I have, of course, hiked sections of The Bruce Trail previously. However, it had always been on a bit of a whim. No particular plan, no enthusiastic blog entry to follow it up, and no camera in tow.

Well listen up. This time was different.
A bit.
Okay, there was still no plan. But this time I managed to bring my camera along with me, and if you’re reading this, there was also a blog entry that followed it up.

As precedes many-a-hike, I had that gnawing sensation in my mind and bones. The sense of needing to escape. But where? I needed something a tad further a-field from the city that was a little different. Places east of Toronto, where I live, have similar terrain, vegetation, and so forth – with a few exceptions. But I’d already done the exceptions. Many times.

HARDCORE ROCKS

Just search "Limehouse Conservation Area" on Google Maps for parking directions. Probably busy during summer weekends.
Search “Limehouse Conservation Area” on Google Maps for parking directions. Probably busy during summer weekends.

I asked a Twitter/Instagram friend named Mia which part of The Bruce Trail is her favourite. Thankfully she did not give the objectively correct answer, which would be “Bruce Peninsula National Park”. She instead told me that she likes Limehouse because she is a sucker for ROCKS.

So I went there.

Unless you travel by helicopter, you’ll likely begin from the Limehouse Conservation Area parking, in which case, you follow the “Limehouse Side Trail” a couple of hundred meters to The Bruce Trail. Then take a left. And remember this on the way back. Don’t get lost with a dead mobile phone and no map, like I did.

The shape of Ontario’s terrain was largely formed by The Wisconsin Glacial Episode – the glacial retreat from warming around 12,000 years ago, and the water runoff from that melting. The Niagara Escarpment was formed this way, which The Bruce Trail follows, and much of this geological history is apparent as you reach the rocks, crevices and caves on this section of trail.

Limehouse Conservation Area 01

I found this hike a lot of fun, but it certainly wouldn’t be easy for anyone with mobility issues. Or ‘nob heads like me in running shoes (UK: trainers) and a weighty camera bag. I took this hike in December. In Canada. So there was plenty of ice on rocks and some of it only became apparent once trodden (and slipped) upon.

Hole-in-the-Wall

This section of trail is home to the infamous-among-people-who-like-this-sort-of-thing “Hole in The Wall”. For UK readers who use “Hole in The Wall” as a colloquialism for “ATM”, this isn’t a place in the middle of a forest to withdraw currency, but a place where the trail literally drops via a rickety ladder into a rock fissure, exiting further along in the forest. It was mildly treacherous with the ice, so if you go in winter, just take your time.

Another thing The Bruce Trail is infamous-for-among-people-who-like-this-sort-of-thing is its “blazes” that direct you. The blazes are white paint markings on trees, fences, posts, etc. Each time you are stood at one blaze, the idea is that you should be within sight of the next one. Well, smartypants Bruce Trail. I didn’t see any blaze at the bottom of what I am now naming the Hellhole-in-the-Wall. After looking momentarily confused, I licked my finger and held it in the air in order to determine my way out. But seriously, just head down the escarpment to continue the trail. While you do that, try to forget that you have to climb back up again on the way home.

Below the escarpment, the trail passes beside marshland and then into the village of Limehouse. As the name suggests, the village was known for producing limestone for use in construction. In various states of decay, there are kilns located along the trail, as well as a “powder room” – used for storing blasting powder (explosive) for smashing larger rocks removed from quarrying. Incidentally, there were a lot of dogs running free on this part of the trail. I like dogs and I don’t mean to be preachy, but dogs have to be on leashes on this trail (and are banned in other areas). It is to protect the plant and animal wildlife on the trail.

Farmland

I had a lovely time on this hike, but The Bruce Trail does vary from being quite stunning in some places to being a little more mundane in others. I’m not trying to be critical – it’s in the nature of a trail that is over 800km long that it necessarily passes through farmland. For it was singularly farmland that I traversed for the next two-and-a-bit kilometres, weaving along field edges among young oak trees until the trail climbed a ridge and dropped back down into marshy woodland. I did see more wildlife along these farm edges than anywhere else along the trail. American Red Squirrels, Grey Squirrels and Blue Jays were fighting over any remaining corn (UK: maize) from the already harvested fields, their supply of acorns already expired, empty corncobs were dotted along the narrow trail. Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Northern Cardinals could all be heard above the light breeze. To the left, the skyline of Mississagua was just visible through the haze.

This area was muddy from earlier rainfall and from the presence of a couple of tiny rivulets, but it was cold enough that much of the still-water had frozen over with a thin layer of ice. From this ice, the bright chilly blue sky reflected above and behind the reflection of moss-covered trees that, despite their young age, were still grizzled in the tough marshy environment.

Limehouse Conservation Area March

Fifth Line Again

The trail weaved through more woodland before being unceremoniously interrupted by Fifth Line, a road that itself is on its way to nowhere. I decided to turn back. Somehow with the time spent taking photographs, I’d been out for nearly 3 hours and would need another couple of hours without photographs to get back to the car.

As mentioned at the start of this article, I managed to get lost on the way back when my mobile phone (and therefore my map) died and I missed the turnoff to the car park. I also managed to drop my trusty old Fitbit Blaze watch/activity tracker, which conspired to fall face-first onto the ground and smash the screen. (Update: Fitbit gave me a good-sized discount on a new Ionic).

This hike has really got me interested in the possibility of completing the entirety of The Bruce Trail in multiple hikes over the course of time, but starting from the Southern trail head in Niagara, to the most northern point in Tobermory. The only two things holding me back in reverse order of seriousness are:
1) The trail would effectively be twice as long because I would have to park my car, hike, then turn back again to get to my car
2) The travel costs… Getting to an from the trail from Toronto would cost a couple of thousand dollars to do about 50 different trips.

Stay tuned, I guess?
(Update: I’ve have started this, but updates will be infrequent. Part one HERE.)