Reble with a cause — hiking for the hospice
He read about pathfinders at nine; now at 69, he’s completing his seventh transit of Bruce Trail
Richard Reble is a trailblazer ... a Bruce Trail blazer. You might argue the Bruce Trail had already been blazed and he’s just been trodding a beaten path. But you’d be wrong. The Bruce Trail isn’t just his “exercise machine.”
Richard punches open a new world every time he hikes it, and when he leads group walks, which he often does, he turns the experience into a journey of discovery, an exploration. And few people can lay reach to the uncharted frontier of the trail — its nooks and crannies, history and ecology, its hidden mysteries and lore, flora and fauna — like Richard, who knows it so well. He fires people up about hiking and about the mighty Bruce. He lights the way, with the torch of his passion.
He’s a trail blazer. (Actually, he really does blaze, hiking at between four and five kilometres an hour when on his own or with fast hikers, tailoring it down for group hikes.)
Let’s go back to where I said every time he does it. Every time? How many times has he done the Bruce? Soon, if all goes well, seven.
This latest time is special. He’s hiking the trail to raise money for the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice, where he volunteers.
Seven times. End to end. Ninehundred kilometres, from Niagara Falls to Tobermory.
He’s a Reble, with a cause. Two causes actually. Not just the hospice but hiking itself. Walking outdoors is its own reason, and for Richard, commitment to it is all bound up with his ardent environmentalism. If he walks an awful lot, maybe it’s because he won’t fly; air travel leaves a bad carbon wing-print.
One exception. His annual flight to Newfoundland to lead his popular 10-day East Coast Trail hike. (Next year, he hopes to co-lead it with his life partner, Teri Kramer.)
Richard Reble, 69, remembers “exactly” when the hiking bug nipped him.
“I was nine. There was a history textbook about pathfinders and I was so fascinated by exploration and went with friends on adventures in Red Hill Creek when we didn’t know its name and called it Little River.
“We’d follow it, see where it goes, and we’d come out at Albion Falls, like we discovered it for the first time.”
After his boyhood, he discovered something else. “Girls. And sports. And then there was high school, then marriage and kids and work.”
Those distractions pulled him off hiking for years, but when he was 42, the flame got rekindled. Not long after starting his second chapter of hiking, he took up leading groups.
He does one, for instance, every Tuesday evening. “All different places — Hamilton, Burlington, Grimsby. “We start at 7 p.m. and got for about two hours. Then some linger on for a pub stop.”
He does all kinds of trails and hikes, not just the Bruce. But, of course, him being a hiker and living in Hamilton, the Bruce holds a special fascination.
The reason he’s doing it is to raise money for the Dr. Bob Kemp Hospice. His late wife Susan, who hiked with him, was stricken with lung cancer. Near the end, preparations were made to move her to the hospice, but the day before she was to be admitted, she succumbed. That was six years ago.
Richard never forgot the compassion they showed, the care and excellence of service and comfort they were offering. So he started volunteering.
Richard’s progress so far on this latest charge through the trail has taken him up to the Bruce Peninsula, about 80 kilometres from Tobermory, which he’ll tackle in two stints, one next week and again the week after.
To get on Richard’s or other leaders’ hikes, go to iroquoia.on.ca, click on hike calendar. To donate to the hospice, visit https://kemphospice.akaraisin.com/
In a Sept. 20 column on the late Robert Ursul, I promised I’d update you on plans to commemorate him. Because of changes in my column schedule, it’s short notice, but celebration of his life happens today at 2 p.m. at the Macassa Bay Yacht Club, 80 Harbour Front Dr. Spread the word.
Richard Reble visits Felker's Falls in Stoney Creek. Richard, fundraising for the Bob Kemp Hospice, is nearing completion of his latest hike of the Bruce Trail.