October 22, 2016: The Food Blog

I have been roaming the Web and note that food blogs are all the rage these days.  Numerous folks with formidable taste-buds, well-stocked pantries, top-notch thesauruses and  expensive cameras release their food explorations in blog form.  I note that grammar is out and random punctuation is in.  An example:  “Best.  fermented goat cheese.  and wild artichoke terrine. Ever!  served in:   Hollow Gourds! ”

It struck me that the Limestone Ladies are fantastic cooks,  we have highly evolved taste-buds and we could easily ignore grammar and punctuation.  So, the idea of a food blog was. Born.

In order to get to the food though, we still have to do the hike.  So bear with me as I chronicle the stunning scenery of the Peninsula section, and you will be rewarded with pictures of food!

We set out from Wiarton into blustery wind and a smattering of rain.  The grey skies could not mask the lovely setting:

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After so many windy, rainy hikes over the past four years, we barely notice the weather! Here we are, starting out from Wiarton’s Bluewater Park.

The trail winds along the waterfront past a very pretty park and playground, heading towards the Wiarton marina.

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A rainy day in Wiarton

This blog was to be about hiking and gorgeous food, but it very nearly became a romantic epic.  One of our hikers, having had surgery for a fractured patella only 4 weeks earlier, accompanied us for the first portion of the hike on her crutches.  ‘Twas there she spied the dashing, swashbuckling Wiarton Willie and her heart leaped.  Here was the giant plastic cartoon rodent she had been waiting for all her life!

You never know when nor where true love will strike!

You never know when nor where true love will strike!

The trail followed the shore of Colpoy’s Bay very closely.  We have not hiked so intimately with Georgian Bay before.  To be right beside the water was a unique feature of this hike.

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Such a beautiful setting. This peaceful calm could quickly transform into maritime fury on a wavy day!

The trail soon turned away from the shore and climbed steeply to the top of the escarpment.

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Watch your footing!

Thankfully there was a charming iron spiral staircase to aid the climb.

Thankfully there was a charming iron spiral staircase to aid the climb.

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One of the things I love about hiking on an overcast day is that colours are so vivid. The brilliance of these hikers stands out against the subdued palette of the trail.

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The Limestone Triplets with Colpoy’s Creek in the background.

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Heading towards Colpoy’s Bluff with Colpoy’s Bay in the background

There is no experience on earth that compares with the pleasure of hiking on a crisp fall day.  Brilliant colours all around,  air filled with the invigorating scent of damp leaves, wind swirling and surging with restless energy.  It is impossible not to feel happy!

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Immersed in the beauty that is autumn.

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This tree has a story to tell…. sometimes ya gotta do something crooked before you can go straight!

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Enjoying the beauty of the fall forest.

One hiker tried to force her way into the food blog early.  She thought her chunky cauliflower soup with homemade tea biscuit in a separate, but attached, container might allow her to jump the queue into food blogging fame!  Nice try!

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That tea biscuit does look toothsome!

When you’re a new grandmother, it is “de rigueur” to show photos of the new granddaughter.  Here we see the proud grandma sharing photos of sweet baby Nora.

Most beautiful. baby. Ever.

Most beautiful. baby. Ever.

After lunch, the trail continued along the edge of Colpoy’s Bluff, with endless, enticing views across the gleaming waters of Colpoy’s Bay.

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The scenery continued to enthrall.

Sometimes you take a photo, quite by accident, that just  captures the spirit of the day.  I love this picture of a vibrant woman in a vibrant landscape.  That’s just exactly how it was.

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Admiring the endlessly captivating view.

And here is what the vibrant woman was gazing at:

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Note the endlessly shifting wind patterns on the water surface. Can you imagine ever growing tired of this vista? 

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The Lovely Limeys stopped to enjoy the view. Thankfully, no one stepped backwards. It’s a very long way down!

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Last chance to admire the view before heading to the cars. White Cloud Island is in the background.

After a hardy hike, the Ladies were hungry.  But not for just any old food.  Oh no!  The Limestone Ladies accept no less than artisanal, free-range, artfully presented food.  Anything else would upset our finely tuned digestive systems.  So, we started with an appetizer or two:

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Here we see the handcrafted guacamole, constructed from avocados individually picked by descendants of Emperor Montezuma II,  and thoughtfully diced in order to preserve the molecular energy of the avocado. Seasoned with organic heirloom tomatoes , vital lime essence, and lovingly dusted with fleur de sel. Ignore the corn chips in the background. Of course we didn’t eat those!

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Next up was a blue pumpkin soup, scented with cumin, ginger and cinnamon and embellished with organic yogurt-lime drizzle.

Hungry hikers enjoying their soup.

Hungry hikers enjoying their soup.

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An exquisite chicken pot-pie, with hand-carved pearl onions and herbs flown from France on a private jet, to preserve freshness.

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A rich and fragrant tourtiere, bursting with hand-raised, pasture-fed meat and pure grass-fed butter crust sculpted by Italian stone-masons.

Can it get any better?  Stay tuned!  This ratatouille goes beyond merely organic. The vegetables embody the plasmic qualities of essential biotic plant orgo-chemistry in order to capture the. Crucial. Piquancy. of the dish.

This ratatouille goes beyond mere organic. The vegetables embody the plasmic qualities of essential biotic plant biochemistry in order to capture the. Crucial. Piquancy. of the dish.

And you thought it was just a ratatouille!

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Bulgur salad prepared with savoury herbage harvested by Druids under the full moon. And assembled in a yurt!

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The diners seemed to appreciate the food.

Of course there is no dinner without dessert!

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Organic apple upside-down cake made from hand-ground ancient grains and baked in a Paleolithic stone oven.  Sweetened with cold-pressed, fair-trade, eco-farmed sugar-cane nectar.

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Delicious! And nutritious!

Now, you may think that all this food blogging is just egocentric, new-age yuppie babble.  So, let me tell you what happened next.   After eating the meal of thoughtfully-prepared organic, wholesome foods, our injured hiker arose from the table, cast off her crutches, and …. danced!  Yes, it was a miracle!  The Limestone Ladies can heal the wounded!  And we have proof!

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Here she is! Healed! Boogeying to the Bee Gees!

It was a very full day and after the dancing ended, we made our way to bed.  Tired, happy, bellies full and muscles well-exercised.    We need to be ready for more tomorrow!

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And many thanks to our generous hostess.

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September 11, 2016: Move Over, Rio!

Rio de Janeiro, get over yourself!  Wiarton, Ontario has emerged as the hot new Olympic/Paralympic venue.  It’s where all the buff athletes of the International Trail Olympics go to strut their toned thighs and rippling abs.  And this blog was there to catch the live action!

I can’t possibly cover all the exciting sports, so I will limit myself to just a few of the most hotly contested .   There was fierce competition for the Random Chunk of Limestone Clean and Jerk, as evidenced by the following photos:

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Silver Medalist for the Limestone Clean and Jerk shows the strain of competition.

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Gold medalist effortlessly lifts a massive chunk of limestone

Bronze medalist shows her form

Bronze medalist shows her muscular form

Another exciting sport was the One-Legged Mossy-Rock-Balancing competition.  We had some serious contenders in this one:

International rock balancing athletes in dead heat for the medals.

International Mossy-Rock-Balancing athletes in dead heat for the medals.

The competition for the Poisonous Mushroom eating event was slim.  We don’t seem to get many repeat contenders for this event.   But we had one!

This athlete shows her months of training for the poisonous fungus-eating event.

This athlete shows off her months of training for the poisonous fungus-eating event.

Here is the mushroom eaten by the (late) medalist from last year’s competition.

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There’s no shortage of poisonous mushrooms to choose from for this event.

We had flag-bearers, of course.  This duo were the winners of the Dash-Across-The-Road- Without-Getting-Hit relay.

The flag beareres representing both Canada and the Limestone Ladies!

The flag bearers representing both Canada and the Limestone Ladies!

One of my personal favourite events is slower paced but still requires skill and intense training.  It’s the Posing-in-Front-Of-Gorgeous-Scenery-While-Looking-Outdoorsy event.  Here are the winners:

Winners are judged on their posing techniqe, outdoor apparel and the scenery they choose!

Winners are judged on their posing technique, outdoor attire, and the scenery they choose!

We had rhythmic gymnastics and stile-ballet:

This hiker had a leg up on the competition.

This hiker had a leg up on the competition.

Note the cleverly disguised pointe slippers.

Note the cleverly disguised pointe slippers.

There was an eerie moment during the hike when we came upon what appeared to be a stash of concrete coffins lying by the side of the trail.  Can you say weird and unexpected? But in the spirit of “work with what you’ve got,” they provided inspiration for a new sport:  Coffin-Top Push-Ups.

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Yes, those are coffin lids!

Here are some pictures of the thrilled medallists:

Happy medallists

Happy medallists

All her years of training paid off

All her years of training paid off

In addition to gold, silver and bronze, we also awarded the coveted Clay medal!

In addition to gold, silver and bronze, we also awarded the coveted Clay medal!

Athletes on the podium with their medals

Athletes on the podium with their medals

And here is a photo of Team Limestone, showing their exuberant Olympic spirit:

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The athletes, arriving at the Olympic stadium in Wiarton, Ontario.

But the athletes’ joy was short-lived.  An ugly rumour started to circulate that perhaps the judging was not impartial.  Medallists in the Crevice-Leap and the Throwing-Rocks-At-Other-Rocks were clearly not the best athletes.  Could there be corruption in the ranks?  Then we recalled the Maryhill judge, who was seen with a nefarious smile while  flashing a wad of cash the night before.  Questions were raised about her private jet and her yacht named The Malfeasance.  We were unable to catch up with this judge to question her, as her Rolls-Royce pulled away just as the throngs of reporters descended.   So… stay tuned for next year’s competition to see if the Trail Olympics will get cleaned up!

Wanted! On five continents for graft and corruption! If you spot this person, report her location to the International Trail Olympics anti-corruption squad. Do not approach her directly!

Wanted!  For graft and corruption! Interpol has issued an alert across six continents.  If you spot this person, report her location to the International Trail Olympics anti-corruption squad. Do not approach her directly!

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Sept. 10, 2016: A Few of My Favourite Things

With predictions of thunderstorms and wild wind and rain, the naysayers were out in fine form.  “You’re going out to hike in that?” they cried, from the depths of their La-z-boy recliners.   But when we heard today’s weather forecast, we basically shrugged and said “Meh!”  We’re seasoned hikers now, and all the things we love about the Bruce Trail are still there, even when wet.

To honour the attributes of a wet trail, I have borrowed from Rodgers and Hammerstein and composed this brief ditty.  Feel free to hum along!

Raindrops on noses, we’re all getting bitten,

Bright orange fungus, and boots that aren’t fitting,

Brown wooden boardwalks that make the trail sing,

These are a few of our favourite things.

Girls in wet Gore-tex with damp Tilley hatses,

Raindrops that drip from our hair and eyelashes,

Slippery brown mudslides that rain showers bring,

These are a few of our favourite things. 

When the foot slips,

When the ‘squito stings,

Why this hiking fad?

I simply remember my favourite things

And then I don’t feel so bad!

And now: here is photographic evidence that the favourite things are alive and thriving on the Bruce Trail:

First and most favouritest of all:  The Limestone Ladies themselves:

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The lovely Limestone Ladies heading towards a rainstorm.

Equally lovely: ladies once they are wet and slightly bedraggled.

Weathering the storm

Weathering the storm

 An adorable little bridge across a crevice, built by some handy volunteer:

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Saves us having to leap across!

A whimsical picture frame in the middle of nowhere…..

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A lesser known Renaissance masterpiece: The Madonnas of the Trail

People who aren’t afraid to be silly!

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A very unknown Renaissance masterpiece: The Madonna of the Raspberry

A mossy canyon:

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This crevice went on for several hundred metres.

A banquet for mosquitoes:

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The identity of this poor hiker shall remain hidden. She had to give up her lucrative career as a leg model as a result of this hike!

A handsome and muscular man!  Even better, he was bawling lustily for his women!

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Actually this massive beast was a bit scary. He has the crazy eye!

A beautiful view from the top of a hill:

img_0113Puddles!

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We never get tired of puddles!

And more puddles!

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Colpoy’s Range road – we were very glad not to have to drive this.

Smiles when the rain stops:

img_0124-2A delicious dinner at the end of the day:

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Yay! Green Door Cafe!

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They clean up well, don’t they?

And then there is this photo…  This scene was caught on camera at the end of the evening.  We didn’t know it at the time, but we were witnessing graft and corruption of an international scale.  What kind of high-stakes game is she playing?  Who slipped her this cash and what did they want?  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog and you will learn the sordid truth!

lynn

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June 12, 2016: Soxy Ladies

Good morning1

Good morning!

Another gorgeous day on the Bruce Trail! We set out from Inglis Falls, early enough to beat the tourist rush. We soon found ourselves in a green and leafy wood, enjoying the shade and the easy walking.

No shortage of trees here!

No shortage of trees here!

We have become hardened and hardy hikers over the past four years.  We believe in traveling light, focusing on eternal values of friendship and commitment, rather than the shallow vagaries of fashion.   And yet, a certain Bruce Trail style that has evolved.  The LLs like to look good, in their own way, and that involves paying attention to…..socks!

The choice of socks can make or break your day! Here we see the correct balance of comfort and style!

Choice of socks can make or break your day.  This hiker demonstrates the correct balance of comfort and style!

Here we see the "Pippi Longstocking" version of a trail sock. So charming and flattering!

Here we see the “Pippi Longstocking” version of a trail sock. So charming and flattering!

Here we have a conscientious objector with no socks! Didn't get the memo obviously. Or perhaps she is too sexy for socks?

Here we have a conscientious objector with no socks!  Didn’t get the memo, obviously. Or perhaps she is too sexy for her socks?

It’s funny how much the terrain can change in one day.  Yesterday we were in the land of crevices, but today we were mostly high up on top of the escarpment.  This meant lovely vistas, of course.

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Too bad the view doesn’t show in this photo. We gazed out over the forest canopy at Georgian Bay in the distance.

There were wild vistas....

There were wild vistas….

And urban vistas

And urban vistas.

We met up with a few crevices, but instead of being at the bottom, we were on top.  And we wanted to stay on top!  For some reason, this hike included a number of wide cracks, across which we had to leap.  This was fine as long as you didn’t look down at the deep  darkness waiting to engulf you if you slipped!

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Safe landing on the other side

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Some soxy lady just couldn’t resist flashing her irresistible socks, even when we were supposed to be focusing on safely leaping the crevasse. 

We traveled for about 2 km above and beside Highway 21.  Mostly we couldn’t see the road, although we could certainly hear the roar of trucks and Harleys.  When it came time to descend from our lofty heights, some kind folks had  thoughtfully provided a wobbly ladder.

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On our way back down to earth!

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Safely down the rickety ladder, never far from a towering cliff face!

We hiked a short segment along the shoulder of Highway 21 – even this managed to be scenic, thanks to the rocky escarpment looming above the road.

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The Bruce Trail takes many forms, including a highway!

After crossing Highway 21, we entered the Pottawatomi Conservation Area.  We found a scenic lunch spot overlooking Jones Fall.  This 12 metre cascade disappears  completely under the rocky riverbed once downstream.  It’s a bit unnerving to see the impressive waterfall and no river flowing away below it.

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We have lost count of the number of waterfalls we have passed on this journey.  Each one is spectacular, but after a while they do start to look the same.  This beauty is Jones Falls.

 

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It was a stunner of a lunch spot, with Jones Falls as our screen saver. 

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The ladies have a knack for  displaying themselves artfully, even when simply enjoying their lunches.

After lunch, we crossed a fairy tale bridge over the Pottawatomi River  – just made for trolls to lurk beneath.

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Last bridge of the day!  Troll not included.

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A rift developed in the group.  Fortunately not serious!

Thanks to an early start, we ended our day by 2:30.  Yay!  Home in time for dinner.  We are all looking forward to July as we begin the trek to the teeming metropolis of Wiarton.

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Some people just can’t stop being soxy!

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June 11, 2016: Cracks, Crevices and Cubism

After the wonky weather we’ve been having, the ladies were delighted to set out on a warm morning.  Overcast and a bit drizzly, yes, but warm!

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Here we are, embarking on the day’s odyssey.

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Who wouldn’t be happy to be immersed in the woods on a warm day? It’s called “Forest Bathing!”

I am going to ignore the first few km of our hike because it involved walking along the shoulders of Highway 26 and 10th Concession.  Zoom!  Zoom!  The cars whizzed by us at breakneck speed and dusty gravel crunched under our feet.  Not a joyful nor relaxing experience.   However, it’s still part of the trail and thus part of the total zeitgeist.

Soon enough, we entered a world much more enchanting than the highway.  Those drivers whizzing past have no concept that a world like this even exists.  If you exist in a reality of flat, straight, black-topped routes that don’t deviate as they hurry from A to B, then you cannot imagine a hushed, shadow-strewn world of jumbled passages and beckoning darkness.   It is the labyrinthine world of magical crevices.  And it is only minutes away from that soul-less highway.

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Meandering through the world of crevices

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Early morning mist added mystery to an already shadowy world

We were dwarfed by these giant blocks of dolostone.  It’s easy to feel humble and awed when surrounded by rocks that were laid down 400 million years ago!

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The rocks formed many unique shapes, including pinnacles and towers, ocean liners and fortresses. Here is the Bruce Trail version of the CN Tower.

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The walls are permanently damp and support the growth of moisture-loving mass and ferns.

This environment is damp and the air is heavy with the aroma of wet and decaying vegetation.  It is a characteristic rich, loamy scent which is deeply stimulating to the olfactory lobe of the brain.  If you ever smell that scent again, no matter where you are, you will immediately be transported back to the damp, mossy limestone crevices of the Bruce Trail, and the sense of adventure that dwells there.

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Looking up at a “living wall”

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This unique rock resembled the prow of a sinking ship.  Titanic, anyone?

When we finally emerged from the crevices, we found ourselves in a lush world of wildflowers.

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Angelica grew freely along the edge of the trail. So pretty!

In places, the Angelica threatened to engulf the hikers.

In places, the Angelica threatened to engulf the hikers.

This hiker believes that it is important for one's socks to match one's knife. always! But this is really about the beautiful wildflowers!

This hiker believes that it is important for a lady’s socks to match her knife.   But this photo is really about the beautiful wildflowers!

We came upon an observation tower built alongside the trail  When confronted with a tower, the appropriate response is to climb it!  From the top, were treated to a view of the leafy city of Owen Sound.

Looking down on Owen Sound

Looking down on Owen Sound

We thought we were done with rocks and such, but I guess with this trail, you never really are.  Back into the world of cliffs and caves and rocky overhangs:

We found this rock overhang that had a serious sag. Fearing that it would collapse onto some poor hiker, the ladies used brute force to lift it back up into proper position.

We found this rock overhang that had a serious sag. Fearing that it would collapse onto some poor hiker, the ladies used brute force to lift it back up into proper position.

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The scale of the rocks makes us humans feel very small indeed!

We now interrupt this blog for a quick trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York city, where we will enjoy viewing a painting by the famous cubist painter, Georges Braque:

Wait a minute, that's not Georges Braque, that's a rock formation on the Bruce Trail!

Wait a minute, that’s not Georges Braque, that’s a rock formation on the Bruce Trail!

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In case you’re interested, this is the real Georges Braque. “Still Life with Metronome.” I think he plagiarized the Bruce Trail!

I fear that the rocks have been getting all the attention in this blog, so I thought I would throw in a tree.  But not just any tree…. a very cool tree:

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A very cool tree!

Over the course of the day, the thermometer kept rising, and by mid-afternoon, it was an  oppressively hot, humid day.  The ladies were melting.  We had a brief respite when we climbed down a long steep hill and found ourselves in a pleasantly cool little gorge.  The source of the cool air was discovered when one astute hiker noticed holes in the valley floor.  Delicious chilly air wafted out of these holes.  Obviously they connected to underground caves where the air stays frigid.  It was an interesting micro-environment and we were happy to take a rest here and cool off.

Hikers enjoying the cooling station

Hikers enjoying the “cooling station”

There was one other opportunity to cool off before the end of our day.  We reached the Sydenham River and the softly babbling water beckoned to some hikers seeking to cool their feverish feet.

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Ahhh! Bliss!

The final moment of appreciation for the beauty of the escarpment came at Inglis Falls.  it is a natural stunner, cascading 18 meters over the lip of the escarpment.  We loved the thick green moss which coated the rocks and the deep rocky gorge at the bottom.  .  Obviously this is a popular spot and it was crowded with tourists.

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End of hike! Enjoying the beauty of Inglis Falls.

Great day, still loving the trail after all these years!  And, best of all…. we’ll be back at it tomorrow!

 

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May 01, 2016: Highways and Byways

After yesterday’s spectacular weather, we were a bit despondent to see gray skies and rain this morning.  But… this would not be our first hike in inclement weather.  So, the ladies did what the ladies always do; put on a raincoat, a smile and boldly venture forth!

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Rain and cold do not deter our lovely ladies

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Thriving in the rain!

 

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A brief pause for a rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain”

This hike was about two things:  roads and crevices.  When we looked at the maps for today’s route, we were disheartened to see how much of the trail is on roads.  There would be some brief off-road interludes, but we assumed they would be flat and boring!  Wrong!   Between the roads, we found some of the most interesting hiking along the trail so far.

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Here we are, tramping along the shoulder of Highway 26. This was NOT one of the scenic highlights of the day.

After leaving the highway, we entered into a magical hidden world of deep crevices and rocky outcrops and secret passageways.

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The crevices started out small….

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And became quite large!

The trail was winding, rugged, narrow in places, and full of surprises.

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We strolled passageways adorned with thick cushions of emerald moss.

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And followed twisting labyrinths with narrow rock walls.  Notice the “Jenga – like” stacking of the rack fragments.

Even the plants and trees took on magical, mysterious, twisted forms.

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You won’t find this tree in a suburban backyard.

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Ladies with a sensuous, sinewy cedar

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The trail beckoned us further into a magical landscape. We imagined fantastical creatures dwelling in the crevices and caves.

We reached what is definitely one of my favourite places along the entire trail so far: the Lloyd Laycock Cave Side Trail.  This trail is the coolest place to explore if you like scrambling, climbing and slithering.

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We were exploring a deep crevice with sheer, steep rock walls.

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It was like a scene out of Lord of the Rings, heading into the mines of Moria……

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Okay, maybe not quite like the mines of Moria! But you get my point!

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The walls were covered with ferns and moss and tortured roots.

We eventually had to leave the magical place and return to regular hiking.

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A charming wee bridge over a wetland. Not at all Moria-like!

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Now we were above the crevices, not deep inside them.

We enjoyed the woodland spring flowers yesterday, but today we had an extra-special treat:  we encountered a patch of red trilliums, known as “wake-robins,” which were in full bloom.   These are exquisite little flowers.

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The red trillium, or wake-robin.

There were several other horticultural treats in store for us:  we passed through a beautiful wetland filled with towering bulrushes.  No Phragmites in sight! The red-wing blackbirds were ecstatic!

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Look at those shaggy seed-heads! This is a healthy marsh. (NB our lovely hiker does not have a shaggy head, but she is also quite healthy!)

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The next marsh was full of flowering marsh marigolds.. They flaunted their brilliant lemony flowers.

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Close-up of the marsh marigold.

Here’s another rugged, knotty and gnarled old fella that we met along the trail:

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I like to imagine these old trees as wise elders. Think of all that they have seen over the past century. If only they could give us advice!

We were still in the zone of “really cool things that grow.”  Next up was the “groovy fungus zone.”

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You have to admit that this is a rockin’ cool fungus!

It wouldn’t be a spring hike without a serious dose of….. mud!  The last stretch of the day’s walking was on a squelching, sucking, oozing forest floor.

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This hiker is smart enough not to step in the middle of the trail!

Just before we reached the cars at Clearview Crescent, we encountered the famous “Polish Soldier Tree.”  The words were carved into the trunk by a Polish soldier who was training in the Owen Sound area in 1942.  The first line says: “Poland has not yet perished.”

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The Polish Solider tree. The words are still quite legible, 74 years later.

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Happiness is finishing a hike and it rained less than expected! We are all muddy but dry!

Next hike: June!  Sweet dreams of Bruce til we meet again!

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April 30, 2016: No Trespassing!

One fine spring morning, a group of happy hikers tumbled out of their cars and onto the River Kwai side trail in beautiful Grey County.  There were many reasons for these lovely ladies to be excited: back on the trail again, a beautiful sunny day, heading towards the fabled River Kwai,  and, of course,  an opportunity to be intimate with the “other man” in all of our lives: BRUCE!

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Excited Limestone Ladies, departing from the St Vincent – Sydenham Townline. As you can see, spring is just starting to show in these fields

Very soon, we came upon a modest bridge across a humble trickle of water.  Was this the fabulous River Kwai of our dreams, or was it… a drainage ditch?

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Yes! It’s the River Kwai! We had to battle hordes of tourists clamouring to take photographs of the stunning rocky gorge.

It’s funny how life can disappoint and excite you at the same time.  The River Kwai was underwhelming.  So, who would have imagined that one of the loveliest sights we would see today was…. the unpretentious wild leek?

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The fresh green of these leeks glowing in the spring sunlight was a delight to behold. Ephemeral, like all beauty.

Away we went into the woods.  All around us were signs of new life: buds on trees and shrubs, nodding trout-lilies, tightly closed white trilliums.  This is our fourth spring on the trail and we have enjoyed watching the seasons unfold as we pass through on foot.  This is something that city-dwellers do not get to experience so intimately – the new growth of spring!

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Clambering over mossy rocks, the Ladies move deeper into the forest.

Now it is time to check in with some of our hikers to see how they are enjoying the hike so far:

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They seem happy so far!

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Yup, definitely happy!

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Who wouldn’t be happy on a trail in the Bayview Escarpment Provincial Nature Reserve?

We soon came upon some lookouts and were treated to expansive views looking east.

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It always feels good to be up high, looking down.

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Life on the edge of the escarpment.

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The view is the hiker’s reward for hard work and perseverance.

Lest you think that leeks were the only display of nature’s beauty on this hike, I will include a picture of  Sharp-lobed Hepatica, which grew abundantly  in snowy clusters over the forest floor.

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Sharp-lobed Hepatica: look how sharp those lobes are!

Time flew and soon it was time for lunch.  Due to the lovely warm weather, we were able to luxuriate in a leisurely meal.  No shivering and piling on layers of clothing.  No rubbing hands together to fend off frostbite.  Yes, spring has arrived on the Bruce Trail!

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Satisfied customers at the lunch cafe.

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Do they look cold? No!

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Whatever they’re eating, it appears to be delicious.  I actually think it is asparagus.

Some people took luxuriating in the sunlight quite literally and could be found sprawled rather shamelessly.

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The elusive Northern Hiker, in its blue spring plumage, likes to bask in the sun on a fallen log.

After lunch, we started to see the No Trespassing signs.  At first, they seemed harmless enough.

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A No Trespassing sign in the wilderness, accompanied by a 4 km long fence. What could be intimidating about that?

We soon started seeing more signs and more signs.  Could they possibly be serious about not wanting us to trespass?  It’s only a military training centre.  And we could hear the menacing boom of some type of explosive coming from the other side of the fence.

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Although it was hard to take some of the signs seriously.

In case you happened to be unilingual and had not understood the 1,000 English signs, we finally came to a sign which expressed the same sentiment, en francais.

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For all you francophones , let there be no misunderstanding!

However, I did find a potential loophole for those who are tempted to ignore the booming cannon fire and wander into the military range:

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In another year or two, this sign is going to read: “Trespassing” which would seem to indicate that Trespassing is recommended. You go, tree!

In every group, there is one who likes to thumb her nose at authority.  We have our own member of that sect!

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Flagrant civil disobedience!  And loving it!

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We enjoyed spectacular views right until the trail re-joined the St Vincent-Sydenham Townline.

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We exited the Provincial Nature Reserve…

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And enjoyed a stroll along a quiet, scenic gravel road.

Until we met some masked bandits!  They looked strangely familiar.  And they didn’t want our money;  they just wanted to keep their noses from getting sunburned!

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The terrifying masked bandidos of Grey County.

All too soon, we were back at the cars.   Another glorious hike!  Another 17 km closer to Tobermory – not that it’s about the destination!  Another happy group of tired hikers!

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Still smiling at the end of the day!

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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!

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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…..

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Entering the narrow passageway

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Enjoying the journey

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Who knows where this will take us?

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Pausing for a moment of enjoyment

 

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March 19, 2016: Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds

Welcome back, Limestone Ladies!  This is our fourth spring hiking season on the Bruce Trail.  And what a way to kick off the season!

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Here we are on a crisp, cold (- 5 degrees C) morning, setting out from 4th Concession S

After being trail-less for the past few months, the Ladies were excited to be back in Bruce’s embrace.  Despite the cold, there were smiles all ’round.

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“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” Wikipedia   I think we were channeling intense joy!

One thing we have learned over the years is that the trail offers unique gifts to hikers who venture out under adverse or challenging conditions.  A hike on a hot July day may be most people’s idea of ideal, but I dare to say that our most memorable moments have been the unexpected beauty and magic that is found in harsh environments.

The first surprise was the shimmering graphic patterns in the ice surfacing the puddles.  These are nature’s works of art: stunning and ephemeral:

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This would be at home in a modern art museum. Who would think such beauty could be found in a trail puddle!

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Nature’s cubism!

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Fragile ice and a gleaming reflection!

We were actually lucky that these puddles were iced over, as it would otherwise have been a very muddy situation.

Another delight was the vivid colours emerging from under blankets of snow and dead leaves.  In fact, we discovered many brilliant gemstones along the trail:  First up – emeralds!

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Who would not be enchanted by a carpet of plush emerald green?

Next: rubies!

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Not sure what type of fungus this is, but its startling red colour was visible from far away. Rubies of the Bruce!

And then…. Diamonds!

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We were intrigued by numerous clusters of glittering crystals which pushed up from under the dead leaves on the trail bed. They were sparkly and delightful. And crunchy to walk on!

Speaking of sparkly and delightful, we had one hiker who was so excited about the day’s outing that she dressed up in her finest, complete with fancy earrings:

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It’s a fine occasion when one hikes the trail. Accessorize thoughtfully!

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Happy, well-accessorized ladies taking advantage of the earliest hint of spring.

The trail always offers us a comfortable place for lunch.  When we first started to hike, we would have been cold when sitting down for lunch on such a frosty day, but I noticed that no one even mentioned the cold this time!  We have toughened up!

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And a hot drink helps!

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And a  hearty baby carrot for sustenance!

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And some warm lunchtime camaraderie.

After lunch, we came upon one of the major gems of this hike: the lovely Bognor Marsh.  We began by walking across a creaking, rocking, floating boardwalk.   If you ever wondered what it would be like to be a drunken sailor, here was the opportunity to find out!  As we walked across, the boardwalk swayed and heaved and sent waves out across the water surface.  But the water was covered by a delicate sheath of ice, and our waves made the ice sheet rustle and chatter.  Accompanied by the cacophony of ice notes, we made our way into the marsh.

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Balancing on the boardwalk

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If you look closely, you can see the fragile ice on the water’s surface.

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A stark yet beautiful place.

While in the marsh, we encountered a pair of sandhill cranes, who flew about and croaked their rusty bugling cry.   Something to get excited about!  There were also Canada geese – not so exciting.

Unfortunately, it was a short hike today, and the end came all too soon.  We were keen to continue hiking, but alas, it was not to be.  Off to the Best Western to get cleaned up and then out for dinner at the Curry House in Owen Sound!  Good news: more tomorrow!

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Happiness is sharing a beautiful day with a beautiful friend!

 

 

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November 22, 2015: Only a Few Flakes!

As we prepared for our hike last Sunday,  unnerving weather reports swirled around.  Snow squall warnings, possible road closures, predictions of snowfall ranging from 5 – 25 cm.  What’s a hiker to do?

As we debated whether to postpone the hike, we received an email from a group member who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are “MJ.”  MJ was already up in the Beaver Valley and her helpful response to our safety concerns was “Buck up, Ladies,  it’s just a few flakes!”

Here we are hiking in “a few flakes:”

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Yes, just the slightest trace of winter. You’d hardly notice, except for the snow and the cold!

In honour of the first snowfall of the season, I have composed a seasonal song.  Please feel free to hum along as you read:

Oh the weather outside is frightful,                                                                                               But the Trail is so delightful.                                                                                                           And since hiking is how we go,                                                                                                       Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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The hikers bravely marching through frozen woods.

Oh it doesn’t show signs of stopping,                                                                                              As through the fields we’re plodding,                                                                                            And those “few flakes” continue to blow,                                                                                      Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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Yes, only a few flakes. Fortunately, we saw no cars at all. Motorists were too smart to venture out on these roads!

When the wind howls in from the west,                                                                                     How we love going out in the storm!                                                                                           And if you bundle up in Gore-Tex,                                                                                                  All through the hike you’ll be warm!

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Fashionably attired for winter!

The sunlight is slowly dying                                                                                                           And the hikers are happily sighing.                                                                                                As our mileage continues to grow,                                                                                                 Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

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Late in the day: Dramatic skies over 4th Concession

Here are a few highlights of the day:

We spent most of the hike meandering beside the very prettily babbling Walters Creek.

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The creek was charming with its pristine white banks.

We hiked through the woods for a long time, then emerged beside what appeared to be an Soviet-era nursing home adjacent to the river.  Well, it turned out to be the elegant Falls Inn (not so elegant from the back side, I must say).  We were lucky to find a picnic table in the woods not far from the Inn, which turned out to be the perfect lunch spot.

A table for 12!

A table for 12!

One thing about hiking in blowing snow is that the trail markers can be hard to find.  Often the tree trunks are coated with fluffy whiteness and those white blazes just disappear.  We had only one significant mishap, when we walked backwards along a section of trail without realizing it!  No harm done, just a little extra exercise!

Are we lost?

Are we lost?

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This is so much fun!

We had a surprise visit from some Sports Illustrated winter hiking gear models and they posed for us against the scenic backdrop of the 4th Concession.  Watch for the winter hiking model issue coming soon to a newsstand near you!  Here’s a sneak peek:

Straight from the pages of Sports Illustrated

Svetlana, straight from the pages of Sports Illustrated

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Oscar de la Renta’s favourite model: Elisabeta.

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The lovely Lola. Under the Gore-tex, she wears Victoria’s Secret!

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She stole the runway at New York’s Fashion Week: 15 year old modelling sensation: Brooklynn.

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The supermodels pose at Walters Falls. Moments later, they were swarmed by paparazzi

Sad to say, this is our last hike of 2015.  Happy holidays to all and we’ll see you for more of the same, (only better!) in 2016.

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Keep on hiking and keep on smiling!

 

 

 

 

 

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