Wilderness Section: Devil’s Lake Side Trail now marked with blue blazes

Glynn Richardson
Wilderness Club

Wilderness Section: Devil’s Lake Side Trail now marked with blue blazes

On October 13, 2018, the Ganaraska Trail, Wilderness Club along with Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park staff changed the colour of the blazes on the Devil’s Lake Side Trail from the access point to Petticoat Junction from white to blue today. Also, the occasional blue reflective blazes were installed – great for those needing to make it out after the sun has set (head lamp or flashlight needed). Thanks to all the volunteers who gave a little back to help maintain the trail we all love.

Ganaraska 50th – President’s welcome

Today is the long-awaited 50th anniversary of the Ganaraska Trail, which was founded in 1968. I would like to welcome you all to celebrate this special day with us. I know some of you have come from far away, as far as Ottawa, Perth, London, Newcastle, Goderich and anything in between. I also welcome our Ganaraska members from our own 9 clubs: Pine Ridge, Kawartha, Wilderness, Orillia, Oro Medonte, Barrie, Mad River, Wasaga Beach, Tiny and Midland!

Our membership currently stands at 594 and our volunteers maintain close to 600 kms of trail, including through the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands (to the north east of Orillia), which is an extremely remote but very unique area, as it is entirely on the rugged Canadian shield.

To start our celebrations, I would like to acknowledge the privilege we have to be gathered here today on the traditional land of the Anishinaabeg, the Indigenous peoples of this region. We also acknowledge the history that many nations hold in this area and look forward to doing our part in forming respectful relations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit.

In a few hours, we will conduct an indigenous Water Ceremony, with waters from Lake Ontario and from Georgian Bay, which were in the past few months carried by hikers along the entire Ganaraska Trail. These water bottles will arrive from the eastern and western parts of the Ganaraska Trail through Scout Valley and will arrive at Lakehead University later this morning. Please join us for the last part of this Water Relay hike.

This 50th anniversary celebration year has so far been a year of many achievements. The hiking season started with our own clubs having an official Season Opener on April 21. The weather, however, caught us off guard, with a serious snow dump just prior to the event, which caused our hike leaders to decide whether to snowshoe or hike. Luckily, the sun came out for the day, and blue skies made sure all had a wonderful time.

Shortly after, the water relay started. Bottles were dipped in Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, and carried by hikers along the entire Ganaraska Trail. Since most of our clubs also have a cycling program, the water bottles were also transported by cyclists along some of the road sections. And as mentioned the water is arriving here today.

I would like to congratulate all those who in the past, and especially this year, hiked the entire trail. E2E records have been kept since 1992. Only 179 hikers have completed the GHT since then. Of interest, a few did it multiple times, such as Peter Verbeek hiked it 8 times by 2003, Rose Millett 3, Ron Wallace 2, Michelle Vibert 2, and Tom Hall 2.

Special recognition are due to hikers Margaret O’Dell, Wendy Manning and Tyler Gibson for completing the Ganaraska Trail from End to End within the 50th Anniversary year. Margaret and Wendy started their challenge on March 3 and finished on September 9, 2018 with a bottle of champagne at the Western Terminus cairn, in Glen Huron, where the Ganaraska Trail meets the Bruce Trail. Tyler started his walk on July 3rd in Port Hope, and completed the trail, as well as all side trails and loops, 56 days later on August 28, in Glen Huron. Well done everyone…

Another ex exceptional event that took place along the Ganaraska Trail this summer is the Fastest Known Time even. A Toronto relay team of 11 young women, called the Wild Bruce Chasers, picked July 1, probably the hottest day of the summer, to hike the entire Ganaraska Trail in an impressive 69 hours. What an achievement, especially since the Ganaraska Trail Standards are “minimal impact to the environment”, and as such the ladies faced brambles, poison ivy, persisted deer flies, etc., but if you can believe it, they actually enjoyed their gruelling challenge. Well done Wild Bruce Chasers!

If you wish to experience our Ganaraska Hiking Trail yourselves, I hope you will join us tomorrow in the beautiful Copeland Forest, where we have organized a number of hikes.

In closing, I would like to thank the staff of Lakehead University, for their assistance in organizing this event. They have been extremely generous and cooperative, and in particular, I wish to thank Dr. Linda Rothenburg, for her guidance throughout the entire planning process.


Ganaraska 50th Anniversary – Recognition of volunteers

As we are celebrating our 50th anniversary, we recognize and thank the many volunteers who have contributed to the creation and continued existence of the trail itself, but also of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail organization.

As such we want to particularly thank the Past Presidents, starting with Jack Goering, who together with Pat Lawson and some others started with the development of the Ganaraska Trail. Jack served 2 terms as president in the late 60’s – and up until 1975. Unfortunately both Jack and Pat passed away last year.

  • Some of you may recall some of the other past presidents: Mac Macklem, Paul Van Vliet, Jim Parsons, Chris Dafferin, and Dorothy Burrus. Unfortunately, we were not able to contact these to this event, some may have deceased.
    However, with us today are
    Paul McCreath, president from 1983 to 1987
    David Francis, president from 1997 to 2000
    Mike Pidwerbecki, president from 2000 to 2011, which makes him the longest serving president of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association, and
    Bob Bowles, president from 2011 to 2016.
    We also want to thank Bob Wilson, Ron Wallace, and David Royston, who sent their regrets.
    At this time, we would also like to recognize Peter Verbeek, who was the Ganaraska’s Trail Director for a very long time, and his contributions are immense. He even was club secretary for many years. Peter was a big supporter of end-to-end hikes, motivating many to accomplish the challenge and leading several groups in their end-to-end endeavours. His method of motivation to keep his groups going, was to say we only had a few more kilometres left, but he would never say how many. He bent over backwards to help Linda from the Kawartha Club to hike the Wilderness after a very bad car accident. In particular, he loved the Wilderness section…. In fact, before the trail through the Wilderness was established, Peter tried to plot the route across the wilderness by himself and was at first unable to find a way through. As he was a couple of days late finding his way out, his wife called the OPP who set up a search for him. However, he eventually emerged at Victoria Fails, victorious in establishing the continuous trail through the wilderness. Afterwards, he spent countless hours to maintain the Ganaraska trail. A plaque in his name was erected near Loon Lake in the Wilderness section, one of his most preferred locations.
    Due to health reasons, unfortunately, Peter could not be with us.
    Special thanks also go to Marc Vallee, who as a young hiker, in the late 80’s joined the organization and has been the president of the Midland Ganaraska Club for the last 20 years, and as such has been the longest serving club president and board member of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association. Kudos to him, for only missing 1 or 2 board meetings in these 20 years, and for being an active participant in our board discussions.
    Special thanks also go to Lois Kowal, who has been our membership director for many many years, and is also responsible for welcoming new members, and tracking the End-to-End program. Thank you Lois for your dedication and time.
    As the President of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association, I am extremely pleased with the executive team we put together this year, and I would like to thank Carol Stickland, our secretary and event planner extraordinaire, Stan Muldoon, our Vice President, who chaired all of the planning meetings for today’s event, Simone Latham, our treasurer, and John Sloan, our trail director, for their efforts this year, not only to make this event a success, but also to bring some of our procedures and practices up to date. My thanks also to Barb Rimmer, Irene Bell and Marion Brophy who assisted us on the Anniversary Planning Committee.
    I also would like to thank Tom Friesen, as of this morning, past president of Hike Ontario, as well as David Rosenblun Bourdieu, Hike Ontario office manager, for their assistance in organizing this summit.

Ganaraska End to End in 56 consecutive days: a first!

We recently received the attached testimonial of Tyler Gibson’s End to End hike of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail, in 56 consecutive days, this past summer… And we all know how hot it was.

As far as we know, this is a first ! We are not aware of anyone else having completed the hike in consecutive days. Very well done, Tyler!


‘s GHT Letter – Sept 24 ’18 (1)

50th Anniversary Summit… a few photos of a very successful event.

Walking towards Scout Valley where we met the Orillia hikers who carried the water. From left to right: Barb Rimmer, Frieda Baldwin and Irene Bell
Past President and Past Wilderness President David Francis, with current Wilderness predident Glynn Richardson
Orillia club water carriers: Vern, Paul McCreath and Wendy Kirk
Hike Ontario past president, Tom Friesen
Smudging ceremony
Getting ready for the indigenous smudging and water ceremony
Midland club president Marc Vallee and his wife Janet (in orange)
Lakehead University lobby
Hikers going to meet the Water Carriers of the Orillia club
Indigenous Water Ceremony and blessings
80+ participants at the Water Ceremony
From left to right: Recognition of longest serving club president Marc Vallee of the Midland Club, followed by Past Presidents Paul McCreath, Past President David Francis, Rob Butler standing in for Peter Verbeek, our long term Trail Director, Past President Mike Pidwerbecki and Past President Bob Bowles. Thank you all!
Current Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association president, Frieda Baldwin

Orillia Club now has the relay water bottles

On a beautiful Sunday the Barrie Club handed over the water from Georgian Bay to the Orillia Club.  

Marion Brophy, Past President of the Orillia Club, carries the relay water bottle during a Wednesday evening hike.  Hikers paused in front of Lake Couchiching where the Ganaraska Trail heads east from the waterfront trail.  Nearing the final destination at the 50th Anniversary celebrations at Lakehead University on Sept. 29!

2018.09.18 – Controlled burn behind Simcoe County Museum on Wednesday, September 19

We have just received confirmation that Simcoe County Forestry plans to conduct a controlled burn on Wednesday, September 19 behind the Simcoe County Museum. The Barrie trail is not affected but it runs right adjacent to the burn area so we should consider this to be a ‘no hiking zone’ for the next few days. There will be a second day of burning at a date to-be-determined. FINAL – Museum Controlled Burn Area Map

Ganaraska End to End Challenge, Margaret O’Dell


The idea of hiking the Ganaraska Hiking Trail came on the heels of completing the 900Km Bruce Trail in September 2017. What were we going to do next? My long time friend and hiking partner Wendy Manning and I were enthusiastic to begin a new challenge together and made a plan during the winter of 2017/18 to hike one one of the most popular trails in England, the Coast to Coast Path, a 305Km epic adventure which we would complete in 12 days in May 2018. The GHT fit right in with our plans, offering a not only new challenge but a commitment to hiking as much as we could ahead of our trip. Being that it was also the 50th anniversary of the GHTA, it also made for a significant achievement to undertake.

With member, guidebook, and maps in hand, we exuberantly began in Port Hope on March 3, 2018. Pine Ridge was interesting with it’s rolling hills and unique landmarks; the rail trail through Kawartha took us through the towns of Lindsay and Fenelon Falls, along its scenic lakes and streams,  very picturesque, but the cool north wind chill and wintery conditions well into April made for challenging hikes. We ran into some trouble in the final section of Kawartha though, painstakingly trudging through very deep snow and had to bushwhack around impassable water crossings in the north end of Corben Lake to get back to the trail; one of many exhausting hikes!

Ahead of our trip to England in May we successfully completed 198Km of the trail, including two of the three hikes in the Wilderness section, but due to the water levels, the crossover would have to wait until we returned.

We planned to hike the Wilderness crossover in one day. There was little support for this giving the distance, and most people would backpack over a few days. Yet we were determined. We cancelled twice due to conditions, but finally got the opportunity on June 23rd. The beaver dams were all passable, as water levels had dropped, but blazes were almost impossible to spot in places, completed shrouded in growth; as was the trail, overgrown with ferns above our heads and thorny shrubs that left our legs shredded and bloodied. The going was slow, stopping often to consult the maps; each time I removed my head netting, the insects would attack with a vengeance. It took 13.5 hours to hike from Devil’s Lake to Victoria Bridge. Our nerves were rattled, and our minds to the point of breaking, but we did it! We got through the most difficult hike ever!

By mid July we were back on the trail again, having a renewed interest in continuing now that the worse was over, or so we thought. We took advantage of the two hike weekends by camping: Bass Lake PP,  for the Orillia section, Awenda for the Oro-Medonte/Midland/Tiny sections. Over Labour Day weekend we took a cottage for the Wasaga section. We still had the insects to contend with, but we also started notice an abundant varieties of interesting mushrooms in the Simcoe Country Forest Tracts. In mid-August we coined our hike of the Tiny section a “Hike with Monarchs”, such a joy to have them fluttering everywhere around us!

Every hike had its challenges: a lot of bushwhacking in very rough terrain and high grasses; heat and humidity that zapped our energy; navigating around countless fallen trees; and of course finding blazes to keep us on course. But with every challenge there were numerous surprises too, always an element of discovery: interesting landmarks, historical areas, beautiful scenery, and quaint communities.

Our final weekend of the GHT on September 8 and 9 proved no less of a challenge. We had 57.3Km to cover to get to the Western Cairn. The last section of Barrie had us crossing a vast section of high grasses for over a kilometer with very difficult to spot blazes. We eventually reached the forest, and to our excitement we finally find our very first Giant Puffball mushroom. The reward was a total thrill. The Mad River section followed a disused rail bed for 10K to New Lowell, interesting at first as it crossed both the Nottawasaga and the Mad Rivers. But it was so overgrown and challenging, we had to continually divert to road to get through it. But then at the end, we discovered a beautiful little trailer park (with facilities!) in New Lowell that brightened our spirits.

On the final day we ambled through the very scenic town of Creemore, stopping at a café, visiting Canada’s smallest Jail, and admiring a beautiful church; delightful! We knew the challenge was not over. After climbing the 400m Ten Hill with its spectacular views, we descended to an un-blazed field on Concession 6 S. We had to find our way to a tree-line, crossing a creek hidden by the high grasses; it was tasking and slow but we eventually found a place to cross the creek and head to the trees, fallen trees, everywhere. The challenges just kept coming. We did manage to find the blazes and continued through the forest. We would lose the trail once more in this final 5K stretch, but we found our way to Glen Huron, with only the victory climb up McKinney’s Hill to the Western Cairn. We made it! We popped open the champagne, sat on the Cairn and celebrated! We fought this challenge with courage and zest right to the end. There’s no reward better the feeling of accomplishment that comes with having worked through some really tough challenges.

507Km, 18 hikes! An extraordinary journey!

Barrie Section Reroute (GHTA Guidebook Maps 21 & 22)

Ref: GHTA Guidebook Maps 21 and 22 – When exiting Springwater Provincial Park onto Wilson Road the trail now goes south on Wilson Drive to Seadon Road and then west on Seadon Road until picking the existing trail where it is already on Seadon Road.

This reroute is because of the housing and road development work going on between the end of George Parkway and Seadon Road. Almost all of the trail in this area as shown on the existing maps has disappeared.

The long term plan is to find an alternative that gets the trail off the roads as much as possible but we will likely need to wait until the development work is done before changing things again.