My partner Alex isn’t much into birthdays. In the six or seven years we’ve been together, I remember him giving me some clay flower pots once and another time we went out for dinner. In Alex’s defense, he works 24-7 during Ontario’s short summer. He’s an innkeeper at an exquisite lodge he built on the French River, and my birthday falls amidst the tourist season.
So two years ago, it came as a big surprise when, with a wry grin, he dropped the biggest birthday gift ever on my proverbial lap. It wasn’t jewelry or a car or a luxury vacation. Instead, what Alex gave me was part promise and part challenge. He said, “I know how hard it is for you to write another book when you’re working full time.” Then he offered to cover my living expenses (within limits!) for the next two years so I could focus on what I really wanted to be doing.
Two years later, almost to the day, 3000 copies of Caledon Hikes: Loops & Lattes, my fifth book, landed on my doorstep: 64 boxes on three wooden skids. We had a big celebration. Champagne. A short pause before I had to begin selling those 3000 copies so that people could get out into the Caledon Hills and take advantage of my labour of love.
Caledon Hikes: Loops & Lattes describes 37 loop hikes in the rolling Caledon Hills, about an hour’s drive northwest of Toronto. It offers days of outdoor enjoyment virtually for free. The hikes range in length from 2 to 25 kilometres that take from less than an hour to pretty much the entire day, and each loop starts and finishes in the same location so there is no need to drop off a car, or walk in and out along the same trail. Caledon Hikes tells you how difficult the hike is, how long it is and how much time you should allow for the trip. It also estimates the number of steps you will take, how many calories you will burn and – of equal importance in my hiking mind – where you can stop off for a creamy ice cream, a thick cafe latte, some snacks or a hearty lunch. Included in the precise directions and noted on the maps that accompany each hike are tidbits of local cultural and natural lore: What is the Devil’s Pulpit? Did you know that squirrels eat chipmunks? Can you see what’s left of the McLaren Castle?
Caledon sits in a special place in Southern Ontario. It’s position at the confluence of the Niagara Escarpment and the Oak Ridges Moraine mean the hiking varies from steep climbs up the cliff face of the escarpment through a moss-covered rock garden draped in bowing ferns to the open expanse of the moraine’s hummocky terrain where kettle lakes dot the vista to the burnished red Cheltenham Badlands. There are farm fields, split rail fences and magnificent hardwood forests. Caledon’s pair of rail trails are flat and wide enough to accommodate families walking abreast, and some of the trails lead onto quiet country roads that pass through small villages that invite you to stop for a respite and possibly some refreshments. In other words, tucked into the Caledon Hills, only an hour from Yonge & Bloor streets, is some of the greatest day hiking Ontario has to offer.
Caledon Hikes is a fantastic resource for inexperienced hikers or for anyone who doesn’t know the Caledon area well since it provides clear directions, has great colour photos and maps that are full of information. Mira Budd, a resident of Caledon East, is using Caledon Hikes to lead her group of ladies on weekly hikes. Mira says, “This is the most fantastic book. We’re all buying it so we can get out there and hike.”
A month into my book selling journey, I’ve already cleared one of the three wooden skids. The book is on sale at over 35 locations including three different Mountain Equipment Coop stores and Ben McNally Books in Toronto. You can buy it online from my website (www.nicolaross.ca) where you can also read about any route changes or you can share you hiking experiences at the book’s own facebook page called Caledon Hikes. If you click here, there is a sample hike that you can try out to see what you think.
I’m off Alex’s payroll now and on to my own, but the love story continues.
Nicola Ross was born and raised in Caledon. She is the award-winning author of five books including Caledon Hikes: Loops & Lattes, and has had articles published in the Walrus, Globe & Mail, explore magazine, Mountain Life, In the Hills and more. She was Caledon’s Environmentalist of the Year in 2004 and now spends her time writing, hiking and travelling.