The Sunrise to Sunset Summer Solstice Trek

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  • The origins of this trek are probably as old as the first human recognition of the regularity of seasonal change and the cycles of life that followed. If we lived in an equatorial zone we had two seasons to acknowledge: wet and dry. Our storytelling mythology reflected this reality of geography. Similarly, if we lived in a temperate climate, we experienced the four cycles of spring, summer, autumn and winter that created the birth, growth, harvest, death and rebirth cycles. These are found in most of our northern hemisphere current holyday ceremonies and religious mythologies. Add the thirteen cycles of the moon in a lunar year and you get the beginnings of all sacred traditions we created in our attempt to understand the great mysteries.

The Equinox Treks are reflective ones, acknowledging the equal balance of day and night, the light and the dark of life,  the Return of the Sun King and the Departure of the Sun King. This a time for personal soul searching, a reexamination of goals, a celebration of returning life on the one hand, the asking of Gaugin’s three big questions on the other hand:

“Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”

Whereas the Winter Solstice Trek on the shortest day of the year is a journey into the dark night of the soul, the Summer Solstice Trek on the longest day of the year is a celebration of the sensory – yes touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound but also the deeper senses like a sense of wonder, and a sense of belonging, and a sense of ecstasy.

In the beginning before the days of satellites and hard science, the Treks often lasted three days or more to ensure the traveler covered the time of the sacred seasonal change. Now most of us are lucky if we can put a day aside for each of those journeys. If we can, here’s a guide.


We wake up in the very early morning, before the sunrise has even lightened the sky. We check the pack we had prepared the night before – water, fruit, biscuits, our favourite granola, knife, matches/lighter, moderate first aid kit, small sketch pad and pencil. On these treks there is no camera, no phone on, no watch. All the images we want to save will be stored in memory, like a slideshow in our mind. All the minute details we will record on our sketch pad, taking the time to truly see. We will have left our starting and ending point with a friend if we are going solo. But this is a trek best shared with a friend where a single look or touch between us says: How wonderful it is – this sense of life here.

We have researched our starting point where our trailhead begins, and have a bearing on where we should be heading to be safely out of the “wilds” before full darkness falls, But there is no designated route. That will be discovered. “Where are we?” Here. “What time is it?” Now.

We begin our trek in almost total darkness as we leave our trailhead. We walk carefully, slowly to let our eyes adjust to the details of the fforest around us. As the sun rises, the colours brighten, the shadows grow shorter and new details are revealed. We stop whenever something arouses our curiosity. We may sketch or simply absorb the moment. We stop to drink when we are thirsty or eat when we are hungry. There is little speech between us – rather, there is an intimate sharing of each discovery. We will change direction at a whim as something catches our attention, each taking turns leading the trek. When the sun is high we take a lunch break, lie back and rest. 

Refreshed, the journey continues with always a new discovery to share along the way, a new memory to hold. Gradually, the sunlight begins to fade and we begin the slow circle back to our trailhead. We will arrive in darkness. But that is not the end of a Solstice Trek. Now we will go to a feast, to celebrate and talk about the discoveries of the longest day of the year.

And then to sleep, perchance to dream.


In the true John Muir style of the Trek, the walk is done in pure wilderness where other humans are not encountered. That is very difficult for those of us in the GTA. so we do the best we can with local conservation areas or trails like the Bruce Trail or magical parks like Mono Cliffs. There are still oases of wild yet to be discovered and perhaps best done on a slow, wandering, wondering sunrise to sunset journey.

The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon


Footnote: A variation on this theme was designed by our friend and neighbour Pam Leudke, who simply leaves her home in the dark on the day of the Solstice and heads out down the local Humber Valley Heritage Trail and beyond. She walks until the sun sets, often with a friend, and then calls for a pick-up wherever the darkness finds her. Her route is usually not in complete wilderness but passes through small communities on the way with stops at shops and local eateries, nicely combining a little bit of culture with the natural spaces of our local area..


Inspiration From “The Trail”

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Recently, it was my honour to be asked to be the “Inspirational Speaker” at the Toronto Bruce Trail Club’s Annual General Meeting. For the second year in a row, their AGM had to go online because of pandemic concerns. This was going to be a challenge, partly because I am a technophobe, and partly because the Bruce Trail is sacred ground for me. In these chaotic times, I wanted to ensure I would deliver that much needed inspiration.

For those new to Ontario, the Bruce Trail was founded in 1960 when four members of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists – Norman Pearson, Ray Lowes, Dr. Robert MacLaren and Dr. Philip Gosling – met to discuss Lowes’s vision of a hiking path that would span the entire Niagara Escarpment.

By 1963, the Bruce Trail Association had incorporated – three years from vision to action. The journey continues to this day with Clubs from nine different sections united in care, conservation and education for the Bruce Trail Conservancy. The Toronto Section runs from Kelso to Cheltenham where my own Caledon Section begins.

My personal history with the Trail began in 1968, with many a solo hike to release the stress of the first years of teaching. In those days there were overnight campsites and cooking areas and access to springs. In 1972, I switched from Elementary to Middle School and thus began eight years of leading student hikes on a “5 day 50 mile” Bruce Trail hike during the last week of September. That was the beginning of a long term relationship culminating with my decade at the Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre right beside the Bruce Trail.

This keynote was much more than another speaking engagement. This was a thank you from the heart and I didn’t want to miss. However, as a public speaker, I am used to live audiences where you can interact, feel the energy, work the room, and physically engage the participants. This online concept was actually making me a little nervous.

Add to that, the frequent and detailed reminders that hit my emailbox alerting me that the meeting was coming, and to get ready for the rehearsal.  Usually when I speak at a conference, I am given a theme, I arrive, get a feel for the audience and then hit the stage, often for an hour straight. This one had a rehearsal. With a script. I was worried. I don’t do rehearsals. And I have never used a script.

When the day for their AGM rehearsal came, I prepared my computer for a ZOOM meeting and waited anxiously. I need not have worried. This rehearsal was to make sure that all of their online connections were working so that their 100 plus members attending in a week could engage, interact, ask questions, and vote. And the script was simply the organizational agenda for the meeting.

Best of all, I got to meet the thirteen members of the Board online  This Toronto Bruce Trail Club Board was organized and efficient and diverse. Too often on hiking trails in the past few years, I kept encountering kindly elderly folk in their Tilley hats and pants with their walking sticks eagerly sharing their nature wisdoms.

Well, this Board, while appearing to certainly be kind and sharing, was anything but homogenised milk about to meet its due date. The thirteen faces I met on the screen were a diverse combination of cultural backgrounds, genders and ages. It was like a breath of fresh air. And to boot, they were technologically literate! The joke around our home is that I can light a fire in the pouring rain with a flint and steel, but I can’t turn on my cell phone.

The sequence of the meeting was confirmed, all the ZOOM buttons tested, the voting boxes checked, and the two hour meeting set for April 10, 2022.

It went off without a hitch. All of the Board’s careful planning smoothed the AGM into a much shorter online time and still managed to cover all of the business, financials, awards and tributes. During that time I learned more about the Toronto Club, the first to publish a statement on the need to encourage cultural diversity, inclusion, and awareness of social justice issues surrounding us all.

I was also reminded of the hard work of the volunteers who maintain and improve the trails through the GTA along the 45 km Toronto section that services the largest Club in the Bruce Trail’s 900 plus kilometres from Niagara to Tobermory. This Club has the biggest membership in the Conservancy and possibly the greatest responsibility to teach the very diverse Toronto Area population about how to walk lightly and responsibly on the land.

As more and more people come to our cities from around the world, we cannot assume that they all had joyous summer camp experiences or outdoor education opportunities in school or nature-based excursions with their parents. More and more the exact opposite is true. The Toronto Bruce Trail Club recognizes this, and the energy to deliver on that responsibility is reflected in their new Board of Directors, the “old wisdoms” of their many volunteers, and the enthusiasm of their members.

When it came time to conclude the meeting, my “inspirational keynote” spontaneously came straight from the heart. All I could see on my computer were a hundred little faces in boxes scrolling at top of my screen. It was hard to know if I had done my job, but the time for questions at the end turned into a series of thank-yous from the participants. I’m hoping it was enough to get this Toronto Bruce Trail Club inspired to take on another year of protecting the legacy and vision of our founders.

Every trail has a story. Every person is a storyteller. This is our story. The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon







A Farewell to the Chains of Office

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I had the honour of sitting down with Caledon’s Mayor Allan Thompson a few days ago to reflect on his time in office now that he has announced he will not be seeking another term. The first question I asked him was, “What was the most significant moment of your time as Mayor?” He thoughtfully reflected and then said, “The Wampum Belt, the restoration of the Wampum Belt which reaffirmed our commitment to working with our First Nations Treaty people.”

His answer completely took me by surprise, but it also defined the man. It wasn’t some photo opportunity moment for political aggrandisement that mattered most to Allan Thompson. It was the heartfelt acknowledgement of the stewardship we bear to the lands upon which we now live and conduct our business.

The restoration of the Wampum Belt, originally exchanged at the signing of the Ajentace Treaty of 1818, was more than a symbolic gesture. It was a renewal of the terms of Treaty 19, and a commitment to honour the promise of stewardship we had made to care for the lands that would eventually become most of Peel Region. The homeland of the Mississaugas of Credit First Nation (MCFN) was given in exchange for our promise to be good stewards of the land. 

Thompson was the first Mayor and Caledon was the first municipality to recreate the Wampum Belt exchange on Caledon Day in 2018 with Chief Stacey Laforme of the MCFN, The exchange took place in an historic ceremony, almost two hundred years to the day that the original Ajentace Treaty had been signed. It was a genuine act of reconciliation. When Thompson reads the Land Acknowledgement at Council meetings, it comes from the heart.

It also explains his answer when I asked him why he had wanted to be Mayor in the first place. When asked why he ran for Mayor of Caledon, he did not hesitate in his reply, “I wanted to make it a better place, make a positive difference.”

“When I went knocking on doors during that first campaign, I kept hearing the same request, especially from seniors. They all wanted high speed Internet. That’s why we worked so hard with the provincial and federal governments to get the funding to bring Broadband to everyone in Caledon by 2025.” Although some cautioned against it, Allan pushed hard to get the local Broadband Tax portion included on citizens’ tax bills. “I wanted it to be as transparent as possible in showing that the Town was committed to the funding.” His hope is that he can have the last federal signature on the final funding before he leaves office.  Promise kept.

Under Allan’s leadership, the Town planned the community smart development in Mayfield West, the revitalization of Bolton, including the much needed traffic calming at the Four Corners, and the recent passing of all-day parking. He felt  the completion of Caledon’s Official Plan based on the Places to Grow Act of 2005 was one of the most important accomplishments of his final term. This includes the ongoing planning of an innovative forward looking GTA West Corridor for sustainable mobility. “We must be the architects of our own future,” he said.

In the continuing work dealing with burgeoning growth and public frustration with ever changing health guidelines and restrictions during a global pandemic, Thompson had nothing but praise for the Town staff. “They are all so very good at what they do. I felt our working relationship was healthy and respectful.” He noted the toll that social media attacks from a frustrated public put on the Town staff. “There were a lot of personal and angry comments directed to our staff. It’s OK to criticize the role, but not the person,” 

In his role as Mayor, Thompson built a positive relationship with Regional and Provincial colleagues. Allan Thompson is not a “Look at me, look at me!” kind of person. No grandstanding, He and his team just quietly got the job done. He said that when he wears the Chain of Office as Mayor, it is a humbling reminder that he is representing and speaking for the Town, not as an individual.

He felt that getting the job done is going to be challenging for the next Council considering Caledon’s reduced representation at Peel Region, development pressures coming from Brampton and Mississauga, and the change of rules for the selection of the Region of Peel Chair and new Vice-Chair. “Caledon must have autonomy for its own planning.”

Allan Thompson has served on Caledon Council for over nineteen years moving from Area Councillor to Regional Councillor to Mayor. When I asked him what comes next he got a big smile on his face and answered “More time with my grandchildren and my family. They are over the moon that I am coming home.”

 Allan Thompson was well known for walking into a Council of Mayors meeting or an international conference with a big smile on his face, sharing sincere admiration for the Town of Caledon, and wearing his trademark cowboy boots. He was a country boy and proud of it. Whoever becomes the next Mayor of Caledon is going to have big boots to fill.


Top Five Accomplishments of Mayor Allan Thompson as determined by his staff:

  1. Wampum Belt Commitment with the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Indigenous Engagement
  2. Connecting Caledon – Town wide access to reliable high speed internet by 2025
  3. Modernizing Town Services with a focus on Customer Service Excellence (live streaming Council meeting – online portal for recreation services)
  4. Community focused capital projects (Caledon East Community Centre Expansion – Southfields Village Community Centre – Seniors Community Centre (Rotary)
  5. Caledon Planning Caledon Mindset – the Official Plan, a roadmap for the future!


Skid Crease, Caledon