Karen B's Recommendations

As we start to poke our heads out of our winter caves, many of us look forward to slush-free sidewalks and mud-free trails in the hopes of enjoying an outdoor trek. Before the pandemic, my husband and I had even dreamed of taking a longer hike along the Camino pilgrimage trail in Europe. 

DVD cover of The WayLike many adventurer wannabees, we’ve been inspired by writers who’ve walked this spiritual path, including local author, Julie Kirkpatrick who wrote The Camino Letters: 26 tasks on the way to Finistere back in 2010.  Whether you think of the Camino as a spiritual or personal journey, you’ll also appreciate the 2010 film, The Way starring Martin Sheen, and featuring a screenplay by his son, Emilio Estevez.

 

 

Cover of A Walk in the WoodsOn this side of the pond, the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine, is a spectacular option.  Once known as the world’s longest footpath, its popularity continues to grow. Travel memoirs have also contributed to its fame. Bill Bryon’s A Walk in the Woods, a hilarious tale of under-prepared middle-aged travelers, is a great example.  The film interpretation of this memoir might be a bit lacking but is still a fun frolic for Robert Redford fans. Bryson’s tale has inspired many outdoor adventurers, including my husband, who hiked a small portion of the trail while we were living in the United States.

Grandma Gatewood's Walk Book JacketOne of the most influential people to reinvigorate the care and maintenance of the Appalachian Trail, however, was Emma Gatewood, another accidental adventurer who was the first woman to complete the trail alone in 1955—at the age of 67! Her story is told in the 2014 award-winning biography by Ben Montgomery: Grandma Gatewoods’s Walk.  You can also find a picture book about her in our hoopla collection: Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail.

 

Cover of How to Suffer Outside

On the other side of the continent, serious hikers continue to explore the Pacific Crest Trail, made famous by Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, Wild, and the 2015 film starring Reese Witherspoon. If you are considering hiking some of this trail, there’s a variety of guidebooks to sample in our hoopla collection, such as Wendy Lautner’s Pacific Crest Trail: Northern California Day & Section Hikes.  For practical guidance on hiking any of these longer journeys, you might take a look at one of our new arrivals, How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and Backpacking by Diana Helmuth.

While my husband and I have decided to postpone our Camino dream for a while, we still hope to buy those new hiking shoes and venture to some shorter treks closer to home, such as the nearby Bruce Trail which runs from Niagara to Tobermory. It traces the Niagara Escarpment, which itself continues on through Lake Huron, separating it from Georgian Bay, and on through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You may have already walked a section without knowing it! If you’d like to plan a more organized approach to completing it, the Bruce Tail Conservancy organizes scheduled hikes throughout the year. 

Trans Canada Trail LogoFinally, there’s the well-known Trans Canada Trail that runs through our own city and county. You might not be able to get to all sections easily, but it’s great to read about them, especially the sections that connect to Indigenous heritage or those in Ontario that display trail markers related to Indigenous culture and history. Many sections in Ontario are accessible by day or weekend trip. You might even discover, like I did, that the trail runs right through your hometown, county, or even your quiet country side road (I’m shaking with glee!). 

Cover of Plants of Southern OntarioIf an Ontario hike is in your future, the library has plenty of inspiring and supporting information for your travels, including books on flora and fauna or guides to national or provincial parks, such as Plants of Southern Ontario.

Wherever your feet take you this year, I hope (along with the folks at the Trans Canada Trail) that  you are inspired to embrace the outdoors, discover the diversity of our land and people, enhance your health and well-being, and share your stories.

 

As for me, I’m going to visit the country road where I grew up and try to see it from a hiker’s perspective. I’m sure I’ll be slightly put off by the fresh manure smells and the sharp, uneven gravel dotting the road, but I’ll also be delighted with the panoramic views of soybean and corn fields, occasionally interrupted by meandering creeks and clusters of shade-giving maple trees.