The weather conditions experienced Saturday, October 22, 2022, exceeded all my expectations. Warm weather and dry trails around Wildwood Lake in late October should not be taken for granted.
The red, amber, green and gold-coloured leaves remained on many trees while the footpaths were splashed with the same rich colours. Over 60 hikers participated in the 22-kilometre trek counter-clockwise around Wildwood Lake, all walking comfortably, clearly enjoying the moment.
“The best turnout of hikers of all Wildwood Challenges,” remarked organizer Bruce Graham, who gave us our marching orders at 8:30 am as we prepared to set out for the day. Each hiker received a trail map, a baggy containing a safety whistle, a comforting wipe at the registration desk, and their hike identifier number. “Be certain to get your number checked off at each of the two refreshment stations along the route and the registration desk when you finish the hike,” instructed Bruce. “We must know we have not lost any hiker on the course.”
Groups of hikers set off, keeping different paces. Some, like me, meandered along the trail admiring the sites: the sulphur spring bubbling near the Wildwood dam, the vintage billboard encountered in the woods, enticing you to visit “picturesque St.Marys,” the carpets of multicoloured leaves located on the footpath route south of Wildwood Lake come to my mind.
Two refreshment stations, one at Line 25 south of the lake, the other at Line 27 on the lake’s northside, provided waypoint stations to enjoy home-baked treats along with tea, hot chocolate or coffee. I paused at both, enjoying a rest in a comfortable camp chair and conversation with the volunteers and fellow hikers. Anyone who wished to bow out could request a “ride-out” from a volunteer driver back to the start point from either station. Some hikers enjoyed a lunch break on the accessible south lakeshore. At the hike’s end, we each reported to the volunteer at the registration desk and received our coveted Wildwood Challenge badge.
Perhaps I enjoyed more rest and refreshments than most at the stations. I arrived at the registration desk to be informed that I was the last hiker to be checked off. All hikers made it back – none were lost. Only the two volunteer sweeps finished behind me. My pace was not fast since this was a day to be savoured. And that I did.
Tom Kimber, News Editor
Thanks to hikers for the use of photos