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2350 YEARS OF CONSERVATIONBy Ned Morganou can walk on a trail much like this one on any one of thenine sections of the Bruce Trail, Canada's oldest andlongest marked footpath, which stretches from Niagara toTobermory following the path of the Niagara Escarpment.The Bruce Trail Conservancy (BTC) is a leading land trust inOntario, managing thousands of acres. This year the BTC iscommemorating its "first hike" 50 years ago, as well as thebeginning of the 50th anniversary celebrations of its nine sectionsor clubs. During the period from 2012 to 2017, each of the clubswill be turning 50. In 1962, a groundswell of support set smallbut dedicated groups of volunteers to work planning the traillocation, meeting with landowners, building the trail, and tacklinga myriad of other tasks necessary for such an ambitious goal. By1967, in an incredible victory for conservation, outdoorrecreation, and the Canadian natural environment, the Bruce Trailofficially opened at a ceremony in Tobermory.Today, Southern Ontario represents Canada's most densely populatedregion. For centuries, Canada's various waves of settlers all flockedto this southernmost slice of fertile land cradled by three GreatLakes. When the population boomed following the Second WorldWar, Ontario's urban centres expanded. By the late 1950s, our urbansprawl had begun, with the accompanying resource extraction --including a high demand for dolostone (the hard, whitish caprockof the Niagara Escarpment). The proximity of this resource snakingthrough Southern Ontario was and remains today a boon todevelopers. If it weren't for the Bruce Trail, a much larger percentageof the escarpment would be lost to indiscriminate quarrying.Several of the key players in the early years of the trail had first-hand knowledge of the threat of unchecked urban and industrialexpansion. Norman Pearson, first President of the Bruce TrailConservancy, was in the early '60s the Director of Planning forYou walk through a primordial canyon that resemblesthe ruined hallway of some long-vanished colossalcivilization, now overrun by legions of fern, moss and cedar. If you look closely, the rock shares astory of 450 million years of evolution, providing an invaluable fossil record of long-ago plant andanimal life. The cliff-dwelling Eastern White Cedar trees, some of which may be old enough topredate European settlement, also tell of a long-ago environment - in this case, a still-living one.The trail you're walking on seems to transport you back in time, but you're not traveling very fardistance-wise. A half-hour or a few hours later, if you prefer, you can be back at your car.YBurlington; Dr. Robert MacLaren, a Hamilton oncologist, was awell-regarded naturalist; Philip Gosling, today's HonoraryPresident, was then a real estate agent; and founder Ray Lowesworked as a metallurgist at the Hamilton Stelco plant. Theyweren't what we think of today as typical environmentalists, yetthese visionaries understood the need for action. The trail was anidea that struck Lowes after he and fellow Hamilton fieldnaturalists bemoaned the lack of nearby walking paths. The fieldnaturalists were mostly birders, but Lowes' idea was bigger --what about a footpath that followed the entire Ontario length ofthe escarpment? Around this time, Lowes offered some propheticwords on the subject: "Here stands a rugged, beautiful continuumof rocks, waterfalls, greenery and 'recreational opportunity' thatmust be preserved in its entirety for us and for the future. TheBruce Trail is the chain that at once binds this potential into aunified whole; that brings the very existence of a unique resourcesharply to the attention of a population used to taking things forgranted; that, when it is built and being used, will inspire a desireto protect and preserve from further encroachment a green beltacross the province which could be our pride in future years."While it is the BTC's goal to continue celebrating its 50thanniversary through 2017, they plan to use the next five years toignite the same commitment and energy that spurred the eventsbetween 1962 and 1967. The anniversary goal is to ensure 5,000more acres of Niagara Escarpment landscape containing the BruceTrail are secured, stewarded and made available to the public.Inspiring things happened from 1962 to 1967 on the trail, withinthe communities, at club meetings, and in the halls ofgovernment. And monumental things have happened since thattime, including permanent protection of 8,167 acres ofescarpment land directly through the BTC's efforts. Without the

BTC, the escarpment would certainly bear a much larger imprintof the development pressures around it. As founder Ray Lowessaid 50 year ago, "It is this right of access to places of naturalbeauty that I plead for. We are poor indeed if we cannot afford thisnarrow strip of land across our province for the good of all."When you become a member of, donate to, or volunteer for theBruce Trail Conservancy, you are ensuring public access to theescarpment, home to irreplaceable endangered species andnatural spaces --pebbled beaches, dizzying cliffs, deep crevicecaves, old-growth forests, and awe-inspiring geological features.Citizen involvement is vital to helping keep the Trail safe andaccessible for the enjoyment of all. The first survey hike of the Trail in 1962 with early members of the newly-formedToronto Bruce Trail Club, led by Bruce Trail founder Philip GoslingHilton Falls Conservation Area & The Philip Gosling Side Trail:Toronto Bruce Trail Club, 5 km hike near Highway 401 and GuelphLine. Beginning at the southeast corner of the parking lot, followthe Philip Gosling Side Trail for 600 m to the main trail. Headsouth and shortly before Cambellville Road, notice the plaque:"Near this spot the first blaze of the Bruce Trail was painted in July1962." Turn north and follow white blazes uphill for 600 m. Takethe blue-blazed Hilton Falls Side Trail on your way to the falls.Before the falls is a pothole. After the glaciers retreated, this spotwas part of a watercourse that carried the glacial torrents over theescarpment. Rocks rotating in the swirling waters gradually drilledlarge holes in the bedrock. When you reach the falls, the best viewis from the gorge below, reached by a flight of stairs that lead toa viewing platform. Across the creek are the ruins of a mill thatdates back to 1835. Myths surround the area. It has been saidthat gold was found nearby, and another suggests Hilton Falls wasa stop on the Underground Railroad, an escape route for slavesfrom the United States.Waterdown Road Side Trail:Grindstone Creek & Smokey Hollow,3.5 km hike near Highway 5 in Waterdown. The NiagaraEscarpment's fast moving streams were an early source of powerfor the budding communities of Southern Ontario. This hike atGrindstone Creek and Smokey Hollow provides a glimpse into theEscarpment's industrial past, and showcases the generosity oflocal landowners. The hike begins at the parking lot at Great Falls,also known as Grindstone Falls. Be sure to spend some time at theviewing platform, where there is an interpretive sign explainingsome of the history of the area. For more than 100 years, mills atSmokey Hollow were powered by Grindstone Creek as it plungedover the escarpment. By 1912, the mills had all closed butremnants of former industry can still be found amongst the lushvegetation along the creek banks.Leaving the platform, you will descend into the valley where youwill reach an impressive overhang of rock. The rock below theoverhang is Queenston Shale (a red clay) from the Ordovician Era.Overhanging the Queenston Shale is a layer of WhirlpoolSandstone, which is of the Silurian Era. The boundary betweenthese two rock layers and rock eras, roughly 445 million years ago,represents a time where 60 percent of all life on earth becameextinct. The start of the Silurian Era meant a return to a warmerclimate, and life began to once again thrive in the oceans.Continuing down the valley along the main Bruce Trail, the trailenters the Grindstone Creek property. Here, you will turn left onthe blue-blazed Waterdown Road Side Trail, and follow the sidetrail up the hill through the BTC's Grindstone Creek property,eventually reaching Waterdown Road. Crossing Waterdown Road,the blue-blazed side trail continues a short distance and thenmeets the white-blazed main Bruce Trail. Follow the white-blazedmain trail over Mountain Brow Road and along Flander's Drive tothe end of Renwood Place. The trail descends a gentle slope,crosses Waterdown Road, and reaches the parking lot.Boyne Valley Side Trail Loop:Dufferin Hi-Lands Bruce Trail Club,5.8 km hike near Primrose (Highway 10 and 89). Follow the whiteblazes of the main Bruce Trail to your left. You will hike throughfields and past the ruins of an old farmhouse, and then follow anarrow ravine into a hardwood bush. After 1.3 km, you will meetthe blue-blazed Boyne River Side Trail; follow it to the right on anold bush road to reach a lookout. You can cross the south rim ofthe Boyne River Valley across a rolling meadow to meet the maintrail again. Turn right to the north and follow the white blazes asthey descend into the Boyne River. At a swampy area, four bridgesand 60m of boardwalk are a testament to the hard work ofvolunteers. The trail climbs out of the valley and turns left to climbsteeply to Murphy's Pinnacle, a relic of glacial times. A short sidetrail heads to an excellent viewpoint of the surrounding country-side. The trail continues north and east past an old apple orchardand open fields leading back to Centre Road where you began. SUGGESTED FALL HIKES FOR ALL LEVELSFor details, visitBRUCETRAIL.ORG