Outdoor enthusiast Linda Bathe answered the question: Why Hike the Bruce Trail, Twice, when she addressed a full house Tuesday evening at the Stratford Rotary Complex. Linda was the guest speaker at the Avon Trail Annual General meeting.
“To walk and talk with like-minded women all who enjoy connecting with nature” was a goal that motivated Linda to form a walking group willing to hike the 900 km Bruce Trail. Six other woman friends agreed to reserve at least two weekends each year “to hike together” and enjoy a retreat from busy family and business lives.
But why the Bruce Trail? It turns out that Linda had read a story of how, in 1985, a similar group of women hiked the Bruce Trail. We, too, can do this, she felt. So, after some careful planning, her group began their quest in the spring of 1996 from the southern Niagara region of the trail, heading north.
Planning included having comfortable beds arranged along the trail as well as food and refreshments at the end of each day’s hike.  But following the best plans can still result in cautionary tales. The group’s first hike began on May 11, 1996.
Following the motto expressed by Sir Ralph Fiennes that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, they encountered rain. No problem, she thought, except for those group members wearing sneakers.
Lesson learned — no more footwear challenges for them.  A hike through the Hamilton region resulted in another cautionary tale. Spending the night with friends, Linda had her glass filled with excellent wine, whenever empty, by a complying host.
“This led to a very tough hike up the slope along the escarpment trail the next day. I dubbed this the Hangover Hike”, she admitted.
Linda recalled one more lesson learned the hard way. Always know where the car key is for the car waiting at the hike’s end. And the key better not be in a purse in the trunk at the starting point. The tired group had a 30-minute wait in the rain beside the locked car before rescue arrived.
Over the ensuing years, the group met to continue hiking the trail, picking up from where they last ended. Friendships became stronger. The hikers grew with experience, learning to pay attention to the topographical maps of their planned hiking sections, knowing elevation grades in advance, avoiding surprises. They hiked where the trail led, encountering escarpment climbs, walks in the woods, hikes along boulder beaches and through clefs in rock faces. Memories of spectacular views, like the fields of blossoming flowers in the spring, of the aqua-blue waters of Georgian Bay, of spawning salmon swirling in pools, are recalled with pleasure. The people met on each hike, and the friendships started made her Bruce Trail experience more fruitful.
On April 20, 2012, after 30 plus hiking trips, five of the original seven hikers completed the journey. They celebrated with a bottle of champagne.
In October 2014, the group started their second Bruce Trail passage, north to south, beginning in Tobermory. Why? Fellowship again, and the joy of hiking. “We use each other as sounding boards as we walk and talk,” said Linda.
Now in 2020, the journey continues. Families have grown. The hikers allow more time to experience the beauties of nature along the trail.
Linda ended her talk by telling us, “Tonight, I became an Avon Trail member.” We fellow Avon Trail members wish her well in all her future hiking adventures.