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Bruce Trail,  Hiking

Bruce Trail 02b – Welland Canal

A Year later

Somehow it has been more than a year since I last visited The Bruce Trail. Perhaps an explanation of my personal circumstances might be in order, especially since, if you read the introduction to this adventure on my main Bruce Trail page, I talked about the issue of mental health.

After losing a much-loved job and promising career a few years ago I have had, to put it mildly, a hard time of things. The great news, which I eluded to at the end of the previous hike, is that I have found a new job that I greatly enjoy. Despite this good news, and with consideration to what I am able to reveal here, let’s just say that an unexpected and fraught situation towards the end of 2019 had led to a bit of a mental health relapse that also kept me away from this adventure.

However! I am back and am feeling better than I have for what seems like a very long time. Years, in fact. I’m also considerably fitter. I have lost around 35lbs since I started this adventure. So let’s kick the shit out of this trail, yeah?

Driving back along the highways familiar to my previous trip last winter, I parked up at Woodend Conservation area and walked a little way to where I last left off at the 11.8km point. Once more, the trail follows the high ridge of The Niagara Escarpment and likes to punish you by occasionally weaving down into the valley before making you climb right the hell back up again. It arcs around the Welland Campus of Niagara College (where you might like to enroll in a course in wine production). Today is Saturday and nobody else was foolish enough to be outdoors in these temperatures.

This winter, like last, has been relatively warm. This morning was just below freezing with the promise of temperatures rising to around 8°C. The ground was hard and icy where freeze and thaw cycles had melted the snow before re-freezing. I stepped around what I could and waddled over what I couldn’t. Around 3km later, the trail crosses Taylor Road which was thankfully quiet enough that I could safely traverse.

Next up, we are given permission to travel through Royal Niagara Golf Club. Everyone in the region was sensible enough not to be playing golf today, so I had the place to myself aside from a couple of ladies who I passed heading in the opposite direction along the trail. It was very icy here with the occasional narrow boardwalk. At this time of year, most plants and deciduous trees are bare. A few black coloured berries from Common Buckthorn grew either side of the trail. They are toxic to most animals, including humans. Birds avoid them until they are ripe. Vines of Oriental Bittersweet were also present. This plant is poisonous, but some medium-sized omnivore had given it a go judging by the remains visible in the nearby scat. I’ll save you the photos.

Skirting the perimeter of the golf course, the trail emerges upon The Old Welland Canal, also known as the Third Welland Canal. When built, this canal would connect two of The Great Lakes, Lake Ontario (which is fed by the St Lawrence River) and Lake Erie to replace earlier versions of the canal and upgrade an important shipping route. Lake Ontario already fed naturally into Lake Erie via The Niagara River, but there was the not-so-small matter of Niagara Falls being in the way. The 3rd iteration of the canal was completed in 1887. Turning left, I walked a short distance along Glendale Avenue until I reached The Fourth Welland Canal, known officially as The Welland Ship Canal, which opened in 1932 and is active today. Well, not literally. It closes late December until late March.

I crossed The Welland Ship Canal via Glendale Bridge. The entire bridge is raised by two crane-like structures when a ship is passing through. Around 3,000 ships pass through the canal each year, from tankers to pleasure craft. It is 43km (27mi) long and has 8 locks. The difference in elevation along the length of the canal is 326ft. This is where I decided to stop. There is parking here where I could pick the trail up again and the next parking isn’t for another 6km (don’t forget I have to walk back each time!). There was also an inviting bench where I sat and ate some lunch until the windchill became a little too much.

On the ice, I had lost my footing but saved myself a few times, legs flitting around like a newborn deer. In the golf course I went crashing to the ground and gave my knee a good bang, but managed to roll around gracefully before looking around urgently to see if anyone had seen me. They hadn’t. Today I hiked a measly 6.4km (and back!!!) and I have completed 18.2km of The Bruce Trail. Just over 2%. Oh dear!

Until next time!

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