Today is the long-awaited 50th anniversary of the Ganaraska Trail, which was founded in 1968. I would like to welcome you all to celebrate this special day with us. I know some of you have come from far away, as far as Ottawa, Perth, London, Newcastle, Goderich and anything in between. I also welcome our Ganaraska members from our own 9 clubs: Pine Ridge, Kawartha, Wilderness, Orillia, Oro Medonte, Barrie, Mad River, Wasaga Beach, Tiny and Midland!
Our membership currently stands at 594 and our volunteers maintain close to 600 kms of trail, including through the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands (to the north east of Orillia), which is an extremely remote but very unique area, as it is entirely on the rugged Canadian shield.
To start our celebrations, I would like to acknowledge the privilege we have to be gathered here today on the traditional land of the Anishinaabeg, the Indigenous peoples of this region. We also acknowledge the history that many nations hold in this area and look forward to doing our part in forming respectful relations with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit.
In a few hours, we will conduct an indigenous Water Ceremony, with waters from Lake Ontario and from Georgian Bay, which were in the past few months carried by hikers along the entire Ganaraska Trail. These water bottles will arrive from the eastern and western parts of the Ganaraska Trail through Scout Valley and will arrive at Lakehead University later this morning. Please join us for the last part of this Water Relay hike.
This 50th anniversary celebration year has so far been a year of many achievements. The hiking season started with our own clubs having an official Season Opener on April 21. The weather, however, caught us off guard, with a serious snow dump just prior to the event, which caused our hike leaders to decide whether to snowshoe or hike. Luckily, the sun came out for the day, and blue skies made sure all had a wonderful time.
Shortly after, the water relay started. Bottles were dipped in Lake Ontario and Georgian Bay, and carried by hikers along the entire Ganaraska Trail. Since most of our clubs also have a cycling program, the water bottles were also transported by cyclists along some of the road sections. And as mentioned the water is arriving here today.
I would like to congratulate all those who in the past, and especially this year, hiked the entire trail. E2E records have been kept since 1992. Only 179 hikers have completed the GHT since then. Of interest, a few did it multiple times, such as Peter Verbeek hiked it 8 times by 2003, Rose Millett 3, Ron Wallace 2, Michelle Vibert 2, and Tom Hall 2.
Special recognition are due to hikers Margaret O’Dell, Wendy Manning and Tyler Gibson for completing the Ganaraska Trail from End to End within the 50th Anniversary year. Margaret and Wendy started their challenge on March 3 and finished on September 9, 2018 with a bottle of champagne at the Western Terminus cairn, in Glen Huron, where the Ganaraska Trail meets the Bruce Trail. Tyler started his walk on July 3rd in Port Hope, and completed the trail, as well as all side trails and loops, 56 days later on August 28, in Glen Huron. Well done everyone…
Another ex exceptional event that took place along the Ganaraska Trail this summer is the Fastest Known Time even. A Toronto relay team of 11 young women, called the Wild Bruce Chasers, picked July 1, probably the hottest day of the summer, to hike the entire Ganaraska Trail in an impressive 69 hours. What an achievement, especially since the Ganaraska Trail Standards are “minimal impact to the environment”, and as such the ladies faced brambles, poison ivy, persisted deer flies, etc., but if you can believe it, they actually enjoyed their gruelling challenge. Well done Wild Bruce Chasers!
If you wish to experience our Ganaraska Hiking Trail yourselves, I hope you will join us tomorrow in the beautiful Copeland Forest, where we have organized a number of hikes.
In closing, I would like to thank the staff of Lakehead University, for their assistance in organizing this event. They have been extremely generous and cooperative, and in particular, I wish to thank Dr. Linda Rothenburg, for her guidance throughout the entire planning process.