Being who I am, I realized last week that driving and looking at the fall colours doesn’t have the same impact as hiking and looking at fall colours. I know – a pretty weighty observation.
My better half and ace photographer Lynn, has been on the disabled list for the past few weeks with a bad back and some muscle tightness issues. Given her somewhat limited mobility, our hiking and fall leaf viewing has taken the form of driving throughout the countryside of central Ontario, primarily in the Blue Mountain’s/Collingwood area – which isn’t all that bad I suppose.
Now, don’t get me wrong the colours this year have been spectacular and we’ve seen some explosive scenes out in the car. But, we’d rather be viewing leaves from a lookout we hiked to as compared to one we drove to.
Having a day off, and wanting to get out on a hike desperately, I decided to head over by myself to the north end of Pretty River Valley Provincial Park south of Collingwood. Back in April, we hiked the south end from Pretty River Valley Road up to the high point on the Bruce Trail.
There is off-road parking at the “T” intersection of Side Road 6 and the 2nd Line of The Blue Mountains, and would hold 4 to 6 cars. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to describe getting there. I suggest Google Map “Pretty River Valley Provincial Park” and look for the intersection at the park’s north end.
The John Haigh Side Trail starts from this parking area. I started from here with the intention of linking up with the main Bruce Trail.
There was a fair bit of leaf fall, which I suspect resulted from the severe weather the area had in the area over the past couple of days. But, on a positive note there still was a considerable amount of leaves left on the trees.
With the sun shining through the tree canopy, the entire forest was bathed in a yellow diffusion of colour, creating a heaven-sent environment in which to escape and contemplate your existence.
From the parking area to where the John Haigh Side Trail connects with the main Bruce Trail, was a pleasant hike of about 800 metres. One thing I did notice was the changes in elevation throughout the north section not to be as significant as those in the southern portion of the park. It seems when we hiked the south section in the spring it was uphill all the way. Which makes perfect sense, as you’re hiking uphill to reach the high point of the Bruce Trail. Another insightful observation on my part!
Was really thankful, that there was still lots of colour left in the area. This next picture is a bit blurry, but gives a good look across a meadow at the colours. I must apologize for the picture quality. It was with my phone, while holding several other things in my hands at the same time. Multi-tasking is not my best attribute.
Just before hitting the main Bruce Trail, I reached the high point on the entire Bruce Trail. This was the turn around point from our hike back in April. It was amazing to see the difference from no leaves in April to nothing but leaves now. It gave a totally different look and perspective to the area. Very neat!
At this point I headed north along the main Bruce Trail. Here it follows along the escarpment face, providing I must say, some pretty sweet views!
I was pleasantly surprised to find a significant number of caves and crevice along the escarpment edge. Given the wet and slick conditions, I didn’t explore much in the crevices as I might have under more favourable conditions. To be honest, I wasn’t fussy on slipping and falling into something I couldn’t get myself out of. If it had been drier, it certainly would have been an adventure checking some of them out. Better safe and to come back another day.
The trail eventually enters the Petun Conservation area. There is one rough camping site here for those who are thru hiking and camping. From what I’ve been able to learn, there are not many camping locations along the entire Bruce Trail. All that I’ve seen have no facilities, other than a fire pit.
One thing I like to look for when out on a trail is the textures and contrast moss makes on the surrounding rock and trees. There is just something about it I find drawn towards. The way the sunlight was filtering down through the forest and striking these moss-covered boulders was breathtaking.
The main trail comes out to the 2nd Line of The Blue Mountains. At this point you head to the left along the road to get back to the parking area.
The picture doesn’t even come close to showing how steep it is. Yikes. I was passed by a pickup truck and even he started to spin his wheels near the top of the picture. From this point back to where I parked is about 1.5 kilometres.
This was one of those days in the bush that was much-needed medicine for the soul. Something that was desperately required. It has been several weeks since we had been out. Normally, I hike with Lynn, but given her back condition and treatment she’s undergoing, she didn’t want to chance anything just yet. As much as I missed her being out with me, I’m glad that I took the opportunity to get out there.
My time out on the trail just over 2 hours, covering between 7 and 8 kilometres.
As I mention previously, we had hiked the southern portion of the park in early April when there where no leaves on the trees and snow still in the bush. I think maybe next year we’ll try the south end in the summer just to see the difference as compared to the spring.
Nevertheless, if you hike the north end or south section, Pretty River Valley Provincial Park is a can’t miss location.
Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed!