From the moment I step onto the trail on the rocky collar of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve) near the edge of Hamilton I know it is going to be interesting. Maria Fortunato, Executive Director of the Hamilton Halton Brant Regional Tourism Association had said, "This walk has been a year in the making, a type of packaged walking tour that's never been done in Ontario, so it's unique." There are two tours offered, an all-inclusive two-day and five-day waterfall walking holiday that winds along the Bruce Trail atop the Niagara Escarpment in the Hamilton Halton area. Groups consist of anywhere from 12 to 20. Participants stay overnight in top notch hotels with scrumptious meals. No beans and wieners here.
What's unique about this hike is that I observe my surroundings in a different way, accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, Beth Kummling Gilhespy, Executive Director of the Bruce Trail Conservancy. She is a walking encyclopedia on the geology along the trail.
The morning walk takes us through a Carolinian Forest, past numerous waterfalls (there are 28 waterfalls along the Niagara Escarpment) and scenic lookouts that leave me in awe. Things you might see along the trail are Paw Paw, Flowering Dogwood, and Sweet Chestnut. If you're lucky (I wasn't) you might get a glimpse of a Southern Flying Squirrel or Wooded Warbler. This hike is perfect for birders to add names to the list of birds they've spotted.
After a full morning of walking 10 kilometres, we took a lunch break at the
Ancaster Mill Restaurant. This landmark Ancaster dining establishment is a beautifully restored 19th century grist mill. The nature theme continued with our Earth to Table cuisine. We lingered after lunch to absorb the lovely waterfall outside our dining room table.
After another afternoon of hiking, we are shuttled to
The Best Western Luxury C Hotel on Stone Church Road above the escarpment and home for the night but home was never like this. After a good shower, I rest for a few hours and then head downstairs for another delicious meal where we reminisce about our day of adventure. Sleep that night is easy.
I have to make a confession at this point. Due to other plans I had that day, I didn't continue the hike. A few days later I spoke with a few of my fellow hikers who said they were now hooked on hiking and plan to do it again.
The Bruce Trail starts (or ends) depending on where you are, at Queenston Heights and winds its way along the Niagara Escarpment through the Niagara Region before heading towards the Bruce Peninsula at Tobermory. It is Canada's oldest and longest footpath over 880 Km beginning to end. The Bruce Trail is funded almost entirely by individuals, organizations, foundations and corporations. Less than 1 % is contributed by any level of government. Isn't that refreshing?
Keep in mind my tour included a knowledgeable trail guide, accommodations in first rate hotels, breakfast, lunch and dinner each day and ground transportation between hotels and restaurants. Also included are a one year Bruce Trail Conservancy membership and an Official Bruce Trail Guide book. A two-day hike of 25 km with 19 waterfalls costs $588 (+tax) per person, double occupancy. Single occupancy is $794. A five-day hike of 45 km with 28 waterfalls costs $1,198 (+ tax) per person, double occupancy. Single occupancy is $1499.
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, the Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.