Couple hiking on coast Georgian Bay on the Bruce Trail.

Backpacking Bruce Peninsula on Multi-day Trek

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The Bruce Trail starts at the northernmost tip of the peninsula and runs south to Niagara. There is a 25 kilometer sections of that trail on the peninsula that is the toughest part of the entire 890 kilometer Bruce Trail. Making it the perfect place to train!

Two hikers walking next to lake on the Bruce Trail.
Leanne Richardson and Ryan Richardson hiking along the shores of the Georgian Bay.

Myself, my ultra running hero and all-around badass mom Leanne Richardson, and my partner in crime Hailey Playfair, were all participating in this weekend’s multi-day hiking shenanigans.

We arrived on the Bruce Trail a little later than we intended. Getting out of the city always takes longer than you anticipate. Especially on long weekends. Once we finally arrived at the Bruce Peninsula National Park, we quickly realized the trails were pretty boggy. There had been a lot of rain and flooding in the area. We knew we were in for some slick trails.

The objective.

Two hikers looking at hiking map.
Hailey and Leanne estimating our time until we arrive at our goal of the day.

Because the three of us were planning to use this mini adventure as a trial leading up to our adventure on the East Coast Trail (ECT). We wanted to emulate our experience on the Bruce Trail as closely to the ECT as possible. We packed our bags, layers, nutrition, hydration, as if we were heading out to tackle our future objective.

We’re anticipating to spend 10-12 days on the ECT if everything goes as planned. Time on our feet and packs on our backs were the most important aspect of the training here on the Bruce Trail. You can cross train, run, stair climb, lunge, but at the end of the day, there’s no better way to train than by doing the thing.

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Getting dialled.

Three hikers posing for group photograph with backpacks.
Hailey, Myself, Leanne, left to right. Our bags packed and our shoes tied.

It didn’t take long for our “training” hike on the Bruce Trail to start benefiting us. Living out of a backpack is extremely freeing, but it’s tough at first. You need to workout a system. Create access to items you might need in a moment’s notice like a rain jacket, snacks, salt tablets etc. Taking the time to re-asses how we packed out bags, and then adjust accordingly will put us ahead.

Managing items between more than one person is also a huge advantage. However, it takes some time to gel as group and figure out individual strengths. Having a better idea of those individual strengths now has granted us the opportunity to repack smarter. Considering the entire group as a team rather than individuals.

For example, one person can carry the kitchen such as the stove, the pot etc. While the other person carries bandages and tape and scissors, the other carrying the excessive amount of instant coffee!

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Better now on the Bruce Trail, than later on the ECT.

Two hikers walk along the Bruce Trail on rocks near lake.
Leanne Richardson and Hailey Playfair follow the Bruce Trail before it cuts back into the forrest parallel to the Georgian Bay coastline.

We certainly had some valuable takeaways. After spending just a little bit of time on the Bruce Trail, there’s so many “takeaways”. There’s always a way to improve and evolve as a hiker. The balance of comfort over weight is a constant consideration. Figuring out what luxuries might be worth the precious real-estate in your pack, and others items that might not be.

Warmth is always a big one. Hiking in anywhere in Canada is completely unlike the lower 48 states. The temperatures range so much more. Weather is a constant questions mark almost everywhere, but especially along the north eastern coast where the ECT is. Anticipating that weather, and recognizing what it was even here in Ontario on the Bruce Trail, has made us all a little more weary of our layering systems. Without this trial on the trails, we might have not packed enough insulation for what we’ll likely need on the ECT.

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Improvements after hiking on the Bruce Trail.

Two hikers on the Bruce Trail.

Even after just 2 days of hiking with our “heavy” packs, and walking some really tough terrain, I could personally feel a few areas I’ll want to devote some stretching and rehab to before the ECT. My right IT band has always been a bit of a background issue, however I have been spending so much time recently focusing on it, I’ve neglected by left IT band. Resulting in now having a slightly agitated left IT band. I’ll definitely be spending some time rolling out both of my glutes accordingly!

Another takeaway from our hike on the Bruce Trail was food consumption. I have a pretty insane metabolism on a regular day. On a hiking day, I can’t stop. We’re avoiding having to use a stove for lunch because of the time it takes to unpack, setup, boil water, cook food, and clean your mug. Time would be better spent eating some quick calories, catching our breaths, having a cold instant coffee and hitting the trails again…

The thing is, that means I’ll be absolutely crushing bars. After this weekend, hiking on the Bruce Trail, I’m going to have to budget about six bars between a proper breakfast and our dinner at camp. I definitely would have under packed nutrition if it wasn’t for this mini adventure on the Bruce Trail.

Photos by Hailey Playfair and Ryan Richardson.

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