Reminiscences of the Bruce Trail

Reminiscences of the Bruce Trail
Taken from the Rattler Issue #2 2017

About 1955 when I was living in Toronto working at the CBC and my wife Sheila was working for Simpson’s, an article in the Daily Star caught our attention. It showed a map of a proposed hiking trail that would go across my mother’s property on the Bruce Peninsula both in Amabel and Albemarle Townships.

I discussed this with my mother, Stella Whicher Gatis, who thought it was a nice idea. I knew no one involved in this venture but later, I’m not sure of the date, or why, but I attended a meeting in Edwards Gardens where they had maps showing the proposed hiking route through our family property.

Shortly after this in 1956 we both gave up our jobs in Toronto and moved to my home village of Colpoy’s Bay, where we still live two hundred yards from the house where I was born.

To accurately remember what happened over 55 years ago is a bit of a stretch but I do remember a meeting in Wiarton with Phil Gosling and Ray Lowes and eventually speaking to land owners and getting permission to have the trail cross their property. I helped blaze the route and did some work on the trail between Wiarton and Hope Bay but nothing compared to the work of Duncan Armstrong’s work from Wiarton to Cape Croker; or the Fowlers, who worked on the trail both north and south from Lion’s Head.

I was the 1st President of the Lower Bruce Trail Club and wasn’t one for holding local meetings so a lot of trail building and maintenance was done by groups from out of the area. Some of them would park behind our old general store then camp and work for the weekend. Many of the workers would buy their lunch in the store so my mother kept a booklet for them to sign. I hope I can find it some day.

I think the best part of my association with the Bruce Trail was to keep it on our property from its beginning to the present. It has had several reroutes but never been closed except for one day a year in the early years. There may be a few private land owners with more trail on their property but with the loop trails and the main trail there are over 10 kms on our property that the public has been able to use.

Before the official opening of the Bruce Trail in 1967, the executive decided to have a cairn built in Tobermory at the end of the trail and hired Ivan Lemcke to build it and local artist Ruth Arnsberger was to design it. Grif Ebel of Ebel Quarries donated the emblem insert. Ruth and I drove over to the Lake Huron shore where she picked out the stones. I loaded them onto my truck then later unloaded them at the spot where the cairn was to be built in Tobermory.

A few years ago at a Wiarton Rotary Club party at the Waterview Motel in talking to Ivan Lemcke, we got reminiscing about the trail and the cairn and the stones we had provided. Only then did I learn that most of the stones that Ruth and I had picked had been pitched over the bank into the water, probably by some kids, and Ivan had to go and pick more stones himself.

Check back for the rest of this article and the balance of the Fall 2017 Rattler.