A Pair of Old Friends Go All the Way
Mike and Nick Finish the Bruce Trail
Number of Hikes: 70
Date Begun: Monday 2 April 2018
Date Finished: Saturday 7 November 2020
Time to Completion: 2 years, 7 months, 5 days
Total Distance Hiked: 890.4 km
Longest Hike: 17.7 km (#56)
Shortest Hike: 5.5 km (#25)
Length of Average Hike: 12.7 km
So, how come you two guys decided to do the Bruce Trail together?
Mike: Nick and I have known each other for some 35 years: first, from across the street in Regina; then from down the block in Regina; and lately from across the Valley, he in Dundas and I in Hamilton. In Nick’s introduction to this blog he stated that we were old friends, both figuratively and literally. This was so when we began our Bruce Trail adventure together and is even more so now that we have successfully completed it.
Nick: When we both retired to Ontario and found ourselves living in proximity, we did a few local hikes together for the exercise and companionship. Then one day Mike said that he had a retirement project: to complete the Bruce Trail end-to-end. Did I want to come in on it? So the whole thing was entirely his idea. But I found it very appealing, especially when I realized that two people with two cars could do the Trail much more safely and efficiently than one person alone ever could. Mike told me when we finished that from the start he hadn’t had the slightest doubt that he and I would complete the Trail. I was never quite so confident!
Did you have separate roles in planning, logistics, record-keeping, etc?
Mike: I was the pathfinder, both on the road and on the Trail, except for when we were lost and consultation was required. Nick has been our trip planner, photographer, researcher and writer. His blog is a sumptuous record of our journey and is testimony to his creativity and curiosity.
Nick: One of my first post-retirement projects was a photoblog called “In, Above, and Around Dundas, Ontario” on the online urban forum SkyscraperCity. As I developed it I learned basic digital photography as well as the history of Dundas and area. Eventually I started my own website, which I share with my wife, a novelist, and started to post stuff on that. It seemed natural to apply what I’d learnt about photoblogging as we hiked the Bruce Trail.
What did you like best about the Bruce Trail?
Mike: What I was most appreciative of during our journey was the diversity of the landscape we travelled through, the quiet beauty and solitude of it.
Nick: Me too! And I really came to admire the vision of the Bruce Trail founders sixty years ago. I also learned that the Trail, like the Niagara Escarpment that it follows, is vulnerable to urban and industrial development along its entire length and needs to be actively protected by the Bruce Trail Conservancy in partnership with the various municipalities it passes through.
Do you have a favourite memory of someone you met during your hike?
Mike: On the trail in mid-August 2018 just off Appleby Line we met four hikers who represented four generations of First Nations women (Hike #16, entry 192). They were on a Water Walk from the Niagara River to Georgian Bay to draw attention to water as a precious and vulnerable resource.
Nick: On our first winter hike in November 2018, one of our cars got snowbound in a parking lot on a side road near Orangeville (Hike #24, entry 300). The two of us couldn’t free it, but then one of Santa’s elves (I’m not kidding) magically appeared and with his help we were soon back on the road again. I guess this incident showed to me that Providence, or Santa, or whatever you want to call it, was on our side.
And what will stay with you as your dominant impression of the entire trip?
Mike: I do not recall either of us uttering a single complaint regarding our experience along the entire 900 km length of the Trail …
Nick: … though we may both have sometimes felt like doing so! But seriously, though each of us did occasionally feel the worse for wear, we never let it turn into resentment against one another. We agreed, or chose to agree, on just about everything. I can’t imagine a better hiking partner than Mike.
Any final thoughts?
Mike: I’ll let Larry McMurtry, author of the novel Lonesome Dove, speak for us as he describes a member of the Lonesome Dove company:
“Cheerful in all weathers
Never shirked a task
Nick: On our last hike on 7 November we saw some bedraggled asters, still blooming by the Trail on an abandoned golf course outside Tobermory. So here, with thanks, are a couple of verses to go with that little bunch of hard-to-kill asters. They’re for Mike and for everyone else who followed us on our long journey and encouraged us to keep going by sending kind thoughts in our direction:
“A tree beside the wall stands bare,
But a leaf that lingered brown,
Disturbed, I doubt not, by my thought,
Comes softly rattling down.
I end not far from my going forth
By picking the faded blue
Of the last remaining aster flower
To carry again to you.”
— from Robert Frost, “A Late Walk”
And that’s a wrap!