Monday 9 Aug
Kemble to Spirit Rock Conservation Area (Wiarton)
Time: 7 hours
Distance: 37.3 km
Average speed: 5.3 km/h
Tuesday 10 Aug
Spirit Rock Conservation Area to Hope Bay
Time: 8 hours
Distance: 45 km
Avg pace: 5.6 km/h
Total distance to date: 767 km
Distance to go: 118 km
Eighty-two kilometres in two days
I cannot be too impressed with myself because Charlotte Vasarhelyi – who ran the whole Bruce Trail in a new record of 13 days, 10 hours earlier this summer – ran this distance almost every day. However, I am not as fit as Charlotte Vasarhelyi, who trains by running over 100 miles every week. And Charlotte Vasarhelyi did not have to run with a backpack fully loaded with camping gear. This is still more distance than I’ve covered in a single weekend since starting the trail, and it still beat me up pretty good. If I showed you a picture of my toenails, you’d see what I mean.
(I made the critical mistake of wearing trail shoes which I now know are too small, and on the second day wearing Injinji Socks, which take up more room in the shoe by separating each toe like a glove. I will be paying the price until both of my big toenails grow back – until which time I will have to remember to always wear socks in the presence of my mother-in-law, who had already expressed opinions about my feet.)
I drove to Kemble and left my car by the side of the road. Bill and Nancy of The Bluffs B&B in Lion’s Head kindly shuttled my car up the peninsula to Barrow Bay. The Bluffs is part of the Home to Home B&B Network, an association of B&Bs that provide accommodation and shuttle services to Bruce Trail hikers on the Peninsula section of the trail (Wiarton to Tobermory).
I jogged the first day with a 55-litre pack with all my overnight gear, food for two days and about 5 litres of water to start. The Slough of Despond seemed appropriately named as I plodded past it in late afternoon. Its hordes of blood-hungry flies chased me on the long ascent up Skinner’s Bluff.
As I approached Wiarton at sunset, various sorts of pain set in: chafing on my back from the heavy pack, and the rope-like stems of Queen Anne’s lace whipping at my bare legs for hours.
Arriving in Wiarton, I snapped a photo of Willie the groundhog and ordered a medium Greek at New Orleans Pizza. I ate while walking the last couple kilometres to Spirit Rock Conservation Area where I got spooked by the darkness and pitched my tent. In hindsight I’d have driven ahead to set up camp next to the bike tourers at the waterfront park in Wiarton rather than lugging my gear all day, but I’d thought that I would travel bravely by night and cover more distance, and didn’t want to be committed to a destination.
In the morning I stashed my overnight bag in the bushes near the Spirit Rock parking lot and ran with just my Camelbak. Sticky heat and sore feet slowed me down as I made my way up the base of the Peninsula. I’d meant to bring water purification pills but hadn’t had time to buy them before leaving Toronto, so I ran with a filter and stopped to pump water at Cape Croker Indian Park (there’s a boil water advisory at the park’s taps). In this summer heat at my modest pace, I drink about a litre every 10 km. My Camelbak holds three litres.
I was 3:30 when I arrived in Hope Bay, and I had no hope (!) of completing the distance to Barrow Bay, which was only 10 km up the road but another 20-30 on the trail. I took off my shoes, limped into Georgian Bay and lay down in the water. Then I got up and walked around the bay to the campground store.
Hallelujah, the first person I spoke to offered me a ride. I was still wet from the swim, so he grabbed a wool blanket from the back and threw it over the passenger seat. Half an hour later, I was on the road back to Toronto.