Niagara Scenery Photos

Bruce Trail - Success!
Trek 3

Waldemar Guenter Photography

Tuesday Morning, October 11, 2011
TREK 3 - Bruce Trail West Side

Today the sun popped in and out. The sky alternated between bright blue and overcast gray. It looked like I might catch a break yet to get my photo from the bottom of Lower Ball's Falls, provided I could find the right path this time! I thought of Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," first published in 1916.

I snagged two typical pictures of Lower Ball's Falls from the top, leaning against the retaining wall to steady my hand. White clouds floated across large patches of blue in the sky, so things looked good for picture taking. I hoped it would stay that way, if I found my way to the bottom of the gorge. There was one other photographer there at the wall taking pictures but I was in no mood to chat, so I moved on.

bruce trailI crossed the bridge and looked at the grassy field that stretched along the west side of Twenty Mile Creek. I could see a white rectangular marker there way at the end of the field marking the Bruce Trail. Off I went crossing the field to its end, where somebody, sometime had dislocated a brace in the fence that overlooked the very top of the falls. I straddled it and hopped onto the rocky ledge and took two more pictures from the top of the falls from that side. The distant gorge stretched out below the cascading water. It was a long way down and I didn't tempt fate, so I retreated back over the fence, the way I'd come. I followed the safe route on the Bruce Trail, satisfied that this time that I'd find a way down to the gorge, even if I had to take the road "not typically taken."

bruce trail I found it! I had just gone too far the other day. There was a split in the trail by a retaining wall, the one bearing left marking the Bruce Trail with the white rectangle, the other bearing right, not marked, but running along the retaining wall to a short drop that led to a path to the bottom of the gorge. Except for the immediate drop, the rest of the "trail" looked navigable. Small trees, roots and rocks were spread along the drop at strategic locations, which made descent possible, so I slung my camera strap into a safer position at my back, and down I went, grabbing a hand hold of this tree or that, and edging my foothold against this rock or that. After this first difficult drop of about 20 feet, the slope lessened and I felt like I had done something great, like I did when I was, well 20! I looked back every once in a while to memorize the looks of the slope and the trees for when I returned. Maybe I should have thrown out bread crumbs instead? But that only worked in Fairy Tales. The hillside afforded some very nice pictures as I looked up with white clouds and blue sky stretched above a terrain of rocks, trees and roots that characterized the roughness of the Niagara Escarpment.

bruce trailThe closer I got to the Falls, the more intense the spray got in the air. I kept wiping my lens dry before each picture I took. Actually I got reasonably close but there was so much spray in the air, that I realized, at a certain point, my photographs just would not come out clear. Tendrils and branches kept snagging my legs and so I backtracked, satisfied that I got some reasonable shots considering the circumstances. Maybe on another day, with less wind and less spray? Also the redness of the sumac had waned by the time I found this location and the autumn colours, in general, had lost their prime. Maybe next year? Now that I knew how to get to the foot of the falls! I had no pretense about any of my shots being the "definitive picture" of Ball's Falls. Everybody, I guess, tries to get that or thinks they got that. I was content for the moment in what my eyes saw and to get what I thought were decent pictures that I could be proud of. It was getting too wet out here and the rocks were getting too slippery.

It's a good thing that my backtracking took me across familiar trees and rocks, as I had glanced back at the scenery once in a while on the way in to memorize it. The uphill climb to that 20 foot drop to the gorge was straight ahead. Up I went, huffing and puffing like a 67 year old. I stopped once in a while and bent over to catch my breath. I finally got to the drop which was now a very steep rise...but it was only 20 feet up and I had to judge, right side or left, for the best hand-holds on trees and rocks. Hiking boots would have helped but I managed with minimal slipping and sliding despite wearing running shoes. Poor shoes! They were new, only two months ago! Now, they looked like something I'd worn for years. Up I went over the ridge and faced the retaining wall that was supposed to keep fools like me out. I took a deep breath and plodded on beyond the wall and along the wire fence, getting back on the legitimate trail.

bruce trailThere was another Bruce Trail trekkie off to the side of the path taking pictures through the trees of Lower Ball's Falls. I thought that the falls were too blocked to make a good photo, not through all those trees. You have to get down below to a unobstructed area but I wasn't going to encourage any foolhardiness. He was a young man wearing a blue touque and jacket and using ski poles to assist in the walk over the rough terrain. He had a black Lab dog with him, named Lila. A friendly pooch that didn't bark when I approached. Both of them were mild-mannered and gentle. I introduced myself and offered to take a picture of the both of them at the fence with the falls in the background. Graham wanted me to email him the shot which I did later that evening. He said he was on the trail as a fundraiser for scholarships. It's amazing the people you meet on the trail. Here's Graham's email to me:

Hello Wally,
It's Graham, we met on the Bruce Trail earlier today! I was still hoping you could pass a copy of the photo you took of me and Lila, with Ball's Falls in the background? Thank you for helping me with this, I was ironically at the time thinking how the iPod camera wasn't doing the scenery justice, lol! You had asked me to pass on some information as to what I am up to with this venture. Here goes...I am walking the Bruce Trail back to back, from Queenston to Tobermory back to Queenston. This will be an 1,100 mile journey, and the first docemented back to back walk of the Bruce. I am establishing a post-secondary education scholarship through the Boys' and Girls' Club of London Foundation. This will be in honour of my late Oma, Sara Rie Larson. The journey will take me roughly six weeks to complete, with the help of my mother, who is following me along in a motorhome :)

I remember you saying you weren't using facebook, but if you change your mind, the official platform for the hike is facebook/sararielarsonscholarship, or if you're on twitter, you could follow my hike on twitter @ bruceb2b. Thank you again for your help with this picture, and best of luck with your photography business!!

Cheers, Graham Fowler

When I got back to the private driveway, I saw a tiny garder snake dead on the road. It was upside down and a tire must have flattened the little creature. I was glad I hadn't come across any snakes down in the gorge, especially rattle-snakes since there have been some reports of these in the Balls Falls woods. It was too damp and cold for them today anyway.

My car waited for me in the parking lot. I'd been gone one and a half hours and it was just before noon. I'd be home in time for lunch, sitting by the TV tray and watching my noontime episode of "Bachelor Father," in black and white: "Antenna TV-TV the way it was meant to be!" After lunch, I spent a bit of time in the backyard, plucking the burrs off my coat and then by the sink, wiping the mud spots off my camera from the rough treatment I'd given it during my morning's photographic trek along the bottom of Ball's Falls.



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