Date: December 3rd, 2016
Distance hiked: Unknown
Steps taken: 16,713
Time on the trail: ~4.25 hours
Calories burned: 1,404
I’m back!!! It’s been quite a while since my last post, but I am officially done grad school, which hopefully means that my blogging (and hiking) will become much more regular. A few weeks ago, when I was still drowning in the stress of trying to finish my final thesis project, I decided to take a day off to go hiking with my friend, Michelle. Spending time in nature is the most ideal form of procrastination, after all! I first met Michelle through the university dance club during my undergrad degree, but we’ve recently reconnected due to our mutual love of hiking! We’d been trying to find a good time to get out for a hike, and everything finally came together for the first weekend in December.
We left the city early in the morning and drove northward. As we drove, we watched the world around us transform into a winter wonderland. The city had had very little snow, but as we got further and further north, we saw more and more of the white stuff, which made us very excited! It was snowing on and off during the drive, and there was one brief period of concern when we were suddenly enveloped in white-out conditions. But by the time we arrived at the Kolapore Uplands parking lot, the weather had cleared up and the world was beautifully frosted in white.
The Kolapore Uplands Wilderness Trails are located about 20 minutes west of Collingwood, and about 2 hours northwest of Toronto. The parking lot is located off Grey County Road 2. When we first arrived at the parking lot, there was a brief moment of confusion, as there didn’t seem to be a trailhead anywhere nearby. A note for future hikers: there are no proper trail maps at the trailhead. Upon arriving at the parking lot, we discovered that you must purchase a map from one of several nearby stores that carry them. Having just driven over two hours to get there, we didn’t feel like continuing our drive in search of a map, and decided to wing it. There is a very rough ‘map’ posted at the parking lot, so we snapped a photo of that and began our adventure! The parking lot map informed us that the trail does not actually begin directly from the parking lot, but requires walking down the road a few metres and crossing to the other side. We were seriously beginning to wonder if we were in the right place, when the trail suddenly materialized out of a thick grove of cedars.
Our ‘map’. All the trails are labelled with names, numbers, and distances to certain landmarks, which I imagine would have all been present on the actual, official map.
The trail started off in a dense evergreen forest, which looked absolutely gorgeous dusted in white! I was so excited to finally be hiking again, after too much time spent in the city cooped up with school work. Before too long, the trail entered an open deciduous wood, and we could see the trail winding away ahead of us. One thing I love about hiking after the leaves have fallen are all the things you can see that would otherwise be concealed by the trees! It’s such a different experience.
I had actually been to Kolapore a couple of years beforehand, to do field work for my job, and I remembered there being some really cool rock formations and caves. We decided to head for ‘Metcalfe Rock’ as that seemed like the most likely place to find cool rocks. To get there, we had to connect up with the Bruce Trail. Since I had the map photo on my phone, I was in charge of navigation. After making several turns, we eventually arrived at a cross-roads between two trails, with three options ahead of us. Based on the turns we had made previously, I confidently chose our next path. After walking for about 5 or 10 minutes, something started to feel off. We came to another cross-roads that looked eerily familiar. In fact, it looked identical to somewhere we had been a bit earlier… After studying the map photo, I realized we had made a wrong turn at some point and were currently heading back the way we came. Luckily we didn’t make it too far before noticing! We turned around and came back to the original cross-roads, and this time I picked what I was sure was the right path.
Feeling a bit anxious after my navigational error, I kept waiting and waiting for our path to cross the Bruce Trail, as that would indicate that we had gone the right way. It seemed to be taking longer than it should, but eventually I saw the distinctive white blaze of the Bruce ahead! We had made it! As soon as we started hiking on the Bruce, the scenery changed a bit and started getting really interesting. As we were now on the Niagara Escarpment, we started seeing those characteristic limestone rock formations. We started having a lot of fun exploring the escarpment and taking lots of photos. Eventually, we came to a point where the trail crossed the ‘Metcalfe Rock Sidetrail’, which seemed to go straight through a large crevasse, and decided that was obviously the way we needed to go.
The sidetrail was only a few hundred metres long, but it took us quite a while to get through it, since we were having so much fun exploring the crevasses and caves. It was amazing! It felt like an alien landscape, and we kept saying how we felt like we had been suddenly transported to Jurassic Park. Even though it’s just a short side trail, it was definitely worth the trip!
After we exited back out on to the main Bruce Trail, we found our way back to the Kolapore Trails and began winding our way back towards the parking lot. We kept commenting on how many different types of forest the trail went through, and it really was remarkable! It would switch from open deciduous trees, to dense cedar thickets, to towering pines at the drop of a hat. Sometimes there were rolling hills, sometimes there were rocky cliffs. Sometimes it felt like a lush, green (but cold!) rainforest. It really was a beautiful area. On our way back, we crossed a bridge over an open river, which gave us a nice view. Later, the trail crossed the same stream at a point when it was much smaller and shaded by the forest, and we then paralleled the bubbling creek for a while. Eventually, we emerged back out on the side of the road and made our way back to the parking lot.
This trail system was really interesting, and there was a bunch more that we didn’t have time to explore! The trails are actually built for cross-country skiing (you’re not allowed to hike on them once the snowy season really gets going), and it would be super fun to return for round 2 on skis! (Although, probably not a good idea for a beginner skier… as we hiked, we kept making comments like ‘now imagine doing this on SKIS!’)
Trail lesson of the day: Having a map is a necessity, but having a shitty map can make for some fun, spontaneous adventure, along with some hilarious stories.