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

The Hamilton Spectator - - Local - JEFF MA­HONEY jma­honey@thes­ 905-526-3306

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 iro­, click on hike cal­en­dar. To do­nate to the hos­pice, visit https://kem­phos­


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.

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