we reached the road at Rush Cove.  What does one wear to look flirty, stylish and co-ordinated in a thunderstorm?

Here we are, huddled in a grove of cedars at mid-day. Yes, it was dark, damp and verging on miserable. The clear fashion winner in this situation is: Gore-tex!

 

I will end this blog with a photo that really belongs with yesterday’s topic of pop culture.  It occurred when one of our Ladies picked up some beach stones and was reminded of Gwyneth Paltrow and her $66  jade stones.  She was offering them to the other Ladies for free!  What a bargain!  And a great memento of the trail!  And, they are beige so will correctly accessorize with the surroundings! (Not that anyone will be seeing them)

$66 stone, anyone?  If you don’t know what I am referring to, that’s what the internet is for!

We hiked up the long steep hill out of Rush Cove in a deluge.  Thunder and lightning filled the skies and rain churned the gravel road into a quagmire.  But, the sun was out by the time we reached the cars so we ended on a happy note.

The next hike will be in September.  We have a guest blogger lined up for September and are eagerly awaiting her insights!

See you all then!

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June 24, 2017: Pop Culture Paradise?

Sometimes you want to live your life outside of pop culture.  I’m sure most people tire of the onslaught of must-see movies, TV shows, and music videos that influence the world around us.  We just want a little peace and quiet.  We want a cereal box that doesn’t have licensed characters on it.  You would certainly think that the Bruce Trail would be a safe haven from aggressive marketers, celebrities and fads.

But alas, it is not so.  On our most recent hike, we found ourselves in a strange world where life was imitating… pop culture?

Early in the hike, we came upon a perfect beach volleyball court on the shores of Georgian Bay, at Cape Croker Park.  We were irresistibly drawn towards it and soon found ourselves in the midst of a heavily sponsored beach volleyball match.   The cameras were rolling and the crowd roared.

Did this game air on TSN?

Or did this one?

Can you tell the difference?  Probably not.    Already the lines were blurring between our humble hike and the massive pop culture machine.

Here is a photo of our lovely Limestone Ladies walking along the Snake Trail Boardwalk.

Such lovely ladies, who just happen to like to wear pink…. on Wednesdays?

Yes, the Mean Girls found us. The Bruce Trail was not a safe zone!

Once upon a time, there were two beautiful, intelligent and dignified young women who sought a simple life, living in nature.

Here they are, enjoying the simple life.

As I said, two intelligent, wise, dignified women… Caught in the pop culture vortex again!

Strangely, we soon found ourselves in the middle of a 1971 rock anthem:

There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold,

And she’s buying a Stairway to Heaven.

Thanks, Led Zeppelin!

Surely there could be no pop culture parallel to this lovely young Bruce Trail hiker, thriving in a primitive cave society?

Oh Raquel,  couldn’t you just leave us alone? (One Million Years BC)

Anyone remember this TV show from the 1980s?

We all thought Tom Selleck was so handsome, but his influence has waned and you don’t hear much about him anymore.  Except we had a massive Magnum P.I. experience that lasted for the entire hike!!!

Yes, we had Magnum P.I. all right!  Magnum POISON IVY!!!  This part of the trail is covered in acres of luxurious poison ivy, just waiting to wrap around your ankles and cover you in itchy red blisters.

We stopped for lunch at the beach at Hope Bay and found a lovely dining table ready for us.

A simple dining experience:  we dressed up and made sure we were using the correct cutlery.   What did it remind us of?

Surely you can spot the similarities!  (Downton Abbey)

Anybody remember the Pet Rock craze from 1975?  This is one fad that died quickly, thankfully.

Surely no one would ever seriously consider having a rock as a pet?

Unless that person was a Bruce Trail hiker who fell in love with a handsome moss-covered boulder! And you can actually pet this rock!

And then there were the two friends who went away for a weekend vacation in the woods.  They discovered adventure and challenge and freedom!

Just two fun-loving friends, having a good time…

They spawned a feminist classic!

Film Thelma and Louise – Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon 1991

There were some potholes along this section.  These are very unique geological formations, which require a certain type of rock and the right conditions to form a circular hole.

Gazing down into the pothole

Surely pop culture will leave us alone on this one!

Gazing down into a pothole?

I was certain that TV has no interest in groups of people going off into the jungle to pit their skills against the raw power of nature.  That’s what we like to do!

Just a group of regular folks, surviving in a natural setting.

Modern television would have no interest in such a thing! (Survivor: Guatemala)

We were nearing the end of the hike.  Still many beautiful lookouts to enjoy and rugged terrain to traverse.

More beautiful women in jungle-like settings.

Do they remind you of anyone?

Mary Ann and Ginger, perhaps?

We had been mostly encountering scenes from past decades, possibly because those are the years when we consumed the most pop culture.  But there was a modern moment on this hike, when we encountered a shapely woman of prodigious strength, holding aloft an unimaginable weight…..

Straight from the Cineplex to our hike!

Yes, Wonder Woman graced our hike with her strength and fashion sense!

As we drew near to Jackson’s Cove, we were weary from not only the distance traveled, but from the sheer weight  of  mass media that we had consumed.   We needed to decontaminate from the harmful residues of mainstream culture.  This called for extreme measures!

The decontamination squad – in the showers at Lion’s Head Marina!

Thankfully, we all survived our day of strenuous immersion and we successfully returned to our uncontaminated state!   A good mound of fish ‘n chips at the Lion’s Head Inn and a sound night of sleep and we would be ready for tomorrow’s hike!

Will you accept this rose?

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Introducing the Bruce Biddies

We have always been a very select group of hikers, with high standards and exacting criteria for membership.  (Basically, two legs and a pair of boots and we’re willing to negotiate on the boots!  And the legs!)

We often get approached by wanna-be hikers, wishing and hoping that they, too, could become like the Limestone Ladies.  But we have never found any group that could meet our standards of bodily perfection, courage and fortitude.

Until now.

I received word of a hiking group who just might be up to snuff.  And they were interested in becoming associate Limestone Ladies!  They submitted the required forms in triplicate and left a vast sum of unmarked bills in a beige satchel at an undisclosed location.  They learned the secret handshake, the password and the inspirational song!  All that was left was for them to prove that they were up to the task.

I am happy to say that the Bruce Biddies have completed a series of dangerous undertakings, risky ventures and vetting by an international panel of judges, and they are now officially associate Limestone ladies!

Below you will find photographic evidence of their worth:

First of all, they are very cute! This is important so as not to frighten small woodland animals or other hikers.

They can pose as well as any Kardashian!

They can sit at the edge of a cliff without falling off!

They have sassy hair!

They can skip stones with grace and style!

They are very silly.

As I said, they are very silly (and literal!).

They can frame a beautiful view.

They know how to relax aggressively.

 

It they see a big boulder, they know what to do with it!

They eat their vegetables!

They enhance the view!

They can pack and they can track, they can lead and they can follow……

Welcome Bruce Biddies!

We are delighted to welcome the Bruce Biddies into the fold.  We look forward to hearing more of your exploits – keep us posted!

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May 27 and 28, 2017: Why Do We Walk?

Overlooking Barrow Bay

Why do we walk?

To see the Bruce Trail, share a chat, feel alive,

To keep placing one foot forward, even if we never arrive

At the end of the trail,

Because the end doesn’t matter,

It’s the journey, we’ve learned, that makes our hearts gladder.

And the sights that we see,

Trilliums red, pink, and white,

Even one with four petals, so rare a sight

Cliffs cloaked in mist, an enchanted forest,

Serviceberries in blossom,  cedar curved in an arch

The view constantly changes, as onward we march.

And there’s always a friend,

To walk in front or behind

So we share a story, a song or a rhyme.

And when lunch rolls around, we settle ourselves,

To nourish our bodies and drink in a view

When lunchtime is over, we’re feeling renewed

So we seek those white blazes, the signs of our trail

Who knows what awaits us? Could it be a morel?

Or a slender wee flower that clings to a rock,

A crevice, a peep-hole, a natural wonder

Or perhaps a dark overhang that we have to duck under

And the delights we experience are not just for the eyes

Sweet spice of cedar warmed by the sun

White-throated sparrow trills and flies on

It all makes our souls wilder

And our spirits grow stronger

We’re nearing the end now, and we wish it was longer.

But for now the trail beckons, and we’ll follow it forward

Though we know that there won’t be an end to our tale

From all that we’ve seen and done and adventured

The Limestone Ladies will always be part of the Bruce Trail.

Nature never ceases to astonish and puzzle us.

A death-defying leap over a bottomless crevice!

So many photos to take, so little time!

This exquisite columbine was growing at the very edge of a 200 metre cliff!

Eating lunch at the edge of the world!

 

Trail friends!

We met a friendly crew of Bruce Trail volunteers, out doing trail maintenance. Thank you!

She’s not texting, she’s taking a photo!

A friendly wood-nymph we met along the trail.  Note the helpful sign, in case you are lost!

The water is very high this year and most of the shoreline has disappeared. Here we are following the trail along what’s left of the shore.

This crazy overhanging cliff was completely saturated with water and it dripped on our heads as we passed under.

 

I love this picture for the remarkable colour sequence – from blue, through turquoise, to green. Nature’s palette of analogous colours!

This natural peep-hole in the cliff provided a gorgeous framed view of the Caribbean. Just kidding! It’s Georgian Bay.

Looking towards Lion’s Head harbour

Here we are, gazing into the “Giant’s Cauldron.” This is an extremely underwhelming scenic attraction!

The end of a long and satisfying day.

The start of a new day! More trail to hike!

Trees draped in white blossoms along the trail

A precious morel, discovered growing right beside the trail.

Lunch at Reid’s Dump. Too bad about the rotten view! And the crummy weather!

Relaxing after lunch

 

This girl is not afraid of heights!

Enjoying her time at the top of the world!

The forest was cool and quiet

 

Near the end of the hike, we entered an enchanted trillium forest

Goddesses of the enchanted trillium forest

The rare four-petaled trillium – a quadrillium!  We made a wish and will let you know if it is a lucky plant – perhaps it only works with four-leafed clover!

We discovered that there are several goddesses in the enchanted trillium forest

A hike along a rocky beach brought us to the end of the day

Thank you, Ladies, for yet another memorable weekend of hiking and friendship.

See you in June!

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April 09, 2017: Overcoming Obstacles

If you can find a path with no obstacles, it likely doesn’t lead anywhere very interesting.

With those words in mind, we set out from Halfway Log Dump towards Cyprus Lake, one of the most technically challenging and visually stunning sections of the Bruce Trail.  It was not an easy hike, with many obstacles to be met and overcome during the course of the day.

One of the less obvious obstacles we had to overcome was logistical: how to get 14 hikers into the National Park at Cyprus Lake.  We knew that in July and August, they turn away about 2,000 cars per day from the Cyprus Lake park gates (source: The Bruce Peninsula Press).  Thus, we decided to hike this section in April, before the park opens, so we wouldn’t risk being refused entry.   In May, we will return to where we left off last fall, at Cape Croker.   This turned out to be a good decision, as we were surprised by the number of people at Cyprus Lake, even this early in the year.

On the trail again: setting out from the parking lot at Halfway Log Dump

And here we are: overcoming our first obstacle of the day!

Some people see obstacles as a reason to turn back.  We prefer to see the obstacles as part of the path forward.

The trail is a series of rugged ups and downs, with seldom a sure place for the foot!

Some part of our spirit enters into every hike, as a result of the effort and attention we spend on the trail.  And a part of the trail enters into us and changes us, for the better, I believe.  We carry within us the knowledge that we have been on a meaningful journey, we have met and surmounted obstacles and we have become intimate with the great life force around us.  We do not conquer this trail; the trail allows us to journey with it.

This particular spot was a charming combination of smooth ice, slippery rocks,  and downward scrambling.

We were rewarded for our exertions with a series of spectacular views. Note “Neptune’s Mattress” in the water below.

Everyone needs beauty, peace, and a place where one can experience a sense of awe!  We found that place today.

Risking her life to get the perfect shot!

My sister and I have been hiking this section of the trail since we were little girls. The trail feels like home to us. We are excited to share it with the Limestone Ladies.

Twenty years from now, we will still remember the exhilaration of this place and this moment!

Great things happen when women and trails meet.

 

“These are islands in time — with nothing to date them on the calendar of mankind. In these areas it is as though a person were looking backward into the ages and forward untold years. Here are bits of eternity, which have a preciousness beyond all accounting.”
– Harvey Broome

We ate our lunch at the Best Lunch Spot Ever! on the beach at Storm Haven. Natural park benches formed by cleaved dolostone provided a luxurious place to lounge and feast.  Due to the early April date, we had Storm Haven all to ourselves.

After lunch, we enjoyed portions of the trail that wound along the shoreline.  The air was alive with the soft rush of waves on stone,  the murmur of wind through cedar fronds, and the happy chatter of birds welcoming spring.

The bay was deceptively calm today. We hiked beside quiet, friendly waters of Caribbean blue.

There are two types of hikers: those who hike for the unbridled joy of it, and all the rest.

Then it was back into the woods for some more gnarly, treacherous hiking.

Getting close to Cyprus Lake!

When we emerged from the woods at Cyprus Lake, we were met by the stunning scenery for which it is famous.

The sparkling turquoise water and craggy cliffs draw thousands of visitors every year.

In summer, people swim in the shallow waters of Indian Head Cove. We declined a swim today, not fooled by lure of that Caribbean blue.

Since we are speaking of overcoming obstacles, I was most impressed by this small cedar tree, clinging to life on a rock at the cliff edge. This tree is many decades old and has faced the toughest of conditions every day.

Just north of the Grotto, we found sculpted crusts of snow clinging to the cliff face. A reminder that winter has only recently left.

We thought we had left all the obstacles behind, but we were mistaken:  the trail to Marr Lake was washed out by spring melt, so we experienced the joy of leaping from rock to rock!

Solving the “which rocks are stable to step on?” puzzle!

One hiker felt the need to cool her feet before finishing the hike!

Here is a classic example of “bait-and-switch.” Only 17.5 km to Tobermory!!! Except that it’s not true, as we will be returning to Cape Croker to resume our hike in May. So close, and yet so far!

We had one last obstacle to overcome before reaching the cars.  A cold and merciless wind sprang up and tore our hats from our heads.  We leaned into the wind as we turned away from the shore and made our way up the Marr Lake trail to the cars.   So sad to leave such a beautiful place.  We’ll be back in May to continue the journey!

Leaning into the wind for the final leg of the hike. It was hard to say good bye to the glory of Georgian Bay on a clear sunny day. Our consolation is: there will be more!

“Men, like rivers, become crooked by following the line of least resistance,”  (Edvard Raasted).    Bring on the obstacles!

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April 8, 2017: Reflections on Water

Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface.  This fact was certainly true on today’s hike!  As you will see, we encountered  water in its many unpredictable forms throughout the day.

The first indication of our watery fate was on the drive to the start of the hike.  Crane Lake Road was, to put it mildly, under water!  You know you are in trouble when  a muskrat is swimming across the road you are about to drive down!

Here is what we discovered when approached Crane Lake Road

I would like to point out that the Limestone Ladies are not easily deterred and we bravely decided to see if our vehicles were amphibious.

You could have water-skied behind this car!

All  vehicles safely surfed Crane lake Road to the trailhead. The morning air was crisp and bright – a perfect day!

Almost immediately, we encountered water in another of its forms: snow.  Being hardy Canadians, this was hardly worth mentioning.

We laugh at snow!

The first part of the trail was flooded in many places.  Reflections in the water provided glimpses into deep, still, and unattainable worlds…….

The worlds contained within the water can be as beautiful as the worlds above.

We came upon a beaver dam which was overflowing and flooding the trail below.  The dam itself was a marvel.  How these industrious rodents build a dam out of sticks, that is capable of creating a lake and holding back tonnes of water,  is quite remarkable.

Here is the beaver dam. All that water was running directly onto the trail, which created a trail-maintenance nightmare! I suggest appointing a few beavers to the Bruce Trail Board of Directors to advise on civil engineering intricacies.

The swampy lake created by the beaver industry  was really quite beautiful, although perhaps not by standard interpretations of what is beautiful.  “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it,” said Confucius, no doubt in reference to the beaver ponds of the Bruce Trail.

The dead trees in the beaver swamp were beautiful in their starkness.

We continued along the trail, which in places resembled an obstacle course more than a walk in the woods:

To be a successful Bruce Trail hiker, one needs a good sense of balance, a love of adventure, and waterproof boots!

We finally reached High Dump, where a side trail drops over the edge of the escarpment to the water’s edge.  This side trail was extremely challenging, not just for the first steep drop, which required ropes to help one rappel down, but because of the ice which filled every nook and cranny of the path.  There was no sure footing!  I don’t have any good photos of this, as I needed both hands to hold onto the rope.

Here we are, clambering down towards High Dump.  You can see the rope strung along the first descent.  The icy ground doesn’t show in the photo, but we were all very aware of it!

High Dump is an unfortunate name which refers to the logging of the Bruce Peninsula in the 19th century.  Logs were “dumped” over the cliff edge and stored on the shore until ice break-up in the spring, then rafted up and floated  down Georgian Bay to sawmills further south.  It was a treacherous climb down, but the beach at High Dump is jaw-droppingly beautiful and well worth the arduous trek.

The serenity of a spring morning at High Dump. We were well rewarded for our perseverance.

Georgian Bay is renowned for its crystalline transparency and the unique turquoise-blue colour of the water

There was time for some stone-skipping, although choosing the perfect stone can be quite time-consuming! The waters of Georgian Bay were crystal-clear, as usual.

After lunch, the group felt quite frisky!

We encountered more snow and ice, as the trail was not yet done with water hazards for the day.

Happy to be tramping through snow on an April afternoon.

You can’t appreciate the trickiness of these icy patches from a photograph. The potential for slipping or twisting an ankle was always there and all hikers needed to be attentive!

But the rewards were great.  We would emerge from the woods and be treated to a vista over the icy blue expanse of Georgian Bay.  In a moment like this, one’s spirit soars!

Beauty x4: Beautiful lake, beautiful sky, beautiful trail, beautiful hiker!

There is always something to climb down, or over, or up!

We finally reached the cars at Halfway Log Dump and were surprised with some home-baked goodies!  Everything tastes so much more delicious when the appetite has been sharpened by a day spent out-of-doors.

Thank you, Madame Baker!

But of course, there was the car shuttle still to be completed, which meant one more trip down the Crane Lake Road!

Bye-bye, Crane Lake!

We then moved on to the next phase of the hiking weekend, which also involved water, this time in the less hazardous form of broccoli-cheddar soup and fermented grape juice!

A fine end to a successful day!

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October 23, 2016: How to take a Forest Bath

After four years of hiking, the Limestone Ladies intuitively know the healing power of being in nature.  We simply feel better, more alive, and more connected to each other and the natural world around us when we are on the trail.

Recently, “forest bathing” or  “shinrin-yoku” as it is known in Japan, has become popular for its health benefits.   Among the various healing benefits claimed by shinrin-yoku are:  improved energy, sleep and mood,  increased attention and focus, lower blood pressure, enhanced immunity, and overall increase in sense of happiness.   Who wouldn’t want this?

So, the Limestone Ladies are pleased to present to you:  “How to take a Forest Bath.”  This is based on our own experiences over the past four years, with photos from today’s glorious hike.

Step One:  Find a Path Leading into a Forest.  Follow it.

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The path should beckon you on… and the destination should not be clear. Life is about moving forward into the unknown. The forest bath is a perfect metaphor for the mystery of life.

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As Henry David Thoreau said, ” Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”   If your path happens to be the Bruce Trail, you will have friendly white blazes to guide you!

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“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks” John Muir

Step Two:  Look around slowly and carefully.  Look down and look up.  Look into the distance.   Do not look at electronic devices.

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Identify as many colours as you can.   Name them.

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Let the colours saturate your eyes, leaving no spot unfilled.

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Look for patterns of colour, shape, light and dark. There are patterns throughout all of nature and these patterns are also imprinted within us. The soul thinks in symbols.

Step Three:  Fill your gaze with beauty.  Imagine the view as a feast for your eyes and a balm for your brain.  So often, we think we are looking, but our minds are elsewhere.  Bring your mind to the present moment and pay attention to the festival of life in front of you.

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Let the beautiful view calm and rejuvenate your frazzled mind.   Your soul craves beauty.

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Natural environments generate strong emotional reactions because for millenia, close observation of nature was crucial for human survival. We may have forgotten this with our logical minds, but our deep brains still respond to nature.

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We are also programmed to respond to light.  Here the early morning light shimmers on Colpoy’s Bay at the start of our hike.  We were all struck by the beauty of the complex interplay of light & water.

Step Four:  Find something powerful and allow yourself to experience awe.

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Being humbled by the awe-inspiring power of nature reminds us of our place in the natural order. (Hint: we’re not as powerful as we think)

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I’m sure a geologist could give a very scientific and rational explanation for this huge rock and its cleavage planes. I prefer just to look at it and think “Wow!”

Step Five:  Listen to the sounds around you. (Earbuds not required!)

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Enjoy the scuffling crunch of leaves under your boots.

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Pay attention to the many different melodies of the wind. And to the response of the trees, shrubs and grasses as the wind passes over them.

Step Six: Get to know a tree, as closely as you can.  Feel free to hug the tree, as long as the tree gives consent!

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A happy girl and her tree.

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Getting comfortable with a tree!

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Different humans are attracted to different trees. You might appreciate twisted gnarly branches  while another prefers shaggy bark.  It’s much like choosing a romantic partner. (except that trees don’t go on eharmony!)

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A double date!

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Although we can’t hear them, the trees are constantly communicating with each other through their roots. You could be standing on top of a tree conversation!

Step Seven: Smile!

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Forests make you happy!

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Happy!

Step Eight:  Take time to pause and reflect on where you are and what you are experiencing.

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Remember that we are human beings, not human doings. Stop all the doing and allow yourself to be!

Step Nine:  Open your mind and connect with the natural world.

Notice the smells of damp leaves and sun-warmed cedar.  Listen to the twitter of little birds or the raucous croak of a crow.  See if you can synchronize yourself with “forest time.”

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Experience unforgettable moments of well-being  Revel in the energy of the forest.

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And when you think you are done, wander some more. The forest is has more delights to show you.

 

Step Ten:  Share the experience with a friend, if possible.

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The heart naturally opens to friendship when in nature.

 

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Share the joy of being here!

 

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A special moment. 

After a day in the woods, we are happy but tired.  It’s always sad when a great hike ends, but then we have the pleasure of looking forward to the next one!

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Heading to the Cape Croker park and the end of the hike.

We would like to thank the Chippewas of Nawash for generously allowing the trail to pass through their land.  We are grateful to them for preserving and sharing the beauty of this area.

As this was our last hike of 2016, we will say good-bye and meet you back in this space next April.

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Goodbye until next spring!

 

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