Weeks of planning came to an end, and the start of an adventure began in earnest on Monday for 20-year-old Zwena Gray and her friend Sima Fabricant, 19.
The pair took their first steps in a 900-kilometre quest to thru-hike the entire Bruce Trail, which starts in Niagara and winds its way north along the escarpment all the way to Tobermory on Georgian Bay.
Gray, an avid environmentalist and outdoors enthusiast, hopes to bring her love of nature to others in the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) community through a series of workshops once her journey is complete.
“I want to encourage others in my community to get outside and discover the joy of nature and the sense of liberation it brings,” she said.
She turned to the Bruce Trail Club for support when she was planning her trek. “The Bruce Trail community is crucial. They’re providing hot meals, laundry facilities and letting us camp in their backyards,” she explained.
The Niagara Bruce Trail Club is helping Gray and Fabricant hike the Niagara section of the trail, which stretches 83 kilometres, by providing accommodation at members' homes and driving the pair to and from the trail each day.
Club vice-president Janet Davies will greet the pair at the end of the Niagara section to present them with their badges before they embark on the next section of the trail, which is Iroquoia.
Davies applauded the endeavour, saying, “It’s good to promote more youth and BIPOC trail users.”
The trail is divided into nine sections and each has its own club. Most have provided a point person for Gray, said Davies.
Gray has completed wilderness training and is looking forward to camping along the trail.
“I got my base weight down to 12.7 pounds. I started at 22 pounds and we cut 10 pounds, I’m very proud!” she boasts. Base weight comprises things that won’t change, such as her tent and sleeping bag.
“Add water, food, and fuel, and the total weight is 22 to 25 pounds,” she said. Gray practised by walking around with weight in her pack before the hike started.
Gray and her friend hope to hike an average of 21 kilometres each day, with infrequent days off. They hope to finish the journey on June 6.