his week, the life of all things environmental hopped in the fast lane for me. Outdoor education by day, hiking tours here and there on evenings, and time in a canoe. Plenty of time in a canoe — I enjoyed shutting off the phone for a couple of days and just exploring on the rivers of south Bruce Peninsula.
All of this outdoor time has many side benefits. Other than the exposure to nature, there is also a cultural exchange between people.
I want to talk about a guided hike I did this weekend, where the participants were all young adults who are newcomers to Canada (ages 18 to 22). The program they are involved in exposes them to Canadian cultural and environmental life, and creates bonding experiences for people who come from foreign countries.
As part of the program criteria, I planned a six-hour hike that involved a stovetop cookout for lunch. Everything was to be carried in and out of the forest on the trail. I showed them the area I knew best- the stretch of Escarpment between Queenston and St. Davids.
I never thought as a kid playing around in those forests that I would ever have such a rich opportunity. This hike was memorable for so many reasons.
One by one, someone would end up near the front of the line with me and we would chat. They came from Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Vietnam, to name some home countries. Some are in school, others are working, some have returned to visit, and others haven’t.
The rainfall prior to the hike made puddles into ponds, and made ponds where water generally never collects to begin with. Each of the hikers embraced the mud-fest. It also brought out a lot of wildlife which was always exciting to showcase. Some of these people have never seen a salamander or touched a toad before.
We all had soakers within an hour of hiking. Towards the end, some of the guys were fully laying in the streams and mud puddles, just drenched with water and joy.
They all took many photos during the hike. What a time to be alive, where with the click of a button, these people can share a photo back home. However, I also learned that for some, contacting home is never that easy.
I am blown away that in those conditions, nobody once really complained. It was a great atmosphere in terms of both the wild trail conditions and the upbeat group. What a lifetime experience for these young adults, and I think it’s special that they could do something like this right here in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The heavy thunderstorms knocking at the door on that Saturday morning nearly had me cancel the hike for the safety of the hikers. After a calculated read of the radar, I am so glad I didn’t. The day was as amazing for me as I believe it was for them.