November 6 2016
Today marks my completion of the last hike on the Algonquin Park highway 60 corridor. I’ve now hiked all the day hikes and a portion of both of the backpacking trails.
Booth’s Rock Trail had been recommended to me by a few people, but because it’s one of the farthest, both down the corridor and off the highway, I hadn’t had an opportunity until now. This time last year I was racing through the hikes, trying to complete as many as possible before the winter rushed in. As a result, many of the trail features are blurred together and some of them didn’t leave me with a sense of uniqueness because I didn’t take my time and get to know the trails.
Today was a beautiful day, bright blue skies and warm enough weather that I was able to get out my pen and paper and jot down a few things. Last night was daylight saving, so I started out on the road with a good night’s sleep, something I’ve been struggling with for a couple months. The trail is almost ten kilometres off highway 60 over a washboard-heavy dirt road. When I pulled in, I was surprised to see several cars parked at the trailhead. Many of the other trailhead parking lots had been occupied, but I’d figured that’s because they were so accessible. I’d been thinking I’d have this trail to myself!
After making sure my little pack had everything I need, and a quick pee, I got on the trail. It begins fairly wide and well-maintained, and you skirt a lake for a while. The leaves had escaped the trees and littered the trail, covering the ground with a crunchy golden blanket. Although it was technically very early afternoon, the sun already hung low, gifting me with beautiful glowing trees and amazing photo opportunities. The trail is mostly pine with some smaller deciduous trees. Most sections were sparse and you could see through the trees into the forest for some time. It reminded me of Achray, where pines dominated, giving a very different feel than the fuller, shorter trees toward the Western end of Algonquin that tend to obscure your view.
Roots and rocks are familiar terrain, and I really take my time, connecting with the trees and witnessing the forest in her still acceptance. I picked up a crooked, fallen branch and imbued it with thoughts. I wanted to let go of a few things. Of the guilt I feel in many of my relationships, and of the loneliness that comes when I feel left out or left behind. I thought I would take this stick home with me, but as I walked, a hemlock branch grabbed at my sleeve and the stick in my hand, so I took this as a message to let it go. I placed the stick against the trunk of the hemlock and left my fears there in the forest.
Shortly after, I came out on the first lookout. Suddenly you’re deposited before the entire park, looking out endlessly. I loved the little groves of tamaracks newly golden, and the river that snaked alongside an expansive lake. I chose this spot to eat my lunch and have some water, and I also decided to burn sage, set out some stones, and draw from my new oracle deck. I am always searching for clarity, for signs, so I decided to ask something for myself, and something for my writing project.
As I sat there, I saw the only two people I would see on the trail. They stood at the lookout for some time before moving on. I always call out as soon as I can tell I’m in someone’s sightline because I don’t want them to think I’m trying to scare them, and I also want them to know I saw them. They didn’t say much to me, but the man looked at my little set-up for some time before they moved on.
I waited for them to get quite ahead of me and thought about my writing project. I’d decided to abandon the first section of my National Novel Writing Month project the previous day, and I’d been hoping for some guidance on what to work on instead. I received the message that I wasn’t to work on the creative project I’d thought I might start, but instead to attempt to write 50 000 words of travelogue, detailing the adventures I’d had this summer. That was surprising to me but the more I thought about it, the more excited I became, so I knew it was the right decision.
Like on the trail Centennial Ridges, on this trail you come out to a lookout, then duck back into the woods and come out again to an even better view, multiple times. I saw the rock the trail is named after (I have to assume, the park puts away the trail guides in the fall) and I sat right up to the edge with my feet dangling. I love that feeling you get in your legs, that cold tightness when you pretend you’re going to jump off the edge. It’s like you think it really hard but stop just short of actually instructing your body to move, and you get that rush. I did that a few times before I started to get a little concerned my body would get a mind of its own and send me flying.
This trail is truly lovely and offers so many features. I think this section may hold one of the best if not the best lookout in the park. I cannot imagine how stunning it must have been a few weeks earlier when the colours were in full change. As it was, the forest before me offered that ghostly transparency of the naked deciduous trees, which is sublime in its own way.
Leaving the peak there is a series of stairs. Personally I am very anti-stairs on trails. They throw me out of my natural rhythm. I am so much more likely to stumble on stairs than even the steepest natural pitch. If they serve to protect the ecosystem that is different, but usually it’s just because tourists don’t like doing switchbacks for steep sections.
I felt like I was buzzing with love from the forest as I continued on. There were some seriously mucky sections but nothing that could stop me! A section seemed to be an old access or logging trail because it was flat and quite wide. I enjoyed not having to watch my feet for a bit, and then the trail brought me to another lake.
This one I could access so I hopped off the trail and made my way to a little rocky peninsula. I walked down to the last one, took off my pack, and lay down. I listened to the softly sweeping waves and put one hand in the chilly water, feeling connected to many different manifestations of nature.
After some time, I got back on the trail. I’m so glad I allowed myself to really immerse myself in this hike. Rushing through them, though I certainly cover more distance, I just don’t connect and look inward the way I do when I give myself more time and more permission.
Permission to lovingly caress and embrace the trees I feel speak to me. Permission to lay my hands on the branch of one and allow her to imbue me with her natural wisdoms. As I did that, I felt loved, loving, sad, accepting, and connected, all at once. Trees have endless wisdoms to offer, they have ways of showing us how to live and love that looks different from what human society thinks is normal. The way many people live is not normal. We are not endless machines of consumption. We co-exist with these animals and these trees and they are here as lessons maybe, but not because they belong to us or owe us…
The other conclusion I came to on this trail was that it’s time to return to a vegan way of eating. I have a lot of reasons for and thoughts on this matter, but I don’t think I’d like to write about it right now. My intention is simply to live as harmlessly as is reasonable, and I don’t believe I’d been doing that.
The trail on the way out is wide and flat, and you cross a beaver dam. I think I heard beavers chewing on something, there was a strange noise that I couldn’t discern from the pond.
Booth’s Rock is a profoundly beautiful trail with a wide variety of terrain and many breath-stealing sites. I believe it’s my new favourite, possibly because it doesn’t requite the commitment that my previous favourite, the 10k Centennial Ridges, does. In terms of remoteness, this is the most distant trail on the highway corridor, and you do sense that while hiking. There is only one steep section that doesn’t drag on at all, and the view you come out to helps you forget any unpleasant exertion.
I am so grateful I was able to visit this trail today. I could not have asked for better weather, better timing, or a better state of mind to be so open to the gifts of this trail.
You can view the rest of my photos here.