Located just steps outside the town of Trenton, Trenton Park’s understated entrance ushers you into a gem of a park. I had the rare opportunity to explore this amazing place with a special group of hikers, the Scotsburn 55+. They have met regularly for the past 15 years to either hike, bike, walk or kayak. Today, was my lucky day.
I’m usually a lone walker these days, so when I was asked to accompany an eclectic group to hike around Trenton Park, I was unsure of what to expect. What I discovered brought me back to my days walking the Camino in Spain, where I formed many close and lasting friendships through our shared experiences of walking.
“Meet you in the Trenton Park parking lot,” says Pat McConnell, a member of the 55+ group and resident of New Glasgow. “We’ll start the light to medium loop of about six and half kilometres from there.”
The park has six hiking trails, each winding its way through 565 acres of century-old hemlocks and other coniferous trees.
We head off down the wide and well-maintained Founders Trail. The crusher dust path leads us through the centre of the park where smaller trails lead off through the forest. Our guide, Sandra Malenfant, tells me that most of the less-travelled trails through the woods are in their natural state and not maintained, which instantly piques my interest.
“The main trails, where most people walk, have been upgraded with these wonderful, new route-map signs that we were able to install after recently receiving a $3-million grant.” Sandra points to a blue line on the map designating the Druhan Trail we are about to enter. “We’ll take this trail through some pristine woodlands,” she says.
After turning off the main trail, we enter an expanse of forest. It’s unusual to be in the deep woods so naturally cleared of undergrowth. It makes our walking over the spongy moss-covered ground effortless and peaceful under the shade of the tall coniferous tree canopy. It’s an ideal summer trail with its natural protection from the sun.
“It does my heart good to be out here and to be with people,” says Joan Clark, who chats with me along the trail. “Everyone’s so supportive and friendly. Well, I guess you’re not shy when you’re over 55.” Our hearty laughs echo through the trees.
I learn that Joan has now been hiking with this group for more than 10 years. “Throughout COVID, walking was really the only way to be with people,” she adds. “Now, it’s become a weekly routine for me. Can’t do without it.”
I amble up a slight incline and down the subsequent bank to a babbling brook. The lulling sound of the water floats over the chatter of the group. “Have you seen any wildlife on these trails?” I ask Joan.
“Not much. A few squirrels, birds and chipmunks. No deer though. They’re all in town,” she laughs.
We come upon a large fallen tree that has been blown over from a storm on the adjoining Tree-O Trail. It’s in an area thick with underbrush, so we have to pick our way around the tree. For those less mobile, there are walking sticks and helping hands to help guide people through the brambles.
I learn from Sandra that we will walk on sections of all six trails around the perimeter of the park. Another member of the group walks by, and I ask him if he knows this trail well.
“I’ve been walking in this park many times,” says Leo Gillis, a new member of the 55+ group. “But I’ve never been on this particular hike before.” I marvel at how many trail combinations there are in Trenton Park, enough for any age, and any level of hiker. I ask Leo how he joined the group.
“Well,” he says with a wink, “I just retired. Since my wife is still working and I love walking in the outdoors, I thought, why not join a group who enjoys what I like to do. So, I joined.” Leo stops to take a drink of water. “It’s sure hard to be in a bad mood when you’re with people and in nature. Everyone here is so positive. I guess that’s what nature does to you.”
Listening to Leo brought me back to my Camino days when being in nature every day brought me closer to people — like those walking the trail today — and their support got me through the tough bits. The 55+ group offers a similar support system.
The ensuing Morash Trail is on easy terrain that skirts between the edge of the forest and a nearby open field. We are strung out in a line on this narrowed path until we re-enter the woods once again. Here, Victoria Reich, another newcomer to the group walks alongside me. It’s her third walk with the group.
“Joining this group is different for everyone, but I like the aspect of being taken care of. There is someone to guide you, another who “sweeps” to make sure we don’t lose anyone, and one with a first aid kit. All I have to do is walk. I love it. I’ve met so many wonderful new people since I’ve joined the group.”
Victoria also tells me of other trails she has been on with the group, such as Fitzpatrick Mountain and Smelt Brook Trail. “Staying active is the name of the game,” she adds.
We are almost back to our starting point on the main Veteran’s Way trail when Sandra suggests we take a little detour to see the remnants of a beaver dam.
“It’s about half a kilometre up this path to the right,” she says. “There’s no beavers there now, but it’s a lovely spot nevertheless.”
This shoreline looks nothing like the rest of the spots on our hike. Whitened stumps of once tall trees stick out of a vast swampy area like large toothpicks. Worn gnawed teeth markings on one tree attest to the presence of beavers from years ago. The still water and the commanding view downstream exude a distinctive charm in comparison to the green lushness of the mossy forest we have just been on. It’s a perfect spot for those who wish for a secluded and, perhaps romantic, retreat from the busyness of daily life.
As we finish our walk, I hear from seasoned hiker Dodie Goodwin about the best bakery in the area. “Brookfield Bakery,” she says definitively. “It was started in 1953, and it’s still a thriving third-generation family business. They make everything from scratch. You must visit.” Another nugget of information I must remember.
Back at the parking lot, I say goodbye to new friends and a hike that has been special in every way. Throughout our seven plus kilometres of hiking, I have not only had reflective stretches by myself but enjoyed engaging conversations and met new people. Trenton Park has much more than just hiking trails and special people. It’s a year-round park with a playground, swimming pool, picnic area and a beautiful pond to be enjoyed by the whole family.
Five top reasons why hiking is good for your health
- Good for the heart, as hiking is an aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate, strengthens your heart and increases blood flow.
- Boosts bone density, as walking/hiking is a weight-bearing exercise.
- Improves stability and balance, as you manoeuvre over tree roots and hop over rocks.
- Builds strength in glutes, hamstring, quadriceps and hip muscles.
- Improves positivity and decreases anxiety. Studies at Stanford University have shown a decrease in repetitive negative thought patterns associated with the prefrontal cortex brain activity when participants have been in nature.