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Exploring the Bruce – Part 2

Last weekend, our family took part in the Explore the Bruce Adventure Passport. Read Part 1 of our Explore the Bruce Adventure here.

On Sunday, the day after the big launch party in Underwood, we were on our own to collect some punches on our 2013 Adventure Passport. Since we live in the most southern part of Bruce County, it meant a couple hours in the car each way as we were heading to the beautiful Bruce Peninsula, so we decided to do our 2 1/2-year-old Jace a favour and leave her at home with Grandma and Grandpa. She was still a bit tired from Saturday’s adventure, and I think she was happy to have her grandparents to herself, without big sister hogging the attention!

So it was just the three of us on Sunday, and our first stop was Fisherman’s Cove in Huron-Kinloss Township, our stomping grounds. Through the generosity of a family here in Ripley, we’ve been lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks over the past two summers at this wonderful destination that features a great sand beach, big water climbers, fishing, boating, canoeing, paddle boarding, playgrounds, two indoor pools, arts and crafts and so much more.

Everybody smiles at Fisherman’s Cove!

Sunday was one of the most beautiful days we’ve had this year, and when we arrived, Layne, 5, immediately took off for the water. Although she didn’t take off her shoes, she found a lilypad within reach and started splashing around with it, before spotting small fish lounging in the shallow waters of the shore.

Since we had a long drive ahead of us, and because we’re 10 minutes away from The Cove and can buy a day pass any time and plan to spend another week there this summer, we jumped into the vehicle and headed for Wiarton, about 1 1/2 hours away.

After spending the majority of our time on Saturday on Hwys. 9 and 21 – where I know each hill, curve and bump before it comes – I was looking forward to a backroads trip from Kinloss to Wiarton. We started on County Rd. 1 to Paisley, where we stopped for a free-trade coffee and organic cookie at the wonderful Back Eddie’s in the downtown core. From there, we spent time checking out farmers’ fields along County Rd. 40 north to the Grey-Bruce Line, which led us west to Wiarton, turning into County Rd. 6 somewhere along the way. The ability to get off the beaten path and make a conscious effort to enjoy the beautiful drive is just another bonus to the Explore the Bruce Adventure Passport.

Other than a rest stop, I have been to Wiarton exactly once  – when Grey-Bruce Kids sponsored Kids’ Day at the Wiarton Willie Festival in 2012. Although it was beautiful in the winter, their lakefront is absolutely gorgeous at this time of year. We arrived at the home of Wiarton Willie at the waterfront, collected a punch on our Passport for the Willie Walk bonus tour, and then made our way towards the water after Layne spied the shallow waters of Georgian Bay.

This time the shoes didn’t stay on.

Since kids don’t seem to feel the cold – and we’re talking Georgain-Bay-in-June cold – she was immediately halfway up to her knees and making her way towards a small piece of sand that juts out into the water, smiling the whole way. Of course, within minutes, my flip-flops were off and I was being dragged into the water too, while Amy somehow avoided the numb legs and lounged on a piece of sand.

Eventually, I managed to talk Layne out of the Bay so I could return the feeling to my lower legs, and we headed for the great playground that sits at the edge of the waterfront trail. After a play, we decided to walk to the trail down to the marina in search of some lunch, and came upon an actual outdoor gym! By using the dozen or so pieces of specialized outdoor equipment and your own body weight, you can put in a workout on Wiarton’s beautiful waterfront while being motivated by the gorgeous view.

This outdoor gym was yet another hidden gem I, in no way, would have discovered without taking the challenge to explore the Bruce. We also would have missed it had we loaded into the car and driven to the marina like we had originally considered, which is another example of how walking a town always eclipses driving from A to B.

After a walk downtown and a great lunch at the Green Door Cafe, it was off to the Bruce Trail for a short hike to some spectacular views of Colpoy’s Bay and another punch on our Passports. Layne has never really hiked a forest before, so she was a bit hesitant about her surroundings, but within minutes was running ahead, pointing out big rocks – “That one’s the size of a wooly mammoth!” – and guessing that everything that wasn’t a tree was poison ivy. We eventually got to a fork in the trail that sent us along the cliff’s face, and soon we came upon our first outlook and my heart stopped.

Due to a recent lack of adventure travel, I had forgotten how much I hate heights.

Usually, I’d just step a few feet onto the lookout snap a photo or two and make sure I was nowhere near the edge, but this time I was with an excited almost-six-year-old who probably didn’t understand the seriousness of my warnings about the need to avoid falling over the frickin’ edge(!), and she certainly doesn’t like being told what to do or having her hand held, so she didn’t appreciate my tone.

Putting my illogical phobias on my daughter is a blog post better left for another time, and I’ll leave it there. So, we finished our trek on the Trail with only smiles and the following awe-inspiring sight (which I took well back from the abyss at the end of the cliff!) as incidents to remember.

Gorgeous view of Colpoy’s Bay from the Bruce Trail, a few minutes north of Wiarton.

After some good exercise, we were off to downtown Lion’s Head with mostly ice cream on the mind of at least one passenger. First, we visited its beautiful beach for the first time (it is really, really great there folks – even for warm-blooded Lake Huron swimmers like me!) and then we went searching for the clue located in the downtown core, just a couple blocks from the beach. We found the Lion statue but couldn’t find the punch for our Passport. Not thinking to actually read the Explore the Bruce sign, we shrugged our shoulders, blamed some local hooligans (teenagers these days! – that’s sarcasm, in case you don’t know me), and gave into our desires for ice cream.

Of course, on Tuesday, we found out this is a planned ‘Detour’ and, had we read the sign, we would have had the opportunity to visit the Lions’ Head marina as well. Don’t make the same mistake we did and read your Passport and the local signage, and take full advantage of this wonderful stop on the Adventure.

By now, we were two hours from home and mostly wiped. We had planned to stop at Black Creek Provincial Park, but at this point of the day we knew we’d simply be punching our Passports and hitting the road, and by now we knew this wasn’t the point of the Explore the Bruce experience, so we’ll try to get back there later this summer/fall or just put it on the list of local places we need to visit some day.

So that was our whirlwind Explore the Bruce Adventure! We drove exactly 500 km in two days, saw many great sights, discovered new-to-us hidden gems, and gained a further appreciation of the beauty of Bruce County.

And we decided we aren’t through with our Adventure either, as there are many more holes to be punched and towns to explore, and I hope your family finds time to discover all the great places – big and small – in The Bruce this year.

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