Running the Bruce Trail End to End: Getting Started + Iroquoia Section

At some point last year, my husband Alasdair decided to run the entire Bruce Trail, so I thought it would be fun to take on the challenge too, knowing that it would take us several years, and that we would do some parts together, and some parts separately. We each downloaded the Bruce Trail app, and started tracking our runs.

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.”

There are 9 sections of the trail. I live in the Iroquoia section just 2 km from the trail – lucky me! You can learn more about all the sections here:

Niagara – Queenston to Grimsby (Maps 1-5) (read summary here)
Iroquoia – Grimsby to Milton (Maps 5-11)
Toronto – Milton to Cheltenham (Maps 11-14) (read summary here)
Caledon Hills – Cheltenham to Mono Centre (Maps 14-19) (read summary here)
Dufferin Hi-Land – Mono Centre to Lavender (Maps 19-21)
Blue Mountains – Lavender to Craigleith (Maps 21-24)
Beaver Valley – Craigleith to Blantyre (Maps 24-28)
Sydenham – Blantyre to Wiarton (Maps 28-35)
Peninsula – Wiarton to Tobermory (Maps 35-42)

I was strictly a road runner until a couple of years ago when I started orienteering, which got me running on and off trail looking for controls (checkpoints) in the woods. However, it wasn’t until I started this end to end goal that I became a regular trail runner! I love it. It is so much more peaceful than running on the road, and way more scenic. I’m hooked.

I had previously hiked many different short bits of the trail over the years, but I’ve been enjoying rediscovering sections that I’ve been on before, and running on sections that are completely new to me. So far, I love the waterfalls along the trail the most.

As the parts of the trail that I need to cover get further and further away from home, things will get more complicated, and will definitely require some overnight trips. For now though, I’ve started close to home!

IROQUOIA SECTION

Started the Iroquoia section: October 27, 2018

Finished the Iroquoia section: December 26, 2018

Note: While I completed the Iroquoia section, the part of the trail that runs through Kelso Conservation Area in Milton was closed, so I ran the rerouted section along Appleby Line instead. I’ll go back in the spring to do the Kelso section.

Run details

  • October 27, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Borer’s Falls, Dundas – 14.3k
  • October 28, 2018 – Rockcliffe Road, Waterdown to Grindstone Falls, Waterdown – 5.7k
  • November 2, 2018 – Borer’s Falls, Dundas to Davidson Boulevard, Dundas (with a side trip to Tews Falls) – 22k
  • November 4, 2018 – Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington to No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington – 10.8k
  • November 14, 2018 – Grindstone Falls, Waterdown to Highway 5, Burlington – 12.4k
  • November 24, 2018 – Highway 5, Burlington to Mount Nemo/Walker’s Line, Burlington – 10.2k
  • December 1, 2018 – No. 8 Sideroad, Burlington to Crawford Lake, Milton – 11.8k
  • December 8, 2018 – Crawford Lake, Milton to Hilton Falls, Milton – 13k (northern end of the Iroquoia section)
  • December 14 – Davidson Boulevard, Dundas to Filman Road, Ancaster – 12k
  • December 16, 2018 – Filman Road, Ancaster to King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton – 16.2k
  • December 22, 2018 – King’s Forest Golf Course, Hamilton to Millen Road, Stoney Creek – 19.5k
  • December 26, 2018 – Millen Road, Stoney Creek to Elm Street, Grimsby – 19.7k (southern end of the Iroquoia section)

Run stats

  • # runs: 12
  • # solo runs: 5
  • # runs with my husband Alasdair: 6
  • # runs with friends: 1 (Laura – yay to having similar running paces!)
  • shortest run: 5.7k
  • longest run: 22k
  • average length of run: 14k
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With Laura at the Hermitage, Ancaster

Run highlights

Hardest section to run: between Millen Road in Stoney Creek and Elm Street in Grimsby, because of the abundance of wet and loose rocks

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Albion Falls, Hamilton

Most waterfalls: between King’s Forest Golf Course in Hamilton and Millen Road in Stoney Creek – Albion Falls, Buttermilk Falls, Felkers Falls, and the Devil’s Punchbowl

Most scenic: see most waterfalls!

Scariest moment: while running through the Royal Botanical Gardens in Dundas, I encountered an illegal hunter in full camouflage carrying a bow and arrow, standing just off the trail and looking down the hill into the woods – I said to him, “Whatever you do, please don’t shoot me!” to which he replied, “I won’t.” (I made a report to the police, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and through a friend, to the RBG.)

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After the hunter incident, on my next run I wore a reflective safety vest, a flashing light on my leg, and a bear bell on my foot! Since I ran through Dundas on this run, several people turned and wondered what all the jingling was about. One kid started singing Jingle Bells.

Wildlife sightings: 2 close-up raccoons (separate runs), and a salamander at Crawford Lake, which my husband nearly stepped on as he ran – we placed it gently in mud close to a log, covered it in leaves, and wished it well!

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At Crawford Lake, Milton

Favourite run: the waterfall run!

Most memorable encounter with other hikers/runners: a little girl hiking with her parents, who said as I passed, “She runs so FAST!”; a couple carrying pruning shears and a saw to do trail maintenance; the hunter

Neat finds: caves just East of Twiss Road in Burlington; Devil’s Punch Bowl Market & Bakery for post run treats!

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Cave off Twiss Road, Burlington

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Race report: Christian Pole Dancing (Urban Orienteering in Dundas)

For my very first experience orienteering in an urban environment, I got to run through the streets of my childhood hometown, Dundas – how fun is that?!

This event was organized as a fundraiser for Christian, one of the Don’t Get Lost junior athletes (and by junior, I mean a teenager who is a foot taller than me and a heck of a lot better at orienteering!). He will be competing at the World Junior Orienteering Championships in Finland this summer.

My friend Rebecca joined me, and while at first we thought she’d be pushing her daughter in her stroller for the race, plans changed and we were kidless.

We arrived at race headquarters at Grupetto about 20 minutes before the race was to begin. We signed in, got a map each, grabbed a little table and planned out our route with a highlighter. We would have 45 minutes to get as many controls as we could. We decided that we would aim for the area where they seemed to be the most clustered together – in other words, we’d stay in the central part of the map and forget the outliers. Each one was worth 1 point, with the exception of one, which was worth 2. And each minute over the time limit you would lose 1 point (steep penalty!). The controls would be small electronic chip readers attached to poles (hence the “pole dancing”), and every participant was given a timing chip to wear on his or her finger (to insert into the chip reader).

Our planned route would have us searching for 9 controls. By “searching”, I mean using a map to navigate the streets – no compass required, and no hidden controls – if you reached the area, you would spot the control.

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Rebecca and I pre-race, ready to go!

After a few short words from Meghan and Christian (and our local MPP Ted McMeekin), the race began! I wasn’t exactly sure how my legs would hold up, given that I did my very first trail race the day before, the Sulphur Springs 10k, and then the morning of the race I rode my bike 50k (no rest for the wicked – or at least those with a half ironman 3 weeks out!).

Right off the bat there was congestion getting started, even though there were only 20-30 people racing – we all set off in different directions!

There was a small group of people in front of us heading for the first control, and the same for the second, but after that, our paths diverged and we were on our own. We did see other participants around town, but we were often going a different direction. Several times I wondered what the people living near the controls thought of random people visiting a pole while carrying a map.

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The highlighter indicates our planned route – we set out in a counter-clockwise direction, starting at the triangle and finding 37 as our first control.

Things were going great, and by the time we got to 39, we knew we had time to add a control not on our planned route – 49. Before going there though, we decided we could do 36 too. This one was close to my old house and very close to a friend’s, and an area in which I have spent hours and hours and hours of my life. In fact, I was very familiar with the entire route we chose! Leaving 32, we had about 7 minutes left before the 45 minutes would be up. We knew we could get back in time. We had enough time to walk – not run – down a set of metal stairs, and then had just a 100m or so before we reached the finish. I put my SI timing chip into the finish line control, and then Rebecca did the same.

We enjoyed a post race drink, and then the awards began. To our surprise, I was the top female! There were winners for top female, top male, and top junior. In the end we had found 11 controls in just over 40 minutes. We had 5 minutes to spare and might have been able to find another one. While Rebecca and I worked together, I won because I punched the finish line first. However, not being a beer drinker, Rebecca went home with a case of Pilsner beer!

Before leaving we checked out the silent auction, and got food to go from the Johnny Blonde food truck.

Urban orienteering is very different from orienteering in the woods. It’s much harder to get lost in urban orienteering, and as long as you can use a map, you can participate! You also have to watch out for cars, and wait for traffic signals! Or sort of wait.

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I look forward to my next urban orienteering race!

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