falling in love (with water falls)

Immediately after work on Thursday, two of us decide to embark on an adventure to Sherman Falls, despite severe thunderstorm warnings.

The 5C bus that comes through the McMaster campus takes us up Wilson Street to Rousseau Street in Ancaster, a 15 minute ride to “probably the most confusing intersection you will ever find” according to my travel companion (make sure you push the pedestrian crossing button); but a few steps away, by the parking lot for the swank Ancaster Old Mill restaurant, we find ourselves already on the Heritage trail in the Dundas Conservation Area.

Throughout the next two hours, my walking pal lets me in on a few of his hiking secrets and some basic trail etiquette: like, in my attempts to circumvent puddles, he humbly suggests staying on the designated trail and preserving the sensitive natural areas bordering it. Or a lesson on identifying a sturdy walking stick is instilled and exemplified as we, now with three legs each, follow the Heritage trail until it meets up with the famous Bruce Trail. We follow the Bruce north (right) along the edge of deeply cut, tree-filled valleys, with some stunning glacial debris in the form of large moss covered rocks littering the way.

This route to Sherman Falls normally takes about 40 minutes at an easy pace, but we are put off our mark by the ominous approach of a thunder storm (the warnings, it turned out, were accurate). As the sky darkens and rain starts to filter down through the rich canopy of leaves, we scrimmage for shelter. We find ourselves huddled between two rocks, with a space just snugly made for two, at least until the rain dies down. An attempt at pitching a windbreaker over the space serves to cover only slightly more territory than a Fortino’s shopping bag would. Fortunately, I am able to produce an umbrella which provides enough shelter for us both, at least for the short term.

As soon as the rain dies down, we sprout ourselves from our subterranean hiding only to find that if we had walked a couple metres further, my backpack and all its contents might have been completely dry: a cliff with a cave-like four-foot overhang and fresh shoe marks in the mud tastefully makes the point that someone out there is much luckier, and drier, than the both of us.

not falling

We descend a short way down the valley, and with concentrating on not slipping, I don't realize until I look up that we have already arrived at the base of Sherman’s Falls. It's 17 meters of free-falling beauty that made me almost glad it has been raining every other day this summer, thus allowing us to see Sherman Falls in all its full-flow glory.

Our hike back was as equally eventful as our journey there. We agreed to discard the grip of our footgear and hike part of the muddy trail bare-foot , “hobbit-style”. And although my birks still trek in mud marks wherever I go, it was totally worth it.

(Guest columnist Sarah Kam is part of
Transportation for Liveable Communities.
TLC will be leading a bus and hike from McMaster University
to Sherman Falls during Car Free Week,
on Car Free Day, September 22, 2008.
TLC's web site for more info)