Date – May 20, 2013
Location – Map 33 Owen Sound West, Sydenham Section
Distance – 15.6 km
Total Trail Distance – 443.9 (450.1 to go)
Hikers – Steve, Simon, Dean, Marlene, Benjamin, Elza and Robyn
Start –123.3 The Gap Access Trail, Sydenham Section
End – 107.7, Somers Street, Owen Sound
Direction – South
Weather – Warm and sunny.
This is day two of the Victoria Day long weekend spent in Owen Sound. We are glad to have Elza and Robyn join us, but incredibly sad that Harold and Janette are not with us. We are very worried about Jenny. We pray through much of the day.
We are planning to hike about 15 km today, but Elza and Robyn decide to leave a vehicle on Highway 17A at 111.1 (the 12 km mark), so they can bail if they decide it's necessary.
We park our van in roughly the same place as yesterday: a rutted and grassed-over dead-end at the end of Concession 14, and the trees around us are heavily posted with "no trespassing" signs.
Ben and Simon take off quickly after the obligatory group shot at the start, and Steve, Elza and Robyn are close behind. Just as Dean and I are about to head off, a beat-up old station wagon with the tailgate open comes clattering up the road with an elderly man at the wheel. He stops the car and gets out, and we are worried that he is going to accost us for parking here. But I quickly notice the yellow cotton of an ancient official Bruce Trail dress shirt and the embroidered trail insignia on the shirt collar.
We greet each other and make introductions. It's Ed McReynolds, a member of the Sydenham Club and trail captain for this section. The back of his vehicle is full of lumber and tools, and he says he is here to make repairs. He tells us that a "young man" came from the Bruce Trail Conservancy and audited his trail section, producing a long list of deficiencies that McReynolds must address, including problems with the instability of the crude wooden footbridge over the muddy area near the beaver pond at the base of The Gap. The wood in his trunk is actually a small bridge that he has built and is now planning to install: except the location is about 200 metres away and the bridge is still quite big and heavy. He says he was going to find a nearby resident to help him carry it, but we say we can help. We try to summon Ben and Simon to come back, since they are such strong teenagers, but they are long gone. Dean and I carry the bridge and Ed carries some tools.
After we drop the bridge, he tells us that he used to farm in the area and then was a farm equipment dealer. Since I have an uncle who farmed in the Chatsworth area for many years, we establish that he knows Uncle Kor, and he remembers the farm accident that claimed his hand. Small world.
We've covered hundreds of kilometres on our adventure so far, and we have benefited from the many boardwalks, bridges, handholds and steps that make the trail safe and pleasant to use. We have often wondered about the construction techniques, the numbered labels affixed to the more elaborate structures and the people who build and maintain them. This is the first time we've actually met someone, or seen someone at work. We are grateful for Ed McReynolds and the hundreds of other volunteers who are making this possible.
We are starting in the same place we began yesterday, but this time, instead of heading north, we climb through the gap and turn left, heading south towards Owen Sound.
The first part of the hike is through the Glen Management Area, where there are lots of fissures and crevasses. The trail also makes its way through a narrow rock valley, with steep moss- and fern-covered walls on either side. The valley is in the gap created by a section of rock breaking free from the main escarpment, and it's long. It's so long, that we wonder if we've made a mistake and missed a blaze, but clearly, once we are in, there is no other way to get out except by passing through the valley. It's a hot day but it's incredibly quiet and cool between the walls, and we linger to take many pictures and enjoy the peaceful coolness.
As has happened many times before, Simon and Ben find an abandoned vehicle and spend a few enjoyable minutes bashing it with sticks and rocks. All the glass is long gone: this is just for the satisfaction of the loud noise it makes. As Ben's former percussion teacher and orchestra conductor once said: everything is a percussion instrument.
When we cross 17A and meet up with the extra van, Elza and Robyn decide that it's a hot day and they've gone far enough. Bailing is necessary. Steve goes with them, and offers to retrieve our van from the dead-end at Concession 14. He'll either meet us where the rail trail crosses Range Road, or we'll continue south on the Owen Sound streets. He ends up meeting us on Somers Street, just past 24th Street West.
Their hotel room is booked for another night, so we head back there to shower and have a picnic supper together in the little courtyard outside their room. It's been a day tinged with worry and sadness, but as any hiker would know, hiking is solace for the soul.
We don't see much wildlife, but sometimes we do see this:
A miss-step here and you'd have a broken ankle: