People ask me how was this idea born…to do our 4 day Bruce Trail hike?
It started in Chapters bookstore. I was reading a book by Chris Guillebeau called “The Happiness of Pursuit”. In it he talks about how we all need a journey to be on…and that immediately resonated with me. I have always needed to break my life down into journeys or missions to go on…and he gave so many examples of people who did seemingly crazy things….by starting off with something small and just persevering. Chris had visited every single country in the world…and that journey literally changed his life.
The thought that immediately popped into my head was … I just wanted to walk … somewhere somewhat far … something that would feel like an accomplishment when I was done. I pictured in my mind picking two locations separated by country roads…and just walking til I got there. And then one day while that was rattling around in the back of my mind, my wife Liza brought up the Bruce Trail for some reason…and suddenly it clicked…we would walk the Bruce Trail. Liza and I have done some crazy adventures, (like adventure racing up and down Blue Mountain, going on a “jungle expedition” in Mexico, driving a motor cycle up and down the crazy hills in Mykonos, Greece and feeling like one wrong move and we would slip in to the sea) … but most of those were years ago.
We had a 4 day time slot we could both be off work, and so with that time frame in mind, I looked at trail maps, and decided to maximize our time on the trail we would start the trail on the East Hamilton Mountain, and walk down to the Southern end of the Bruce Trail…in Queenston Heights.
I did a couple of walks to get a handle on my walking speed, and did about 6 km in an hour…so I figured we could do 4 km/hour at a relatively easy pace (by the way … that was wrong lol)
The trail guide we bought from Chapters….
had the distances marked on the map, and I calculated to reach our destination would be a total of approx 120 km…so we would have to cover about 30km a day…and at 4km/hr we should be hiking about 7 hours a day. I had heard there was not much overnight camping allowed on the trail between Hamilton and Niagara, so I figured for our first experience, we would try to just stay overnight in local accommodations. To do about 30km a day we would stay:
Night 1: Grimsby
Night 2: Jordan
Night 3: Thorold
Night 4: Niagara Falls
and then the next day we would be picked up and driven back home.
To the amazement of my wife I did all the planning lol…and booked our accommodations. We would eat dinner and breakfast at each location, so we packed enough snacks to last us 4 days in ziplock bags and our favorite protein energy bars (GoMacro Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip bars…organic ingrediants that always went down well and felt good in the stomach). We bought some bug spray, we each bought a mosquito net for our heads, and Liza bought one that would cover her down to her waist. Bought some waterproof matches, a small powerful flashligh. I brought my amazing Cutco camping knife, 2 cheap plastic rain ponchos, some wipes for mid trail bathroom breaks plus extra ziplock bags to store once used, I brought my journal, we both had our cell phones. We brought a minimal amount of clothes (2 shirts, 2 shorts, few undies, 4 pair of socks, 1 hat, and shoes.) I had orginally planned on wearing one pair of shoes and bringing another, but once we got the knapsacks packed, it really hit home how little we could bring…so we pared it down as best as possible). We both had a camelback waterpack (Liza’s was 2 litres, mine was 3 litres). Liza also brought a few small containers of V8 juice, and I brought one extra container of gatorade, as they had really helped when we had done our adventure racing. The one thing I was personally concerned about was hydration…because…well I sweat like you wouldn’t believe (and my concern actually came to fruition our very first day). I packed our map pages in ziplock bags…the pages we would need for that particular day in one, and the others in another bag packed in a zippered compartment in our backpack.
So Tuesday morning we got dropped at the parking lot on the East Mountain. We used the outhouse quickly one last time, looked at the map there, realized they would have to do a little walking just to hook up with the main Bruce Trail…and began our journey.
After about 20 minutes we found the Bruce Trail…excitedly finally seeing our first white trail marker. It immediately took us under the Red Hill Creek Expressway, and up a no longer used road (nice hill to get my heart really pumping).
The first while was quite pleasant, easy trails. The trail led along the top of the escarpment, along some well maintained gravel paths. I remember thinking … yes this is so doable! A little easier than I had imagined it.
Soon though we began to descend down the escarpment into the woods, and along a path that became more like the dirt trail with exposed roots I was expecting. And then soon enough, the trial became rocky…very very rocky. Think of seemingly thousands of rocks sticking up 3 – 6 inches from the ground at every angle imaginable. Finding a place to put our feet either inbetween the rocks or on top of the smaller ones, so we wouldn’t roll our ankle or worse, really became a mental marathon…and exercise in focus and concentration. At first it was fun, it was a cool little unique challenge, but I have to admit as the day wore on, my muscles became fatigued, it really wore on me mentally. And so during the days that followed, even if we were rewarded with a 50 yard stretch with no rocks, just dirt and roots…it felt like a vacation, and refreshed me to keep going.
The Bruce Trail is not meant to be a trail that gets you from point A to point B in the most direct fashion…not at all. It meanders. It loops. Sometimes the trail deviates from it’s original path…depending on whether that section is on public land, or on private land. In speaking with people we found out for example that some properties would allow the path to go through the back of their land…but if they sold the property, the new owner may or may not allow it…so in those instances the Bruce Trail left the path, went up to a road for a while, and then eventually back down the path.
I don’t like mosquitos…but they don’t necessarily drive me crazy. And I have never really seemed to be really bitten too much by them. My wife would often look at me and I would be literally surrounded by mosquitos, they would be on my neck ect…but they just kind of sat there…maybe there is something in my blood that will make them explode into fire balls if they get me too much. However mosquitos are very attracted by to my wife…nudge nudge wink wink! And they do bite her. And she gets big welts. We both put bug spray on us, but she also almost always wore her full mosquito netting…and it truly was a life saver for her…I am glad she thought to bring it.
One of the things that really surprised me was how frequently the nature of the forest changed…from one type of forest to another. For the first hours on our trek you wouldn’t have know there was such a thing as mosquitos. The woods were relatively open with the trees spread out, and some room on either side of the path. However, as we found, any instant the nature of the woods could change. Suddenly you were in a much denser section, trees were close together, no air circulated through, hardly any light broke through the tree coverage, it was damper, the ground was wet and muddy…and the mosquitos were all of a sudden alive and well. And let me tell you they are clever and they without mercy! For example, if in one of those dense wood sections, there is an obstacle that is hard to get over…maybe a big rock to climb up and down, or a slippery rock rock riverbed to cross…and you have to move ever so slowly and carefully….that is where they wait to ambush you!!
During these sections where the mosquitos were worse, although they may not have been biting me much..they were driving me crazy buzzing and buzzing. One of the life savers was the occasional road that cut up the mountain (ie. 50 Road…we might have hit these every 90-120 minutes). In a few sections, with the bugs worse than usual…if we heard a car up ahead, which meant a road coming up, no matter what the trail conditions, or how badly my muscles hurt at that point, we almost sprinted just to fight to get out of the brush, and burst into the glorious sunlight. And that was our 5 minute break points for our first couple of days. We would never dare stop while in the woods…because thats what those mosquitos were planning on. When we hit 50 road, I had never been so happy to just rip my backpack off, and plop down on the side of the road in the gravel and rough grass, not caring about ants or anything, making sure a car didn’t hit us going around the crazy curves, and just feel the warmth of the sunlight for few minutes. In that 5 minutes we did a quick stretch, and got our mental focus back, and refreshed ourselves to keep going.
One thing that really struck me was that during the 9 hours of the hike itself, we barely ate. I told myself I should eat…but I really didn’t feel like it at all. I just wasn’t hungry. For me, part of the reason, was I was very concerned about running out of water, and if I ate something I knew I would have to wash it down with some water…so that eliminated any of the nuts we brought. So usually I would just eat a bite of our GoMacro bar, take a little, sip…and that was more than enough to satisfy me. In fact, over those 4 days, the only things I actually ate while hiking were the bars (and not nearly as many as I brought…half of my ziplock bag of jubejubes, and a few pieces of orange that Liza had smuggled from our breakfast on days 3 and 4).
On the first day I ran out of water, with about 2 hours to go. This really affected me. Aside from just being thirsty, my muscles started to tighten at an increasing rate. Looking at our map, our Grimsby stop seemed to be getting within striking distance. We had to go through Beamer Conservation Area. We were excited, because maybe there would be a place to get some water….and lo and behold we saw a washroom building…I was so excited to get water from the sinks…however…there was no running water. We saw surprisingly few people on the trails over our four days, but we saw a young couple doing a casual stroll…and I was tempted to beg them for water….but they didn’t seem to be carrying anything. It really struck me how merciless nature could be…here we were in a very populated area of the world, on a little trail and I was suffering from lack of water…what if you were truly somewhere isolated. This conservation area took us up and down a steep ravine, and my legs were absolutely burning and oh so questioning what the hell I was doing! lol!
The path came out at the bottom of the escarpment, right in Grimsby…so we strolled over to a grocery store, hiking sticks and backpacks in the shopping cart, and bought some liquid! Whew! We figured since we were in Grimsby anyway, and had been going 9+ hours, we would grab some food…Liza definately wanted pasta! We asked a passerby a good place to eat. He looked at us (and I imagine we looked quite a mess) and told us there was a good italian restaurant across the road…but it would be too expensive he said….and so counseled us to go to another place a 10 minute walk away. That is something we found numerous times on our venture…people would look at us, and kind of pity us a bit, assume we were broke…and warn us if things would cost money. At the restaurant we decided to get take out and just eat at our B&B, but the cab (and apparently cabs in Grimsby are notoriously hard to get, and take forever) took sooo long we ate our meal there. (But we did bring with us two pieces of decadent chocolate cake to eat later at our B&B).
In Grimsby, our first night, we stayed at The Crown Ridge Bed and Breakfast. A lovely place, run by a most lovely woman. She offered Liza a glass of wine upon arrival, showed us our really huge room, and bid us good night. First thing we did this night (and every night) was take a long hot shower…which was truly amazing in how it immediately revitalized us. We sat out on a porch under a beautiful sky, hung my shirt to dry, drank tea, and ate our cake. Before hitting the sack we applied Rub A535 over our muscles and then crawled into bed.
Amazingly we awoke feeling pretty refreshed. The owner made us a delightful breakfast, we chatted, and then we stepped out the front door and were immediately on the trail setting out for Day 2…our night time stop would be Jordan.
Day 2 was somewhat similar to Day 1, starting off a little easy, and then descending into and out of the escarpment. Without a doubt, we hit what we felt was the craziest part of our trail after a few hours…a place from hell (just kidding…lol…?) called Mountainview Conservation Area. On the map, it doesn’t appear like much, doesn’t appear to be much traversing hills or anything…but when we got in we were in for a surprise. Now my wife and I, we generally get a long very well. We are able to joke, and say crazy things (just ask our kids) that would make no sense to anyone than else. And our crazy inner people were definitely let loose in. I can’t really describe what this place is like. It just seemed like there were crazy huge rocks…like crazy huge…that we had to keep climbing up and down. And everything was overgrown. And you would stand on top of one…and scan and scan…looking for any hint of a white marker…finally finding one…but then trying to have to figure out how to get there. We were swearing and cursing (in a happy crazy way) a lot I will tell you. Good thing there were no young kids with us. We came up with a few choice names for this conservation area…but the one that stuck was SCRF …and I simply cannot state it fully…it is too rude! (Feel free to guess…but I guarantee you that you won’t get it) . And to make things worse…when we finally, mercifully, emerged on the other side of the park…we saw the name of the road was Mountainview Road…and in dismayed amazement I said something aloud…because we had already passed a Mountain Rd…and I feared we had somehow done all that in a circle! There was no way I was going thought that park again! Eventually I realized it was a different “Mountain” road…but suffice it to say anytime we saw a road that had “Mountain” in it we laughed and exchanged curses in memory of Mountain View Conservation Area. Now I am sure I am remembering this area over dramatically…but I have no plans on going back…so you will have to find out for yourself lol!
As we sat on the road a car pulled into the tiny conservation parking lot. It was an older couple. We looked and exchanged glances that said “No frigging way those guy are going to do that trail are they?” (sorry my language had digressed…it is just the memories of that park). Turns out they were super nice people, and they had actually done the entire Bruce Trail. They had gone with members of a Bruce Trail Club each weekend, they would park a car at the start and the end of the section they would do for that weekend…and hike away. He somberly asked which direction we were going. When we indicated we had already done the conservation area, he actually smiled and said “Good!” He told us we had apparently done the bulk of the hardest parts of the trail…and that although there would still be lots of challenges, we would actually have some parts we could enjoy more. He said we would soon pass through some wineries, and if we decided to call it an early day, we could just partake in the winery’s offerings. We thanked them for their friendship, and continued on our way.
True enough we did pass through some lovely easier areas, some roads, some wineries (including Mike Weir’s winery…were Liza used the bathroom and told me it was just gorgeous)
…but always we would at some point get back into the escarpment going up and down and up and down and all around!
This day I carried a lot of extra water. I had my 3 litres in my camelback plus I carried 2 extra litres via bottles and Liza also carried some extra water. We did this each of the final three days, and did not run out of water again.
Over the first 2 days, we spent a lot of time walking trails very high right along the edge of the escarpment. There were some beautiful breezes there, and you could see for miles…often able to see across the lake and the CN tower. It was amazing how quickly we began to appreciate just the little things. The little things meant they world…they seemed like heaven. When walking if we did hit a section where a breeze snuck through we would take a minute break just to close our eyes and let the wind tickle us and refresh our souls. It was simply amazing. The hawk is one of my spirit animals, and along the hike we were blessed in that we saw so many hawks…they always came to greet us, especially if I was feeling down, or wondering if we had taken a wrong turn…all of a sudden I would hear their call, and see above us as they floated on the wind. They came to tell us it was all good, and to just appreciate our experience. One time, on top of that ridge line, a hawk came towards us and gracefully soared what seemed just a few feet about our heads. It was so magnificent. So strong. So powerful. It was also along the escarpment, where I learned just what a wimp I am with heights. Liza went out on a rock and asked me to take a picture. I looked at her, and suddenly I got dizzy and felt like puking…and I was far from the edge holding onto a rock. I don’t think mountain climbing or parachute jumping is something that will be on my bucket list.
As we neared what we thought was the end of our Day 2, we were walking through the trails, one led right behind a farm with horses. So we stopped for a quick bite and said hello to the horses. Sometimes along the trail there were big fences, and so they had mini triangular ladders to get up and over them. We climbed them, went down a hill, and suddenly we were at Victoria avenue, and across it was Ball’s Falls Conservation Area…the only thing between us and Jordan. And as you might have guessed, as this was our last obstacle of the day…it was a doozy! Going down into the gourge where the Twenty Mile Creek flowed through was beautiful, but it was damn step. They had a wire guide rail set up to you could hold onto something as you tried to descend. Of course, my legs were a little shot by this point…having been going for about 8 hours already. And when we got to the bottom…much to my amusement (not) they said the next part of the trail was washed out…so we had to climb up the steep hill, go a bit, and then descend again! But we finally made it out, hit a road (Glen Road).
This we followed down a km or 2 to the Jordan Inn that we had booked. The funny thing, was that when we got to the hotel…there was a restaurant part and the hotel. However the hotel said that if you were checking in you would have to go 5 min down the road to the other part of their hotel. To the amusement of a couple of well beered locals, Liza let out a stream of curses that would make a trucker blush…which led one of the locals to say with a smile…”Well it seems like these guys don’t want to take another step” They told us it was just a few minutes down the road. Well it sure seemed like longer than a few minutes 🙂 And we couldn’t find anything with the name Jordan hotel on it. I finally asked 2 guys and they pointed across that road to the “Inn On The 20”. So we stumbled across the road, into a beautiful new looking hotel, had a great feel to it.
We went to the front desk, and I had to ask why the heck they would have the check in for the hotel at another hotel well down the road. Liza looked out a lot for me this trip, especially when my muscles complained near the end of the first day, but this time I felt I had to protect here. So I said basically I was not happy, and we sure didn’t feel like walking all the way back to the other hotel. She smiled, and calmly and nicely told me that we would not have to walk, as we had been upgraded for free to stay right there! And there was a hot tub in our room. Wow…that was cool.
We went up to our room…it was beautiful. We marvelled at it, then had our hot showers, and then went to get a well deserved dinner. The funny thing is we actually decided to eat back up the road at the hotel/restaurant…and we had a super delicious meal…I had a veggie roti with chick peas and enjoyed to the last lick of the plate. We then went back to our glorious room, did our daily ritual of Rub A535… and passed out.
We had breakfast at the Inn on the 20 main restaurant…and it had huge windows which overlooked the 20 Mile Creek…simply incredibly perfect view. We decided to take a cab to start our day back up the hill the few km’s to where we left off the night before. We got out of the cab, walking sticks in hand, crossed the road, and were immediately greeted by a nice very steep hill…just to welcome us and get our hearts started for the day! Day 3 was in motion!!
Our target for Day Three was Brock University. The Bruce Trail basically circles around the back and far side of Brock, and I had booked us 2 side by side dorm rooms in the residence.
The first part our day started off pretty technical again…more rocks, more climbs. Some sections with mosquitos, some without. We went through Louth Conservation area, continued along below the rim of the escarpment, went through Rockway Conservation Area, which had some hills, came out, then we came upon one of the most memorable sections we went through….Short Hills Provincial Park…certainly not the hardest, not the most technical, well cut paths, pretty much bug free, but…it was memorable. We entered the park off Effingham Street (I remember that name clearly because if ran right down to the Fonthill area where I used to work). We were having a great time, enjoying the beautiful clear paths, wide enough for us to be side to side. I noted what a difference in care a “provincial park” had vs a conservation area. The sun was shining today, the paths were clear overhead, so the sun was finally really beating down on us and I was thinking…”Man…if we see a snack bar I am going to down a Coke!” (But we never did see one).
We had about 10kms (so figured about 3 hours) to do to get through the park. After maybe about 45 minutes we saw some yellow tape (like trail closed or do not enter) to one side trail. And we turned a corner and Liza said she saw a fireman. I immediately thought maybe they were having some firemen races or something, and they blocked off the trails they didn’t want them to take. Then one guy in a blue shirt slowly, quizzically walked up to us and said “Did you know you were walking through a crime scene?” I actually thought he was kidding…but luckily I didn’t laugh outwardly. He said how did you get here? The park is closed. The trails are closed? We explained we were just hiking the Bruce Trail…and pointed to the white marker on a tree just past the next line of yellow tape. He grilled us a bit…we asked what happened? We actually figured maybe someone had set a fire or vandalized something…but he said he could not comment. I told him if he was going to send us on a big detour he would have to drive us, because we had to get to Brock for the night…he eventually just told us to keep going on the trial since we had already gone through all the section that was supposed to be blocked off. So off we set.
I have to say our minds started wondering a bit and it got a bit creepy. We still have over 2 hours to get to the other side, so we just kept going, eyes alert. I mean who knows what is going on? But we saw only one couple at all who somehow made it into the park…he was wearing a purple tie dye shirt, and they looked happy and in love. We went through lots of open meadow, and the beautiful sun was beating down. We saw tonnes of butterflies and moths. We went through a section called the African Rim…we figured maybe because it was as hot as Africa that day. The up and down hills was my arch enemy, leaving me gasping for breath and Liza behind me making sure my clumsy steps didn’t fall down the steep hills, the bugs and sun’s heat were Liza’s sore spots…but anyone who knows Liza knows she is the best trooper in the world…and will persevere through anything. We found a waterfall, and dropped our packs for a second and stuck as much of our heads underneath as could reach over the slippery rocks. Overall a beautiful section. We knew we would soon hit a little parking lot, and then take one last trail about 1.5km out of the park.
So as we head into the parking lot we see an OPP cruiser parked, I figured it was just a nice place for the officer to have a bit of a rest. However as we were walking by the car, she called out to us and quizzed us. She informed us the park was closed. How did we get to that spot. She was very nice, but also very firm. We had to give our names and number, and when I asked what was going on…she said I didn’t want to know (gulp)…turns out some hikers earlier in the day had found a body…they were treating it as suspicious at the moment. (we found out the next day the person had passed from natural causes…but we didn’t know it then!) Anyway, we actually had a nice chat with her, so friendly
We still had one last path to go to get out of the park…and Liza says that for that 1.5km path I set a record breaking pace…that she almost had to run to keep up with me. And the funny thing is leading up to meeting the officer, I was feeling really tired and spent, feet hurting, shoulders hurting from the back pack…but amazing what a little jolt of adrenalin will do! So that brings to my mind one of my tips…never attempt to hike the trail alone…for who knows what might happen reasons, but mostly because it would actually be pretty easy to be hurt, badly sprain an ankle, break a leg, trip down a hill, run out of water…so always hike with a buddy.
We made it out of the park, and got ourselves mentally set for the homestretch to Brock. We would have to go on a road, go around a lake, and then head through some trials to Brock. This part was flat, and pretty easy, and we covered it quite quickly…bursting out of the woods to the view of Brock U…now all we had to do was find the residence. We were staying in Vallee residence, which of course turned out to be on the far side of campus. But the cool thing was it was just a 2 minute walk from where we would start the trail the next day. We checked into residence, and it immediately brought back my memories of U of G residence, rooms that were tiny, but when we first got them years ago it was so cool.
We had once again been going a full 9 hours that day, and we were pretty hot, tired and hungry. First things first of course…nice hot shower! And then we did what you do when staying in residence … you order delivery from Boston Pizza! Of course Liza got a huge serving of pasta, and I got pizza….and yummy yummy yummy! We sat for a few minutes afterwards, applied Rub A535, made our plans for the next day and hit the sack. (yes we were party animals!).
The next morning, there was nothing open nearby for breakfast (there was a Tim Horton and McDonalds across the road…but that didn’t sound good to our bellies.) So we stocked up on water, had our GoMacro bar, went out the back of residence and headed to the trail. Right at the entrance a nice maintenance person warned us to be careful of sections that were really close to the edge, and also there were some sections where bikers went pretty fast without looking out to avoid hitting people.
Honestly, the trail felt pretty damn easy after what we had already been though (did I tell you that I was so glad we went from Hamilton to Niagara and not vica versa. We discussed how it might have been disheartening to have started the first day with easy trails, the first part of the second day with easy trails, and then the third and fourth days being so much harder…at least we knew we had already done the hardest part.) We walked for about 45 minutes and then the trails emerged onto a little road with nice houses on it. The road continued down hill and then before we knew it we were one of the main streets of Thorold..Glendale Avenue…and we were staring at the Penn Center (a big mall). I had driven on this stretch of road literally one hundred times and never knew it was part of the Bruce Trail. So next time you are down that way…look closely and you will indeed see the white markers on the sign post and light posts. This whole section goes through populated areas, but we are very lucky as most of it was able to still go on trails through wooded areas.
We crossed the lift bridge to go over the Welland Canal, and then we followed the path of a man made water way for a while. On one side was the water way, on the other side a golf course. Then the path switched up and we cut right up the middle of the golf course, they had left this one swatch of trees, and while golfers teed off on either side…we walked pretty much unknown though the middle of the course…it was kinda cool!
We treked though more woods, a conservation area, then had a long stretch down some country roads. Along the way we passed some kind of freaky art display of shoes nailed to a tree…no questions….we just kept walking lol. We went under a very old tunnel under train tracks.
When we hit the QEW, there was a fantastic walking bridge selflessly built by some members of the Bruce Trial organization. That must have been quite the task raising the money for that…it was no easy undertaking. At this point I thought about how many people it must take to keep the Bruce Trial marked and passable….I tip my hats to whomever you are. Thank you!!
At this point, we could start to smell the finish line. We were 10km from the finish. It was getting really hot, and much of the trail was exposed. But just as we had time to think about how hot it was, we popped into some bushes for a few km…it was very moist in there, lots of mud to skirt around…and then all it once it happened…we got surrounded by the worst mosquito attack of the whole trip. It wasn’t that long…but man it was crazy…I slowed and had Liza help me get my mesh out for my head…but we dared not really stop because those things were relentless. Finally we got out, the trail opened up again, and you could see we were on one part that was used for motorized 3 wheelers ect. We hit a road, and then we were going underneath the 405 highway. 5 km to go baby. We could feel it.
We immediately were thrust back into some heavy woods. I dawned on me that maybe these last 5km might not be as easy as I had hoped it might. It was super hot, Liza was a bit overheated, and the moment I began to think we were within range of finishing my blisters began to hurt, my twisted ankles hurt, my thighs and calves hurt. And then, as if to provide us with the ultimate gift of really feeling like we had worked really hard on this hike so that it would feel like a great accomplishment…I realized why Queenston Heights is called Queenston Heights….it is up high. For likely the next hour we just seemed to go up and up. That was one really crazy steep ass hill, and just when you figured you must be at the top…another section went up more…and more. Finally at some point we reached the top, and my pounding heart was finally able to get some air. I remember thinking I was really glad we were going up that part…because as hard as going up is…if we had to go down that part…that would have been really steep and tricky.
We knew when we started getting closer to the end…closer to “civilization”…closer to the endless tourist in Niagara…because for the first time I started to see garbage along the trail. It actually felt really terrible to see, like a huge disrespect to the land. We passed a couple who we both agreed couldn’t have possible walked too far in what they were wearing. The last few kms with my mind set on the finish, might have been the hardest mentally of our whole journey. I just had to keep saying to myself, stay calm, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you can do this.
We saw a flash of silver and white, and finally we emerged into a little parking lot, and the whole park sprawled out in front of us. Really a beautiful place. Here’s the funny part. Liza stopped to pee in a real bathroom, and then we saw what we really really wanted…because we were very hot and thirsty and tired…the park snack shop…with an icecream sign…but by stopping for those two minutes we just missed it closing lol! What can you do…we kept going. Finally the white markers ended. We scanned and scanned but could not see another….but surely the trail couldn’t just end without some kind of sign. We asked a nice gentleman getting into his car, and he pointed just 50 yards away…it was the Southern Terminus marker…the start or end of the trail. Man were we glad to see it…because it was something concrete, something that allowed us to say WE DID IT! So we stopped for some selfie pictures, did a high five, and then tried to figure out how we would get to the our hotel in Niagara Falls.
We ended up taking a bus run by the Falls tourist area…very popular…filled to standing room only. We got a seat at the very back. The funny thing is, it was so crowded the driver kept telling people to move back, move back. One guy did, but then for some reason, moved forward again. We took a big whiff of ourselves and figured out why…we stank of trail, and dirt and dried sweat….and to cap it off, we were in our hiking clothes, and we had our walking sticks and back packs with us! lol! I felt so bad for the lady beside me, but she stoically sat there and didn’t even let a grimace show on her face.
We got off at the falls, and proceeded to walk through the hoards of staring tourists, with our bags and hiking sticks and smell…up the hill to our hotel…where we checked in, had a shower, a quick swim and then a BIG meal at East Side Marios…and that was our trip!!! We were very happy to have done it, very proud of ourselves, and very blessed that we had the health and physical ability to do it. Thank you to my amazing wife Liza…my soul mate in this journey of life.
General Tips/Philosophical Thoughts:
1) Make sure you have enough water…food was not nearly as important as water to us during the hiking itself.
2) Next time I go (which will be soon as we intend to cover the rest of the trail to Tobermory)….I will buy hiking boots that secure my ankles…because it really would be so easy to go over on your ankle.
3) Bug spray and that netting was invaluable…who knows if you will need it, but it sure came in handy.
4) Pack as light as possible…that back pack really can be heavy if you are walking for long periods in the sun.
5) Assume the trail is going to be tough…really tough. I did know it would be a challenge, but I will say that those hills ect kicked my ass more than I thought they would. And if it isn’t tough…well isn’t that nice!
6) Always bring a trail buddy, and make sure they have a great sense of humor (and don’t mind the occasional trucker mouth). Liza made all the difference in this trek as a trail buddy.
7) A hat is critical.
8) As for unhealthy snacks….M&M’s melt in your mouth not in your hand (handy on the hot days), and a jubejube here and there is a wonderful thing!
9) For a healthy snack, putting some freshly peeled orange in your mouth felt like pure paradise!
10) Liza found a walking stick, and although I giggled at her at first, I picked one up and it really was essential for our trip…I know it likely saved me a busted ankle…at least once…plus you can use it to keep the prickly plants that grow over the path away from your legs. So for sure, have a walking stick with you.
11) Bring Rub A535!
12) Spending time in nature is so critical for us. We need to bond with nature…to remind ourselves that we are a part of nature, that everything is connected. After spending those days in nature, the first time I heard a car drive by with the radio blaring (which I do a lot)…it felt like an assault on my ears. I remember when I was in grade 8 I did an exchange trip to Whale’s Cove way up north…it was so peaceful…when I got back home and went to a mall the noise was so deafening, so overwhelming…I literally had to run out of the mall. So we just need to make sure we stay connected to mother earth.
I wanted to share this with anyone that might be need a little surge of energy to help get through the decreased sunlight in the winter (like me!)
Short story is this.
Every day for the past 4 weeks I get up at 6am. (one hour earlier than I used to) and I do some energy work.
At first it was TOUGH but now I pop up ready to go
I found this video on YouTube (just 20 minutes) and before I do anything for the day, I do some Qigong energy work. Get the body moving gently, stretch the muscles, feel them come alive, and feel the energy surge…focus on how awesome the day will be…what an amazing feeling!
Here is the little video I have been doing… QiGong Video … Let me know if you try it and any other routines you find that get you ramped up for the day.
I am currently in a 7 day 7 night, super intensive but brain stimulating seminar run by my mentor Mr. Joel Bauer. A room filled with amazing individuals from all walks of life, everyone with incredible skills, and yet everyone on a journey. Everyone has their demons they want to battle, to overcome, and allow the superhero in them to shine even brighter.
Fearless Vs Fear-Less
When I was younger, I used to feel invincible in so many ways. Nothing could take me down. For some things I felt fearless. (actually probably lucky they didn’t kill me … lol!)
Despite your best intentions, sometimes stuff happens in life that knocks you down. Death of loved ones, illness, career changes, finances … and to every individual different things will have more impact than on others. That’s what makes this world so interesting, something that one person will seek with a vengeance, another will attempt to avoid…terrified.
Making the Commitment
One of the things I found when I was listening to Joel, was that he brought back that glorious feeling of wrapping my body in armour and just going out and living life without hesitation. I made a commitment to myself, with Joel’s unknowing help, to lift myself from the gray that “stuff” had thrust itself upon me. I decided I no longer welcomed the feeling of fear in my life. I know there are many real dangers in the world, and so I didn’t want to strive to be fearless…because I think the only person who is truly fearless is someone who would be clinically ruled a psychopath. I think it is healthy to still feel and to battle. But I did want to fear-less.
And I did.
Deciding to fear-less has enabled me to make so many life altering choices in the past 12 months since I last sat with Joel for a seminar in LA. Amongst other things I have switched my job, I have created this website, I have written a book (well 85% complete), I have helped relatives seek to accomplish and live their dreams, I lost weight, I have coached teams to championships and to top division rankings. The other day I made a list of all the things I had accomplished in the past 12 months, since I made my decision to fear-less, and it was so empowering!
Fear is a stress. Less fear. Less stress. Fear-less.
Just Stop It!
Joel showed an old video clip of Bob Newhart, playing a counsellor. A client came in, Bob listened for 2 minutes and then told her that he had her solution. She was excited to hear it. He said “Stop it!” Just “stop it, stop it, stop it”. The message was that fear is not reality, fear is an emotion that we can control. So he wanted her to just fear-less.
I have many things planned to accomplish over the next 12 months…I wonder how cool my list will be when I look back this time next year?
Practicing Nonviolence toward yourself … a thought provoking concept originally proposed over 2000 years ago by the Indian sage Patanjali, and brought to my attention by Yogi Cameron Alborzian, in his book “The One Plan”.
I have learned a lot about taking care of my physical health. With the help of my family I have healed myself over the years from some very dark depths. And there are times like last summer when I was feeling on top of the world, indestructible, fully alive…I was doing brilliantly what Patanjali would describe as practicing nonviolence towards my body. And there are times when I make some very poor eating and health choices … even though I know better. Yogi Cameron would say that I was committing physical violence against my body.
Every once and awhile I come across something that shifts my perception of reality…and this concept of practicing nonviolence was one of them.
“Physical violence is any violence that harms someone else’s body or our own.” Yogi Cameron states that making poor food and eating decisions cam be considered as committing physical violence against yourself.
Here are some selected behaviors that Yogi Cameron feels most of us consider a normal part of life but that actually do harm to our bodies. Think about them … they hit me in-between the eyes, because they rang with truth:
We eat late at night – causing us to wake up feeling stiff and lethargic
We eat processed and genetically modified foods – we ingest toxicity into our body
We eat foods from far away – this compromises the nutritional value of the food
We eat meat – most animals come from farms using artificial growing practices and polluted water. As well the more difficult foods are to digest the more resources our bodies have to commit to processing them.
We eat large meals – when we give the stomach too much to digest, it has to work overtime to process everything…this can compromise the immune system as well and also causes us to be sick more often
OK … can you check off “yes” to any of these?
I am certainly better than I used to be at practicing nonviolence .. but I still fall prey to these things way too often. I’ll tell you, having Yogi Cameron look me in the eyes (well through the print of a book…lol) and tell me that I was being violent to my own body, certainly hits harder than telling myself I am just sneaking a cheat food.
We are always on a journey through life. We may have a certain destination in our lives … but we go on and off course all the time, just like a jet flight from Toronto to Punta Cana. The key, when we temporarily fall off course is to just re-adjust our settings and get back on course.
This concept of practicing nonviolence just straightened out my course again. It is causing me to redefine my definition of normality again.
I love it when things just come together! Isn’t life amazing!
We just recently returned from a week in paradise,
and fully experienced the beautiful feeling of bliss
as my stress melted away on the beaches of Punta Cana.
I prepared myself in advance by:
buying lots of sun screen
taking out some US $ just in case money
packing as little clothes as possible
covering myself at work with back up
leaving my phone at home!!
I’d never been to Punta Cana before, but we researched the resorts on the internet, and felt pretty good about the choice we made…and we were not disappointed! During those 7 days, my stress melted away little by little!
Smiles = Stress Melted Away
The staff were so friendly. Always smiling and singing and dancing.
Happy Music = Stress Melted Away
The Spanish music constantly playing was so lively, so happy! I could not help but feel great!
Sunshine & Outdoors = Stress Melted Away
Sitting on the beach or by the pool, soaking in the rays. Careful to apply my sunscreen (burning is not relaxing). Feeling the wind from the ocean. The sun rejuvenated me. The sun always helps my body relax.
Exercise = Stress Melted Away
Taking long, relaxing walks on the beach. Playing beach volleyball for hours. Swimming and stretching in the pool. Things like these help your body get rid of stress that has built up.
Leaving cell phone at home = Stress Melted Away
I didn’t check in with work . I didn’t care about the time or the news or the markets or anything. My main concern was should I get second helpings (or third or fourth helpings) at the buffet? Should I turn my chair a slight angle to catch the rays at the best angle? We can become slaves to our iPhones and Blackberry devices … sometimes you just have to turn it off…or better yet…leave it at home.
It may feel like there is never the perfect time to get away on vacation. We are too busy. It is too expensive. Who will feed the dog while we are away? Can’t get time off work.
Sometimes it may seem like getting away just isn’t possible. But sometimes you just have to do it.
We all need to recharge our batteries.
For me….smiling, catching some rays, exercising, breathing deeply, and just getting away from the everyday…escaping to paradise even for a few days…helps keep me feeling alive! And when I feel alive, I know that when I get back, I will be able to be that much better at everything I do back home.
We need to take care of ourselves, so that we can take care of others.
We must de-stress ourselves so that we can continue to glow and grow.
7 days in Punta Cana as my stress melted away on the beach.
We are already thinking of when we will go back…and having that happy thought in our minds is a stress reliever in it’s self!
I came across the concept of “simplification by elimination” while reading The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. Actually I should say RE-reading the book because I read it about 3 or 4 years ago. I remember it really impacted me at that time and I implemented a few concepts from it. But the funny thing is that upon reading it this time, I was struck by something completely different! They say that you will get what you need when you are ready for it….and what I hadn’t realized until I read this the other night was that I had added too many things into my life. I was interested in all of them..but there were getting to be so many things that they were starting to slowly bury me. So I took a deep breath in, and started to decide how I would implement the concept of simplification by elimination.
In the book there is a great quote from the immortal Bruce Lee: “One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”
Today I will share with you one small thing I did which has really helped simplify my life utilizing the concept of simplification by elimination.
The very first thing I did was reflect on how my blackberry seemed to be ruling my life of late. I was at it’s beck and call. I started thinking back to a time when there were no such things as “smart?” phones. How the heck did we ever survive? Pretty nicely actually! When I was doing something…I was there 100%. I didn’t have to shift my attention the moment I heard a bing or a ding. I mean of late it is the last thing I look at before I go to bed, the first thing I look at when I wake up, I look at it when I am walking the dog, I pull over when I am riding my bike to make sure I am not missing anything “critical”. And many of these important things I get to just in the nick of time are things like Best Buy telling me they have a special sale in 3 weeks, or Facebook telling me I have very important updates waiting for me, or my favorite…learning that some poor soul in a 3rd world country just needs my help to get 40 million dollars out of their country and because I am such a trusted soul they will give me 10 million just to give them my bank account number and passwords.
I have even begun priding myself on the fact that I will return an email, text or BBM within seconds, 24-7.
But why? Does it really matter? Does it really make a difference? Nope.
Tim says to eliminate all the things that are not critical, or at least delegate them to someone else.
So I asked myself, what was the core reason for me to have my Blackberry? The answer was that I want to be available to my family in the case they needed me. This is critical to me.
So I have all my emails directed to my smartphone, and also texts and BBMs. Well the rest of my family all have iPhones…so I decided I could afford not to worry about BBMs.
What I ended up doing was adjust the settings on the phone so that it was on silent. Then I was able to set a distinctive sound JUST for my family members (they need to be entered in your phone as contacts). Oh my gosh…I was so happy…and when I tested it out it actually worked. Any texts, emails or calls that are from anyone other than those people I consider critical will just be silent. And any of them from my family “ding”! What it allows me to do is to just have my phone put away, or turned upside down on my desk and not worry that I am missing something very important! I can’t even tell you what a difference that has made for me in the last couple of days. Today for example in a meeting, I just set it by m side and totally ignored it…it allowed me to focus on the meeting so much more! Simplification by elimination. Thanks Tim.
The other big thing I did was take Facebook off my Blackberry. This was actually my daughters suggestion. Another big hassle eliminated. I found that if I had commented “oh so cute” on a baby picture, any time anyone then commented on it it would let me know on my smartphone by lighting up and binging. If there is anything less critical than that … I don’t know what it would be lol!
I am a big fan of Tim Ferris…he is always exploring and experimenting . I find it very inspiring. You can check out his 4 Hour Work week blog here.
Try some simplification by elimination for yourself! Feel free to share your results with our other readers by commenting below.
I have found that I have to look no further than my own family and friends.
I know at times I have felt I have had to search the internet, read books, bought CDs. There is a huge market for “motivational” speakers. I would search high and low for that one source of true inspiration that would get my blood pumping and ready to go.
But sometimes true inspiration is right in front of your eyes…and you just have to take a moment to allow yourself to see it!
In my family there are people who have overcome major injuries, who did not allow those injuries to limit them, who rose above to gain entrance into hugely competitive academic programs, or pulled off great marks after having to have missed so much school. There are people who have built very successful businesses, people who are dreaming huge dreams of building something in exotic locations. People who lead seminars on how to buy real estate and empower people. Kids who can dance with a grace, skill and passion well beyond their years. There are black belts in Karate. There are artists. There are pillars in the community. When I look, when I really look…there is true inspiration all around me!!
I spend a tremendous amount of time coaching youth sports. I am surrounded by heroes. They are true inspiration. These kids work so hard, they give everything they have and leave nothing on the court. They overcome obstacles, they persevere, they win, they lose…but they play with character and heart. They transform themselves over the years, it is amazing to see. They are warriors…and yet the nicest and classiest kids on earth. They are true inspiration.
I have parents who enter talent competitions, who set major marks in marriage, who continue to educate themselves, who work out and keep themselves healthy. There are true inspiration for generations to come.
I have a wife who is beautiful and talented, and who makes a difference in people’s lives every single day. She does something that takes a lot of guts, that I am not sure I would have the strength to do…but she does it because people need her, and she is so good at it. She is true inspiration.
I have some audacious health goals I wish to achieve this summer. I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little lazy…needing some inspiration.
I needed to look no further than downstairs where much to my surprise someone very close to me, who has battled back time after time again from seeming setbacks in life with hardly ever a complaint … was doing a grueling workout. I was surprised. I was in awe. It was indeed true inspiration.
I slipped on my own shoes and did my own workout. I am well on my way to accomplishing that audacious goal…because the hardest part of doing it is getting started…and I have started.
Where can you look find true inspiration? Perhaps it is closer than you think.
I came across Gandhi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World.
It was tweeted by someone I follow @VictoryInLove . (ps. my twitter handle is @yourstressisgon …. lol…too many letters so couldn’t finish the “e”)
Yesterday the stock markets had a BIG down day. There were explosions and injuries at the Boston Marathon. It can be easy to let your thoughts stray to negative, and that is when stress and disease will jump you, and bring you down…when your body is at its lowest.
Things like Gandhi’s Top 10 Fundamentals for Changing the World , written by, at least in my opinion, a great person, give us a peek into the inner workings of their brains. It gives us a blueprint for how their minds work/worked.
I may or may not always agree with things like this, but they are a great opportunity to reflect on my current life blueprint, on my current philosophies and guidelines. If I have become out of whack, then it is a good time to adjust.
I strongly believe that if we have a well-defined sense of morals, and that most importantly we live our life and commit our actions in CONGRUENCE with our base beliefs…then we are less susceptible to stress…and ultimately more happy.
What is your own personal version of Gandhi’s Top 10 Fundamentals?