Bruce Trail - West Side
Trek 2 - Oops!
Waldemar Guenter Photography
Monday, October 10, 2011
TREK 2 - Bruce Trail West Side
Would I reach the bottom of Upper Ball's Falls today? It was overcast, actually a whitish sky, good for exposure in shadow areas but bad for not having the blue in the sky. Some days, you take what you get and have to work with it. Overcast skies bring out colours, and at least, you don't have those unwanted sharp shadows in pictures.
I phoned my friend, Dan Kaine, assistant superintendent at the Ball's Falls Conservation Area. He said he'd meet me at the parking lot and explain the directions to get to the bottom of Lower Ball's Falls. My wife would have been proud of me for asking directions.
Now, listening and understanding directions is another matter. I thought I had a handle on things but when I set out, I got it wrong and never did get to the bottom of the Falls that day. When I got back I told Dan I zigged when I should have zagged. He laughed.
But I'm getting ahead of my story! [Don't stop reading, just because I did not get the real photograph I wanted]. Sometimes the side trips are worth it too! My trek took two hours and I enjoyed the jaunt, getting 73 nice scenery photographs, despite my eventual failure at the end of the trail. Any of these pictures could be proudly displayed on any calendar featuring local Niagara scenery!
This time, I started taking photos at Lower Ball's Falls, you know, the usual shots from the top by the retaining wall. With the overcast sky, the water that cascaded down into the gorge would not be hidden in sharp shadows. I met a fellow, Richard, hunkered over a little tripod balanced on top of the wall there. His teeny white dog was leashed to his hand and sniffed me unafraid when I approached. It looked up at me with inquisitive doggy eyes. Richard had a pocket camera mounted to his tripod and was getting white blanks when he snapped pictures. I thought, "He's never going to get a decent picture with that kind of equipment!" He said he was trying to adjust the white balance but all he was getting was a white-out blank in his shots. I didn't want to get hung up with his technicalities, not knowing the settings of his little camera. So, I just did my own thing, adjusting my hand-held Nikon D700 for available light: f10 @ 40th of a second, which I knew had possibilities with adjustments later in Lightroom and Photo-shop. I used the wall against which I braced my camera. I didn't lug my hefty Manfrotto tripod along for a trek like this, not wanting to be encumbered by it. I suppose, I should use my tripod more often to gain the advantage in depth of field exposed at a slower speed. Most of my pictures turn out quite well anyway. So, I left Richard and his dog to their own devices and waved goodbye. I looked for the west side access to the Bruce Trail and that elusive bottom of Ball's Falls.
I found the first marker, called a "blaze", by a Private Driveway, Authorized Vehicles Only. The path led along farmers' fields and orchards. I liked the scenery and took some choice photos with my Nikon D700. Lovely colours and intricate patterns. There was even a clear lookout at one point towards the other side of the gorge where trees created a patchwork of reds, yellows and greens, covering the landscape with nature's own brilliant quilt. A nice calendar shot! I took two.
A couple of joggers thumped out of the woods along the path coming at me. These young guys were about 30 years of age, strongly built and kicking up a good pace. I thought "ouch", my orhotics would not stand that kind of punishment and besides, I just don't have the feet anymore to go running like that at the age of 67 through the woods. They passed me with a brief "Hi." Whoosh! They were gone! Meantime, I kept snapping pictures at my own speed, content that my feet could handle the trail.
I plodded along eying the trees and the sky. More blues poked out through the clouds. I thought the turn-off for the trail going down to Twenty Mile Creek should have come already. Surely there must be a fork somewhere which would lead down to the bottom of the escarpment! I kept going and going and going. My mind tuned in to the song from "Cats", the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber:
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
Ah! A gravel road that leads down! Maybe this is it? I followed it and when it opened up at some farmer's orchard, I turned around and headed back up, wondering where I had gone wrong. I kept following the Bruce Trail markers but nothing that was a path going down the gorge to the creek. The tune kept on going through my head: "Memory, all alone in the moonlight." I hoped I wouldn't be stuck out here in the moonlight. Where was that path for the bottom of the falls?
I forded a trickle of a little stream over which the Parks people had built a little wooden bridge. Then came some maintenance building and eventually the path opened up to a flat gravel road with some houses nestled along side with lovely gardens and trees. I was on Fifth Avenue and could see Hwy #24 in the distance with cars and trucks whizzing by. I headed for Hwy #24, knowing that I'd gone in a huge circle and that the entrance to Ball's Falls was just a couple of kilometres ahead off the highway. Yep, I zigged when I should have zagged! As trucks whooshed by on the highway, I took pictures of the weeds in the ditch. I trekked into the Ball's Falls entrance, took a photo of a couple of signs, thinking about words in another song: "Feelin' like a fool." Once I passed the tourist bureau, I headed down to the parking lot below where my little green car waited patiently for my arrival. That's when I met Dan who found my roundabout jaunt amusing. I told Dan, "My dogs sure are beat!" He laughed.
I was determined to get the directions right tomorrow if the weather permitted. More leaves were falling each day and there wouldn't be pretty trees left anymore to give colour to my autumn pictures, if I didn't get the trail right that went to the bottom of the falls. I hoped tomorrow, Friday, would be "the day," finally! And as it turned out, it was!