In my last article, I spoke about how treacherous the trails have been in terms of mud, and especially on the hilly landscapes that have been leading all the way up to the Rockway Conservation Area, so when it unexpectedly snowed this past week, I knew I was in for a real challenge on my next outing.
Unfortunately, with all of the drastic weather changes that we’ve been experiencing here in the Niagara Region, I wasn’t feeling too great on Monday, so I chose to get some badly-needed rest instead. Then on Wednesday, the wife and I realized that we both had the same day off together, so I decided that instead of continuing my solo journey across the Bruce Trail, it would be far more fun if we could hit the trails together for a few hours, despite the snow covered ground and the rain that immediately followed. So together, we went off to explore the Rockway and all of the natural beauty that Niagara has to offer, both on the marked side-trails and on the unmarked trails that continue down along the watery passage, stemming first from the Rockway Falls.
Under slightly milder conditions, I would say that the trail leading down towards the lower rapids is very beginner friendly. It’s a well-marked footpath with only a couple of medium grade inclines that eventually lead down to a fantastic little rest area, perfect for just relaxing and hanging out. The sounds of the rushing water are incredibly calming and there’s even a firepit available for those inclined to stay a little while longer into the evening.
Then, beyond the rest area, the wife and I somehow managed to hike down into an unmarked territory, which we were surprised to realize (after the fact) wasn’t even part of the original marked trail. I would rate the trail extension as a novice-level path on a good day with steep inclines and manageable downhills, including a couple of streams that may require a bit of climbing in order to cross over them. Combined with the mud and ice however, I would not recommend this section for beginners or the elderly, as it’s far too slippery. But on a dry day, it’s definitely worth the effort and should be considered as a relatively safe and scenically rewarding trail.
One of the coolest spots that we encountered along our hike was a man-made shelter of sorts that someone had so eloquently named “HOME.” It’s a fantastic spot that obviously took a lot of time and energy to construct, complete with seating and a firepit made from large rocks. It also had privacy walls constructed from pine branches and various other sorts of fresh-cut logs. The only downfall that I noticed was that there was no overhead covering (perfect however, for star-gazing on a clear night), so everything was wet and covered in snow. It seemed like a perfect spot that fortunately-unfortunately (depending on your perspective) requires perfect weather to enjoy it at its best. But still, it was a pretty sweet set-up. Also, I noticed that there was nowhere to sleep in the shelter but I’m fairly certain that overnight camping is not permitted anyway, so it’s all good. Great job to whoever put it together.
We went as far as we could until it was obvious that we could not proceed any further – not safely anyway, and not without a map and a compass. When we finally encountered a seemingly dead-end, I volunteered to scout on up ahead and climb up a big moss-covered hill (my moss theory worked perfectly by the way) while the wife waited safely down below. I knew her knee was starting to bother her a bit so I made the judgement call that she shouldn’t follow just in case it all proved for nothing – which it did.
On our way back, we stopped along the edge of the trail to take a closer look down into the gorge and sure enough, there was this awesome little bridge that crossed over the raging torrents. I wanted to hike down but after we had just hiked down and up again, I wasn’t sure where we could gain access. I didn’t notice any other trails along the bottom stemming from the rapids. Then it dawned on me that the bridge itself must’ve been a part of the Bruce Trail which also crosses through the middle of the conservation area.
Oh well, I thought. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, which as luck would have it, is scheduled to be the next section of the Bruce Trail that I plan on hiking – regardless of the weather situation (they’re currently calling for freezing temperatures, cloudy, with a chance of flurries). Fun, fun!
Hope to see you out there,
PS Since I’ve started blogging about my hikes, I’ve had at least one or two people every day tell me how much I have inspired them to go outside and enjoy Mother Nature. I’m really glad that some of you are enjoying my journey as I continue to hike the entire Bruce Trail. I also plan on hiking all of the side trails located along the Niagara Escarpment (and beyond), much like the one above, and pretty soon, I’ll be in the Short Hills Provincial Park, which is notorious for deer and other wildlife sightings. When I say “hope to see you out there,” I’m not even joking. Stand up, move away from the television, and get your butts outside! Enjoy the pics!