Natalie Schott and Chris Wilson saw more of Ontario in five weeks than many of us will see in a lifetime.
They took a walk down the Bruce Trail, all 900 kilometres, from Niagara all the way to Tobermory, north of Owen Sound. It began as a joke and ended with a surprise, while raising money for Trails Youth Initiatives and the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
They spoke with the CBC’s Conrad Collaco about their long journey and one big surprise near the hike’s end on a beach by Tobermory.
You can read an abridged and edited version of the interview or listen to the full audio interview by hitting the play button above.
Natalie Schott and Chris Wilson, Bruce Trail hikers
What made you want to walk the entire Bruce Trail?
Schott: It was initially my idea. It was a bit of a joke. One day last summer we were out climbing. Chris told me the Bruce Trail went from Niagara Falls to Tobermory and I thought ‘OK. Let’s do the whole thing. We joked about it. One day in January we decided we were going to do it. We said ‘let’s put our vacation requests in.’
For someone who has never walked the Bruce Trail what was the walk like?
What was some of the most interesting things you saw along the way?
How difficult was the long walk on your bodies?
Wilson: Well, we knew the first week would be painful. We did quite a bit of training over the summer to get our bodies ready. We’d walk around Toronto and do little trails around here. But there’s not a whole lot to prepare you to walk 30 kilometres a day every single day for a month. The first week or so we were dealing with hot weather and aching muscles all the time but by the end of the trip you kind of just get used to it.
Your body is just ready to get up and go just off a little pack of oatmeal.
Other than oatmeal what did you eat along the trail?
Schott: We had a whole set of different foods that we purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op or we created some meals ourselves. We bought a dehydrator. We had apples and bananas and we made a couscous meal for one of our dinners. That was one of our favourites but a lot of the go-to’s were things like Kraft Dinner or instant noodles.
What did you learn about the province while walking the trail?
Wilson: We had a couple places where pretty much anybody would be willing to give us a ride. Everyone was excited to help us out with the fundraiser and the walk in general.
Now that you’re back do you miss your time away?
What was your favourite memory over the last five weeks?
Schott: Chris what was your favourite memory?
Wilson: I think the biggest thing would be the second last day. Natalie didn’t know but I had sewn an engagement ring into my backpack and I carried it with me for 36 of our 37 days, always a little nervous that I would lose the bag or something like that but on the last day I cut it out and proposed to Natalie on the beach near Tobermory.
These answers have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.