Getting outside in any season comes with lots of rewards but spring offers a special kind of magic. In the spring, the forest looks like a giant colouring book and every day nature fills it in with more colours. Sure spring adventures can be a messy affair, quite literally. But if you focus too much on the mud under your feet, you risk missing the fascinating transformation happening around. And as we return to the woods every Saturday, I savour the colours splattered around where nothing but grey contours were seen the week before. All to the glorious bird song reverberating through the trees.
The first two Saturdays in April offered many opportunities to relish nature’s rebirth as we headed out to explore the Iroquoia section of Bruce Trail in the Hamilton area. Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath stretching all the way from Niagara to the tip of Bruce Peninsula. The Iroquoia section of the trail hugs the ancient Lake Iroquoia and forms a horseshoe around the western part of modern Lake Ontario. A big chunk of it runs through the City of Hamilton and is famous for its waterfalls making Hamilton the waterfall capital of the world. And there is no better time to chase waterfalls than in the spring.
On both weekends, we started our adventure at Devil’s Punch Bowl Falls or at the Punch Bowl Bakery to be exact. Once we stocked up on pies, quiches, butter tarts and cookies, we were ready for a hike.
Devil’s Punch Bowl Falls is a narrow ribbon of water tumbling 37 metres down against a curved backdrop with different coloured rock layers of the Escarpment on display. The falls are often reduced to a trickle or even dry up. We were lucky, though. After the snow melt and rainfall, the stream was full and powerful.
The falls are located in the Devil’s Punch Bowl Conservation Area, which also features the Lower Falls so you get two for the price of one, so to say. That’s just a figure of speech because there is no cost to access the conservation area and the parking is free too.
The viewing platform at the conservation area provides beautiful views of Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour as well as a view down a seemingly bottomless gorge.
The conservation area also offers access to the Bruce Trail. There is a short, zig-zaggy connecting path, which we didn’t discover until our second visit to the falls. On our first trip, my son and I followed the crowds and scrambled down a muddy, litter-strewn hill right by the viewing platform.
Before hitting the Bruce Trail though, we hiked along the river to the Lower Falls and then as close as we could get to the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Which wasn’t as close as I wanted to be and required some climbing but was still fun.
We then headed west along the Bruce Trail towards Felker’s Falls. The trail passed through the woods for most of the time and if it wasn’t for occasional backyards and railway tracks along the way, it would have been hard to believe we were in the middle of a busy metropolitan area.
There were a few climbs so we got a good workout. We also passed a couple of smaller streams and cascades.
We collected a few geocahes along the way. But the most exciting thing was looking for signs of spring scattered around the forest.
After about two hours we reached Felker’s Falls. At 22 metres, Felker’s Falls aren’t as high as Devil’s Punch Bowl Falls, but they are wider and have two layers making it a very beautiful sight.
The view is much better on the eastern side of the falls, probably because there are no railings, which also makes that side more dangerous.
After having a snack, we headed back to the Devil’s Punch Bowl Conservation Area. That’s one thing about section hikes: you always have to do the same parts of the trail twice, which is a great opportunity to see things you missed the first time around or look for a geocache, which you couldn’t find on the way there.
On the second weekend, we brought some reinforcements with us. My husband managed to carve some time out of his busy schedule of marking papers and writing tests. Some friends looking to stretch their legs joined us as well.
This time we took the designated trail, which you should always do, and followed the Bruce Trail in the other direction towards Niagara.
The trail seemed a bit muddier than the week before but that offered lots of opportunities to practice our balancing skills walking on logs and fallen trees.
Spring had made some significant inroads in just one week. There was certainly more green splashed around. Some parts of the forest floor were carpeted with blue ephemerals known as Siberian squill or wood squill. I even found one periwinkle flower.
We also spotted our first butterflies of the season and not one but two garter snakes.
What a delightful start of the spring microadventure season!