The quest for the dream began with a handshake.

The dream was to link the two magnificent waterfalls of Hoggs and Eugenia and take the Bruce Trail over an optimum route identified in 1967 on the Niagara Escarpment, above the Beaver Valley.

For more than a decade, Bruce Trail members Chuck Grant and Eric Kiertinge had spent countless hours poring over maps trying to work out how the dream could be realized.

Finally, four years ago, a plan based on their efforts came together and a group of volunteers knocked on the door of a private landowner and asked permission for a section of the trail, near Flesherton, southwest of Collingwood, to cross the landowner's property.

The landowner agreed and the first handshake took place to cement the agreement and 14 different handshakes later, the Falling Water Trail has opened, just in time for the fall hiking season, when the Beaver Valley takes on a splendid mantle of fall colours.

Including loops and side trails, the Falling Water Trail stretches for 31 kilometres and offers dozens of vantage points to view the brilliant red and gold hues of the valley below.

At almost any point on the trail, the sound of rushing water can be heard.

There's the thunderous boom of the waterfall at Hoggs Falls near Flesherton and at Eugenia Falls and the pounding of the falls as it drops 30 metres.

Along the rest of the routes there's the babbling of gentle brooks and at least five more waterfalls with sounds ranging from a roar to a tinkle.

It's no wonder that this trail has received rave reviews from casual strollers and serious hikers alike.

"Collective achievement," explains Jack Morgan, the Beaver Valley club's Land Securement and Trail Development Director.

"A lot of people have worked very hard to make this happen."

But like access to much of the 1,200 kilometres of paths, which follow the Niagara Escarpment from Queenston to Tobermory to form the Bruce Trail, it wouldn't have happened without the handshake agreements with the private landowners.

"Getting permission for the trail to cross private land is always the hard part ... we depend on the generosity of private landowners who allow the trail to cross their land on a handshake agreement," says Morgan.

Not easy to achieve in these days of concerns about public liability, but remarkably 15 landowners have shaken hands on agreements that allow thousands of hikers to enjoy the Falling Water Trail and cross their properties.

Access to the balance of the route has been gained by partnering with Ontario Heritage Trust to purchase 125 hectares of prime property at a cost of $1.1-million and taking the trail through properties owned by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources and along unopened municipal road allowances. Having acquired the access to the optimum route, the real work began, says Morgan.

Hundreds of volunteers picked up chain saws, branch loppers and shovels and headed out into the woods to create a trail.

"We don't ever cut down trees, we take the route around them. But we do cut down dead trees or cut them up when they've fallen across the trail," says Morgan.

Where the trail crosses meadows, two volunteers dragged a giant machine that's a cross between a mower and an edge trimmer to cut a swath through the deep grass.

Where the trail crosses water, which it does a lot on this path, bridges or boardwalks were built, or giant rocks hauled in to form stepping stones, and where the trail crosses fence lines, stiles were constructed.

The most popular section of trail will likely be the seven kilometres between Hoggs and Eugenia Falls. If you are planning to hike both ways, it's best to start at Hoggs Falls and climb up toward Eugenia, so the uphill section is done first.
Roberta Avery, Toronto Star