Toby takes a hike

a goldendoodle's adventure

Hike: Dyer’s Bay

October 12 – Happy Thanksgiving! After a BIG dinner we were ready for a BIG hike. Plus we were finally going to finish a section of trail that we had been putting off for ages.

We parked our car at the end of Crane Lake Road and began to retrace our steps. The colours were beautiful – from the sky, to the leaves, to the wild apples on trees along the side of the lane. Fall really is a perfect time to hike.

There was substantial flooding across the road from beaver dams, a few of us managed to keep our feet dry but of course Toby plowed straight through. The effect of the overflowing marshland was breathtaking.

We passed a small horse farm. As we admired the horses a beagle came bounding across the field towards us. She was a very friendly dog and after she and Toby had finished their formal introductions we kept hiking.

After a few minutes we realized the beagle was still with us (although usually rooting around in the tall grass). We nicely told her to “go home” – apparently not a command she understood because she kept walking with us, usually a few paces ahead but constantly checking pack to make sure we were in tow. After a while we realized that she knew the area pretty well and if she completed the hike with us, we would return her home afterwards. We even named her Barbie (at first she was Bob – but then realized our mistake).

Barbie the beagle and Toby paid little attention to each other except for the odd sniff and a few stolen kisses. As we turned left on to Lindsay Road 40, Barbie kept going. We figured this would be the end of our trip with Barbie. We stopped to take some family photos, and who should appear? Barbie, with her tail wagging and ready to be part of the action.

As we neared the point where the trail enters the bush we wondered if Barbie would keep walking with us. We didn’t have long to ponder this question as a pick up truck pulled up next to us and opened the door. There was no question that this was Barbie’s human as she jumped onto the seat next to him. After speaking to Barbie’s human we learned that she is quite the adventurer and has hiked to Dyer’s Bay many times and has even made it as far as Tobermory! As Toby bid adieu to his new friend, we has one final question, “what is her name?” The owner laughed and said – “Chase”.

With our group now down a member we entered the bush and prepared ourselves for the more difficult trail. Although the terrain was rougher than the road, it was still not the most difficult hike we had completed. Once again the views of Georgian Bay were amazing and the sound of leaves crunching under our boots and the smell of fall gave a feeling of tranquility.

We headed inland and back towards are car, thinking about the delicious chili waiting for us at the cottage.

Toby’s 13.5 kilometre hike can be viewed at Dyer’s Bay Hike – happy hiking!


Hike: Terra Cotta

October 5 – Today’s impromptu hike took us to Terra Cotta.

We started our hike on 10th Line, on the outskirts of the Terra Cotta Conservation Area. To our disappointment the Bruce Trail no longer travels through the conservation area but along the edge. There are still many trails available through the area but we left that exploring for another day.

The air was crisp as we made away towards the Caledon Trailway and we passed a few other groups of people taking advantage of the beautiful weather and changing leaves.

After a short walk on the Trailway we headed northwest on Heritage Road and then back into the bush.

Toby of course managed to find every burr bush in existence and we had to slow down to remove a few of the more painful patches. We stopped to view a small creek and waterfall and marvel at the rock formations.

Reaching Boston Mills Road meant the end of our hike was in sight. We passed Spirit Tree Estate Cidery our mouths began to salivate, it was getting close to dinner but our car was still over a kilometre away.

Although we had planned to visit the Cheltenham Badlands again, the line of cars on the side of the road signaled it would be best left for another day.

Toby’s 12.1 kilometre hike can be viewed at Terra Cotta Hike – happy hiking!

Camp: Massasauga Provincial Park

Buckle in – it’s a long one!

September 19 – 22 – After a camping trip at Killarney Provincial Park with friends fell through, a co-worker suggested that we try Massasauga Provincial Park. Massasauga had a lot of benefits – it was closer to home, had a variety of backcountry sites and canoe rentals were available at the park entrance. So up the 400 we headed!

Day 1 – Although we always try our best to pack the night before it always seems that we have a few last minute additions to our packs. By the time we had made it through the Tim Hortons drive-thru (a pre-camping tradition of ours) it was almost 9 am, definitely not our fastest start to the day. The drive north was fairly uneventful. Toby dozed in the backseat, while his personal chauffeurs noted the trees changing colour and made last minute travel decisions. It was just after lunch when we arrived at Oastler Lake Provincial Park to pick up our canoe and register our campsites.

The Three Legged Lake Access Point was a 20 minute bumpy ride from the park office, at last we were ready to hit the open water! With the car safely stowed in the parking lot, our canoe packed with the essentials and everyone securely in their lifejackets, we pushed off from the dock.

DSC02390The sun was shining as we glided across the lake. Toby switched between sitting up to feel the wind through his fur and laying in the bottom of the canoe. Maybe we were gliding a little too quickly, maybe we were distracted by the many beautiful and quaint cottages or maybe we just cannot read a map to save our lives but before long we had reached the north end of Three Legged Lake, not where we were planned to be. We spun around and headed back to where we were supposed to portage into Spider Lake. Thankfully the portage was easy to find, we quickly moved our canoe and gear and had a snack (homemade beef jerky!). We met two other paddlers who were very familiar with the park and gave us some advice and told us about a shortcut.

We completed another short portage, this time into a very narrow passage. Back on open water we were determined not to make another navigation mistake so with a map and GPS (which we soon learned was next to useless) we headed to our first stop, Site 111.

DSC02400Upon arrival we scouted the area for the best space for our tent, tarp and bear hang. We knew the weather the next day was not going to be great so we set the tarp over our picnic table (a luxury we are not always used to) and tried to find a protected spot for our tent. We decided to set up our bear hang before dinner, to save ourselves from trying to do it in the dark. While scouting for small rocks to use as a weight Toby stumbled upon a bees nest. The next 30 minutes are a blur as both Toby and I had to be de-bee-d. The bees clung to my fleece and Toby’s fur. Thankfully we had packed our leatherman and one by one the bees were removed and Toby and I went down to the water to soak our wounds.

Exhausted from the canoeing and bee attack we set the bear hang and ate our tinfoil dinners. The sky was dark when we hoisted our food. As our bag was slowly lifted in the air there was a snap and then a thud as the bag hit the ground. The rope had broken and so had our excitement to camp. But we persevered. After retying the rope and setting the bear hang for the second time, we held our breath as the bag was hoisted in the air, it held.

Back at the tent we watched the stars and remembered why we love camping. Toby settled down on his fleece blanket and we fell asleep thinking that the trip could only get better from here.

Toby’s exhausting 18.6 kilometre canoe trip can be viewed at Spider Lake Canoe.

DSC02409Day 2 – Before we were even out of the tent we knew if would be an interesting day. The Weather Network had been calling for anywhere between 15 – 40 mm of rain and wind. The sky was dark as we cooked breakfast (scrambled eggs, our first time bringing fresh eggs). Just as we finished loading the canoe it began to rain. We covered our packs and Toby with our tarp and headed out.

The rain was constant and the wind was picking up. A last minute change to our route had us travelling through a narrow channel, instead of venturing out to Georgian Bay – a very smart and safe decision. After seeing a flash of lightening we looked for the first available spot to pull off and get out of the water. We found an empty campsite and set up our tarp over the picnic table and once again discussed changing our plans. After waiting for 30 minutes the rain began to die down a little and we could hear voices coming from the spot we had stowed our canoe. Toby went to investigate, the rightful ‘owners’ of the site had arrived and after a gruelling journey through Georgian Bay they were ready to claim their spot.

With the rain slowing we quickly jumped back in the canoe and headed for the portage. Before we had even finished moving our canoe the sky opened up again and we huddled under or tarp near the edge of Clear Bay. As Toby, the soaking wet goldendoodle, snuggled against us under our makeshift shelter, once again we questioned “why do we do this?”

DSC02415Another break in the rain and we paddled as fast as we could to Site 202. We were disappointed with what we saw – a site, which is likely beautiful in the sunshine, was completely under water. Once again we went about setting up our tarp, tent and bear hang. We were soaked, Toby was soaked, our bags were soaked. We peeled out of our wet and muddy clothing and laid out on our sleeping mats to dry. After having a short nap and playing some cards we emerged from our tent to see a grey sky but no rain! For dinner we cooked pasta and and explored our site a little more. Toby was finally looking a little happier and even though our gear was soaked, we were warm and dry and dare I say feeling a little proud of ourselves for completing this much our journey.

We fell asleep that night positive that the weather would be better the next day and excited to finish another leg of our adventure.

Toby’s soaking wet 6.8 kilometre canoe trip had to be broken down into three parts (thanks a lot rain!) and can be viewed at Spider Lake Canoe Part 2, Goose Neck Bay Canoe and Clear Bay Canoe.

DSC02471Day 3 – By this point we concluded that somehow we had angered the rain gods. It rained so hard in the night the tent was shaking and was splashed with mud. But the rain didn’t stop there. It rained, and rained, and rained. By 11 am we were going stir crazy. We hadn’t eaten, we hadn’t visited the thunder box and we had played so many hands of euchre and crazy eights I never want to see a card again in my life. Toby looked miserable. But we were dry. What was waiting for us outside was definitely wet. We waited another half hour before realizing that the rain was not going to stop and finally pulled on our rain gear to start our morning.

DSC02428After eating some soggy pancakes (to be fair the pancakes weren’t soggy, just the people eating them) and getting in touch with the park office to book the site for another night, we settled in for a few more games of cards under our tarp.

At some point in the afternoon the rain stopped and we decided to canoe around Cow Island. We could hear water pouring from the rock, creating small waterfalls as we canoed around the island. The rain held off for a short hike around our site and then we were ready for dinner. Our dinner that night was Backcountry Thanksgiving and even Toby got to enjoy some leftovers. This meal is now becoming our traditional last dinner while camping.

Once again we went to sleep thinking that there could not possibly be any rain left and tomorrow would be nothing but sunshine.

DSC02466Day 4 – Finally the weather agreed with us and we packed our site with the sun on our backs. We had a long way to travel that day to make up for Sunday, so after eating our oatmeal we were out of the water.

DSC02495The day before we had scouted out our next portage so for the first time we felt like we knew exactly where we were going. Once again we had to alter our route a little, opting for one large portage instead of multiple short portages. The first portage was extremely muddy and had such large puddles we thought might had to jump back in the canoe to make it to the other side. We were back in Spider Lake in no time and making great time. We stopped to talk to another paddler who also had a dog with him. Toby was very controlled and did not bark or wobble the canoe while meeting his new furry friend.

We battled some wind as we started to head back into familiar territory. We also started to pass more canoes on their way out to camp and learned that the road we had taken to the Access Point the previous Friday had been washed out in the rain. Our arms were beginning to tire as we completed our final portage into Three Legged Lake and we knew we were in the final stretch.

DSC02526Arriving at the Access Point was a great feeling – travelling almost 50 km, surviving a bee attack (ok surviving might be a bit of a stretch), enduring days of rain (we later learned over 50 mm!) and now we were headed home.

Toby’s 18.9 kilometre canoe trip can be viewed at Spider Lake Canoe Part 3.

This trip we questioned many times why we camp – to get dirty, wet, stung, hurt and exhausted? Unfortunately sometimes that comes with the feeling of accomplishment, the need for adventure and the desire to be with nature. Until next time – happy camping!

Hike: Cheltenham Badlands

August 20 – This summer has been a busy one and hiking has been put on the back burner.

Unfortunately Toby was not able to join his hiking companions on a trip to Vancouver Island this summer and missed out on hiking through MacMillan Provincial Park and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Sorry Toby – maybe next time!

To make up for the missed trip we planned a hike to the Cheltenham Badlands. A very late start and a downpour of rain made this a short hike.

10359410_10100680552406200_3594441737232321103_nWe started our hike on the main trail at Creditview Road. The trail skirts the edge of the Badlands and we could only see the hills through the trees. As we walked the sky got darker and their air got colder.

When we emerged at Olde Baseline Road we were a little disappointed that we never actually saw the Badlands. A quick detour down the road gave us a great view of the formation. It really was breathtaking. And also a little surreal. Were we on Mars? Would some little green men pop up from behind a rock?

10423650_10154455412060034_496685308500976892_nWith no extraterrestrials in sight we explored the edge of the area. We weren’t there long before it started to lightly rain. The wet, red soil gave Toby little pink feet. As the rain came down harder we decided it was time to head back to the car.

We took the Badlands Side Trail to Olde Baseline Road and by this time it was POURING. Toby is not one to complain about getting wet but he was starting to slow down and no amount of good cheer from his hiking companions could speed him up.

10411770_10100680552286440_6587755843511930263_nUpon reaching our car the rain stopped and we could see a rainbow starting to form. Toby the white, fluffy dog had lost his pink paws and now was a sopping mess.

Thank you to our new hiking companions, Pete and Kait, for joining us on the trail and for the photos!

Toby’s 4.2 kilometre hike can be viewed at Cheltenham Badland Hike – happy hiking!


What you need to know about Giant Hogweed

An important article to read before hiking in Halton.

Focus On Conservation

Written by: Brenda Van Ryswyck, Natural Heritage Ecologist

There are many invasive species that can threaten the native plants in your garden, but probably one of the most well-known is Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). This fame is due to its tremendous height and the dangers from its sap which has attracted media attention over the past few summers.

Giant Hogweed has two major negative impacts. Firstly, due to its invasive nature, it poses a threat to native biodiversity. Secondly, Giant Hogweed is a public health hazard. It produces a sap that sensitizes the skin to ultraviolet light so when that skin is then exposed to sunlight it can result in severe and painful burning and blistering. This is known as photosensitivity, which is not an immediate burning sensation but is like getting a very severe sunburn. It is important to avoid any skin contact with the sap of…

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Thank you!

I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who has contacted us through Toby’s site. We love reading your comments whether you agree with our hiking methods or not.

We have had a very busy spring and summer and unfortunately have not had the chance to do a lot of hiking but we hope to turn that around soon.

Here are a few photos from our adventures this spring.

Hike: Vinemount

In the past few weeks we have tried to hike – but after only a few minutes the bugs were so bad we gave up. Finally we were able to squeak one more hike in before the end of May.

May 31 – After struggling to find the Vinemount Conservation Area parking lot – does anyone know if it actually exists? We found a wide shoulder to park on and followed 8th Road to the Bruce Trail.

photo 1The weather was perfect, plus the bugs were only a minor nuisance. We moved quickly on the hard packed trail and in no time we had completed 5 kilometres. We passed a few other hikers and other wildlife, including snakes. Toby is not fond of snakes as we learned when camping on Flowerpot Island, even a ribbon blowing in the breeze can scare him. So it shocked us when Toby started following the snake into the brush. Of course it didn’t take him long to remember that snakes are scary and he was back by our sides in a flash.

photo 2Before long we had reached the train tracks and ready to commence our ascent up Devil’s Punchbowl Side Trail. We remembered this climb from our hike on Family Day – it was very steep and slippery. After an exhausting climb we took one last look at the Punchbowl and were ready to head home.

As a side note, we are always amazed at the beauty of the trails in Hamilton. It is not at all what we expected when we first started hiking the Bruce Trail.

Toby’s 9.3 kilometre hike can be viewed at Vinemount Hike – happy hiking!

Canine First Aid 101

After our harrowing adventure earlier this month we decided it was time to do some research into basic first aid for Toby.

Although we always carry a well-stocked first aid kit for humans there are some dog specific items that we will be adding in the future.

  1. Leatherman – after the porcupine encounter we know pliers are a must-have.
  2. Styptic pencil – we already own one just in case a toenail is cut too short, but this would also be useful for torn nail or small cut.
  3. Saline solution (in squirt bottle) – for washing out eyes.
  4. Tick remover – not only good for dog but for humans, especially because we hike through long grass sometimes.

We will also add more gauze and disinfectant to our kit.

I found these articles especially helpful when looking for more information about canine first aid.

The Ultimate First Aid Kit for Dogs – Outside Magazine

The 10 Most Common Dog Ailments, and How to Treat Them in the Field – Outside Magaize

How do you build a first aid kit for your pet? –

Ten Items for Your Pet First Aid Kit –

With our kit freshly stocked we are ready to head back out on the trails. Happy hiking!

Camp: Hope Bay

May 1 – 3 – With our first camping trip of the year behind us we have learned some valuable lessons going forward. This is a long one people – you have been warned!


Toby and his human taking a break

Day 1 – Our first day of hiking we knew would be a boring one with lots of time spent on the road. We parked the car in Barrow Bay, put on our gear and started the long walk along Bruce Road 9. We were stopped twice with the offer of rides – of course we politely declined explaining that we were hiking end to end no matter what. The road stretched on for what seemed like forever, and even after we turned of the main road we still had a few more kilometres on back roads to travel.


Snow on the trail

Finally we reached Rush Cove and the Chris Walker Nature Reserve and were greeted by a small snow bank. Seeing snow on the trail in May is no longer a shock to us after last year’s spring camping trip. After finding a place to set up our tent (this area is a no camping zone, however we always practice no trace camping and never have fires so we thought it would be ok).

Toby chased rabbits while we cooked dinner (backcountry thanksgiving – yum!), we hoisted our bear hang and by 7:30 we were ready to crawl into our tent and settle in for the night.

Toby’s 12.3 kilometre hike can be viewed at Rush Cove Hike.


Toby contemplating the ladder

Day 2 – After an arduous trip down to the beach to purify drinking water, we made pancakes and broke camp. We followed the icy and snow covered trail up the escarpment, with the water dropping farther below us  – then we saw it, our first ladder of the day leading us back down to the beach. Toby is not very good with stiles so you can imagine what he is like with ladders. We scrambled down the ladder to drop off our bags and then discussed our options while Toby paced nervously at the top. Luckily Toby is very calm and trusting dog and we were able to lower him onto the ladder tail first and then lift him down using his harness.

The walk along the beach was beautiful. Looking up at the escarpment we could see could see the spring runoff and we were treated to a lovely rhythm as the water hit the rocks below. Toby could not resist walking through the water and even looking up to have a drink. It wasn’t long before we reached our next ladder taking us back up the escarpment.


Toby at Jackson Cove lookout

Something we love about the Bruce Trail is the variety – one minute you are on the escarpment edge, the next the beach, followed by a hike through a field, a forest, a riverbed – it is always changing. We took a break from the main trail and followed the Jackson Cove Lookout Side Trail and were treated to amazing views of Jackson Cove including some ice still floating in the bay. We stopped for lunch – smoked salmon, cream cheese and pitas (we really rough it!) and continued on.


Toby was not impressed with the rainy weather

From our next view on the escarpment edge we could see Hope Bay and our campsite. By this time we were exhausted and ready for a night in a real campsite – running water, heated washrooms and a real toilet (yes – I know we had only been on the trail for two days). When we reached the site we were sadly disappointed. The pipes were still frozen so running water was out, there was no heat and I won’t discuss the bathroom situation – the risks of camping early in the season.

The sky turned dark and just as we finished pumping water from the bay and cooking dinner (Farmers Mash) it started to rain. We ate dinner in the tent, tried to hang a makeshift clothesline and settled in for the night.

Toby’s 16.3 kilometre hike can be viewed at Hope Bay Hike.


Hope Bay Campground General Store

Day 3 – Although the rain had stopped, cold, grey weather greeted us as we emerged from the tent. Everything at our site was wet so we headed to the General Store for breakfast (the store was closed but it did have a covered porch). As we pumped water for the day and cooked breakfast (scrambled eggs with bacon and dehydrated mushrooms) the sun shone through the clouds and we were able to dry out our tent.

We packed up and started along the road through Hope Bay when someone pulled over and advised us that there was a very steep ladder ahead and that we would have a hard time with the dog. He recommended that we walk the road around the point and into Cape Croker. Once again we laughed in the face of obstacles and continued on our way.

He was right.


Toby vs. the ladder

The ladder that appeared in front of us was tall and very steep. Not something that we could easily carry Toby up. We looked around for other options. One side of the ladder was a flat cliff face, on the other side there was a small ledge but it was four feet above the ground and not very wide. We climbed the ladder, dropped off our gear and the climbed back down so we could help Toby. The ledge option worked and soon Toby had beaten the ladder, by the time we had our packs on he was already up another staircase and we were off.


Toby’s attempt at making new friends

We crossed into First Nations Land and were enjoying a relatively flat hike through the trees when Toby wondered off the path. We called for him to come back but he was on the trail of something. So far this trip Toby had chased birds, squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits but as we looked on this animal appeared to be much larger. We yelled but Toby was concentrating on his new friend and could not be interrupted. It wasn’t until the new friend started climbing a tree did we realized what it was. By that time it was too late and when Toby came back to us he was whimpering (we think more from being scared from our yelling than the quills).

Porcupines are not something we had encountered before on the trail and to be honest we had no idea what to do. Thank goodness for cell phones and coverage because we really were in the middle of nowhere. After some research online and some guidance from a wonderful vet in Owen Sound (I’m sorry in the excitement I did not catch your name!) we were ready to start the task of removing the quills. Once again we were not prepared for this (we have learned our lesson) so we had to remove the quills by hand. We did not have any dog safe disinfectant so Toby had a bath on the side of the trail with Camp Suds. After a thorough inspection we were satisfied that the quills were removed and that we could continue.

That’s when the rain started.


Staircase of doom

Even with all of our rain gear on we were getting soaked (another risk you take camping the spring). When we reached the steel staircase leading down the escarpment the trail was getting muddy and the stairs were slippery. We met another group of backpackers and exchanged some advice about the trail.

We reached the boardwalk and it was very slippery and the rain continued to beat down on us. We passed a beaver dam and as we watched Toby we realized there was no way we could continue on. He was limping more and when we stopped he would shake from the cold.

Thankfully we had an escape plan and within an hour our rescue crew had arrived to extract us from the wilderness. Once again we cannot thank you enough. We are blessed to have such a supportive family.

Toby’s 13 kilometre hike can be viewed at Cape Croker Hike.

photo (1)

A healthy, warm puppy

Afterward – We escaped to the cottage in Tobermory. Toby was limping badly and we were trying to decide when and which animal hospital we should get him to. While inspecting his leg we found a tiny black spot and realized it was another quill that had been completely embedded in his leg. After some careful work we were able to remove the quill. Toby had another bath, we applied some antiseptic and Toby curled up in front of the fire. A few hours later he was barely limping and a very appreciative puppy.

Toby has since visited the vet and is the picture of health.

Spring Camping 2014!

Lace up your boots and slide on your backpack – it’s time to get camping!

Check out our itinerary below – wish us luck!

Spring 2014 Camp

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