Thank you, CBC, for covering our story on last Saturday’s Fresh Air show [click for audio link] . It encouraged to us get out on the trail one more time this season, on a day when the weather happened to be unseasonably warm and wonderful. We ended up exploring side trails in the the Rattlesnake Point area – an amazing section not covered by the main trail. More than that, though, preparing ourselves for the interview helped crystallize what this whole experience means to us. Here then are some additional thoughts from each of us.
So in answer to the question “why are we doing this?” … it began as an item on our bucket lists, something we both had always wanted to do “someday”. We randomly gave ourselves a 5 year plan- we were in no rush. We wanted it to be a relaxing, fun, experience- no pressure; not an added stressor to our already too busy lives.
Since then, we have discovered so many reasons why we love hiking. Of course there are the physical benefits; it’s a great workout, a fun way to keep in shape. It‘s also a chance to socialize, to bond, developing our friendship to a deeper level, as we share our life stories, dreams and secrets. And working out problems together is emotionally so therapeutic. Then there is the mental stimulation of exploring the escarpment, all the amazing crevices, rock formations, waterfalls, vegetation, the breath-taking views, the miraculous qualities of nature; we never get bored. What a perfect opportunity for us to practice our photography skills too. And one of the best parts is reviewing and sharing all our photos at the
end of each hike. Driving to and from our start and end points has also been part of the discovery; the dirt roads that we would never drive on otherwise, getting to know small town Ontario intimately- so many places I’d never heard of before. Even chronicling our adventure through this blog has taken on a life of its own.
And finally there is the powerful spiritual experience of being in nature, surrounded by stillness, grandeur, timeless beauty that rejuvenates our souls. We breathe deeply, “our oxygen baths” cleansing us, walking rhythmically, one foot in front of the other; a walking meditation. All our stressors are released, and we are left with a quiet inner peace.
In no particular order, here are some of the things I wish I could have talked about…
… walking as a form of travel, that our feet have already covered 574.9 km of trail, an awesome distance in an age of cars and jet planes.
… the thrill of looking at the escarpment now, that imposing geographic feature threading its way across our province, and being able to say “I walked that!”
… pilgrimages – how I’d become fascinated by them and then discovered that I was already on a pilgrimage, just conducting it in stages.
… discovery – of Ontario towns and roads and country pubs, of ancient cedars and rock crevices and mushrooms, of beauty in the dull grey of November, but also discovery of achievement, of muscles, of a community of hikers.
… the physicality – walking for hours until I can’t move another foot, climbing a steep hill until I can’t draw another breath, and then carrying on anyway.
… the amazing resource that is the trail – a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve – Canada’s oldest, longest marked trail – so close by and so accessible. Appreciation for the Bruce Trail Conservancy and the volunteers who maintain the trail.
… it being so easy to participate. Comfortable walking shoes, a knapsack with water bottles and snacks, and Bruce Trail maps – and that you can even borrow the guidebook from your local library.
… thinking the challenge was going to be about being in the middle, that point when the exhilaration of starting out is gone, when the end is not nearly in sight, but finding that really the challenge is going to be the feeling of loss when we’re done.
… that being able to hike the trail is a gift, made possible because I am healthy and strong, because I found a great compatible hiking partner, because I have the economic means, because my loved ones no longer need me on an hourly basis – all things for which I am deeply grateful.