Trail Talk: December 13, 2015

“Never limit your challenges, instead challenge your limits!  At age 47, I was paralyzed by 2 herniated disks back in Feb 2015. After a lot of therapy and personal determination, I am back and pretty proud of my personal achievement today: 20 km of this beautiful trail in 3 hrs! It was awesome to be welcomed by Maitland Trail Organization, dedicated volunteers and such generous community! I was greatly inspired by all hikers who committed their weekend to challenge themselves on their personal journeys. Thank you all!!! Will be back soon.”

As I was reading through all the comments left from 250 hikers who came out on the amazing weekend back in September, that one jumped out at me. Not only because of the passion and determination of the writer, but also because this hiker pulled it all together. The El Camino Maitland is special because it brings together our beautiful natural environment, enthusiastic hikers, dedicated volunteers, generous landowners, and our great community. For some, this event is part of a spiritual practice, for some it is a way to experience community in a unique way, for some it is a way to appreciate nature, for some it is a test of physical endurance – for some it is all of these things.

The Maitland Trail Association held its third annual El Camino Maitland hike in September. Hikers are given a choice of hiking the entire trail or shorter sections. An army of volunteers works hard all weekend to shuttle hikers so their car is waiting when they complete their section, provide snacks and encouragement, and keep track of all the details involved with organizing an event that spans 50 km. A grand feast is enjoyed on Saturday night that brings volunteers and hikers together for fun and socializing. This year was extra special as the Hike Ontario Summit was combined with the El Camino event.

Hikers were surveyed – not everyone answered – but it did give us some feeling about who comes out to the Camino. Of those who answered, roughly 65 per cent of the hikers were local – travelling less than 100 km to hike the beautiful Maitland Trail.

“I live in Goderich and had a wonderful experience! I found the El Camino hike to be well organized. Even though I am from Goderich, I saw sites I hadn’t seen before and I realized how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful area. I’ll be participating next year!”

About 30 per cent traveled between 100 and 400 km, and there were even a few who traveled further than 400 km to hike.

“We came from France for a few months in Canada and for the end of our trip, we decided to hike the Maitland Trail.  It is a wonderful trail and very well organized!  Merci a tous les volontaires!  c’est aussi une satisfaction personelles d’avoir reussi a marcher so ___ en 2 jours.”

While the numbers are interesting and give us a bird’s-eye view, it is the comments that people leave behind that inspire and encourage us! People had great things to say about the organization and overall satisfaction with the event. All of the respondents said they would recommend the event to friends, and that the hike was fun and safe.

People also appreciate the uniqueness of the beautiful natural environment.

“I saw a puffball as large as my head! I always thought my father was telling tales about how big they grew!!!”

“While I was walking through the woods, along the Maitland, I felt like I was in a museum of sculptured wood.”

One common theme was the thankfulness of all participants.

“This is my second year.  Superb organization of the hike! Thanks to all who put their heart and soul into this. It really shows.”

“I was so impressed by the organization and just enjoyed so much getting to explore a part of Ontario that I don’t know very well. The challenge of a long walk in company or in solitude was a real gift. Thank you so much everyone for all that you did!”

A Huge THANK YOU to all of the volunteers for the weekend, the organizing committee, the landowners, the trail rangers and the maintenance crew who do such a great job of maintaining the trail, and the hikers who come out and make the event so much fun!

See you on the trails – and don’t forget – a Maitland Trail Membership makes a great Christmas gift!