I do a bit of hiking when I can.

Now, that’s not an understatement. I like walking in the outdoors through various types of terrain, toward a specific destination or not. But, I am not a fanatic. I don’t equip myself with special gear or special clothing. No gung-ho, mountaintop-or-bust attitude. Often when my wife and I were tenting I would explore the area on foot while she lazed about the campground. I still have the desire to get outdoors but I’m level-headed enough not to do it solo at my age and physical condition. I’ve become part of a wonderful, friendly, and informal group who hike. (Check them out: Trail Blazers – Explorers of Southern Ontario.)

There was a hike tentatively planned for this past Saturday. When Saturday arrived it was a day full of falling snow and blowing wind. Most people would have cancelled their participation; some did. But a hardy group (some may have thought “foolhardy”) gathered anyway. We had a guide waiting at the park we were to visit; people were expected to come down from further away; we saw no easy way to cancel and not cause undue confusion. Therefore, a handful gathered together in Hamilton, drove through dangerous snow conditions on the QEW to Short Hills Provincial Park just outside St. Catherines where we met the rest of our party. Seven adults and two youngsters.

Now slogging through knee-high fallen snow and air full of falling snow that whipped exposed faces on the higher ground may not sound pleasant. However time spent with an intimate group, whether friends or strangers, all involved in the same activity certainly diminishes any effect mere weather could have. It didn’t matter that the walk seemed longer than first perceived. It didn’t matter that the main attraction, Swayze’s Falls, was frozen solid and snow-covered. It didn’t matter that the snow and wind kept all winter wildlife out of sight. We enjoyed each other.

We enjoyed and helped each other on the trail and in the snowbanks. We talked and laughed in the cars, the parking lot, Tim Hortons. And we laughed and commiserated with one who got lost, came late, didn’t hike at all, and was still one of us.

And that’s friendship in a true form.