Race report: Inaugural Rugged Raccoon 25k night trail race 2019

Before I started orienteering I never would have run through the forest at night in the dark by myself! But a couple of years of practice doing short weeknight races, and despite – or perhaps because of – the occasional scurrying sound or glowing eyes, I have become less frightened of things that go bump in the night (or maybe more tolerant). So when I saw that Happy Trails was putting on the inaugural Rugged Raccoon 25k night trail race, I didn’t hesitate before registering.

I arrived at Wildwood Conservation Area in St. Mary’s with plenty of time to pick up my race bib (and whistle!), very cool race top, change into running clothes (I had come from basketball spectating), and chat with other runners.

Just before 7:30 PM, we had a short pre-race meeting.

Last minute instructions. [Photo by Sue Sitki]
Putting my phone away for the last time. [Photo by Sue Sitki]

And then, the race began! I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to run before I needed my headlamp. This was a pretty small race, with only 92 runners in the 25k distance (there were also 5k and 10k races). Runners were given the option of starting an hour earlier if they didn’t think they could finish within the 3 1/2 hour time limit, so less than 92 people started at once.

The race began on park roads, but we quickly hit the trail, and once there, the crowd had already dispersed and I was running with a very small pack of runners. The trail would go all the way around the lake! The course was very well marked. Only a few times during the race I wondered which way to go, but I quickly figured it out.

My approach to this race was to take it 5k at a time, or essentially 1 aid station at a time! The four aid stations would be fully stocked with all kinds of yummy goodies, but sadly, my stomach had been feeling “off” since the day before the race, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of any of it! Not the quesadillas, not the ramen noodles, not the pancakes! I decided to stick to my Endurance Tap (maple syrup). Given the paucity of food I ate the day of the race, it’s amazing I made it to the start line!

The clockwise route around Wildwood Lake.

I ran with my waist belt so I had my own water with me. I didn’t expect to drink a lot, but wanted to be able to drink whenever I wanted to. The first aid station was just before the 5k mark, but I had no need to stop there – I just threw out my Endurance Tap garbage as I went by.

The trail was quite pretty, with lots of ups and downs, and even more MUD! Wow was it ever muddy. We were encouraged to run right through it to avoid widening the trail or damaging it. I was glad to have tied my trail shoes tightly – the mud threatened to suck them right off my feet!

Just before I got to the 10k aid station, the sun was really beginning to set and the sky was looking very pretty. I debated getting my phone out to take a picture, but decided my legs wouldn’t be happy to have to start running again!

[Photo by Sue Sitki]

This aid station was fun – the volunteers were playing music and were very enthusiastic! Once again, I ran straight by it, just dropping my garbage. At this point, I crossed a bridge over the lake, and as I entered the forest again, I wondered how much longer I would be able to manage without my headlamp. It was in this section too that I caught the last glimpse of another runner for quite some time. Turns out just after 11k, I turned my light on, worried that I was going to trip on a root or a rock.

In the back of my mind I kept telling myself that the last 5k would be the easiest, or so we were told. I would believe it when I saw it. As it got darker out, I was able to see headlamps bobbing in the distance across the lake, from where I had come from – that was quite neat. I heard some noises in the woods around me in this section too, but never did see anything.

I could hear people at the 15k aid station before I could see it, but eventually I caught a glimpse of a headlamp in the distance. As the volunteers spotted mine, they cheered for me. Once again, I dropped my garbage there and kept going. At some point, someone in the woods having a campfire told me I was doing a great a job.

As my legs got more tired, it became harder and harder to run through the mud – it took more effort to pull my feet out of the sticky, deep mud! Thankfully though, I managed to stay upright! Even though it was pitch dark at this point, it was very easy to follow the race route, because there were glowing markers hanging from trees.

It was around 16k that I finally saw another runner when I overtook two women walking. I knew that my friend David would be at the 20k aid station, and I knew that when I hit that one, I would be on the home stretch! I walked a bit more in this section, sometimes on hills that at the beginning of the race I would have run! I reached the aid station, and had a small glass of Skratch (sport hydration). It was so good. David helped me safely cross the road, and I was on my way to the finish! I was relieved to discover that this last bit was indeed the easiest part of the course. There was less elevation gain, less roots and rocks, and flat park road at the end too. I passed another couple of runners here, but couldn’t quite catch one that I could see up ahead of me (let’s be honest – I didn’t even try!).

I was only slightly disappointed as I approached the finish line that the race course was only 24k – I was happy to be nearing the end! As I ran down the finishing chute, which was lined with lights, I had great cheers from other runners who had already finished, and from others who were volunteering or were there with other runners. It was a great way to finish!

There was mud.

After watching a few more runners finish, I changed into dry, warm clothes, grabbed my mug, and went in search of hot chocolate. It seems it was all gone, but I made myself a mug of chamomile tea, and thoroughly enjoyed it as I drove home. I also ate one plain pancake before I left, and then nothing until the next day (I was not hungry). So glad my stomach is finally back to normal!

This was a great race and I look forward to doing it again next year! Thank you Happy Trails!

Race results:

  • Time: 3:08:05 (7:32 min/km)
  • Placing women 40-49: 3/3
  • Placing all women: 15/45
  • Placing all runners: 50/92

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Race report: Paris to Ancaster 70k (2019)

This was to be my 2nd time riding the Paris to Ancaster 70k race (2018 edition here), in weather that a few days beforehand promised a little bit of everything, from rain and snow to wind. But on race day the clouds cleared and the forecast was a high of 11C with not a lot of wind. Perfect for a spring bike race!

After parking my vehicle at Ancaster High School, I made a last minute decision to ditch my thicker gloves, then rode my bike across the street to the Morgan Firestone Arena, where I handed it over to volunteers loading bikes onto trucks for transportation to the start line. I walked away from the truck and immediately realized that I probably shouldn’t have left my race nutrition in the crossbar pouch, because it has a habit of opening up and emptying… but I optimistically decided that I would be fine, because even if I lost that food, I had more in my hand to eat before the race, and there would be food on course.

I found a seat on the school bus around 7:30 AM, then felt a tap on my shoulder – it was Erik, who I met last year at the Steaming Nostril 65k. He invited me to sit with him, which meant that I had someone to pass the time with before our 10:30 AM race start!

It was a little chilly at Green Lane Sports Complex in Paris while we passed the time, but once the clouds lifted, it warmed up a bit! I was dressed to ride, not stand around. I was relieved to find that my race nutrition stayed put during the drive to Paris.

We made a new friend – Kevin – who was riding the 70k for the first time (years ago he did the race when it was 60k).

Finally, it was time to head to the start line!

We were in the 4th and final wave, also affectionately known as the party wave. When the gun sounded, we took off! The actual race route varies slightly each year depending on weather, land permissions, and the condition of the roads, and the 70k distance is approximate!

What follows is a general description of my race, including the type of terrain ridden and very approximate distances (looking at my Garmin map data, which marks every 5k of distance). Some of the race course is on private land, so please do not ride this course without knowing which parts are which!

KM 0-10 – Green Lane Sports Complex to the Cambridge to Paris Trail

I’m not used to riding in packs, so I was careful at the beginning not to get caught up in tight traffic. There was a crash off to the left just 100-200m into the race, with several riders going down. Hopefully they were uninjured and able to continue!

A short ride on gravel roads led to the double track Cambridge to Paris Trail, which runs along the Grand River. Because it is so early in the race, it can be quite congested with lots of passing going on. I found that people were pretty good about signalling their intent to pass (with hand gestures or verbal cues), and even polite about letting others pass. I rode on the right hand side of the path, road or trail for the entire race except when I was passing. I found it quite frustrating at times when people rode on the left or side by side preventing passing. In any case, this was a pretty part of the course.

First farm lane after the first trail. [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 10-24 – Road, with a short farm lane section (I think)

Leaving the trail was the first time I saw people getting off their bikes and walking. I rode up the loose gravel hill and continued along a farm laneway.

Around 15k I had an Endurance Tap gel.

KM 24-25 – Muddy farm

At this point we turned off the road into a farm, and through a farmer’s field. “You’re going to like this!” is what I heard. This was the first real section of mud, and my strategy was to follow the rider in front of me – she seemed to be handling the mud just fine, so I figured if she could do it, I could too. And then she unclipped and starting walking, but I continued. I got pretty hot in this section, thinking I was overdressed!

KM 25-27 – Road

I can’t remember anything remarkable about this section.

Whee! There I go! [Photo by Apex Photography]

KM 27-29 – Muddy lane

As soon as I turned onto this muddy lane I remembered it from last year, and was determined to ride straight through the inevitable mud again this year! Many people were walking, but I put my bike into the granny gear and pedalled as hard as I could. Slow down too much and I knew I would lose traction and topple over! I had a death grip on my handlebars, and I kept yelling again, “Coming through!” so those walking didn’t block me by stepping in front of me. A woman behind me started cheering for me, saying “spin! spin!” and “go! go! go!” and I don’t remember what else. At one point I asked her if I should spin as fast as possible and she said “yes!” and “as straight as possible!” It was exhausting pushing hard through that mud, but super rewarding to make it all the way through! Once we got onto the road I thanked her for cheering me on and she said that she was cheering as much for herself as for me!

KM 29-32 – Road to Harrisburg aid station

I pulled into the Harrisburg aid station after 1 hour 30 minutes, which was 10 minutes faster than last year. I quickly used a portapotty, topped up my water bottle, ran into Erik (who beat me there), ate a cookie and a banana, and got back on my bike.

KM 32 – 35 – A rail trail (including alternate route)

Erik reminded me that shortly after leaving the aid station, we would hit a backlog of riders on a rail trail type path, because the course leaves the trail and heads down a steep hill to the road. As I got close to this spot, sure enough, people were bunched up and walking. Another rider that I know from adventure racing (Anne) came up behind me and was clearly wanting to ride it (“I have a mountain bike” she said.). Then I saw a sign that said ALTERNATE ROUTE, and something about having to ride down the steep hill or walk down the hill on the other side of the bridge (I don’t think the sign actually said all that!). Anne went for the steep, muddy, curvy downhill ride and so did I! We got ahead of quite a few (walking) riders by doing that. I had to unclip at the very bottom when I reached a couple of huge boulders, but then I was on my way again!

KM 35 – 40 – Road

It was in this road section that another rider pointed out to me that my key was falling out of my back pocket! What a disaster that would have been! So thankful that he noticed it and told me!

Entire P2A 70k route.

KM 40 – 41 – Muddy lane

I found this next muddy lane more rideable this year, but I nearly took another rider down when a rut in the thick gooey mud swung me right and nearly into the path of another rider. I yelled “sorry! sorry! sorry!” but he was thankfully able to avoid me and we both stayed upright. PHEW! I also had to unclip quickly at one point when a rider fell right in front of me – I thought I too was going down!

KM 41 – 56 – Road (with a 1k section of rail trail)

The next section was quite boring, but I was still feeling good! I think it was in this section that I discovered I had lost two gels from my crossbar pouch. I had another one.

KM 56 – 64 – Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail

Once I turned onto the rail trail, I felt like I was in home territory. The majority of my pre-race training rides included this part of the rail trail.

At 58k I reached another aid station (on the trail), which I considered riding straight past but decided to stop for. I ate a cookie and some super yummy oranges slices, then headed out once again. I felt like I got a 2nd wind and felt strong heading into the last part of the race.

KM 64 – 65 – Road

Once I left the rail trail, there was a short road section until we reached Highway 52, where I had to wait with other riders for a couple of minutes (less than 5) before the police stopped the traffic for us. This was the only time during the race where I had to wait for traffic. At this point I heard someone say that there were 1.6 km to go, which I knew was wrong, so I told him and others that based on what the people at the last aid station said, we had about 8k to go!

KM 65 – 66 – Mineral Springs Mud Chute

I don’t think it’s quite possible to understand the two mud chutes in this race until you try to ride them. I’m sure the riders at the very front of the pack can make their way through them, but by the time 2,500 or more riders go through before me, they are quite unrideable! The vast majority of people around me walked down the mud chute, though some – like me – made a valiant attempt at the start. I managed to go for a short ways before I fell over onto my left side. And then I walked. Many people carried their bikes to keep them out of the worst of the mud, but my bike is far too heavy to do that. So I tried to keep it as far to the side of the mud chute as I could.

Through the Mineral Springs mud chute. [Photo by my dad]

I knew that my parents would be waiting for me at the bottom, and sure enough, they were! However, I came through so much earlier than expected that they nearly missed me.

There was no lineup at the power wash station, so a volunteer did a quick clean of my bike and I was on my way again.

Quick power wash! [Photo by my dad]
Thought this was going to be Gatorade. Nope. Water! [Photo by my dad]

KM 66 – 67.5 – Road and jujube

On Powerline Road there were a few volunteers handing out jujubes, so I grabbed a couple and in trying to chew the first one cracked my jaw something fierce!

KM 67.5 – 68 – Powerline Road Mud Chute

And then it was time for the second of the mud chutes. This one I didn’t even attempt to ride. What a mess! Thick, goopy mud!

KM 68 – 70 – Trail and Mineral Springs Road

I cleaned some mud and debris off my bike, and as soon as I could, I got back on my bike and started to ride. I think this section was a little different this year, because I don’t remember riding Mineral Springs Road around the hairpin turns last year. I may be wrong!

KM 70 – 71.7 – Martin Road and the Martin Road hill

And then, I reached Martin Road, which would take me to the finish line. I was determined to make it up the steepest part of the hill just before the finish, but I did unclip near the beginning to avoid wiping out in a big puddle, and then again when going up a very steep short section – people were walking and I was afraid I wouldn’t have the speed or traction to get up it.

I hit the Martin Road hill, and while almost everyone around me was walking, there was one woman riding ahead of me, so I focussed on making it to the top without colliding with her!

Tackling the Martin Road hill! [Photo by Apex Photography]

We got lots of cheers (she had her own cheering section), and amazingly, I didn’t find it as hard as I expected (reaching it after more than 71k of cycling!), and when I hit that finish line, I felt like I could have kept going. Woot!

I finished the race a whopping 42 minutes faster than last year. Yes, I rode 73k last year versus 71.7 km this year, but I was still way faster!!

I’m really happy with how my race went!

After putting my super muddy bike back into my vehicle, I stood in the longest line ever for post-race food, but it moved surprisingly quickly! I took the food to my parents’ place, and after refueling, I soaked in their hot tub. Lucky me!

What a race!

Race stats:

  • Time: 3:54:20 (18.3 km/h)
  • Women 40-49: 22/36
  • Women: 108/150
  • All riders: 1299/1561

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Toronto Section

I’ve now completed 3 sections of the Bruce Trail (there are 9)!

What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”

TORONTO SECTION

Started the Toronto section: December 8, 2018

Finished the Toronto section: April 22, 2019

Run details

  • December 8, 2018 – Crawford Lake, Milton to Hilton Falls Conservation Area, Milton – 13k (to just north of the northern end of the Iroquoia section)
  • January 25, 2019 – Hilton Falls Conservation Area, Milton 5k north towards Speyside and back again – 10k (solo)
  • March 3, 2019 – Scotsdale Farm, Georgetown, to Silver Creek Conservation Area and back again – 11k (solo)
  • March 8, 2019 – Speyside south to Hilton Falls, and then north past Speyside to 17 Side Road – 18.3k (solo)
  • March 16, 2019 – 17 Side Road, Milton to Scotsdale Farm, Georgetown – 17k
  • April 22, 2019 – Silver Creek Conservation Area to Forks of the Credit Provincial Park – 22.9k (solo)
Alasdair and I just about to enter Hilton Falls.

Run stats

  • # runs: 6
  • # solo runs: 4
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 1
  • # runs with friends: 1 (Laura)
  • shortest run: 10k
  • longest run: 22.9k
  • average length of run: 15.4k

Run highlights

Most fun section to run: from Speyside south toward Hilton Falls, because of this section’s curvy, twisty little ups and downs.

Most decorated trees: From Hilton Falls north towards Speyside, there was one spot with many trees marked for removal.

X marks the spot.

1st time climbing a stile in spikes: Between Hilton Falls and Speyside (I was extra careful, thinking I may get caught in the gaps of the wood!).

I initially thought this had disaster written all over it.

Longest stretch without seeing another person on the trail: 18.3k when I ran from Speyside south toward Hilton Falls, then north up to 17 Sideroad and back to Speyside.

Most wildlife encounters: From Silver Creek Conservation Area to Forks of the Credit Provincial Park I saw 2 wild turkeys, 1 turkey vulture, 2 riders on horseback, 1 hawk, 1 garter snake, butterflies, chipmunks and squirrels, and a beagle that chased me, and I heard lots of spring peepers and other pond critters.

1st signs of spring on the trail: On April 22nd – flowers (and spring peepers!)! However, there was still ice on one section just south of Forks of the Credit.

Most memorable encounter with others on the trail: a beagle that chased me, getting very close and barking at me – I had to keep yelling “no!” to get it to back off. Eventually it’s owner called it away (property backs onto the trail).

Neat finds:  Limehouse Conservation Area, with narrow passages through steep rocks faces and little caves.

Hardest section to run: from Silver Creek Conservation Area to Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, because of the rocks, mud, washed out trail, and a sore knee after I fell hard on it at the 10k mark! My knee really didn’t like the final steep descent to Forks of the Credit.

So pretty in the forest!

Up next is the Caledon section!

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Race report: Good Friday Road Race 10k 2019

I haven’t been doing much road running lately, and I most definitely haven’t been working on speed, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself in this 10k race. I also spent more than an hour the night before orienteering in the woods in Hamilton near Albion Falls, climbing some pretty steep hills!

Pre-race, ready to go!

But the race began and I somehow ran a 5:18 first kilometre, which is likely a first for me! It’s the result of running in a pack at the start of a race, feeling good and not looking at my watch until I hit the 1k marker. No, I didn’t keep that pace up for the next 9k.

I spent pretty much the entire race chasing a boy (who I would later learn was 10) and his father, but was never quite able to stay with them. I finished my first 5k in 27:40, but slowed down in the second half (as usual!). I also spent the second half chasing a man who had used me as a pace setter in the first half. I wasn’t able to stay with him either, but we did congratulate each other at the finish line!

Done!

I was just 18 seconds off last year’s time – I’ll take it!

Stats:

  • Time: 56:52.4 (5:41 min/km)
  • Women 40-49: 9/17
  • Women: 21/61
  • All runners: 52/110

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Trip report: Cross-country skiing and yurt camping at Algonquin February 2019

After such a great experience yurt camping for the first time last winter at Mew Lake in Algonquin Provincial Park, my friend Rebecca and I decided to do it again. This time, we would be joined by Jen, who had never stayed in a yurt before. There is so much to do at Algonquin in the winter!

Our plan was to borrow cross-country skis from Algonquin Outfitters, and in my case, to try them out for the first time in more than 10 years! Last year, we borrowed fat bikes and had a blast!

Unfortunately, Jen was unable to ski due to a knee injury, but she was still keen to get away with us for a few days!

Skiing in fresh snow on the Fen Lake trails at Algonquin after 25 cm of fresh snow had fallen. [Photo by Rebecca]
Snow-plowing my way down a steep hill on the Blue Spruce Resort trails. [Photo by Rebecca]

I’ve already written about my cross-country skiing adventures with Rebecca on the Algonquin Outfitters blog, so I’ll skip that part (it was super fun) and focus instead on winter camping in a yurt!

We pulled into Mew Lake and headed for our yurt. Before even parking our car at our campsite, we had already spotted 2 pine martens. Their little faces are so darn cute!

Pine marten beside our yurt.

Jen had arrived just before us, so we went into the yurt and decided who was going to sleep in which bed, and where we were going to stash all of our stuff. A yurt is much bigger than a tent, but start piling gear in there and it fills up quickly.

Since there were only 3 of us, Jen and I each had a double bed (bottom bunk) to ourselves, with Rebecca on a top bunk. The yurts sleep 6, and while there are 6 chairs, the table is tiny. As you can see in the pictures below, there is a long shelf above the table, perfect for keeping paper towels and kleenex and other things out of the way.

There is an electric heater in the yurt, which takes the edge off the cold, but you still have to dress warmly. As the heater cycles on and off, I often found that I was most comfortable wearing multiples layers, including a winter hat (I may or may not have worn the same long johns and running pants for 3 days straight)! But at night, I was quite comfortable in regular pajamas and my -7C sleeping bag. There is a single overhead fluorescent light, which is plugged into the only electrical outlet in the yurt. This means you have one outlet to plug in your phone, kettle, etc. unless you bring a power bar.

Insider tip: bring a very long extension cord to reach the power outlet outside and behind the yurt. You can feed this into the yurt through a window (they close with velcro), and then you can have an outlet that works when you turn the light off. Otherwise, when you turn the light off, the other outlet turns off too! Jen read up on yurt camping and learned lots of useful tidbits, including putting a sheet on the double mattress to make the bed more cozy!

Note the bedsheet on Jen’s bed! Smart!

Jen also brought a mat for just inside the yurt door, and we all brought “inside shoes” so that we didn’t track snow and water all across the floor. There were a couple of rubber mats to put our footwear on, and several hooks to hang coats. Our door didn’t quite shut properly (it seemed misaligned), so it’s no wonder it never really warmed up in there.

Rebecca, Jen and I.

We had a sneak peak at a newer model of yurt across the road from us, complete with newer bunk beds, a wooden table, and a fireplace! It sounds like all of the older yurts will be replaced in time with the newer model.

Extension cord giving us power even when we turned the light off.

While Jen wasn’t able to ski, she was able to go for walks, so we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield at sunset, which was just as pretty as always.

Jen and Rebecca in the old Mew Lake airfield.

Another time we walked through the old Mew Lake airfield to the Old Railway Trail, then back along the Highland Trail to the waterfall, and finally along the Track and Tower Trail back to Mew Lake.

While we didn’t skate at Mew Lake, there is a rink beside the comfort station (hot and cold running water, flush toilets, a shower, and laundry facilities), complete with hockey nets, sticks, pucks (and shovels!) for campers to use. There’s also a warming tent with picnic tables and a fire in it.

Warming tent and skating rink.

While we were camping, the only occupied campsites were the 7 yurts, and 3 sites with trailers on them (including the camp hosts). It quiet – and lovely!

Our 2nd day at Algonquin saw a snowstorm blow in, and when it was all done the next morning, 25 cm of snow had fallen! We couldn’t leave until a tractor came to plow the roads (which happened before 10 AM). We had to dig our cars out, and sadly, head for home!

Just a little snow fell!

I love that in a yurt at Algonquin you can hang your clothes to dry, be cozy at night, and have nature’s playground at your doorstep. It was a great 3-day mini winter getaway, with cross-country skiing, hiking, card playing, lots of laughs, tons of sweets (and hot chocolate!) and relaxation! Algonquin, I’ll be back!

On the road to our campsite! [Photo by Rebecca]

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Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show: For me, it’s all about maps!

Clearly, I love maps! After visiting the 2019 edition of the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show at the International Centre, I realized that everything I spent my time on at the show had me poring over maps!

I was excited to get a sneak peak at Unlostify‘s new Algonquin Provincial Park map. Deki and Jeff were at the Algonquin Outfitters booth chatting all things maps. Deki explained that they will have 4 detailed Algonquin maps (North, South, East and West), and 1 less detailed overview map. You can bet I’ll be ordering the full set. Here I am with Deki, Jeff, and one of my favourite maps – the Killarney Provincial Park map, which I put to good use last fall!

At the Bruce Trail booth, I chatted with Brooke (pictured below) about the official Bruce Trail app, which I love, versus the paper map (which I have an old copy of!). The paper map (which comes in a binder) gives lots of information about the trail, from where to park to access the trail in a specific area, to side trails in the area, to flora and fauna you might see. I’d love to see the detailed description of the trail and side trails available on the app. Did you know that you can even buy digital maps?

Here I am showing Brooke where I’ll be running the trail next – in Milton!

I think I spoke to the women at Travel Nunavut for all of a minute before I was dreaming of going there! Nunavut means “our Land” in Inuktitut, the language of its Aboriginal people, the Inuit. From hiking, kayaking, and canoeing, to wildlife watching and Aurora viewing, Nunavut has all the makings of a fantastic place to visit.

Next to the Travel Nunavut booth was the Black Feather Wilderness Adventure Company, an Arctic and wilderness adventure outfitter. Their guided hikes at Auyuittuq National Park on Baffin Island look amazing! What a way to explore Canada.

I was able to chat with some of the guides, and ask them all kinds of questions about the trips.

Guides John, Natalie and Candice are clearly passionate about Black Feather trips they offer!

As I continued to wander around, I was drawn in by a map of Nunavik, which is in the north of Québec, and only a 2 hour flight from Montréal.

I chatted with Sean from Inuit Adventures, a company that provides guided trips to this area using local Inuit guides. I learned about a trip that focuses on local geology, which I know my husband would love! We once decided to scrap our plans to visit Edinburgh while in Scotland in favour of spending time at Siccar Point,  an area of geologic significance about 35 miles east of Edinburgh near the village of Cockburnspath. Who travels to Scotland and passes on the opportunity to visit the capital city so that they can walk through fields of cows and look at rocks? We do.

Sean at Inuit Adventures explaining their trips to me.

I also watched a presentation at the Adventures in Paddling Stage by David Lee, also known as The Passionate Paddler, which centred around 2 canoe trips based on a map from 1914. He was talking about his love of travelling lost canoe routes – this one north of Sudbury. He did a trip last spring looking for portages that existed on that old map. I’ve never been to the area before, but it was neat to see a comparison between the old map, recent maps, and learning about what David and his paddling partners found (read: not a lot of water, and a whole lot of untamed bush!).

David Lee presenting on lost canoe routes.

I came home from this year’s show (as always) with a bag full of inspiration! Looking forward to next year’s show.

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Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Niagara Section

I’ve now completed 2 sections of the Bruce Trail (there are 9)!

What’s the Bruce Trail? According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy website, the Bruce Trail is “Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Running along the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario from Niagara to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail spans more than 890 km of main Trail and over 400 km of associated side trails.”

NIAGARA SECTION

Started the Niagara section: January 6, 2019

Finished the Niagara section: February 22, 2019

Run details

  • January 6, 2019 – Elm Street, Grimsby to Mountain View Conservation Area and back – 18.5 km (solo)
  • January 11, 2019 – Mountain View Conservation Area to Ball’s Falls Conservation Area – 18 km
  • February 8, 2019 – Ball’s Falls Conservation Area to Short Hills Provincial Park – 14.3 km
  • February 16, 2019 – Short Hills Provincial Park to Tremont Drive – 19.5 km
  • February 22, 2019 – Tremont Drive to the Southern Terminus at Queenston Heights Park – 23.8 km (solo)
Cool ice crystals in a creek under a bridge.

Run stats

  • # runs: 5
  • # solo runs: 2
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 0
  • # runs with friends: 3 with Laura
  • # trail angels used: 1
  • shortest run: 14.3 km
  • longest run: 23.8 km
  • average length of run: 18.8 km
Ball’s Falls

Hardest section to run: First part of Ball’s Falls run because of the ice (we hadn’t brought our spikes).

Most puzzling sign: “Passive Use Only”? I’ve since looked it up and understand what it means!

Most waterfalls: From Short Hills Provincial Park to Tremont Drive (Swayze Falls on the left, below… not sure if the right one is named).

Scariest moment: As I was running along Warner Road, I heard thundering footsteps and was scared half to death when a big coyote ran out of the woods and right in front of me (20 feet?) straight across the road at full speed and into the woods on the other side! Wow! It ran too fast and I was too spooked to grab my phone.

Wildlife sightings: The most memorable wildlife sightings were of swans, a super friendly little goat, and a coyote (see “Scariest moment”) .

With my new friend.

Windiest run: On February 8, we ran with a bitter cold wind, which was awful when running along exposed areas like roads!

A super windy area beside an open field! There was no snow anywhere else – it all blew here.

Most surprising part of the trail: I was surprised to see that I had to walk through running water in a tunnel, but I managed to keep my feet dry by staying far right and walking on the ice.

Muddiest run: February 8th starting at Ball’s Falls (after we got through the ice!).

Strangest things encountered: Mascot in St. Catharines and a shoe in a tree near Brock University.

Iciest run: It’s a toss up between the last two runs, when it was spikes on/spikes off over and over again!

Love my Kahtoola microspikes!

Favourite photo: Laura jumping!

Neat finds: Log box at 30-Mile Creek

First trail angel: My running buddy Laura’s mother-in-law Jean is responsible for a part of the trail in the Niagara Section. She drove me from the Southern Terminus at Queenston Heights Park to the start of my run at Tremont Drive, allowing me to finish the Niagara section with a big run (rather than 2 out and backs on my own). Thank you Jean!

Up next is the Toronto section!

Here I am at the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show (with Brooke from the Bruce Trail front office), pointing to Milton on the Bruce Trail map, where I’ll be running next.

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