Bruce Trail - East Side
Waldemar Guenter Photography
Friday, October 7, 2011
Diary of a Bruce Trail Trekkie: East Side
The Bruce Tail was waiting for me. It would be a good day for a photo shoot. I loaded my bicycle into the back of my car and tied down the lid. My camera was packed and I put an apple, a muffin and two pepperoni sticks into my backpack. I put on my winter coat because it was nippy but the sky was clearing up. My intention was to trek to the bottom of Lower Ball's Falls, so I could take my photos shooting from the bottom up, a viewpoint not done by the average camera buff, unless you were fit, a climber and determined. The work hiking to the bottom of Ball's Falls was the dissuading factor for most tourists and average photographers.
I didn't have the foggiest notion that today's laborious walk on the east side of the Bruce Trail, off 23rd Avenue would not get me to the bottom of Balls Falls! But it didn't matter; I got some pretty pictures anyway with very worthwhile Bruce Trail scenery, with colourful leaves, moss covered rocks and the rushing stream at the bottom of Twenty Mile Creek.
I stopped the car at Butterball's Restaurant to take three quick pictures on either side of Jordan Hollow. Then up the hill I went, cutting to the right at 19th and then onto 23rd. When I pulled off at the little parking spot that accessed the Bruce Trail from the East side off 23rd , I noticed Paul, a friend from church drive by with his wife, Mary. They turned around and we chatted. I explained what I wanted to do today. Paul said that I could park on his property just down the road any time, so I got back in my car and followed him. He showed me a spot at the furthest end of his property just beside a row of grape vines. That would at least be closer to the Ball's Falls entrance, since I wanted to bicycle there first before tackling the Bruce Trail. I unloaded my bicycle and donned my camera and backpack, locked the car, hopped on my bike and headed towards the Conservation Area at Ball's Falls. I confess I brought the bicycle along, well, because I didn't want to pay the entrance fee of $5.50 which was almost two coffee and doughnuts at Tim Horton's! Plus I didn't know how long I'd stay there for a few shots. When I got to the Conservation Area, I snapped pictures of the buildings and then headed up the trail towards Upper Ball's Falls with my bike. I completely ignored the Lower Falls, since I'd taken so many pictures there in previous years.
You can't ride the whole way to Upper Ball's Falls because of the rocks on the trail but the bicycle made the trek easier because I could coast for stretches. That was a blessing for a handicapped photographer like me who suffers occasionally from bouts of gout. But hey, passion can overcome many obstacles!
I got my picture of Upper Ball's Falls, cheating a bit later in Photo-shop by merging two layers, one exposed for the foreground and one exposed for the background. [A trade secret most amateurs don't know about or bother with because of the labour intensive time it takes to do this, if you have the right program.] I use "Fireworks" which saves images in either ".png" or ".jpg".
After my token pictures up at the top of Upper Ball's Falls, I headed back down the trail and puffed back to my car. What a relief when I spotted my little mint Accent off in the distance parked by the grape rows. I loaded the bike back into the car and then drove back to the parking spot off 23rd. Avenue for access to the Bruce Trail. The sun was coming and going, so things looked good, if only the sunshine would stay out for longer. But even under overcast skies, a photographer could get some strong colours and good even exposures without those stark shadows in a picture. I checked my camera, put my wallet in my backpack, locked the car and eased my way down a steep path towards the Bruce Trail. It was nippy under the cover of the woods.
I wasn't alone. Eight older ladies were out on a nature hike this mid-morning and so, because I wasn't there for just a hike, I stepped aside and let them pass. I soon caught up with them because they came to an impasse with the trail getting more difficult, beyond their comfort zone, so they headed back. I kept going, watching my step and then finding hand-holds to ease my way down to the edge of the rushing creek. Great rock formations, lichen and moss on most of them, and great colour on the trees. I hoped that following along the edge of Twenty Mile Creek, I'd eventually get to the bottom of Lower Ball's Falls.
My mind kept repeating the song, "Whispering Hope," sung by Hayley Westenra. Very mesmerizing melody.
"Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice."
But my hopes faded in front of a sheer cliff that rose above the rushing water in front of me. I was so close to the bottom of the falls, maybe around the corner...if it were not for the cliff with no footholds by the water's edge! There were shale protrusions of a couple of inches, every two feet or so above the water, but how secure were they? I'd still have to hug close to the cliff with my camera and pack-back giving me a cumbersome balance. If I were foolhardy, I supposed I could pussy-foot along those little ledges that stretched for about 200 feet above the rushing water...but not with a $5,000 camera! Besides, the water looked fast and wet and cold...and I could see myself slipping off the ledge into the water. Nope, not a chance, not for me! A picture may be worth a thousand words but not at the cost of life and limb!
A fellow appeared on the other side walking his black Lab. The dog jumped into the water with no problem and apparently with great joy. It wouldn't be the same for me. I yelled across that I wanted to get to the bottom of Ball's Falls. He said, "You'd have to do it from this side. You could always find a narrow spot and roll up your pants!" That didn't look advisable with the strong currents...and besides, how would I continue if I slipped or got wet jeans? No thank you! The other option was to back-track to some steep steps I'd passed a ways back and head to the top, get onto the road, head back to my car and drive to Ball's Falls for access to the west side of Twenty Mile Creek.
I did, in fact, find the steps, and I thought I'd never get to the top. I huffed and I puffed like an old geezer. Wait a minute, I am an old geezer! When I got to the top, I felt like I'd climbed Mount Everest. Once I oriented myself, I trekked along 23rd Avenue back to my car. It felt like a long way to Tipperari! A young guy on a speed bike passed me and soon disappeared in the distance. I had a long way to go. Hayley Westenra kept singing in my head. Then an old vintage sedan breezed by with Chris from our church at the helm. He eyed the road straight ahead and didn't see me but his wife, Dodie, glanced back and a gleam of recognition beamed into her eyes as she waved out the back window, a brief hello and goodbye! How I wished I were in their car to get to my car! I was sure glad when my little green Accent came into view. After I loaded up and hopped back into my car, I thought, "Well, tomorrow is another day and tomorrow will give me another chance to get my picture from the bottom of Ball's Falls. Maybe I'll get it right then, with a second try. Little did I know!