Solo Backpacking Trip in the Bruce Peninsula

A couple weekends ago I went up to Owen Sound to deliver work for a show at the Owen Sound Artist's Co-op. It's almost a 3 hour drive each way from my house, so I figured I'd make an extended stay of the trip and take myself out on a date.

Although I love people, I am most definitely an introvert, and I find time by myself incredibly fulfilling, refreshing, and rejuvenating. After a couple busy months in the store and teaching classes three nights a week, I was really looking forward to some time alone with my thoughts, or simply some moments of silence.

 
The Bruce Trail, Tobermory ON
 

I decided it was a good time to go on my first solo backpacking trip.

I've camped by myself before, and I've backpacked before, but I've never done both, together. Our usual backpacking trips are portage excursions, so we travel most of the distance in our canoe, and other than our Grand Canyon hike, I really have not done a lot of long distance hiking. This was an opportunity for a lot of "firsts".

I picked up the Bruce Trail at the end of Crane Lake Rd, just south of Tobermory, and hiked the 8km trail to the High Dump sidetrail leading to Georgian Bay. The trail started off relatively flat and gravelly, with markers along the side of the path counting 1, 2, 3... I thought "Wow, I've gone 2km already? This is a piece of cake!"

That was until I reached "8", and there was no sidetrail to be seen. So I kept going. 9, 10, 11.... The trail became more rocky and undulating. I passed three lakes and crossed a river over a log bridge. I had to slow my pace to avoid slipping on patches of ice, and to clamber under fallen trees. By marker 13 I started to wonder if I was lost. "Did I miss the sidetrail?" "Did I even take the right trail to start with?" "Worst case scenario, I will set up my tent in the middle of this trail and sleep here."

Bruce Trail, Tobermory ON

Turns out those numbers were 1/2 km markers, and the trail was not quite the "piece of cake" I had thought. But I still made it, albeit with a couple blisters on the bottom of my left foot.

By the time I got to the side trail (a steep, ice covered scramble down a rocky cliff) and made it to my site, I was beat, and ready for some dinner. I set up camp, sat on the beautifully white stone beach, and listened to the waves while my dinner cooked on the campstove. I sat there watching the sunset, reading my all time favourite book "THE ROAD", and then zipped myself up into my tent with my raincoat on. (Note to self: buy a one person tent for the next solo hike - the two man tent loses too much heat). I slept relatively soundly through the night, listening to the crash of the waves on the smooth rocks. I wondered about bears, but I had my hunting knife and bear horn next to my head if needed.

Bruce Trail, Tobermory ON
Georgian Bay, High Dump
Bruce Trail, Tobermory ON

It's a really interesting feeling - to be a little nervous, a little scared. I've felt this way before, on many occasions walking alone through the city at night. It's not like watching a scary movie, where you know something is going to pop around the corner but you just don't know when. It's less knowing than that. It's quiet. You know the likelihood is that all will be well, and you'll wake up in the morning and pack up and watch the squirrels and birds and walk back to your car without seeing a soul.

But there is a sense of vulnerability being out in the woods by yourself. And I kind of love it.

Georgian Bay, Tobermory ON

At 7am I was up, packing up my tent, sleeping bag and ground pad, and setting out for my car. It was a beautiful weekend for a hike, and just 2 hours later I was back at my little Toyota, stripping off my stinky sweaty clothes and tending to my blistered feet.

It was a successful first solo backpacking excursion, and the only thing I forgot was my toothbrush.

Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend

Page AZ is a wee little city with an incredible number of places to visit. Between the lakes, canyons and hiking spots, you could spend several days in this one city and keep yourself entertained. We only had the morning to explore, so we decided to splurge and take a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon.

 
Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics
 

Both Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon are exclusively visited through tour guides, for a number of reasons. Located on the Navajo Reservation, the canyon (sometimes called "Corkscrew Canyon") is a quarter mile long and 130ft deep. Like Jesse mentioned in his blog post about Spooky Gulch - slot canyons are Dangerous with a capital D, in rainstorms. With the volume of visitors that Antelope Canyon gets every year, you wouldn't want to be trapped in a 130ft deep canyon with dozens of people when a flash flood hits.

Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics
Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics

Visiting in the winter time meant that we didn't get the same bright colours or light beams that a summer visit would provide - but there were fewer people, and for a cold January morning there were still more people than I really preferred.

Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics
Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics

Antelope Canyon is the most photographed slot canyon in Arizona - photographers travel from all over the world to spend time in this canyon and capture its beauty. And for good reason - it makes for remarkable photographs! National Geographic once asked to capture the flash flooding in the canyon and secretly bolted their cameras to the (millions of years to carve out) canyon walls. When the flash flood came through, it ripped their equipment off the walls and carried it away - the cameras (and footage!) were never seen again. (Karma's a bitch, National Geographic.)

Upper Antelope Canyon | Emma Smith Ceramics

We got some spectacular photographs, but to be honest, the atmosphere was a let down. I can imagine the canyon would be a very spiritual, serene, and moving place to be - if you were alone. But we weren't. We were shepherded along in a group of 6 (we were told this was a small group) with a tour guide chattering on about all the different rock formations, where exactly we should aim our cameras, and what filters to use. We got some great photos, but the photos are much more incredible than the experience was. There was no time to quietly enjoy, reflect, or wander off on your own.

If you're going to visit Arizona, Antelope Canyon is worth visiting - but only if you have extra time. There are so many other sites to see that (for an adventurer) would be more rewarding.

On our way to the Grand Canyon, we stopped at Horseshoe Bend - another famous landmark where the Colorado River (the same river that carved out the Grand Canyon) makes a sharp horseshoe curve. The short hike to the bend brings you to the cliff's edge where you can look down and see the river wrapping like a snake around the rocks below.

Horseshoe Bend

And then we were off to the Grand Canyon - the highlight of the trip (for me) and a place I will go back to, MANY more times.
That's up next, and until then, thanks for reading!

List

I have really gotten behind with this blog. It seems like bi-weekly there is something worthy to write about, but I: 1. Run out of time to post, and then 2. Forget

or

1. Just forget.

Then by the time I have a moment to spare, and REMEMBER to write something, I feel like those many worthy tidbits have long since passed, and are no longer current, or fresh.

Anyway, I digress. So, maybe I'll make this post a list of some of those tidbits. I do indeed, like lists.

1. A friend bought these pots to use in one of her upcoming thriller/horror films. I'm not sure of the title yet, but I'll keep y'all posted.

MOVIE

2. My partner brought my kiln home from the West coast with him! I had the kiln surgeons at PSH do some maintenance and she is now ready to rock-and/or-roll. All I need is a house to put her in (and a name for her). That leads me to:

3. We are house-hunting. This means my focus on the studio has been distracted by duplexes and bungalows all over the Hamilton Region. Instead of coming home and spending hours looking at pots, I am now looking at dozens and dozens of houses.

4. I have set a date for my annual Open House. It will take place November 30 from 10am-4pm. There will be refreshments and snacks all day long, so come by and visit. I will be posting more information, along with directions, as soon as possible.

5. I will also be participating in Studio Huddle's annual Pop-Up-Shop this December. The shop will open December 4th and close December 22nd. More details to follow.

6. We've had beautiful weather over the past few weeks, and I've managed to make it on a few hikes amongst the autumn leaves. Bentley loves this weather too - he still can't help but jump into the creek and then make me wash him and pick burrs out of his fur later.

HIKE

7. We went to see the annual Demolition Derby at the Rockton World's Fair for Thanksgiving. Our idea of wholesome family fun is watching cars smash into each other. Fire and smoke are added excitement. The goats and sheep were pretty adorable too.

demo derby

7. The pots are being made, despite the house/hiking/show-prep/kiln distractions.  I've got boards of espresso cups and mugs at home that need to be decorated. I'm going to make some serving bowls this week.

Happy Monday!

The Grotto

Days off are my favourite part about living in Wiarton -  I can spend the day going on adventures, and relish every ounce of the environment. There are so many treasures to find and so many lovely places to visit!

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Last weekend my friend Alicia came up to visit me and we went on a Bruce Peninsula road trip. We hit up Eugenia, Wiarton, Tobermory and Lion's Head in under 24 hours - sharing a meal in each one and taking time to marvel at the scenery. Tobermory lies at the tip of the peninsula that separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. Off the coast of Tobermory are dozens of shipwrecks that you can see if you take a glass-bottom boat tour, and many islands to visit, including Manitoulin. This little town is a huge tourist attraction in the summer, due to its fantastic hiking spots, gorgeous views and excellent waters for boating. In the winter, however, the population drops down to a few hundred.

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We spent the better part of the day poking around the gift shops and art galleries, took a walk to see the Chi Cheemaun ferry, and then drove out to the point to get a good view of the islands. I was particularly fond of the Marine Chart Shop, where there were stacks of maps to look through and lots of interesting marine books to peruse. I have been looking for marine charts for quite some time now, so was pleased to have found the hot spot for these lovely treasures. I will have to get back there and pick up a few before my time in Wiarton is done. I would love to plaster  those large nautical charts on my future studio's walls.

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On our way to Lion's Head we went to the Bruce Peninsula National Park (Cypress Lake) and hiked out to the Grotto. The Grotto is a well known cave at the edge of the bay. You can carefully climb down the cliffside to the dank cavern and go for a swim in its pool. Deep in the grotto is a tunnel that exits into the bay on the other side of the cliff wall. Theoretically, you can dive down into the pool, through the tunnel and out the other side. Not many people venture down, but there were some scuba divers making the trek during our visit. Apparently you can complete the dive and tunnel swim without an oxygen tank, but it's risky business. I am much too claustrophobic to enjoy such a daredevil act. However, the colour of the water alone makes the Grotto a must see.

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Walk in the Rain

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After work yesterday I got into my little red car and drove back down to the GTA for a couple days. For the first 45 minutes it was bucketing rain but afterwards the drive was pleasant, and all of the plants appeared to have exploded with colour from the past few days of drizzle. A highlight of the road trip was the little town of "Scone" just a half hour south of Wiarton. Having missed the turn off to the main highway, I took several smaller roads to get back on track and stumbled my way through this little area. Not only did I see some Menonites on a horse and buggy (always humbling to see), but the farmland and lush orchards at the side of the road were breathtaking. There is something very inspiring about wide open fields of green. The large expanses of space make me feel much smaller and much more insignificant, something I always find liberating.

Today I took my parent's dog on a hike through Dundas Valley Conservation Area with my friend Tom. We started out at Sherman Falls and hiked through to The Hermitage (the ruins of a 19th century mansion) before looping back through an old orchard. I haven't been on a nice long hike in a while, but I'll have to scope out some good places in the Bruce Peninsula so I can get back into shape. I would love to hike the entire Bruce Trail one day, but at the rate I'm going, I wouldn't have the stamina. Bentley quite enjoyed the hike as well, he even saw his first deer.

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I'm headed back up to Wiarton tomorrow with more of my clay and equipment, so I can start producing some of my own work during my days off. I will be firing a wood-fired soda kiln with Marcelina Salazar (another Sheridan alumnus) at the end of June, and need to start making some work for it.

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Until next time, enjoy your weekend!