A Walk in the Woods: Hiking the Rouge River Valley

JK and me ready to hike. JK has yet to get the memo that bright colours = better fitness.

 

JK and I read Wild by Cheryl Strayed this summer and both came to the same realization: we needed to do a hike like that. And soon. After some research, we settled on a time (the last two weeks of July 2013) and a place (the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland). There was only one problem: neither of us were big-time hikers.

Sure, I’d done the day trips in high school biology, with my dad and Envirothon. I even lived on an island in a tent for a summer for a summer job during university. I knew we could do it. But we wanted to get some practice in first in order to avoid a lot of the problems Cheryl faced on her journey. It’s far better to discover your boots are too small or your sunscreen gives you a rash on a 10k day trip than a 220k adventure.

 

Riverside hiking! Don’t fall in!

 

We set the day for our first trip — September 29 — and thanks to the Toronto Hiking website, settled on the Rouge River Valley trail path. Depending on the route we took, it would be anywhere from 8k to 12k and would range from easy to a little bit difficult. Pals Steph, Anita and Aaron decided to join us and we were off. Aaron drove (thanks Aaron!), which made finding the trail pretty easy — it’s right next to the zoo.

 

A map of the trail network, courtesy Toronto Hiking. We didn’t cover all of it, so we’ll need to come back!

 

And we were off. We kept a brisk, but manageable pace. The trail started through a meadow, then turned into woods after a kilometre or so. We eventually ended up down by the river and followed that for a while. After taking one too many wrong loops, we settled by the river for lunch, then retraced our steps back to the car. Overall, it was about 2.5 hours and we probably hiked 10k. We saw other people, which was reassuring because it meant we weren’t totally lost, but never enough people that it was crowded or overwhelming. Rouge Park felt like a wilderness gem in the city, and I was grateful to have found it.

 

JK and Aaron chowing down on homemade cookies (thanks JK!), granola and other hearty hiker foods.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

 

There’s something about being in nature that is soothing. It helps me return to my roots, anchor me. We are all part of something bigger, and that’s amazing. Too often I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city, of my career, of publishing. Places like Rouge River Valley remind me that nature isn’t far away at all — I just need to go seek it out. Make time for it. Bring it into my life. This epic hike next year is an extreme reaction to this need, but it can be done in littler ways everyday. Than you, Rouge River for reminding me of that.

And for giving my legs a killer workout.

 

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