Ever been told to take a hike? I have, more times than I care to recall! In keeping with the 2oldguyswalking theme, I would like to inform and educate anyone interested in joining a hiking club. This will be the hardest post I have ever written, as there are a lot of rules and regulations involved and they will be rather boring to the seasoned hiker. This is also a topic that will be very hard to inject the light-hearted ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humor that the 2oldguys are trying for in our postings.
There are many hiking clubs that are close to wherever you live in Southern Ontario. The three clubs that I highly recommend and that I have personal knowledge of: The Ganaraska Hiking Trail, the Oak Ridges Trail Association and the Bruce Trail.
The Hiker’s Code
STAY ON THE TRAIL. The Trails are all marked with the international markings that show you the trail. These are upright, white rectangle blazes about two inches wide and six inches long. These blazes are visible from one to the next. A blaze with a dogleg at the top left or top right show you a change of direction. A double blaze indicates the end of the trail. Interesting off-shoot trails are usually the same blaze meanings but will be coloured blue. An example here is a blue trail that leaves the Oak Ridges Trail’s Hope-Hamilton Chapter, called the Gore’s Landing Side Trail. It turns north from the ORTA trail on Donaldson Road and follows Canning Road, crosses Cavan Road and Northumberland County Oak Ridges Drive. Follow Lander Road to historic Gore’s Landing. The attractions of the trail are the beautiful bluffs overlooking Rice Lake and the Historic home of Catherine Parr Traill. Mrs. Traill is best known for her journals, guides for emigrants and wildflower guides. Her best known “Canadian Crusoes: A Tale of the Rice Lake Plains (a.k.a. Lost in the Backwoods”) is set here. She and her sister Susanna Moodie were among Canada’s first well-known published writers.
USE STILES WHEN CROSSING FENCES. A stile looks like a step ladder (shaped like an A) that has steps up and then steps down on the other side and is meant to prevent damage to property owner’s fences. An interesting variation here is a metal grill crossing. This looks like a tubular gate, the tubes are only a few inches apart and it is laid down on the ground. This eliminates the need for a stile over a fence as farm animals with hooves cannot get the traction needed to walk over it!
RESPECT ALL ANIMALS, PLANTS AND TREES. Never strip bark from trees. I told you Bushwhacker…we should NOT have built that that birch bark canoe…and why did I have to carry it ten miles to the lake. Just because I am a charter member of the ‘ Gobi Desert Canoe Club’ is not reason enough!!
CARRY OUT YOUR LITTER. Leave nothing behind but your foot prints, take nothing with you but photographs and memories and leave flowers and plants for others to enjoy. Note to Bushwhacker: On advice from my friend Mother Nature, I think we are allowed to collect a few morals, puffballs, nuts and berries and of course wild asparagus on the condition that we leave enough for re-seeding and survival of each. On advice from my lawyer, we should only collect these from municipal property fence lines and only in the cover of night…and away from live railways!
NO FIRES OR CAMPING ON OR NEAR TRAILS AND NO DOGS UNLESS THEY ARE LEASHED. Guess that leaves out my idea of boiling up some fresh asparagus and hot dogs along the trail and definitely not the kind mentioned above!! If you ever see Bushwhacker and Ranger hiking with a pooch following us, honest…neither of us own a dog! It is not our fault that we seem to attract them on most of our walks, hope they all got home okay!
Difficulty Levels of Trails
EASY – Well-defined trails and/or roads, gentle inclines. Hiking boots not required, but trails may be wet.
MODERATE – Generally on trails and/or roads; may be hilly with some rough spots or obstacles. Boots recommended.
MODERATE PLUS – Generally on trails; rough terrain and/or steep sections and/or long climbs and descents. Boots highly recommended.
CHALLENGING – Rough terrain; one or more of extensive bushwhacking, steep sections, long climbs and descents, beaver dams or other obstacles or rock scrambling. Boots essential; long pants and sleeves recommended.
Most clubs encourage new hikers to try their hand at hiking at no charge. If you enjoy these hikes you are encouraged to join a Chapter and yearly memberships will cost around $25. For this fee you will receive seasonal newsletters describing all hikes for all chapters and you may hike with any Chapter and of course hike on your own any time. It is highly recommended that you also purchase a guide book containing easy to follow maps of all trails. Newsletters also contain listings of all hikes, a brief description of the hike, time and meeting place (for car pooling), level of difficulty, whether to bring a snack for a break of only 5 to 7 minutes, bring a lunch indicates a longer stop for refreshments and the hike leaders name and contact number for any questions you might have.
You are encouraged to become a hike leader. A leader should have a good knowledge of interesting trails and first aid training. Hike leader training is provided by most clubs at no expense. Upon joining a club you should be aware that you are using the trail AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Hike Leader’s Responsibilities – Know the trail for your hike, this means walking this hike route a day or so before you will lead it to be sure it is passable with no obstacles and the trail conditions are good. You must assure that every hiker has signed in so as the hike ends with everyone accounted for. In my leader days, I never lost a hiker! Leader must keep all hikers behind him at all times!
Hike leader must also assign a “SWEEP”. No, this person does not carry a broom to clean the trail! His job is to make sure that slower hikers do not get too far behind the leader, and he should know the hike route to be sure he does not get lost either.
There will be scheduled “call of nature” stops on most hikes. The gentlemen will proceed on over the crest of a hill (or a distance away if there are no hills) and the ladies remain behind for the task. An individual hiker needing a call of nature may do so by leaving the trail, but must leave his backpack on the trail and inform the sweep to wait.
At the end of the hike, the leader must do a count to be sure everyone is present and accounted for. It is also expected that the leader will be the last to leave, this insures all cars will start and every hiker leaves the site safely.
My best tip for a hike leader is to always leave the hikers with a special memory of your hike. This could be a spectacular hilltop lookout such as Richardson’s Lookout on Dean’s Hill in Garden Hill; a gorgeous view from the bluffs overlooking Rice Lake near the Catherine Parr Traill homestead mentioned earlier or an old stone house near a former Indian trail south of Rice Lake. A personal note here: even though as a teen I worked for years on the farm next to that stone house, I only learned a few years ago it was originally owned by my grandfather’s brother. And that it had been an Inn and a stagecoach stop on the Cobourg to Peterborough road made it’s tree lined lawn a favourite spot for lunch breaks for many of my hikes.
My most memorable hike was timed for our lunch stop at a world famous bakery of pies and tarts on County Rd. 9 (now closed and moved to county Rd. 2 between Port Hope and Cobourg). Being out in the boondocks, this bakery was a new experience for most of the hikers…to this day some twenty years later, people still remind me of those butter tarts, even though they have long forgotten the rest of this hike!
Another hike remembered by most and is still held yearly, for over twenty years now, is one of our “Town Hikes” which are still held on a Wednesday evening in Port Hope during the summer months when it is too hot for long hikes in the woods. This one I called the Port Hope Laneways Hike. Again, many of the hikers had no idea of the beauty of this unique setting in Port Hope. These lanes are unique to the top of the town and allowed land owners a way to access their garages or barns in their back yards back in the horse & buggy days! As well, a very early cemetery can be seen off Bruton Street only if you know where to look!
In closing, although I now only hike alone or with a friend or two…I highly recommend joining a hiking club. You will meet so many great people from doctors, lawyers, teachers, factory workers and retired folks and develop some long lasting friendships (and memories) along the way!