Our first attempt at hiking the Bruce Trail finds Schwab and me overly stoned on the sun-hot beach at Cyprus Lake, smoking thick joints and laughing under the whispering trees while the lake is covered with wind-swept ripples.
We don't move for hours. Total distance from our campsite: 0.1 kilometres. Total kilometres short of our destination: 24.9.
The next day we get an early start. We want to hike the final shoreline section of the trail between Bruce Peninsula National Park and the ferry town of Tobermory, just a quick four-hour drive from Toronto.
We set off with our boots laced tight and a backpack stuffed with water bottles and lunch, and we make an earnest vow not to smoke weed until we finish our hike.
After a quick two klicks through the wet woods behind our campsite, we find ourselves hobbling over white-washed bowling-ball rocks, then jumping boulder to boulder along the still-calm shore as the sun peeks above the horizon and the brilliant blue waters of Georgian Bay stretch forever to our right.
We walk north over stone beaches, then into the close, wet forest over humps and hummocks of volcanic rock, climbing narrow trails to high cliffs above the bay. It's world-class hiking and world-class scenery, and we ponder the jump from 100-foot cliffs into the cold May water below.
We peer over overhanging rocks and into pirate-like caves, the water lapping lightly at the rough stones, the normally windy bay a solid sheet of frosted blue glass. This last section of the Bruce Trail twists and turns in and out of the forest, up and down over chalky Niagara Escarpment cliffs, through swampy sections and sandy regions, and occasionally juts inland to manoeuvre around yawning bays.
It's rough and rugged hiking that requires the best of our lungs and our legs, but just when we need a rest or a swig from our water bottles the trail turns to reveal a lavish vista across the Bay. Turkey vultures soar above us in sweeping circles, looking to pick our eyes out if we should fail, but we ignore them and have lunch - cukes and cream cheese in a pita - on a precipitous rock next to a twisted birch. Then, when we find a flat rock close to shore, we dive buck naked into the icy cold, letting out a walloping screech. There's significant shrinkage.
After a long hike inland, the shoreline disappearing from view, we're spat out of the woods onto a calm residential street in the late afternoon, our heels swollen and our calf muscles in knots from the up-and-down pounding.
We take a right past the post office, pick up a King Can at the LCBO and walk across the street to the cairn marking the end of our hike. We sit beside the sign posted above the marina since the trail officially opened in 1967 and reflect on our admirable day-long walk, but think ourselves wimps compared to the real hikers who finish here after traipsing the whole 800 Ks from Queenston.
Schwab and I eat greasy burgers on the patio of the Crow's Nest Restaurant. Then we begin the hitchhike down Highway 6 back to the park. After a hot and tired stone-kicking walk, our necks whiplashed in hopes a speeding car will slow and pull over, we ride in the back of a green pickup truck driven by a jean-jacketed First Nations guy, with the sun poised above the rough pines and the cool wind washing the sweat from our faces.
We hop off the truck, giving a thank-you slap to the rusty tailgate, then stroll down a maple-canopied laneway to our campsite as we smoke a victory jib.
We've earned it.