Take a Hike by Carol Phillips

“Everyone gather around for my words of wisdom” shouted our affable tour guide for the morning.  These volunteer leaders from the Oak Ridges Trail Association are such fun people! He had already personally greeted each of us on arrival as we gathered for our 6 kilometer walk.  Cleary some were old fellow travelers and some like me were along as newbies – answering the invitation we’d seen in the local paper.

It was a sunny Monday morning and there were 38 of us setting out on this organized weekly event.  And even though some of us weren’t regulars and may have arrived alone we were all made to feel comfortable and invited to chat along the way.

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This was an activity of the Oak Ridges Trail Association (ORTA)which hosts hikes all over our York region. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or want something at a slower pace volunteers organize a few hikes a week and post them on their website :

 

  1. oakridgestrail.org/hikes

 

The descriptions of the planned walks always have information I find helpful – like the pace of the walk, its length, what you may see along the way.  My favourite is about whether or not dogs are welcome which often reads “Well mannered dogs are invited to bring their owners”!

There are also helpful hints on the site about bringing water and snacks for the journey and sometimes an invitation to a brunch or lunch that you can join, if you’d like, with your fellow hikers.

 

On this particular morning we explored some of our community walkways and arrived at the East Humber Trail which officially opened in the Fall of 2012.

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Situated among busy neighbourhoods, this carefully preserved wetlands was a nice surprise to discover right on our doorsteps.  An oasis where one can escape to the natural world for a while.

 

Our outing, along well tended trails, took us onto long, winding boardwalks which allowed us to walk above wetland areas. We crossed numerous bridges with intricate metal sides over the meandering East Humber River and into shaded wooded areas. These custom cut metal panels cast intriguing shadows on the bridge floors that mirrored the plants around them. There are benches dotted along the way to allow you to sit and contemplate the beauty which surrounds you.

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We occasionally stop for a refreshment break and to check in on each other’s comfort level. Snacks are offered for sharing, babies in strollers admired, smiles exchanged. The kindness of strangers who come together for a short, common experience always warms my heart. Our ORTA guide encourages us to keep hydrated and points out things we may not have noticed or properly appreciated – information on the moraine and its many features.

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Take a look at the Oak Ridges Trail Association offerings and join in on one of their many hikes and you’ll find out why our guide invited us to share his wisdom that morning…it’s the wisdom that comes from knowing how to slow down and enjoy the wonders around us.  Maybe I’ll see you there.