Sunday March 20, 2016: A Pilgrimage, of sorts

I have been contemplating the concept of pilgrimage.  One of the LLs will be heading to Spain this fall to walk the Camino de Santiago and we are all excited for her.  It has given me pause to explore the ways in which our simple Bruce Trail hikes are also a pilgrimage, of sorts.

For the pilgrim, the trail is home; reaching the destination is  nearly inconsequential.  I have heard from many hikers in our group that they don’t want this journey to end.  We are so happy to be together on the road, sharing the moments as they are.  The shared moments have become the reason for the hikes.  Tobermory is an abstract concept that doesn’t influence us.

And it is also true with pilgrims that the one who sets out is not the same person as the one who returns.  I think we can all agree that the trail has changed us – for the better.  I love to see how we have become such good friends, so caring of each other and respectful of each others’ needs.  We are also stronger, more confident and less worried about small discomforts (and sometimes large discomforts!).  Does this make us pilgrims?  I would like to think so.

And so, on Sunday March 20, a small band of sturdy pilgrims set out from Bognor Marsh.  We soon encountered our first bridge of the day.  Time for a group photo!


First bridge of the day.

Pilgrimage is for the strong, the committed, the seeker of knowledge.  We climb a hill, not knowing what will be at the top, but believing that it will be beautiful and worthwhile…..


First hill of the day.

A good friend is a guide in life, who keeps us safe and can be trusted to help when the trail gets rough.


Good friends along the trail

The best antidote for all that ails us: noble friends and noble conversations.  We are lucky to have plenty of both!


A snack and a chat

Through the exploration of outer landscapes, we discover inner meaning.  Who can look at a spectacular vista and not feel awed by the majesty of the earth?  It helps us find our humility and understand our small place in the vast web of life.  Fortunately, the Bruce trail offers plenty of these awe-inspiring views:


Looking east across the farmlands of Grey County

The pilgrim understands that hardship is part of the journey and that by facing it and overcoming it, she grows stronger.


A challenging icy descent

So often in life, we are lost in our thoughts, feelings, emotions, desires, and we lose track of the present moment.  Another gift of hiking is that we are forced to be present in the here and now, usually due to physical hazards such as loose rocks, mud, ice, steep pitches, etc.  But by paying attention to our surroundings, we loosen the grip of our anxieties and worries.  It centers us back in our bodies and our minds and we bring that wellness home with us.


Totally focused on the present moment!

It’s also important to look for beauty.   Beauty nourishes the soul.  It is said that ordinary people see ordinary beauty, but extraordinary people find extraordinary beauty in everyday things.


One hiker was so captivated by the beauty of these fresh green plants growing in the stream bed, that she sent me back down the trail to get a photo of them. Extraordinary, indeed!


And don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of humans too!

This hike in particular, was a good metaphor for the journey of life.  We ventured down many narrow passageways,  bravely moving forward, never certain of what was around the next bend.


Entering the narrow passageway


Enjoying the journey


Who knows where this will take us?


Emerging from the depths

There were a few interesting sights on this hike which made it a bit unique.  We passed  through a “forest” of native yew bushes, which was an unusual landscape we had not yet encountered.


Trekking through the yews.

We encountered an old lime kiln, just outside the crossroads of Woodford.  Some hard-working pioneer created the kiln from a glacial pothole.  What a way to make a living!


The old lime kiln. This one is certainly primitive compared to the huge ones we saw further south.

We also got to see the “disappearing waterfall” which apparently goes underground for most of the year.  While it wasn’t exactly thundering, it was very pretty!


The disappearing waterfall

We had a cause for celebration on this hike:  we have officially completed 2/3 of the distance of the trail!  Even though it’s NOT about the destination, it’s nice to congratulate ourselves for perseverance.


Celebrating 2/3 of the trail completed!

So, as we return to our ordinary lives for a few more weeks, we can recall our weekend pilgrimage and savour the happy memories.


Pausing for a moment of enjoyment


About idreamoftobermory

Hiker, kayaker, canoeist, cross-country skier, cyclist, wanderer, adventurer.
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