From Dundas Peak to Princess Falls…A First Year Volunteering on the Trail

By Joe Gould

It did not occur to me that inviting my wife Constance out for a visit to Webster Falls and along to Dundas Peak would return to me more than I intended that morning. Just getting over from her day surgery, a good walk was just the thing to get us up, out, and going again. It was November 3rd, 2015, a most usually warm (24 C) and sunny day.

Coming upon Dundas Peak we spotted a group of perhaps 15 to 20 guys, most sporting yellow hard hats along with day packs, various tools, and having lunch while lounging about the pathways. Oh, she thought to herself, “These poor old guys have helmets to protect against trips and falls.” LOL.

The young these days just don’t have proper respect for their elders.

Approaching a friendly looking fellow we asked what was going on. Paul McLenachan explained with his typical enthusiasm and pleasure about Bruce Trail volunteers, Trail Maintenance and Development and the work they do. Since moving to Hamilton in 2009 I have been a BTC member, so having retired, I thought this may be something to take up. Well he said, you need to speak with Peter Elliot with whom we had a terrific conversation about these IBTC Tuesday work parties: to show up when you can; do what you are able. In short order we met for coffee; was added to Richard Pomeroy’s work party notification list; assigned by Peter Rumble as Monitor in Zone B; and out on the trail for orientation. That session ended in a soaking rainfall, not the customary coffee at Tim Horton’s on Tuesdays in the year ahead.

A work colleague asked me soon afterward how retirement was going for me. I had to be honest to say it was tough (not) but I was up for the challenge. And being out and about during the day now I told him that there seemed to be an awful lot of old people around, why even when at Dundas Peak I had come across a “Grey Bearded Platoon” ! That’s how I refer to us, anyway. It is a real pleasure to spend some time with people of such good heart, ease of manner, competence, humour, and wisdom while doing worthwhile things. Something to look forward to, for sure. And if you are in doubt about the wisdom part, a group with so much life experience, just ask. As one of us said, “If you want to know how to do a job, there are at least 15 opinions just standing here.”

Going on the trail to do some work in my assigned section invariably gives me more thanks and gratitude from trail users than truly deserved. On the Rail Trail (B14, km 30.7 to 33.2) at the beginning of the year, and now the Chedoke Radial Trail (B17, km 38.3 to 40.4) I see lots of people enjoying the trail and amazed by the general absence of litter. Our fellow trail users are taking care as well as being grateful to us. In Hamilton the wilderness Bruce Trail turns over to a mixed use urban trail along city or conservation authority lands. For me, that means abandoned rail roadways, steel stairs, and wide asphalt or gravel footpaths. But it also means stunning vistas of the City of Hamilton, Lake Ontario, Dundas Valley and waterfalls: Cliffview Falls, Westcliffe Falls, Upper Sanatorium Falls, Mountainview Falls, Princess Falls and more in just B17. Because It runs by the Chedoke Golf Course there is access to washrooms and a bar in the clubhouse. Some said that it is a unique spot on the Bruce Trail, but with the Niagara Club in Ontario’s wine country I doubt it is truly unique, but it’s amenities are convenient, nevertheless.

“If you can touch it – trim it.”, says Peter Rumble, Zone B Coordinator. In the wilderness sections manhandling logs is usually too much for me. I am better suited to benching, trimming, or spotting for cutters which is as close as I ever wish to get to a chain saw. Happily, in spring there was much to do with grass cutting, brush and branch trimming for footpath access and then more latter preparing for October’s Steeltown Stomp.

It is easy to get lost in one’s area of volunteering. It is such great fun to go work in the woods as it were, or to go out and hike as we hear from to the End to End hikers. So it was especially helpful to listen to Antoin Diamond, who has responsibility for land acquisition, speak to us at a workshop in the fall. She reminded us that the main purpose of the conservancy is to secure the land. At one point she described it as a footpath and this concept of the footpath resonated with me to say we want to limit our footprint, to conserve the escarpment and this in turn informs us on the extent to which we should work to maintain and develop the trail.

Nearing the end of the year I did a final hike through my section after snowfalls and cold winter weather. It was mostly a practice hike to test some new icers when my path came upon a beautiful scene of the frozen Princess Falls just in time for Christmas! Another instance of receiving more in return for what we give.

Volunteering with everyone on the trail is a great pleasure. It has been personally rewarding and a privilege to spend time alongside so many good people. I want to thank you all and with great anticipation for the year ahead.