I think I was about 6 years old when my father first took me walking in the Seaton Hiking Trails just north of our house in Pickering. It was the first summer we lived in the area – so about 1984 (I can hear you all doing the math out there to see how old I am!). That first trip had me hooked. It was like exploring another world – although when you’re 6, across the street feels like another world. As I grew older, my friends and I would spend the spring, summer, and fall flying through the trails on bicycles, hoping to come back covered in mud, or taking long introspective hikes through the bush. Then winter would come and we’d be gliding down hills at break neck speed on toboggans and GT Snow Racers.
25 years later, I no longer see another world – I see the world, or at least the world I feel the most connected to. Throughout all that has happened in my life, good and bad (almost all good really), those rugged footpaths and the meandering West Duffins Creek have been a constant.
Interestingly, the trails, like all nature, are anything but constant. Waters wander over stone and soil, eroding the land and carving out a new landscape on a continual basis. Paths I walked as a child have ceased to exist, long since fallen into the river. But new paths have opened. These trails have done more to teach me about both the fragility and the power of nature than anything else I have learned. Each trip is an adventure and a valuable lesson into the processes of the world – not the artificial world we have created, but the world underneath that, the real world. Characterized by a strange mix of eternity and flux, the real world has proven to be so vastly complex we have little hope of ever truly understanding all of it, but there is nonetheless, great value in the struggle for that deeper knowledge. After a quarter of a century walking those trails I feel I begun to scratch the surface of the knowledge that this small stretch of land has to offer.
Two weekends ago I was fortunate enough to walk in Seaton twice. Something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. Saturday, I headed out with my oldest friend James. He and I practically grew up in the trails and we have hiked, biked, cross-country skied and, on one entirely inexplicable occasion, rollerbladed! Through the trails together for many years. But busy schedules have prevented us from going much in the last few years. It was a wonderful homecoming to be out there again with an old friend.
That in itself would have been a great reward, but on Sunday I was fortunate again, hiking out with my father and my nephew. My Dad and I haven’t had the chance to hike together in Seaton in a very long time – too long it seems. We’ve walked elsewhere together, but to return to the paths of our first hikes together, when it likely seemed to him I had barely learned to walk, was very special to me. In bringing my nephew along we introduced a new generation to the winding trails, cool waters, and high eroding cliffs of my younger days.
Where else but here could 25 years pass by to see everything and nothing changed. With a little luck, and my wife who gets me to eat my vegetables, I plan to hike those woods for a great many years to come.
Thanks for reading!