The Bruce Trail

By Dan Kohn

as hiked on June 4 to 10, 1988

by Dan K. and Dan R.

 

This is the impressions and experiences I had during a hiking trip from June 4 to 10, 1988 on the Bruce Trail in Ontario Canada.

For those of you who have not herd of the Bruce trail, it is a public trail that starts in Niagara Falls and ends up in Tobermory (on Georgian Bay). It is a public trail on privately and public land and maintained by The Bruce Trail Association.

Day 1:

Before we actually got to the beginning of the trail we stopped off at Owen Sound. This turned out the be quite profitable because here we were able to pick up a Bruce Trail Guidebook. As we got back into the car to drive the final hour to the beginning of the trail in Tobermory we started to look at the trail we were going to be hiking for the next few days.

I must admit we were not as prepared as I think we should have been, I did do some research on the area but not on the trail itself. The trail guide made it look as if this was a disastrous mistake. For the book did not show an official camp sight for the first 17 kilometers (a very long hike for starting off in the late afternoon), but since we had driven all day we decided that if we had to we would either hike that distance, or just stop at the side of the trail for the night.

We arrived at Tobermory and found the trail marker right were the trail book said, unfortunately there is not much parking around the head of the trail, but we ended up paying a hotel $10 (Can.) to park the car in there lot. Then off we went to the trail. The trail itself did not fill us with confidence when the first sign we saw said, 'If you are not wearing proper hiking boots TURN BACK NOW' but we continued on through some of the most beautiful and difficult terrain. This part of the trail is very rocky and narrow, Dan had quite some problem with his wide pack on this part of the trail but it was passable.

Then we came out to a small road and saw Georgian Bay for the first time. What a sight, The shore was all white rock and the water was as clear as I have ever seen. Also it was quite refreshing to drink. Georgian Bay's water is drinkable without purification of any kind and is very cold even at this time of the year (even with temperatures into the mid 70's during the day). After filling up our canteens we went on. We hiked for a few more hours and then set up camp at a very well used camp that is not in the trail book (approx 4km from the beginning of the trail). We had a good dinner of Magic Pantry stew (which was surprisingly good) and set up one of our two tents, since that is all that would fit on this sight. Water was no problem since we were still close to the shore of the Bay. That was the end of our first day.

Day 2:

We awoke quite late and had a very usual breakfast of instant Oatmeal and started to take down the tent, when some other hikers came bye. These were the only other overnight hikers we saw and so we had quite a long conversation about the trail ahead. They also mentioned that were we had camped the night before is were they had a problem with slugs all over there tent after awaking, but we did not have that problem. After they left we to took back to the trail.

 

About an hour later we reached Little Cove (5.4Km). Here we stopped for lunch and to have a look at The Bay once again. The scenery was much the same as before, but I could look at that view for hours and not get tired of it. During lunch we met some more hikers out for the day, they told us about a camp sight they saw at the top of the point as well as some beautiful overlooks ahead. Then we went our separate ways.

We started off again, but by this time my pack began to give me problems. I have a Lugger internal frame backpack. It is very nice but has about 20 adjustments to make and since this was the first hike it has been on it was not adjusted correctly. This slowed us down quit a bit, not to mention this part of the trail was all up hill to begin with.

Even with the problems, we did make the camp that the people told us about during lunch. But, much to my regret, we could not stay.

This camp was overlooking the Bay, but did not have access to it, so there was no way to get water.

After some time of trying to find a way to the shore we decided to go on. We still had 4 or 5 hours of daylight left so that was not a problem, but my pack was killing me and Dan was beginning to have a few problems with his feet.

But luck was with us because down the trail about five minutes (and a considerable drop in elevation) was another camp with access to the Bay. Here we stayed the night. We were at the 9.3Km mark of the trail at this point.

The most memorable event at this sight was a Snow Shoe Rabbit. We must have camped right in the middle of his territory because he kept on sitting right outside our reach as if he was watching us. We even got him to eat some of our leftovers from dinner, but he would not eat out of my hand. We heard him all night long as he hopped around the tent.

Day 3:

After we awoke, Dan went down to the water to take a 'shower'. and after breakfast it was my turn. I DO NOT suggest this during this time of the year. The water temperature could not have been much over freezing! but yes you do get a feeling of being with nature, standing on the shore, nude, with no one around to watch, freezing your can off!

Well after some time to warm up we were off. This time the trail cut inland, through some very different terrain. We stopped for lunch at, what looked like an abandoned farmers field. My backpack was still bothering me, so I tried a few more adjustments. Once we started hiking again I noticed a great improvement, Thank God, I Got It Right! From that point on I had no problem with my pack except for a little sunburn around the neck.

We then headed for Driftwood Cove were we stopped for a bit to refresh (or freeze) our feet in the Bay. Dan's feet were becoming a problem and we were soon running out of band-aids (but it never got to the point of stopping us completely). While we were here, I spotted a snake. The only reason I even mention this sighting is because we were unsure what type it was. This part of Canada is well Know for the Missisauga Rattle Snake (yes, a rattlesnake in Canada). Latter on I found out it was not a Rattler, but to this day I have not been able to identify it.

 

 

We cut inland once more. After a few minutes we cut back out and hit the buggiest part of the trail so far (but still not as bad as I expected for this part of Can.). We found out why, we were nearing a swamp and Loon Lake. Once we reached the lake we found a camp sight, here we stopped to consider a swim in the lake. Unfortunately it was not too deep and very muddy on the bottom. I tried walking in a few inches and sunk down into the mud a few inches more. Felling it was unsafe for a swim, we went on.

While we were stopped a very large group of students (14 in all) on a field trip, came by. As usual on the trail,we exchanged information on the upcoming trail and stories. We had to get a picture of this just to prove there were more crazy people in the World.

We left that group and started to head out to the Bay one more time. There we found Rick and Ted who were camped there. They showed us a few more camp sights in the general area and then left us to set up. One of our smartest moves here was to set up both of our tents. By this point most people start to show symptoms of the 'Three Day Syndrome' so it was a good idea being able to get away from each other for a bit.

I rested for a bit while Dan went to visit the other camp. When I awoke Dan was back and we started to prepare dinner. He mentioned to me that Rick and Ted had problems with a very courageous racoon. Boy they were right, I put down the bag from my dinner and started to eat, and here came the racoon. He just dashed out of the woods and grabbed that bag and ran. We let him get away, but I decided to put everything else away. But here he came again, this time he tried to steal the tea I had just poured for myself. This time he did not get away, not because of something we did, but because he spilt some of it on himself and he ran away, but he did try to get it away from me a few more times anyway.

I went to visit the other camp, and here I was amazed with all the small animals around the camp. They seemed to have very little fear of humans, which was an excellent endorsement for the Trail and it's users.

After this I turned in. I laid there listening to the wildlife, but one stood out in my mind. I will never forget the sound of a lone Loon singing its song that night. It is a sound that cannot be described, it must be experienced.

 

Day 4:

We did not do much on this day because the weather took a turn for the worse. We did get to explore around the camp and even took a trip to Overhang Point. We hiked right over the overhand until we saw the hole leading down to the underside of it. This had to be the largest overhang on the shore of the Bay. Since most of this land on this part of the trail is owned by the Government, we explored off then trail for a bit as well. Overall it was a day to relax.

Day 5:

The weather did not break and the Bay was extremely rough, but we decided to go on anyway. As we went on we started to see a lot more people. This was because we were nearing Cyprus Lake National Park (It was a Provincial park up until last year). We passed by a number of Grottos.

They are caves formed by Georgian Bay. Some of these are extremely large, like the largest one right outside the National Park, but because of the waves (caused by the weather) we were unable to explore them at all. We went into the Cyprus Lake Park and registered at the camp office at the front of the park. Note that during this part of the year only one of the major camping areas is opened and usually full during the weekends. Make sure you arrive before Friday night.

Here is were we decided to stay the rest of our time. Picking up the car (which was 22Km away) turned out the be no problem. The Park Personnel were very nice about driving me back to Tobermory to pick it up. This is also a very nice spot to go swimming, after my experience in Georgian Bay I had not washed, so the waters of Cyprus Lake were welcome. It was still quit cool but it was pleasant compared to the Bay. The camp was very quite at this time of the week, not too many people (because it was a Wednesday). I watched the sundown from the banks of the Lake while a number of insects were mating above me. Millions and millions of them. After sundown the Loons started to sing while the stars shown above. Again not I time I shall soon forget.

 

Day 6:

We decided to go on a day hike to Cave Point to see Bootleggers Cave. On the way we met up with a school group out for a similar day. After chatting with them for some time we were off down the trail, but right behind us there they were. We hiked for some time and thought we had found the cave (after being joined by more of the same group of school kids). They seemed to think that Dan and I knew what we were doing because they said 'Will follow these guys, they seem to know what they are doing.' So we were adopted by them as their guides. Well we got them down to the cave, but we could not get into the cave because of the rough water that was still present because of the storm the day before. We walked out (in the cold Bay waters) for a bit and got to a rock facing the cave that was as fare as we got. The school kids turned back at this point (the teachers did not believe that we tried to get to that cave).

After we got back to the shore we ate lunch and warmed ourselves a bit and then decided to follow the shore back. Sure enough we met the school group once more. This time they were at a cabin with a great story. The cabin was right on the shore and in great shape even though it looked abandoned. Above the door was a note that told the story of the cabin. The cabin was built by two brothers who had the attitude that the cabin should be left opened for all to enjoy. These brothers died a few years ago and left the cabin in their will 'for all to enjoy' and all they asked is that people took care of it while they were their and left some provisions for the next group. It ended with 'we hope that you will enjoy this spot as much as we did.'

People who had stayed there had left notes to all the others to follow. I remember one entry that went something like this:

Jan 1, 1985

Big storm hit. Ended up with 14 people and two dogs in the cabin for the night. Had a great time.

I thought, what a bunch of nuts camping here during a storm in mid winter, not knowing that I would meet two of the people and one of the dogs a few days later on a Scouting event I went on over the following weekend.

Also here we met the third part of the group of school kids. We found out that the cave we attempted to reach was not the Cave we thought it was. Well that's the breaks.

We walked back to camp with the school group and spotted a snake that darted away quit quickly, but we think it was a Missisaga Rattler but it was more scared of us then we were of it.

That night the group put on a show and invited us. After we returned we sat around the campfire and talked. We were also visited by a raccoon who sat down right a next to Dan and gave him quite a scare when he looked down into his eyes. Then we turned in with the sound of a Loon off in the distance.

 

Day 7:

We left to go to a Scout camp (since we were both very active in Boy Scouts of Canada), but we will both remember the time we had on the Bruce Trail. I hope someday to return to that same area to hike once more.

 

Hindsight:

Since they say hindsight is prefect, here is what I would have done differently if I was to go again.

First of all I would have done more research on the area including getting a Trail Guide much sooner than we did.

Second, I would have carried a more complete first aid kit. I did bring one fill with about 20 band aids but I found more were needed than that. Also sun screen would have been a great asset because of my sunburned neck.

We did ok on food. Most of what we ate was either Spaghetti or rice with Boil in a bag for the meat and vegetables. As for cooking we both brought our Coleman Stoves. These were not needed, because fires were possible, but this is not always the case so I do recommend that you do have at least one.

As for equipment, I should have tried out my backpack before this trip on a few day hikes. But I did take my winter sleeping bag (full mummy bag made of down), which was definitely needed this early in the season.