Thursday, August 29, 2019

Hiking The Grand Valley Trails: Hike Four-Land Of The Lost

   Yesterday, I completed my fourth hike in my quest to finish my end-to-end of the Grand Valley Trails system. It was not fun.
A tree with a blaze
on what actually
looked like a trail,
I don't usually take
pics like this but
this seemed so mi-
raculous that I couldn't
help myself lol
Start of the trail
   I once again followed the routine of driving to where I wanted to end up and then calling a cab to drive me to where I wanted to start from. Once again, I had a hard time finding a taxi company that actually had drivers available so I found myself bouncing back and forth from one company to another. Eventually, though (after an hour's wait) I was picked up by one of them and arrived at my drop-off spot. This is where the fun began. I found where I was supposed to enter the trail and knew that I had to walk along the side of a field,  til I got to the corner, at which point I would dip into the forest. At what appeared to be the corner of the field, I was unable to find any blaze taking me into the forest. I still entered the forest but was unable to find blazes. I had an approximate idea of which direction I need to hike in so I headed that way but found no blazes. I knew from the map that there were a
Out of the forest, thankfully, and
arriving at the Ruthven Park
National Historic Site. 
couple of creeks which I could follow to get back to the highway and when I did that, I found a blaze! And then another one! Woo hoo! And then they disappeared again. Once again, I just tried to make my way out to the highway. Eventually, I did this, but not without a bunch of bush-whacking first. 

   At that point, the hiking became a lot more enjoyable and I found myself in places wherein I easily knew my way. Walked right past a ghost town and a haunted (they say) mansion! Shortly after this, though, I came across a wide open field, probably about 250 yards long and 100 yards wide. Smack dab in the middle of this field was one huge tree with a blaze on it. And no other blazes to be found. I walked to the far end of the field, hoping for blazes and couldn't see any. Clambered up a steep, overgrown slope to a highway guardrail, climbed under it, and then hiked the highway for a bit.
Loved the wide open trails at
Ruthven Park.
I made a left-hand turn at a road called Grand Sports Road. This was clearly marked and there were a couple of blazes along the way, indicating I was headed in the right direction. This road, however, came to a dead end. At that point I was unable to find anymore blazes or even anything that looked like a path I could (or should) follow. So I walked back to the highway. This eventually took me to a little town called York and, shortly after, I found myself on the Rotary Riverside Trail. Some of this overlapped with the Great Canadian Trail and this part of the hike was amazing. A small part of it passed through a suburban area but the rest was wide, easy trail right along the river. After seven
Nets used to capture birds and
then band them, still at Ruthven.
kilometers of this, I was back at my car and exhausted.

   On the map, what I hiked yesterday should have been seventeen kilometers. My livetracking with my watch and phone indicated I had actually walked nineteen, what with all the backtracking and, you know, being lost and all!
   Today, 24 hours removed from the experience, I'm still thinking I will continue my journey. Yesterday about this time, I wasn't so sure. Part of me wants to contact the Trail association and complain about the blazes and confusing written directions. Another part of me is cognizant of the fact that the trail is maintained almost entirely by volunteers. Yet another part of me realizes that maybe it's just me, maybe I just can't see those blazes or know where to look for them. What I do know is that marrying written directions to a map can sometimes be a very subjective kind
Thompson family cemetery.
Thompson was the first person
to settle this part of Ontario and
became wealthy with the river
shipping industry. Other people
moved here and a small town
was formed, called "Indiana"
of thing that's hard to do at the same time you're actually on the trail and also hot, confused and very tired. 

The Thompson Mansion. It is said to be haunted
by the ghost of Thompson's 11 year old daughter,
who died of an illness. Tours are currently
conducted there and people claim to have seen
the apparition of a young girl, sitting on
the top step of one of the staircases there.
   So my plan is to go back and do more of the trail. At the same time, I also plan to drive to parts of the trail where I got confused and take a second look at them with a clearer mind and more time. If, at that point, things suddenly become clear, I will let you all know!

The pillars which used to support the iron gate to the
mansion's driveway.
Interesting historical plaque
The afore-mentioned tree in the middle of the field
with no other blazes to be found!
On the Rotary Riverside Trail
Geese in the Grand! Just standing!
More of the Rotary Riverside Trail, overlapping with
the Great Canadian Trail

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Hiking The Grand Valley Trails: Hike Three-Thru Cayuga and Beyond to 40.5

   A couple of days ago, I managed to get back out on the Grand Valley Trail and lop off another 15K trek.
   The last time I'd hiked was back at the beginning of July and so much had gone on in the interval that it just seemed as though there were no really good opportunities to get out there again. We're currently on two weeks of holidays, though, so it seemed like a good time....
   I drove to where I wanted the hike to end up and then called a cab to take me back to where I had finished my previous hike, just a little west of Dunnville. I called the same cab company I had used the first two trips but they were busy and referred me to another company. They were also busy and referred me to yet another company and they (you guessed it) were also busy! I finally got back to the first company and they were able to arrange for someone to come and get me. Had a nice, meandering ride back while the cabbie filled me in on all the trials and tribulations of his life. He probably over-shared a little but I was happy enough to lend an ear and he ended up saying that he was glad to have picked me up and wished me well on all my hiking adventures.
   I have been on a stretch of the trail which has involved mostly highway and urban walking and this week was no different. The temp was nice, about 24C(75F), partly cloudy skies but still quite a lot of sun, and a light breeze---pretty well perfect hiking weather for me.
   About a kilometer and a half into my highway walk, I was passing this house with a huge yard and all of a sudden a large black dog came bounding across the lawn towards me, completely un-tethered. I was prepared for a friendly meet-and-greet but, no, this dog was having none of that. It ran right up to me, barking, growling and bearing its teeth. I basically froze, not offering any chunks of me for it to bite off. After a minute or so, this middle-aged woman appeared in the driveway, trying to call the dog off. Doggie was having none of that. A man then appeared at the front door and yelled at the dog. This got a little of the dog's attention and you could see that it was torn between pestering me or heeding its master's call. The guy suggested I just keep on walking but the dog remained right on my heels and it's kinda hard to walk backwards. Finally the dog gave up on having me for lunch and headed back across the lawn. Whew!
   Everything after that was uneventful and I eventually found myself crossing the Grand River and into Cayuga. I've driven through Cayuga a handful of times but never stopped or strayed from the highway. It's actually quite a pretty little town and I had the opportunity to make my way past some of the more historic parts of it. Once out of Cayuga, it was just a short hike back to where I had parked the car and then home! Felt so good to get back out there again! Here are some pics from my journey today! (no pics of the dog...grrr) 

Start of the hike---before the dog!
Some nice houses on this road!
Apart from "dead", anybody know what
kind of snake this is. Corn? Rat?
Rolling countryside
There was a turtle sunning itself on one of
the branches in the water but was gone
by the time I could get my phone out.
Did I mention the nice houses...?
Across the bridge and into Cayuga.
Past an old church.
Nice to know I was on track! On the grounds of the
Haldimand County Museum and Archives. Notice
the old log cabin at the back.
Wall of the old jail.
Pas the high school, the OPP detachment
and on to where I'd left my car.
Townline Road East scenery.
And around that curve up there....
...was my car!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hiking The Grand Valley Trails: Hike Two-Dunnville to 25.6

   Yesterday, I hiked another section of the Grand Valley Trails system.
   I went back to Dunnville and found the spot where I had left off last week and resumed my walk from there. I did things a little differently getting there, though.
   Rather than parking my car near the beginning, hiking and then arranging a taxi to take me back to the car, I drove my car to the end point, parked it, and then called a cab to take me back into Dunnville. Doing it this way was Doralyn's idea and it was an awesome one---I was totally exhausted by the time I got to the end point and the idea of having to wait there in the middle of nowhere while a cab was trying to find me was quite unappealing. So---thanks to my Sweetie!                   It was a pretty good day for hiking, with temps around 23C (73F) and lots of sunshine. It is also Canada Day weekend in these parts and Dunnville was hugely busy with people either already celebrating or getting ready to. It's a pretty little town right on the Grand River near to where the river empties into Lake Erie, and the waters were busy with boats and fishermen everywhere. It is also on a highway going through town so this meant lots of traffic---the first thing I had to do was cross the street and this took forever!
   Eventually, I was out on the country roads and motoring along on my own two feet. In the first 40k of the trail, there are only about 3K worth of hiking through forest area, the rest is all highway. Having said that, though, yesterday's small section of forest walking was quite problematic.
   There is a un-named section of dirt path which cuts a corner between two intersecting roads. It started out dry and dusty but then became wet and boggy. At this point, the horseflies (deerflies?) took over. Not anticipating a section like this, I hadn't done any form of bug protection. I did have bug netting with me but knew it was only a short section and so figured I would just power through. But then I hit the really boggy areas. There were sections of the path which, because of all the rain in these parts, were under water. The fact that there were tadpoles and frogs in them lends me to believing they might be under water most of the time. I took out the trekking poles and was almost able to make it to the end of the swampy area but then I lost my balance and my right foot went into the muddy water, almost up to my knee. There was no pulling my foot out and keeping my shoe attached at the same time, so I ended up crouched over this mini-pond with my arm in it almost up to my elbow, trying to find and fish out my shoe. Eventually, I did so, and then spent the final 9K of my walk in a soggy running shoe! It would have been a worse experience with a hiking boot, however, so I was glad of that.
   The rest of the hike was simple roadway walking, which I was sort of grateful for, as I was getting exhausted. By the time I got back to the car, I had traveled slightly over 16K (10 miles) and was now at the 25.6K marker of the Grand Valley Trails system! And now for some pics to prove that I walked the walk!

Just about to leave Dunnville---
pretty little town!
Fishermen on the Grand River
Passing by the Byng Island conservation area. The
cab driver told me the camping area here is booked
up pretty well every weekend.
"Baaa!" I said. Sheepishly....
My view for most of the day.
The "un=named dirt road" which eventually
became very boggy and caused....
...THS! This was after I'd poured all the muddy
sludge out of it...
Just after the boggy section was a pretty random
trailer sitting there, where people had been
dropping off their used electronics
Go ahead, pick a rut!
Turning on to River Road, and the final LONG section.
My smile kind of belies how I was feeling at this point.
Small lake (pond?) I passed by. Note the wind turbine,
they're all over the place in the Dunnville area.
Random barn I thought was picturesque.
Was able to see my bright red Honda from almost
a kilometer away. And never so glad!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hiking The Grand Valley Trails: Hike One-Port Maitland to Dunnville

   Yesterday, I started hiking the Grand Valley Trails system. This is a system of trails stretching from Dunnville, near the shores of Lake Erie, right up to Orangeville---a length of 275 kilometers.
   Because of the length of the system, I had wanted to get started much earlier in the spring. The past two summers, I have hiked trail systems which were each slightly over 100K each, and with some fairly intensive section hiking, I was able to get them done in the summer. This summer, however, I'm going to have to ratchet things up a bit!
   The other issue which complicates things is the logistics. Dunnville, as an example, is a two hour drive from London. Previous hikes have all been within (somewhat) easy driving range and I was always blessed with Doralyn being willing to meet me at an ending point and then drive me to the start. This summer, I can't really ask her (or anyone) to spend four hours in a car, just so I can hike for two or three. So my plan is go there solo, hike, and then have a taxi pick me up and drive me back to my car. Not cheap, at first look, but when you factor in the gas for two cars driving all over hell's half acre.....
   I also have learned how to program co-ordinates into my car's GPS---a handy thing to know because the Grand River trail maps all provide GPS co-ordinates for the different locations you'll need to arrive at, and leave from.
   Okay. All this planning and yesterday still turned into kind of a shit-show.
   It really doesn't matter how much time you spend envisioning what a trail will look like, when you actually get there, it's all different. Yesterday, I got just about as turned around and confused as I ever have, trying to follow both a map and the written instructions provided with it. Because of this, I ended up hiking an extra three kilometers. My plan was to have hiked 15K to a certain parking area just west of Dunnville but I ended up exhausted and a little disgusted right in the heart of Dunnville and that's where I called it a day and a cab, both at the same time. Still got in 13K, though, so not too bad.
   After I got home, I was able to check out my hike on Garmin Connect and totally saw where I went wrong! It was actually pretty funny to see where I was running around, checking road signs and talking to locals and crossing the same road back and forth. This made me feel a little better and somewhat more prepared for my next outing, just knowing where I had gone wrong on this one!
   At any rate, and as is my habit, here are some pics and commentary, just to prove that I walked the walk!

The start of the trail!
The entrance to Lake Erie
Walking along the canal. Lots of "boat stuff" going on
here, which always elicits a visceral response.
I am always wary of these things. These were as tall
as me, and looking somewhat like Giant Hogweed (an
extremely toxic plant), although were more likely
Cow Parsnip (although I hear that this can be toxic
as well) Regardless, I may inform the local
lol In the guide, this was described as a "dirt road".
Because I knew I would only be walking on "dirt roads" and
highways, I wore my running shoes...
The village of Stromness, note the threatening sky. I
saw Stromness from more directions than I really
wanted to, due to an inability to decipher maps.
Say hello to my little friend! Saw LOTS of these yesterday!
A LONG walk along North Shore Dr., which becomes
Main Street when you reach Dunnville.
Much of the walk on North Shore Drive was along a
canal which featured lily pads. Beautiful!