30 January 2011

The Silent Hill

the Niagara Escarpment is a beautiful, peaceful place to be. especially in the winter, and especially at night. for reasons yet unknown, my good homie Kevin and i only ever choose nights when it's well below freezing to head out long after midnight with our camera gear and tripods.

we hit many spots that night, using his car as transportation between. by 2 in the morning we had parked the car on a road out by Brock University, and walked up to the Bruce Trail head at the top of the hill. we chanced the snowy trail and slightly slippery slopes in the dark to get up to the top for the best view. light pollution from the city below reflecting off the clouds, then off the snow on the ground makes it possible to see well enough at night for a winter hike.. and makes for some interesting photographs.

once at the top we set all our gear down for a moment of quiet reflection. looking down upon the city it seemed so distant.. no specific sounds were distinguishable, nothing but a quiet slur of white noise of muffled friday night traffic. it's so peaceful up there in the woods. no signs of other people, wind blockage from the tall stands of trees.. a good friend and some herbs to share. what more could i ask for?

of course, the excursion has re-sparked the urge to go winter camping. it's so quiet out there at night in the winter, so still. i'm hoping to get a chance before all the snow is gone and the bugs return. another awesome thing about sleeping outside in the winter- no mosquitoes!

01 January 2011

Last Trail Walk of 2010

it's been a bitter december so far. the past few weeks the Niagara region has been experiencing temperatures multiple digits below the freezing mark. finally, on the last day of the year we get a break and a thaw.. and a perfect last chance to hit the canal trail.

i usually travel along the west side of the canal, northbound to the forest patch and the lake. this time, i got to the road crossing to discover the whole northwest section is closed for construction.. till the end of april. i was about to turn back and head south instead, but i decided to cross the bridge to the other side. i have no idea why i don't venture over there more.. it's a dirt path surrounded by trees and farmland. and far less people.

i hit the homebase briefly after my midnight shift to switch out my backpack, then hit the path to catch the sunrise before it hid behind the clouds for the day. i snapped a pic or two, and caught the sea gulls hanging out on a frozen section of the lock.

once on the 'other side', it becomes quickly evident why there's not more people. much of the trail is frozen, soggy and muddy. perfect! solitude for the journey. i wasn't sure at first how far along the path i'd travel, as long as my face could handle the brisk wind coming off the water i suppose. the walk back would be better with the wind at my back.

i knew there was a spot further up that you can go right down to the water, a wee beach right in the canal. last time i was over there, an otter was showing off doing dives off the rocks. the path for the most part is a straight narrow shot along the canal, with small sidetrails that lead to farmer's fields and country roads.

the paths are mostly steep and muddy this time of year, but i managed to find one that wasn't too harsh a decline and wandered down. the wind atop the hill right by the water makes it difficult to light a spliff. down off the trail and into the woods a bit, there's blockage from the wind, a large fire pit, and a still quiet spot to sit.

my face lit with joy upon this place's re-discovery. i took off my pack and jacket and tossed it down onto an overturned shopping cart which was clearly being used as a bench. this is definitely someone's party spot, though it was kept surprisingly clean. it was very still and quiet. i took a moment to look up and enjoy the clatter of the birds up in the trees. a woodpecker was buzzing around me. it teased by taking flight every time the focus beep on my camera went off. i chuckled and put the camera away, just in time for a huge mother red tailed hawk to swoop down right in front of me.

winter is a good time to familiarize with the forest, and the contours of the land. without foliage it's much easier to see what lies ahead. and to remember for the spring where all the good hiding spots are, and potential camp or resting sites for hiking.

it's also a good time to learn the patience of each step. the ground is either frozen or muddy, either way it's very slippery. you must focus on your balance and keeping your weight over your center. the fresh crisp air is nice as well.

after making a herbal sacrifice to the trees, i wandered back up the hill and onward to the waterside. i found the little beach shortly after a part in the trail. there's a fire pit here as well, right down by the water. looked a little chilly with the huge chunks of ice beached up on the rocks. the canal alarm sounded off in the distance, and as the water level changed slightly i could hear the ice crackle and shift.

i trecked a little further down the trail until the clouds started getting darker and heavy. i turned around in time to miss the chilly rainfall. on the way back i let my mind drift to all the journeys of the year passed, and dreams for future hikes and travels.

Happy 2o11! happy trails...