The Wildwood Lake Round hike began with weather conditions better than had been forecast. The sun was shining on us at 9:00 am Saturday, October 24, as 13 hikers commenced to hike the Blue Trail counterclockwise.
We passed a sign indicating 24 km for the Blue Trail. “Not true,” said our Hike Leader Bruce Graham. “Don’t believe it,” he said. It’s less than 23 km”. Well, that makes things better, I thought. Less is more for me, but I didn’t want to say this out loud. Bruce set a brisk pace. He also kept us in high spirits with his jokes involving hitchhikers and Halloween.
Bruce also informed us that a Tim Hortons franchise had opened on the Blue Trail, but, unfortunately, closed down for the season. Now, that one, I believe. We hiked through tall pines on the southeast side of the conservation area, ascending in elevation, passed a very faded sign welcoming tourists to St. Marys, then descended a trail used by cyclists arriving at Highway 7. We waited as a group, spread out along the road. On Bruce’s signal, we crossed quickly and safely. From my observations, no signs on Highway 7, like Deer Crossing, are in place to alert drivers of a road crossing by hikers. The temperature hovered around 6 degrees Celcius. Continuing through the woods on the trail with the lake visible to our left, Bruce told us particular campsites existed here for overnighters. “The outhouses have heated seats,” he said, “for campers only.” What a luxury, I thought. We did pass two hikers heading in the other direction. “Heading to our campsite,” I overheard one say to Bruce.
After two hours of hiking, we reached a spot by the Wildwood Yacht Club. “This is where, in different times, we stationed a rest stop with hot drinks and snacks on the Wildwood Challenge.” As we crested a hill, there on the loop at Road 17 sat a white camper van, replete with table and chairs, hot chocolate and freshly baked gingerbread and fruits, courtesy of our hiking hostess, Cindy Kimber. An unexpected and greatly appreciated surprise. After a brief rest break, like a Sargent Major, Bruce led us off to keep on schedule. We intended to finish the hike in under 6 hours, including a lunch break on the shores of Wildwood Lake.
The trail led northeast, following the contours of the lake. More cyclists appeared, and we gave way. Still, no rain, so we felt lucky. Late October weather usually includes downpours on the trail, rendering sections on the course very muddy for hikers. By 1 pm, we reached Line 29, marking the end of our trek on the south side of the lake. We headed north slightly, then turned in at a spot to gain access to the lakeshore—our lunch break location. “A little over 8 km left to complete the hike”, Bruce announced. We rested, ate our lunch snacks brought by each hiker. A thermos of hot soup for me hit the spot. Still no stiffness in my legs, I thought. And, no rain showers, so we remained dry though chilled by the air.
With lunch break done, we crossed over the lake bridge on Line 29, passed sport anglers on the bridge and crossed into the Blue Trail’s northern section. We now commenced the trek west back to our starting point. I want to say that it was all downhill from here, but that would contradict the geography of our path. And our course, in many places, was muddy. Our pace, at least mine, was no longer brisk. But, it was not raining, so count your blessings, I thought. Colours of green, red and yellow filled our views as we passed through the hardwood trees. We passed by an old quarry, now part of the conservation area. More elevation on the northside made the hiking challenging, at least for me. But it was the muddy conditions along sections that slowed us down. A few more rest breaks along the way, and then, before I knew it, we reached the higher ground with the permanent camper van section of Wildwood. All closed for the season by this time. By 3:05 pm, we all were back at our starting point, by our cars near the Kiosk. The Wildwood Round hike ended as it began, without rain. Oh, lucky us.