A writer's journal and photography blog documenting 900km of hiking End-to-End on the Bruce Trail from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Tobermory, Canada
If you’re wondering when I’m going to run out of superlatives to describe our hikes on the Niagara Section of the Bruce Trail, I’ll just warn you – it won’t be this week; they just keep coming. We thought we knew the Niagara region pretty well before this adventure. We’d seen its bucolic vineyard landscapes, historic sites, fruit orchards and gardens before. We’d done cycling trips and wine tastings and taken our out-of-town guests to Niagara Falls, just like anyone else within a day’s drive of the region. But we had no idea how spectacular it would be to walk through it from end to end along the Niagara Escarpment. And Sunday’s hike was probably one of the best so far because we were able to enjoy it with family and friends. While planning our route last week, Ian downplayed the first few kilometres of the trail because it followed 17th St. Louth for some way and he thought it would be dull. But on a sunny day, this section of road is an amazing photo op, with the vineyards of Flat Rock Winery to the left, and a postcard perfect view of Jordan Valley and Toronto across the Lake.
Flat Rock has added a European flare to their vineyards by planting rose bushes at the end of each row of vines, and they were in full bloom. The roadside ditches were colourful with clover, buttercups, and ripe wild strawberries. I called to the kids to slow down. They were in such a hurry to get to Ball’s Falls to meet up with friends that they missed tasting their juicy red sweetness …. but I didn’t! We enjoyed the cool shade of the trees as we crossed through the forest to Twenty Mile Creek and headed up to Ball’s Falls. It’s no coincidence that we decided to invite these particular family friends on our Father’s Day hike. Our families often celebrate special days together but it was actually our corny sense of humour that made it impossible for us NOT to invite the Ball family to join us for a hike at Ball’s Falls. After lots of giggling and silliness, and speculation about the family tree, we managed to get them to pose for an irresistible ‘pioneer family’ portrait (no smiling, please!) in front of the Ball Homestead. Then we wandered through the historical buildings over to view the lower falls.
The colourful sedimentary layers of this classic waterfall stood out beautifully in the sun, so we lingered to talk before heading back down the trail from where we had come to enjoy a picnic lunch. This is the part the kids loved. After a quick lunch and some exploring downstream, the shoes came off, pants were rolled, and we all headed out onto the perfectly flat rock steppes in the creek. Heaven. We came at the perfect time. After Saturday’s decent rainfall, the water was swift but not deep or dangerous. The rocks were covered with a fresh, springy layer of aquatic plants that was neither slippery nor full of critters. It was like walking on velvet.
We could have stayed there all day, but eventually we convinced the kids it was time to get moving. Back up the steep trail and down to the road, we crossed the bridge and headed back down Twenty Valley on the opposite side of the falls. Again we were glad to be in the shade of the tree canopy. Most of the trail was green, but we did spot a few interesting flashes of colour on the way.
We ended or hike on Moyer Road where the trail meets the back corner of the vineyard at Vineland Estates Winery. We were too tired to worry about whether it was ok to walk up through the vineyard to the wine boutique, but I don’t think they minded much. We enjoyed a tasting flight, and the kids were treated to a special treat of lemon blueberry shortbread and locally produced Vitaré — white grape, and raspberry were the favourites. It was the perfect end to a perfect Father’s Day. No hike next weekend. We’re going to the Shaw Festival to see Cabaret in Niagara-on-the-Lake. See what I mean about those superlatives?
Louise & Ian