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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Welland Canal and Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel

In a follow up to January's hike along the ruins of the Third Welland Canal, I set out for the very same destination with an eye towards hiking beyond the underwater remains of St Peter's Cemetery and across to the Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel (more commonly known as the Blue Ghost Tunnel). For a while, it seemed as if the hike were not to be, as developments conspired against me. The service road I've always used is now fenced and gated, and the back road I used last time is so snow-covered, there was no safe place to park.

Not to be deterred, I parked in the old section Lakeview Cemetery and started hiking. As you can see, despite my hopes that the snow and the ice might have left enough space to safely cross the canal basin, there was a fast-rushing river of snow-melt with thick, snowy banks that just didn't look safe to cross.


No problem. I figured I would just hike up and around the edge of the basin, as I've done so many times in the past, climb down the embankment, and cross above the control gates. Well, there I was deterred again, as they've fenced the end of that walkway, meaning even if I had risked the steep, slippery slope, it would have been just to come up against another barrier.


Still undeterred, I decided to head up anyway and hike my way along the further sections of the Third Welland Canal. There was no guarantee that I'd be able to make my way across and double back to the Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel, but there are plenty of ruins to make the hike itself worth it, regardless of whether I ever reached my destination.


After a good hour of hiking, I finally made my way to the old swing bridge. While still in use, there's no need for it to swing anymore, although the elaborate gears and framework make for some interesting viewing.




Heading across the bridge, you can look out to the side and imagine the old boats coming down the canal, through the wooden gates (now broken and submerged), and past the bridge as it swings out of the way.


Once safely on the other side, I clambered down the embankment, across the service road, and into the woods on the far side. Apparently, the gated service road has done its job, as I only passed one other hiker, and none of the tracks leading down to the tunnel looked fresh. It's covered in graffiti, bricked up, and broken into, but the tunnel is still an imposing sight.


For safety reasons, I didn't venture too deep into the tunnel this time around. It takes a sharp bend after that first 100 feet, and continues on in total darkness before rounding another sharp bend, heading into the final 100 feet at the other end. With the head-bashing wooden supports installed along the way, and the cave-like stalactites of ice that all-but block the tunnel in places, heading too far without a good flashlight and a fellow hiker to help navigate isn't the best idea.


Once done with the tunnel, I hike back up to the basin, coming at the control gates from the other side. The walkway may be fenced and gated at the far end, but it's a great place to take in the full panoramic beauty of the canal. For what it's worth, I did climb down with an eye towards maybe crossing that river, but I made it halfway across before the mud, the snow, and the ice all convinced me it was a foolish idea.



So, it was a long hike back the way I came, with a few last glimpses of the old canal to be seen.


Round trip, it was a 2-hour, 5 mile hike that felt at least twice as long with the deep snow and slippery embankment. :)

1 comment:

  1. looks wonderfully deserted! And dangerous too, especially with the snow and ice! Love the last picture

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