Adirondack to Algonquin hiker reflects on summer journey
By Mike Lynch
Jamieson Findlay, a 64-year-old science writer, made the trek from the Adirondack Park to Algonquin Park last summer becoming the first known person to do so in modern times.
The 400-mile adventure on the Pilgrimage for Nature Trail took him about 5 weeks to complete. He finished Sept. 18. His childhood friend, farmer Bill Barkley, joined him for the New York section of the trip.
Findlay lives in Chelsea, Quebec, and works for the nonprofit Nature Canada, which is based in Ottawa. He traveled the route to promote the wildlife corridor and collect information for the nonprofit Algonquin to Adirondacks Collaborative, which protects and promotes the corridor.
A2A connects the Adirondack Park with Algonquin Park. It has been recognized for decades but has been gaining attention in recent years.
The A2A corridor is considered critical by wildlife advocates because it would allow plants and wildlife to migrate in a northward direction, which is expected to be important due to warming temperatures.
Findlay sat down with the Explorer to answer some questions about his journey. The question-and-answer session was edited for brevity and clarity.
Explorer: Can you tell me what your goals were on this trip and if you achieved them?
Findlay: My main goal was to finish the trek. To get to Algonquin Park, and I did that. I thought that I might be able to walk it all. But as I mentioned, it turned out that walking the whole thing would not have been practical, and it wouldn’t have been really such a great experience because I would have been walking roads, paved roads a lot. So I made the decision to kind of switch to cycling. Once I got into Ontario, I think that was a good decision. I did one day of canoeing. The other goal was to get people interested in learning more about A2A and protecting it. We talked to a lot of people about the trek; we gave out these (informational) cards. I went to a high school and gave a talk, I gave a talk at Parks Canada and so on. So, to a modest degree, I think I achieved that goal by educating people about A2A. Not many people knew about A2A and the idea of a wildlife corridor.
Explorer: Has this trip changed you in any ways? And is it going to inspire any other actions from you, such as doing other trips or writing a book?
Findlay: It’s certainly changed me in the sense that I learned some new skills and got new perspectives. I’m a bit more knowledgeable. If I ever have to do a major hike on this continent again, I will be much better prepared. And I learned a bit more about the wildlife and ecology because Bill was very good about spotting things and pointing things out. So I learned some practical skills, which is always good. I think it’s very healthy to occasionally take yourself out of your ordinary life, with all its amenities and conveniences, and put yourself in a situation where you just have to draw on your own resources. (In addition), I am much more connected to the conservation community now in Canada and the United States.
Explorer: Did you find the trip mentally challenging as well as physically? A lot of people think of the physical aspects, but I would think mentally it’d be challenging, especially being on your own out there.
Findlay: Yeah, there were two mental challenges. First of all, the uncertainty at the end of the day. Often, we didn’t know where we were staying, and we couldn’t find a hotel or B&B, and we couldn’t find public land to camp on. So a couple of times in upper New York state, we were just looking around, and we found a place … that added a bit of apprehensiveness. And the other mental challenge is that for me, so once Bill went home, I was doing it essentially alone, that was a bit harder.
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Explorer: What was your philosophy going into the trip regarding gear?
Findlay: I have moderate experience in the backcountry. I’m not an expert by any means. I started by thinking about weight (of my gear), and I started to buy new lightweight equipment. But then I stopped because I had bought lightweight tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, etc. I would have spent 3,000 bucks easily. I had an old sleeping bag, it was fine. It just wasn’t that lightweight. It was a bit bulky. I borrowed a tent; it wasn’t super lightweight, but it was okay … So that was kind of our philosophy, or at least mine. I didn’t want to buy a whole new set of equipment. I couldn’t afford it.
Explorer: Do you have any advice for people interested in traveling through the corridor in the future?
Findlay: It’s a trail that should be done using various modes, not just walking, not just cycling, but walking, cycling and canoeing, if you can. The second bit of advice would be to use your contacts if you have any. Friends in various parts along the route. Tap into that network because I think there’s a lot of goodwill among the conservation community and the friends of these protected areas and friends of the corridor. (I received) a lot of goodwill and willingness to help and generosity.
Explorer: Any else you want to share about your trip?
Findlay: Well, if I go back to one thing that I kind of regret is that the nature of the trek required that I be connected (to the internet and technology). I had to update the blog. I had to check Facebook. I had to make connections along the way. I had to connect with journalists, or I had to connect with people that I might meet up with. So I had to use my phone a lot. I found that a bit frustrating. The ideal escape for me would be to leave all devices behind, but I was required to use my phone as much as possible. It was kind of frustrating because often we wouldn’t have connectivity.