I hope that what I am about to write does not sound too self-indulgent. I assure you that it is simply the truth and it comes from the heart (no pun intended, which you will understand in the following paragraph).
After a few months of convalescing, I decided that I must change my lifestyle. I joined the Moncton Outdoor Enthusiasts club where I went on my first hike in the spring of 2000. I remember it well, although it was not in Albert County, it was across the river in Beaumont and I was nervous about it. Two of the members of the club took me under their wing. I made it through without incident and I loved it.
I went out again a week later and then kept going out, usually both Saturday and Sunday each week. It was both literally and figuratively, “just what the doctor ordered”.
The people in the club were so nice and it really had a profound effect on me. I cannot tell you how it helped in my recovery, both physically and perhaps even more so, mentally. You see I was not always a huge fan of the great outdoors, but as I hiked on more and more of the trails that the club exposed to me I discovered what an unbelievably beautiful area we live in. We hike all over south-eastern NB, Nova Scotia and beyond, but I would say that half of our outings are in Albert County, or around the Bay of Fundy.
I may be preaching to the converted but being out hiking in the forest or on a deserted beach is a tonic that fuels the soul. You never think about any problems or concerns that you might have once you are out breathing fresh air, moving your body, feeling your muscles flex and adapt to the terrain, observing your surroundings and sharing these experiences with fellow hikers.
After a year or so, I began leading hikes, and this was an added responsibility which I enjoyed because I could go to the trails that I enjoyed the most.
After a few years I had another setback when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It is always shocking to hear that word spoken when it is directed towards you. I kept hiking as there were no symptoms that would stop me from doing so. I chose to have brachytherapy which involves inserting 101 tiny radioactive pellets into your prostate (a lovely experience as you can imagine). Believe it or not, that is day surgery and I went home the same day and it worked (so far). This made me even more dedicated to getting out hiking as I began to acknowledge my own mortality. I went out looking for more trails to conquer and I think I enjoyed them even more. It was around this time that I started writing a column in the Times & Transcript called “Take a Hike” and submitted a column every two weeks for ten and a half years.
Then fully immersed in the hiking culture (I could not quit now I had a column to write), I won an award from the NB Trails Council for promoting hiking in our fair province. It was gratifying to hear that many people were spurred on by my column to get out and take a hike.
One more setback was to come in the form of a wonky hip which I suffered with for several years. During some of that time there was little or no pain, but sometimes the pain was excruciating. Finally, I was able to get a hip replacement which took me out of commission (in terms of hiking) for a few months. Guess what, I became even more zealous in wanting to be outdoors and hike, so with renewed vigour off I went to find even more trails and lead even more hikes.
I am still hiking regularly these days and I still love it as much as always. I have made great friends and have seen some amazing sights in many different conditions. I have hiked or snowshoed in thick fog, torrential rain, heavy snow (both falling and on the ground), high winds, blistering heat, frigid cold, in the bright sunshine (and moonshine), next to rivers, babbling brooks, bays, inlets, coves, the ocean, ravines, ridges, canyons, cliffs, escarpments and many enchanting forests.
I am hooked on hiking and recommend it to everyone as a remedy for all kinds of ills. Will it solve all your problems? Nope. Will it help you temporarily forget about them and clear your mind so that you can better deal with them? Yup. You will sleep better, have more energy, learn to really appreciate where you are lucky enough to live and, most importantly, it will gladden your heart…you might want to give it a try.
- The new Goose River Trail in FNP.
- Hueston Brook to Foster Brook across the river to Point Wolfe and back to Hueston Brook in FNP.
- Dennis Beach to Waterside Beach return (a classic beach walk).
- Mapleton Acadian Forest Trail in Mapleton near Elgin.
- The Coastal Trail in Fundy National Park (FNP).
- Snowshoeing the Green Snake Trail in Alma.
- Circumnavigating Mary’s Point (particularly at sunrise on a clear morning).
- The Hopewell Rocks on a clear night with a new moon or a full moon.
For more information on Trails, see Exploring Our Trails.