An end-to-end is a combination of logistics and dogged determination. After that, the hiking comes easy. This set of articles is to help you get started and enlighten you about challenges you may have yet to consider. I hope to share knowledge and ensure that anyone considering end-to-ends finishes strong.
Let’s define an end-to-end
An end-to-end is the act of hiking every km along a particular trail. These hikes can be consecutive, chunked by section, or completely random. You can end-to-end hike over a month, year, or lifetime. The first thing to know is that the Bruce trail is unlike other end-to-end experiences like the Triple Crown in the United States. The Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Appalachian Trail were designed with a different activity in mind: Thru-hiking.
Thru-hikers are a subset of end-to-enders who set out to test themselves and finish the entire trail within a calendar year. It’s a taxing affair. Depending on the route, most people who start a thru-hike often don’t finish. A thru-hike will include pit stops through towns for supplies and sleeping in shelters and unmarked campsites on the trail. Some purists will only hike on the main course, while others are freer with how they measure their miles. Support is given to people by shuttle drivers, hostel owners, and outdoor gear stores to meet their needs. For the most part, it’s them and the wilderness for the better part of each day.
The Bruce Trail always has been apart from its southern counterparts. The larger trails have a different history. Compared to the Triple Crown, the Bruce Trail is still in its teenage years. Full cultures have sprouted along these southern trails to aid the endearing “Hiker Trash” as they complete their pilgrimage.
The second difference comes from the type of land these trails are on. The Appalachian Trail, for example, goes through a collection of national and state forests and is designated a National Scenic Trail by the US federal government. Yes, there are parts where camping is forbidden, but for the most part, the trail is in the United States equivalent to Crown Land. Anyone can camp anywhere.
The Bruce Trail starts from a different origin. 1967, the Bruce Trail opened for public use across the Niagara Escarpment without the federal funding that a scenic trail has. It has since stitched together green space from conservation authorities, government parks, municipalities, indigenous nations, private landowners, and the land purchased by the Bruce Trail Conservancy. As a result, the trail, while a resilient landmark, only partially controls its fate as it expertly balances the needs of all of its community partners.
One day, the Bruce trail may have the capacity for full thru-hikes. Still, trying to thru-hike today is exceptionally challenging to do without trespassing and breaking the existing agreements with our conservation partners. Some may feel obliged to “stealth camp,” where they hunker down on a patch of land to spend the night. Don’t do this! Stealth campers may inadvertently harm the natural environment and damage the relationships between our partners and the trail. I respect these communities too much to disregard them in this way. For this reason, I follow the rules given to me.
Before talking about end-to-end strategies, it is important to re-emphasize this point. If you care passionately about your end-to-end, you can find a way to make it happen without breaking the rules. These next weeks, we will discuss some logistics towards completing an end-to-end.
Aaron “Talus” Holden
Missed a post in the END-TO-ENDER Advice Series? Check out other posts here:
In 2016, I finished the Bruce Trail consecutively over 40 days. We started in Queenston and ended in Tobermory….
An end-to-end is just a combination of logistics and dogged determination. After that, the hiking comes easy. This article…