HR Professionals need certain diversions. Mine right now is hiking on the Bruce Trail.
For this post, I’m going to focus on my diversion, hopefully creating a diversion for you in reading it. Everyone needs a diversion. Perhaps yours is taking 10:00 on Friday mornings to peruse the blogs.
It has been five months since the starting my journey to complete the 880 kilometre walk along the Niagara Escarpment. So far, I have walked from Queenston near the U.S./Canada border to Terra Cotta, going 28 trips, completing approximately 230 kilometers. I’ve seen a lot.
You might think that walking that long and that far would become a grind, but it isn’t. My hips are sore almost all of the time now, and my feet will now never be chosen for modelling jobs, but I drive on, mostly because I really believe I am going to make it to the end.
Some of my previous blog posts about the walk have been about how walking makes me feel. This time, I’m going to mostly focus on the Bruce itself.
There is no question that the Bruce Conservancy, the custodians of the Bruce, is a well-heeled organization with a good set of supporters who actively work to preserve this tiny ribbon of unspoiled land. That said, you can’t help but wonder what our world is coming to when you see the level of destruction in and around the Bruce. At times, I wonder if I missed something by waiting so long to take this walk. The Emerald Ash Borer has destroyed parts of the canopy. What it did not destroy the ice storm of 2014 did. Overall water levels are down and the forest floor looks stressed. Add to that development occurring right at the base of the escarpment and the presence of active quarries and you wonder how much longer we are going to be able to keep the ribbon alive.
Yet most of the Bruce is still extraordinary. The Niagara Region portion where we were in January takes you through Welland Canal and wine country. While we were walking through this area during the dead of winter, you could still appreciate mile after mile of vineyards in the distance. Most of these are located in an area called “the Bench”, which is called this because the Escarpment is a noticeable tall flat bluff. The Bench has a special microclimate that is perfect for growing grapes and fruit. Wineries are everywhere. Even in the dead of winter this area is very pretty.
In February, the trail took us from the Bench through what most people visualize as the Escarpment, the long straight wall that runs from Beamsville to Stoney Creek, alongside the QEW. For the rest of my life whenever I am down in that area I will point to that wall and marvel, “I walked that whole thing”. What I will remember most about that section was the trip where we decided to park our destination car at Lewis Road and then had to figure out how to get down the cliff to reach our car. Anyone who has ever been to the Great Wall of China knows that the staircases there are highly uneven, some steps being a few inches and others a few feet. It was a similar experience at Lewis Road. And unfortunately as I was climbing down those stairs I stepped on a spike holding up a support board and created a four inch gash up my ankle that took months to heal. The solace is that that day we discovered the Memphis Fire BBQ joint in Fruitland, ON which hands down has the finest coconut cream pie in the land.
For most of March, nearly every trip included a view of a waterfall. It is quite honestly difficult to say which trip in this time period was my favourite. There was the satisfaction of walking the Chedoke Radial Trail section in Hamilton where I climbed 133 flights of stairs in one afternoon and finished the walk at the top of the mountain ending on the other side of the 403 near the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. There was the unexpected feeling of solitude and sensation of spaciousness on the walk to the Dundas Valley Conservation Area. There was the opportunity to see the forests coated in ice following Easter weekend ice storm. The Rock Chapel area was particularly special. At the southern end there is an uninterrupted view of the Toronto skyline and at the northern end there is Borer Falls and the entrance to the Royal Botanical Gardens. This section’s finale was a long walk from Highway 6 to Crystal Springs Road in Burlington. Near the end there is a spectacular waterfall and intense rapids.
By April we were heading north and climbing back up into the higher elevations. This wasn’t always easy because spring was in full swing and the trails were muddy and slippery. The waterfalls disappeared and gave way to very special views in every direction. At Mount Nemo we had our first opportunity to climb a ladder to get to another elevation because it was impossible to cut in stairs. And at Kelso, we got to enter the conservation area following the end of the winter closures and enjoyed walking through our first ski resort. The month ended with the completion of the Iroquois section of the trail and a gleeful high five as we crossed under the 401 at Appleby Road.
May began in the Toronto section of the trail. Our first leg included passing over the Dufferin Quarry Gap bridge. While this is not a particularly beautiful part of the Bruce, it is important to see because the damage to the Escarpment caused by the creation of a quarry road caused so much outrage that it facilitated its recognition as a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve. From mid-May onward we started making our way toward Caledon, enjoying the trillium flowers in Speyside Woods and the kilns in Limehouse. One of our walks ended at Scotsdale Farm; which was a beautiful farm donated to the community by the Bennett Family in the 1980s. The trees in this area are among the tallest I’ve ever seen. We ended the month of May at the Terra Cotta Forest Preserve. The walk that day was mosquito infested and for some stretches I was at near sprint pace in an effort to try and prevent any from landing on me. I was marginally successful.
June will take us through Caledon, with a goal to be in Shelburne by the end of the summer. Based upon other people’s posts, some of the upcoming sections are quite spectacular.
What are your diversions?
Bonni Titgemeyer CEBS, SPHR, CHRL, CMS, SHRM-SCP is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. and founder of The EO List blog. She is a well-known entity in the total compensation and organizational effectiveness fields, and has highly-sought after experience in the global arena. She is currently sharing her Bruce Trail photos on Twitter as @BonniToronto at the hashtag #brucetrail.