I still haven't figured out why I enjoy hiking so much, but whatever it is, hiking in winter has to be one of my favorite ways to spend time outdoors. The cold,
wind and rain may conspire to chill your body and foul your mood, but as you hike along inside your recycled "pop-bottle" environment, you generate enough
comfort to provide a delicious contrast. You're out in the elements, very aware of the limits imposed by your body, yet willing to test those limits in settings that
can be beautiful and dangerous at the same time. It's an all-together pleasant experience.
Gonzo hiking has definitely moved past the "splinter group" phase and is now a big part of what holds us together. The "Moon Hikes" have proven very popular.
Combined with the multiple weekend hikes, the winter hike and the long fall hike, there are now precious few weekends free for those of us who still have to
work for a living.
Gonzo running has its 12th annual and 13th annual races. Gonzo biking has its 6th annual tour and 4th annual Good Friday, etc. Gonzo hiking is doing a lot of 1st
annuals, and this hike is no different. Many of the hikes that we have done in the past year or so will likely be repeated, so that we will have the 2nd Annual
Boxing Day hike and so on. As well, we tend to name some of these events related to those who show up (The Dobson 5, the Newfie 6 pack). So, unofficially,
this year's hike had the Munro Quartet. (Gordon, the Bruce's and Norm). I say unofficially, since the hike itself was very pleasant and usually the name is
peculiar to the survivors of a particularly arduous event. As they are saying in American politics these days, "the situation is very fluid".
While most people don't have pets that can cycle a bike, many have dogs that can run or hike with the best of us. Gonzo dogs have shown up at a lot of the hikes
and this one had an old pro (Chelsea) and an up and comer (C.S. Lewis). Chelsea is famous for her dogged determination to stay one foot back, one foot over,
just behind Gordon's right foot. She is also one tough and brave dog, who will follow Gordon anywhere (something that can't be said for the rest of us).
The infamous C.S. Lewis has shown some "star quality" in his initial forays. Assuming that his "cliff-diving" exploits were just a product of youthful exuberance,
we can look forward to seeing him on many future hikes. C.S. is a "lead dog". Regardless of where Bruce D is in the pack, he stays ahead of everyone else. As
the hike wears on, he may slide back to just on the lead hiker's left foot. Notice that I say "on", not "behind". That way, technically, C.S. is still in the lead, as he
is semi-attached to your foot.
To say that dogs enjoy hikes is an understatement. They look ecstatic, running free, chasing anything, sticking their noses into everything, peeing on various and
sundry landmarks. They smell, see and hear a lot better than we do seem to very happy doing so. Maybe that's a clue as to why we enjoy the freedom of being
outdoors, smelling the forest and the sea, spotting a particular bird, or a seal or the tracks of a wild animal, hearing the sounds of wildlife that doesn't depend on
electricity and doesn't get to go "home" when it's too cold and rainy.
The actual hike was based just past Spry Harbour in Taylor Head Provincial Park. Because of the time of the year, we had to hike in from the #7, which added
about 2 hours to the hike, but fit our timeframe very well. As is usual in any Gonzo event, it takes some give and take with all involved to be able to get a group
of adults away from their daily responsibilities long enough to get some sort of group activity accomplished. In this case, we had to be back in town by 2:45 PM.
This helps set the start time and explains where the concept "Gonzo start" came from. I figure we should have bought shares in Timmie's about 5 years ago, or
should open our own.
The day started with a light wind and overcast skies, but the mild temperature and a light dusting of snow that could only be seen once we got away from the city
assured us ideal conditions for this hike along the ocean, starting with the backside of Spry Bay Trail and continuing on around the full Headland Trail to Taylor
Head. The footing was slippery the entire time, both in the woods and along the open beaches. We stopped a few times for pictures along the coast, and had to
watch out for ice and waves. The wind was up out of the southeast, but we were in woods just enough to cut down the wind yet not cut off a view of the ocean.
There was some great wave action going on that likely won't show up well in the pictures. The waves are fun to watch, breaking over large rock out-croppings
and banging up against a shoreline that nature hasn't pounded into a nice sandy beach as yet. The sound of the heavy surf trying to drag small boulders and
stones (cobble shore) back into the sea is one of my favourite memories from spending many full summers camping near beaches as a kid.
Once walking, the temperature was perfect. We saw some large (Black Guillemots??) in the water and some black-feathered, red-chested (???) in the trees and
some fairly small animal tracks that we haven't identified yet. C.S. Lewis was extremely active. Dogs don't seem to have any sense of time. They live every
minute in the woods like it might be their last one. Taylor Head itself is a barren with a very small footpath cut along the edge of the rocks, or just inside the
mossy, lichen land growth. Standing out on a bluff, wind in my face, big ocean in front of me, I felt like I should be wearing a kilt. Don't know how the black
hiking tights would go under a kilt, but maybe it's time I found out.
We stopped for a nice break once the trail cut back in the woods for a bit and took a picture of the crew sitting about in the snow not unlike one from the
Moosilac hike, one of my favourite photos. The walk back to the car was a little brisk, as was the drive back. The timing was perfect, as was the day.