The last remaining founder of the venerable Bruce Trail was on hand Monday morning, May 15, as the ceremonial baton celebrating its 50th anniversary was handed to members of the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club at Blantyre.
The baton has been carried the length of the trail from its starting point in Queenston along the Niagara River through to Grey County in the last month. In early June, hikers will have carried it to Tobermory, and the northern cairn marking the end of the path... or its beginning, depending on your perspective.
Marguerite Solomon, 95, along with her children Geoff and Kate, made a point of being at the hand-off to mark the occasion.
Marguerite, and particularly her late husband Keith, were founding members of the trail. In particular, Keith embraced the novel concept in 1967. Today, his legacy is honoured with the Keith Solomon award that is given out annually by the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club. One of his hiking boots has been bronzed, and immortalized as a trophy for the club.
While the trail was particularly Keith's passion, Marguerite and her children said they have vivid memories of helping build the trail with Keith in those first few crucial years.
"I'm not sure Mom would have expected to be around to see the 50th anniversary of the trail," Geoff said.
"However I did, and here I am," Marguerite shot back with a smile.
"I'd like to think I helped build the trail," Geoff added with a chuckle.
Jill Smith-Brodie, the president of the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail club, was quite impressed to see Marguerite turn up for the passing of the baton. As far as she is aware, Marguerite is the last founding member of the trail still with us.
Club members carried the baton from Swiss Meadows, where they received it from the Blue Mountains Bruce Trail Club, eight days ago. They've carried it throughout its section of the trail with help from many people, including high school students from Grey Highlands Secondary School.
Smith-Brodie and Frank Schoenhoeffer, the president of the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club, said the 50th anniversary is a great occasion to put the Bruce Trail back into the limelight for a while.
While most people have heard of the trail, many people certainly aren't aware it's 50 years old, nor exactly what Bruce Trail volunteers and staff do, they said.
Smith-Brodie said she believes the average person doesn't know much, if anything, about club members and staff from the Bruce Trail Conservancy efforts to constantly improve the trail, and in particular, all the effort that goes into acquiring property to establish a permanent route. The conservancy doesn't receive any money from the government, she said, and relies on fundraising and donations to finance the purchases.
Schoenhoeffer said the Sydenham club will carry the baton for 13 days. The Sydenham section ranges from Blantyre to Wiarton, the longest along the trail.
"There'll be a party when we hand it off to the peninsula club," he said.
Smith-Brodie said it was a bittersweet moment to relinquish the baton, but was delighted to have had the chance to take part in its transport.
Marguerite Solomon, right, posed with the ceremonial baton marking the 50th anniversary of the Bruce Trail in Blantyre, with Jill Smith-Brodie, centre, the president of the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club, and her children Geoff and Kate. Marguerite is the last surviving founding member of the Bruce Trail Association, now the Bruce Trail Conservancy. T.S. Giilck photo