TRAIL CHRONICLES: NAVIGATING THE ENCHANTING CHALLENGES OF THE BRUCE TRAIL | PHASE TWO
During the first week of Fall 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 TWO: CHILLED TRAILS AND ENDURING BONDS
“You can pack for every occasion, but a good friend will always be the best thing you could bring!” - Unknown
On October 12th, Mark successfully concluded the first phase (The Peninsula Section) of his end-to-end journey of the Bruce Trail. After taking a short break, Mark began phase two in Wiarton, ON. Along with his goal to complete the second phase of his journey, Mark planned to discover various wonderous side trails with multiple special guests. Mark began his journey in Wiarton with the final destination set for Meaford, ON. Armed with essentials and geared up with Baffin attire, Mark eagerly set forth on the trails.
Leg 4: Wiarton – Kemble Mountain – Lindenwood
Dates completed: October 17th – October 18th
Kilometers completed: 49.21 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 2, Base Layer Top, Base Layer Bottom, Sock Prototype 1, Trail Socks
Baffin product worn by Alan Wood: TRURO
Baffin product worn by David Spindler: SNOSTORM
On October 17th, Mark embarked on the ninth day of his end-to-end expedition of the Bruce Trail. Hiking solo, his day began with clear skies, a radiant sun and cool breeze, so he was surprised to be confronted with very wet trail conditions. Mark was forced to navigate through sections with a large amount of water sitting atop the trail. Fortunately, there were strategically placed boardwalks that helped him stay dry.
“Trail volunteers and the team at the Bruce have done a fantastic job of setting up a few boardwalks along the way so that hiking traffic can get through” – Mark Hubner
As Mark continued through the remaining kilometers of day nine, he encountered a cliff section with ladders placed to assist hikers. With skill and caution as he was capturing the experience on camera, Mark conquered the challenge and completed another 24.65 km of the Bruce Trail.
On day 10, October 18th, Mark was joined by Alan Wood, co-founder of Rally Beer Company, and David Spindler, ex-Rally partner and now member of Movember Canada, to complete the last section of Leg 4. With a cool breeze and a bit of sun peeking through, the group decided to check out Bass Lake as their first rest stop. This was an interesting bushwhack off the main trail to experience the lake. Undeterred by the wilder terrain, they embraced the challenge, refilled their water bottles, and pushed on.
Their journey continued towards Porcupine Crevice, and true to its name, the trio encountered two porcupines – one right on the trail, and the other lurking around the corner. After closely observing the spikey creatures, they took their newfound experiences and concluded their expedition at Lindenwood, having completed a distance of 24.56 km.
Side Trail: Tom Green’s Farm
Date completed: October 26th
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: HUDSON
Baffin product worn by Tom Green: HUDSON
On October 26th, Mark stepped off the main trail and began his journey of Side Trails. For the inaugural Side Trail adventure, Mark received an invitation from Canadian comedian and actor Tom Green to explore his farm. Through light rain, Mark and Tom, accompanied by their dogs, ventured into the backcountry where, “like a couple of lumberjacks” as Tom put it, they navigated through uncharted trails that were entirely new to the both of them.
After a few hours of exploration, they concluded their hike back on the farm. The adventure did not end there, as Mark had the pleasure to meet Tom’s mule, Fanny, and donkey, Kia, which added a delightful touch to their day of outdoor exploration.
Side Trail: Kerncliff Park
Date completed: October 29th
Kilometers completed: 7.45 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: ZONE
Baffin product worn by Elvis Stojko: ZONE
On October 29th, Mark was joined by Canadian Olympic figure skater Elvis Stojko for an adventurous hike along a side trail around Fisher’s Pond. Always on the lookout for top-notch footwear, Elvis opted for Baffin’s ZONE boots, a boot made for limitless outdoor recreation and fun. The two embarked on a journey that offered them a spectacular vista featuring the CN Tower and breathtaking Toronto skyline.
Covering a distance of 7.45 km, their hike consisted of chilly weather and a light drizzle. Nevertheless, Mark and Elvis embraced the outdoors, finding a refreshing recharge in nature. The rugged terrain failed to dampen their spirits, proving that even adverse weather couldn’t diminish the joy of their shared hike.
Leg 5: Lindenwood – Owen Sound
Dates completed: October 30th
Kilometers completed: 29.83 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 2, Base Layer Top, Base Layer Bottom, Glove Liner, Sock Prototype 1, Trail Socks
Baffin product worn by Tim Donaldson: Boot Prototype 1
On October 30th, Mark stepped back on the main trail, commencing the fifth Leg, and day 11 of his adventure. Joined by his good friend Tim Donaldson, Mark began in Lindenwood amidst cloudy and windy weather. As they progressed, a moment of realization struck – they had missed a trail blaze. Thankfully, they noticed a trail on the opposite side of the creek they were hiking and were able to continue their trek until the creek narrowed, allowing them to reconnect with the main trail.
As they continued their journey, the weather took a dramatic turn. The wind was whipping, and the pair encountered a mix of rain, snow, and hail – a weather trifecta that added a unique spectacle to their hike. Undaunted by the unpredictable conditions, Mark and Tim persevered, triumphantly completing Leg Five where they covered a total distance of 29.83 km.
Side Trail: Uli’s Stairs – Devil’s Punchbowl
Date completed: October 31st
Kilometers completed: 10.47 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: HUDSON, Glove Liner
Baffin product worn by Jake: ZONE, Merino Trail Socks
Baffin product worn by Jordan: NORTHERN, Inferno Base Top, Glove Liner, Knit Toque
On October 31st Mark took a break from his main expedition for the main trail to do a Side Trail with guests, Michael McDonald, CEO of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, Jake and Jordan, members of the Hamilton Ti-Cats Football Team Council, and Jessica Liut, the Brand Director of Baffin. The sun was shining, the fall colours were in full bloom, and there was excitement all around as this was a very special hike where the Grey Cup trophy made an appearance.
In November 2022, Baffin and the CFL launched a multi-year partnership, making Baffin the Official Boot of the league and the Grey Cup. To celebrate the 110th Grey Cup being hosted in Hamilton, Mark took “the road to Grey Cup” to the trails and carried the Grey Cup to the end of this section, uniting the two brands together. With this momentous occasion, the group ended their hike, completing 10.47 km of trail.
Leg 6: Tom Thomson Trail – Owen Sound - Meaford
Dates completed: November 7th & November 9th
Kilometers completed: 34.13 km
Baffin product worn by Mark Hubner: Boot Prototype 2, Base Layer Bottom, Trail Socks, Glove Liner
On November 7th, Mark reconvened on the main trail hiking solo. The morning rain created challenging trail conditions, with stretches where Mark found himself ankle-deep in mud and water. This was perfect to Real-World Test™ the boot prototypes Mark wore, as they kept his feet dry and warm despite the fall weather conditions.
Upon reaching Sydenham Forest, the Bruce Trail app cautions hikers to wear bright colours as it is hunting season in the area. Fortunately, Mark came prepared with a neon orange toque for visibility. However, a new challenge arose when Mark was faced with cold and harsh winds and did not have his glove liners. The open roads exposed him to gusts of wind, and even within the trails, where the absence of leaves amplified the wind’s impact. Despite the chill, Mark successfully covered another 16.26 km of the Bruce Trail.
On day 14 of hiking the main Bruce Trail, Mark was well-prepared for the unpredictable elements. Surprisingly, the weather took a turn for the better, treating Mark to a breathtaking day of hiking under clear sunny skies. The final stretch of Leg Six unfolded with spectacular scenery, featuring the astounding Inglis Falls cascading down the escarpment, and the enchanting labyrinth of Boyd Crevice. Mark hiked through the crevice in awe, surrounded by towering blocks of the cliff face.
Thanks to the reliability of the prototype boots, Mark confidently tackled muddy and unstable sections where large rocks covered the trailway. Ultimately, Mark successfully covered a distance of 17.87 km, marking the completion of Leg Six, and the end of Phase Two in his remarkable journey.
PHASE TWO COMPLETE
As Phase Two of Baffin’s Bruce Trail Expedition ends, Mark has not only experienced the biting chill of the trail’s weather but also gained a crucial reminder to be prepared for the unpredictable. Mark hiked a total of 113.51 km on the main trail and explored the wonderous side trails alongside incredible friends of Baffin.
Having conquered both Phase One and Two, Mark has now covered 292.37 km in his ambitious end-to-end expedition of the Bruce Trail. Follow along as we continue to share updates and glimpses into Mark’s ongoing adventure along the Bruce Trail.