On September 26th, 2023, Baffin’s Senior Vice President of Commercial, Mark Hubner embarked on a Real-World Testing expedition – an end-to-end hike of Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath, the Bruce Trail. Mark will cover over 900 km, from Tobermory, Ontario, through the Niagara Region by the end of the Winter season. Each week from September through March, he will hike a portion of the trail, camping on backcountry sites where possible along the way.
According to the Bruce Trail Conservancy, only 4,440 people have recorded a completion of the intense end-to-end hike, which would take over 30 consecutive days of hiking 30 km or more to complete. Many spread this journey over several years. Providing an even greater challenge, Mark will complete this expedition in the Winter, which offers a unique and more arduous experience due to inclement weather and conditions along the pedestrian-only trails.
The end-to-end hike of the Bruce Trail is Baffin’s first large-scale product testing expedition since the Winter circumnavigation of Lake Ontario in 2018 and will test various Baffin products, from current in-line boots to upcoming Fall/Winter 2024 launches as well as new products that are still in the development stage.
PHASE ONE: TRAVERSING THE PENINSULA
“Success is a process… During that journey sometimes there are stones thrown at you, and you convert them into milestones.” – Sachin Tendulkar
On September 26th, Mark kicked off his expedition at the Northernmost point of the Bruce Trail. The goal for the first phase of the journey was to complete the Peninsula Section which starts at the Northern Terminus Cairn in Tobermory, ON and ends in the town of Wiarton, ON. Mark packed all the essentials, from Baffin products and camping gear to first-aid kits and food, to ensure success as he took on the first 165.7 km of the Bruce Trail.
(Left to right) Michael McDonald, CEO, Bruce Trail Conservancy; Mark Hubner, Senior Vice President of Commercial, Baffin; Paul Hubner, President, Baffin
Leg 1: Northern Terminus – Little Cove Beach – High Dump – Dyer’s Bay
Dates completed: September 26th – September 28th
Kilometers completed: 55.31 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 1, Base Layer top, Sock Prototype 1
On the inaugural day of hiking, Mark was joined by Baffin’s President, Paul Hubner, Brand Director, Jessica Liut and Brand and Product Marketing Coordinator, Sidney Durante, as well as CEO of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Michael McDonald and President of the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club, Tamara Wilson.
Mark was grateful to have these Bruce Trail experts along for the hike. By the end of day one, Mark and the Baffin team not only followed Michael and Tamara’s guidance but appreciated the expansive knowledge they shared on the Bruce Trail during this first section.
The second and third days of the expedition saw Mark joined by his brother Brent Hubner, a tenured ambassador and tester of Baffin products. To keep spirits high during the first 10 hours of hiking the brothers leaned into their comedic sides by creating characters and sharing jokes along the way. By the end of the hike, they realized how valuable this was and decided to continue this playful tone for the following day – even in the face of their encounter with a mature rattlesnake on the trail!
After a night of backcountry camping, day three began. Mark and Brent had to walk along 10 kilometers of flat road, which they found to be more difficult than anticipated, relative to the trail, as hiking on a hardpacked surface results in greater impact over time. The Baffin prototype Mark wore was engineered to provide optimal support and traction on uneven, rocky, and slippery surfaces found in the wilderness.
(Left to right) Mark Hubner, Senior Vice President of Commercial, Baffin; Brent Hubner, Brand Ambassador, Baffin Testing Team
Leg 2: Dyer’s Bay – Reed’s Dump – Barrow Bay
Dates completed: October 2nd – October 3rd
Kilometers completed: 48.24 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 1, Sock Prototype 1
After three days back “in office”, balancing home life alongside this expedition, Mark was back on the trail, kicking off leg two of his journey through the Peninsula. On this leg, Mark was hiking alone, setting off on two days of solo expedition. About an hour into his hike, he ran into his first challenge. Mark began to feel a persistent burn spread across his back, which sent his thoughts to poison ivy. As he took a moment to reflect on how he could have gotten poison ivy on his back and nowhere else, he remembered a momentary pause at the beginning of the hike where he placed his backpack on the ground, unknowingly on top of poison ivy. As he continued carrying his pack the sap bled through his shirt and transferred onto his back. Undeterred, Mark continued his journey with the determination to complete this leg. As the day ended, he set up camp at Reed’s Dump, where a refreshing swim provided some relief for his itching back.
On day five, Mark endured through the pain and began his hike at 8:45 a.m. In just over eight hours, Mark covered 26 km ending at Barrow Bay. The final stretch of this leg presented a grueling 2 km stretch of flat road that again tested his perseverance and put repetitive stress on his lower body. With each step, Mark pushed through the fatigue and ultimately completed the second leg of phase one.
Leg 3: Barrow Bay – Hope Bay – Purple Valley Trail – Wiarton
Dates completed: October 10th – October 12th
Kilometers completed: 75.31 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 1, Base Layers, Sock Prototype 1, Waterproof Hardshell jacket, Mid layer vest
At the start of leg three, Mark found himself confronted with a series of challenges. He embarked on this next leg at 1:00 p.m., and halfway through it started to rain heavily. As the day got shorter, the combination of rain and dwindling daylight became a concern for the visibility of the trail. On top of this concern, Mark accidentally took a wrong turn down a private side trail and found himself at the bottom of the escarpment at somebody’s cottage. Realizing this, he thankfully retraced his steps to find his way back on track. Then, just when it seemed the day couldn’t hold any more surprises, a young bear suddenly charged across the trail in front of him. Uncertain of how to deal with a bear that may have its mother nearby, he called Tamara Wilson, the President of the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club for some guidance. Tamara gave valuable advice on what to do and reassured Mark that it was highly unlikely that the bear was accompanied by its mother. Despite four more charges from the young bear, Mark remained composed and safely reached his destination at Hope Bay through the a final 90 minute stretch of darkness. These are moments where Mark was grateful to have packed a headlamp in the event he lost daylight – as Tamara warned, the Peninsula becomes “ink black” after sunset and results in many rescue extractions by the local club or park authorities.
On day seven, Michael Davis, franchising entrepreneur and co-founder of INS Market’s and Kindling.ca and host of the “Better Your Best” Podcast, accompanied Mark on a 31.44 km hike, the longest stretch of trail so far. Unfortunately, rain persisted throughout the hike, though after 8.5 hours they ended at Purple Valley Trail.
Day eight, the final day of phase one, found Mark once again hiking solo. With no rain in sight, the weather offered clear scenery as he trekked for a solid five hours. The trail conditions were favourable although remnants of the previous day’s rain left some sections still wet. As the day wore on, he approached Wiarton with a sense of accomplishment. This marked the completion the Peninsula section and of phase one of his ambitious end-to-end journey of the Bruce Trail.
PHASE 1 COMPLETE
The first phase of Baffin’s Bruce Trail Expedition tested Mark with everything the Bruce Trail has to offer, from unexpected terrains and native plants to the inhabitants of the trail. Over the eight days, Mark hiked even more than he had originally planned, completing 178.86 km of trail.
Completing the Peninsula section of the Bruce Trail is only the beginning of Mark’s end-to-end expedition of the Bruce Trail, and we will continue to share updates of his journey on Canada’s oldest and longest-marked footpath. Stay tuned for monthly updates on his progress.