Despite all my preparations for the Waterloo Region Crossing, to be honest I wasn’t sure whether I would manage to complete it. While I had done my best to get in shape, my training sessions had involved going an hour at most. Determined though to at least do my best, I made sure I was ready to board the bus in Waterloo by 6:15 am (before the sun was even up!) for transport to the event’s starting point.
For those that do not know, last weekend I participated in this trek for which the focus was to raise awareness of, and funds for, homeless citizens. I had chosen to participate in a shortest, 8 km Pioneer version of the trek, though others who had signed up for full 65 km would walk for nearly a day.
My confidence was buoyed at least somewhat because I would be doing the trek with my friend Suzie Nunes. Just, as I have shared, I had additional reasons for participating, Suzie would be walking for Detlef (Duff) Becker. Trauma survivor and previous street person, Duff had been planning on doing the trek, and had tragically passed away just a couple months previous.
After a short ride, the bus arrived at our starting point, the Walter Bean Trailhead. Following a brief recognition of the traditional First Nations land that we were on, everyone started off down the path. And a mighty group we were! About one hundred trekkers in total, much more than the handful of those who participated the previous year when the trek started.
Right away, I noticed what a mistake it was for me to not be wearing my ice cleats! Starting off as fairly icy, the trail quickly became at certain points like an ice rink!! Stopping to put on my cleats, (cumbersome Velcro ones that had been purchased years ago), nearly all the trekkers passed us, minus a few at the back who were in the support crew.
This made me nervous! Not the best of navigators, I wanted to stay with the group in case of an unexpected turn that got us lost. Eventually to my relief though, around the point where we turned onto a path along Blair Road, my friend and I got hooked up again with some others. This included professional hiking leader Charles Whitlock who I did not mention earlier, but had done my gear check the previous day.
With my legs at this point already starting to ache, I enjoyed hearing some of Charles’ travel adventures to take my mind off how I was feeling. When he eventually went on ahead, I happily noticed around that point how far we had already come, and felt hopeful that I would finish the event.
A “Rare” opportunity
Despite my spirits being lifted, I will admit I was relieved to discover we had reached the point where we could rest and recharge at the Lamb’s Inn. This was part of the Rare Charitable Reserve, a place roughly just a twenty-five minute drive from my house. Unbelievably, I had actually never visited this place before. I felt excited to be exploring parts of my area that were so close and yet previously unexplored by me!
The walk continued along the Record Heritable Trail, along a pedestrian bridge that crosses the 401. Although the scenery at that point wasn’t wonderful, I was impressed by the creation of this bridge that made it possible to pass what otherwise would have been an impenetrable barrier.
I believe that, around where the trail passing the Doon Valley Golf Course, we encountered some deep inclines. I remember, despite wearing cleats, holding onto the railing to prevent myself from sliding down the icy path, trying not to slide into a fellow trekker in front of me. Glad-fully that did not happen and there were no injuries to report!
An event of great significance
By now also having passed Conestoga College, we were in the final stretch, walking along a trail that ran through some cornfields. Around then perhaps the most memorable part of the trek for me occurred – a bald eagle flying was spotted flying in the sky!
Too high up to get a photo, I would never have noticed it if not for some other trekkers pointing it out. Despite how hard it was to see, everyone seemed incredibly thrilled to see it, and a trail sign that we had just passed underscored the ecological significance of the sight. As the sign described, bald eagles were a once common sight over the Great Lakes area, but had become an endangered species since the mid-1950s. What a miracle it was then to see this beautiful bird!
Seeing an eagle on the trek had great significance to me personally as well. That is because for me, eagles are signs to me of the need to take perspective and look at the big picture. I had undertaken the trek out my desire to challenge myself and start living out more of my dreams. The eagle seemed to me a powerful reminder to do continue doing this.
The last stretch
Following this, we only had a short distance to go. Though a difficult last bit it was for me! My boots were digging into my ankles and my legs felt as stiff as boards!! Despite having chosen the shortest trek, I started feeling unsure whether I was going to make it. I knew though that this trek was important, and, despite my discomfort, continued on.
When we at last reached Pioneer Tower, I could not believe it! Though my muscles were tired and I was hungry, this trek that I had so long prepared for was actually done!!! Where this will all lead, I did, and still do not, know. I am glad though for the experience of it, one that I expect to remember for many years to come.
My Story of the Waterloo Region Crossing 2019