Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Little Things in Life

This post is not about one particular hike, but about several hikes; nineteen to be exact.  This post is about receiving our Thames Valley Trail end-to-end badges for completing our goal of hiking the full length of the trail.  Not only did we complete the full length, but times that by two for an end-and-back accomplishment.  However, there isn’t a badge for that, so we’ll be satisfied with the ones that we did get!

 Shortly after starting our adventure, we officially became members of the TVTA. The annual fee wasn’t much, but it helps to contribute to the maintenance of the trail and administrative costs.  Well worth for what was received in return!  While going through the trail guide, I noticed that the end-to-end badge was awarded to those who had completed the full length of the trail, but only under the supervision of a trail leader.  But not to worry….after a few email communications with officials at the TVTA, we were approved for receiving the badges, based on my blog posts and photos.

We recently received our badges in the mail and it was an exciting moment, tearing into the envelope.  Not entirely sure what we’ll do with them; maybe sew them onto one of our hiking back packs.  It’s not about the badge itself, but what the badge represents of course.  Having something that officially recognizes the achievement of our goal is just one of those little things in life.  Even bigger however, is the sense of accomplishment and the memories and images of each and every hike.

As we turn our efforts towards exploring other trails, in preparation for hiking the Bruce Trail, we may find ourselves on sections of the TV Trail sometime soon.  We will certainly keep hitting the trails near our home for some of our runs, as we always have.  We’ll also continue to be members of the TVTA, with appreciative support.  It’s been a worthwhile adventure, to say the least, and one that we would highly recommend, if not in whole, but certainly in part!

For a continuation of our adventures check out my new blog address

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Down the Home Stretch and Across the Finish Line

Date of hike:  Fri.  July 13, 2012

Weather: 31C (humidex of 36C), sunny

Duration of hike:  1 hour 52 minutes

Section:  1—from southern terminus of trail on Southdel Road (0 km) to corner of Bell Road and Little Church Drive (approximately 4.0km mark)

Distance: 8.0 km               Cumulative distance:  227.0 km

While this last little stretch wasn’t much different from our previous outing, in terms of what the route had to offer, our stimulus to keep going was the fact that this was the last hike of our Thames Valley Trail project.  What a coincidence that we were out on a Friday the thirteenth as well!  But we had nothing but good luck as we dutifully made our way along the roads and through the fields to our turn around and back again.

Beginning at the southern terminus of the trail, or at the 0 km mark, we chose to come from this direction so that we would be at the point where the TV Trail meets the Elgin Trail when all was said and done.  This just seemed to be the logical spot to finish it off and to celebrate with a toast to the trail and our adventure.
Starting later in the afternoon, when the hot sun wasn’t beating directly down upon us, we made good time along what was a pretty easy route.  We were slowed a bit by the corn as it’s getting pretty tall now, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.  While on our way back, through one corn field, an animal darted out from the rows and then back in again.  At first glance, it looked to be a dog, about the size of a collie.  But the second time it appeared we could now see that it was a rabbit….probably the largest rabbit either of us had ever seen!  Rabbit’s feet being the good luck charms that they are, maybe this was our lucky token for the day that it was.

At the turn around--Little Church Drive and
Bells Road, once again.
Now that we have completed the full trail, end-and-back, we are planning to hike some sections of the Elgin and Avon Trails before tackling the Bruce Trail with all of its challenges.  That endeavour won’t start until later this year or the spring of 2013.  We have some summer holiday travel plans coming up on the horizon that will keep us from any of these trails for a while yet.
Turning onto the home stretch--from Carriage Road and
back onto Southdel Road.
The home stretch! Smelling the barn! :)
As for the end-to-end badge that is available for hikers who complete the full distance, I am waiting to hear back from a TVTA official as to whether we are eligible or not.  The trail guide states that the full length should be completed under the direction of a TVTA hike leader.  We have not done that, but with this blog, each hike has been fully documented, including pictures.  Plus, we have done the full distance twice over and completed it within a 12 month period; 50 weeks to be exact.  Hopefully an exception will be made with regards to the posted criteria and we will receive good news per our request.
For the longest time, I had been under the impression that the full trail length was 130 km.  I’ve no idea where I got that number as the guide clearly states on page 9 that it’s 110 km.  As we were nearing our end point, I noticed that the cumulative distance was going to be well below 260 km (double the 130 for an end-and-back journey).  I became concerned that I had made some mathematical errors along the way.  But when I totalled the distances of the fifteen sections, it came to 113.8 km; so that makes an end-and-back total of 227.6 km.  Somewhere along the way, we did “lose” 600 m; but rest assured that we did complete the full distance of the trail, back tracking each section in order to return to our car.  At least I discovered my error in thinking that the trail was 130 km or else I would really have some accounting issues!
The finish line!
Cheers!  These handy little screw top bottles
of Spanish sparkling wine were just
the ticket!
Nonetheless, we are finished and what better way to close out this chapter than with a toast.  To the Thames Valley Trail and all who venture its paths; to those who came before us and mapped it out, doing the necessary work to make it a reality; to those volunteers who help to maintain and promote it; and to those who have yet to discover this treasure.
Happy Trails!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Take Me Home, Country Roads

Date of hike:  Sat.  July 7, 2012
Weather: 28C at start (humidex of 39C), sunny; 31C at completion (humidex of 41C)

Duration of hike:  5 hours 34 minutes

Section:  1—from corner of Springer Road and Sharon Road (15.0 km) to corner of Bell Road and Little Church Drive (approximately 4.0km mark)

Distance: 22.0 km             Cumulative distance:  218.9 km

Not going to lie to you; this was my least favourite of all the hikes we have done.  Not sure whether it was the uninspiring route….long stretches of paved and gravel roads, going along the edge of corn and soy bean fields and wood lots,

with limited time spent in the actual wood lots. 

Or was it the stinging nettle that we encountered through one high grassy area....

….or could it have been the intense heat and sun of the day?
At the turn around point--intersection of
Little Church Drive and Bell Road--you
can see the effects of the heat and
fatigue in our faces!
In all likelihood, it was all of the above.  But we had to do what we had to do.  With only a few possible days to get out there and a long stretch still left to finish off, this was the reality of the situation.
Section 1 largely consists of roadways and cutting along the edge of fields, just skirting the boundaries of wood lots, occasionally cutting through them. 
When the trail guide says that "the trail may become
indistinct here"....they're not kidding!  Just keep the
wood lot to your one side.
Essentially, section 1 connects the Thames Valley Trail to the Elgin Trail, and tries to find a somewhat interesting way to do it.  Could the last section join the two trails in a more direct manner?  Most definitely….straight down Carriage Road from Sharon Road, then an east turn onto Southdel Road would get the job done.  But that would be even less enjoyable than the current route!  Nonetheless, we persevered through the long stretches of lonely roads and trudged along the dusty borders of seemingly countless fields, to complete most of this section in one go.

I would doubt that few people would choose to complete this section of the trail, unless like ourselves, they are attempting to do the full length.  There’s little reason to explore this section of the trail, quite honestly.  However, if one must explore this section, I would recommend a bright and sunny, but cool autumn day, over any other time of the year. 
The spring may prove to be too wet and muddy when traversing the fields, while the winter may be just too desolate and unprotected on the long stretches of open road.  A blistering hot summer day is not an ideal time either, as we learned that from experience.

At any rate, we survived and dragged our tired bodies home, where a cool shower waited as well as a lovely dinner.  It wasn’t a total exercise in futility though.  We completed more of this last bit of the trail than anticipated, leaving only one more required outing to finish the Thames Valley Project.  Being the hot day that it was, we needed to refill our water bottles at one of the country homes we passed by.  The lady there was kind enough to do that for us, plus she threw in a couple of freshly picked zucchinis from her garden.  I know….she was probably glad to get rid of some of her surplus, but a nice gesture on her part!  We passed one farm that had pens with horses, sheep, goats, and a llama….I love llamas!  Forgot to ask the owner what this fellow’s name was, so I’m naming him Charlie.  In the end, all was not lost!

"Charlie" the llama--posing pretty!
This little gold finch serenaded us during our lunch stop.

We could see this teepee from the edge of
one of the wood lots that we skirted.
Just one more hike and we will be able to wrap things up.  The last little bit will be pretty straightforward, and we’re anxious to toast the point where the Thames Valley Trail meets the Elgin Trail; it’s been an adventure!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

True Patriot Love

Date of hike:  Sun.  July 1, 2012

Weather: 24C at start, sunny; 28C at completion (humidex of 32C)

Duration of hike:  4 hours 32 minutes

Section:  2 and 3 (from 0 km to 4.3 km point)

Distance: 16.6 km             Cumulative distance:  196.9 km

Canada Day dawned bright and sunny and hot; just like a summer day should.  What better way to celebrate the old girl’s 145th birthday than with a hike through trails that feature some of the best of what she has to offer? 


This section of the TV Trail had some of the most challenging terrain that we’ve had to navigate so far.  The meanderings along Sharon Creek and back to the Thames had numerous climbs up and down the steep valleys formed by the waters of the creek long ago. 

Make sure you have sturdy shoes on, that are up to the task.  This is not as family friendly as Komoka Provincial Park, but if you take your time, smaller children would enjoy some of these winding paths that can be easily accessed from the Sharon CreekConservation Area.
West side of the Sharon Creek Dam.
East side of the Sharon Creek Dam, forming Springer Lake.
Kayakers enjoying Springer Lake.
One of the things that has always been an attraction for me, with regards to walking the trails through the woods, has been imagining these paths to be the roadways of days gone by.  Whether it was the native people moving from one encampment to another, or pioneer settlers travelling between homesteads, trails such as these have always stirred my imagination.  A thought made even more significant, considering it was our nation’s birthday today and how this great country came to be.  From her beautiful natural areas to her cities and urban centres, it’s plain to see that Canadians should be proud!
Today’s hike was a full-time investment, with the distance we wanted to cover.  It was a hot one out there and we appreciated the cool shade along the creek as well as the breeze that blew when we were on the roads or going along some farm fields.

We took a much needed lunch break at our turn around point; the same turn around point as our last hike.  The logistics of parking have sometimes made it necessary to tackle a length of the trail from the opposite direction, this time being one of them. 
While perched high on a bluff, enjoying our lunch, we saw a deer scamper along the riverside on the opposite shore.  Minutes later, three men in a flat bottom motor boat cruised by.  Another few minutes later we heard several gun shots.  We wondered, was this an example of some of the illegal hunting that the trail had been re-routed for in this particular area?  Whatever the truth of the matter was, we cautiously began our return trip, wary of where the shooters were.  We never did see anyone, nor did we come close to where the gun shots seemed to be coming from, making our way safely onward.

The Thames River--some final views.
In completing this section of the trail, this will be the last time we see the Thames River.  The final section of the trail that we will complete will head south so as to connect to the Elgin Trail.  We are so close to the end of our destination; it won’t be long now!

Four-footed and winged friends we encountered.
Blue heron...coming in for a landing on Springer Lake
Hawk tail feather