SAN DIEGO, CA -- While snow was falling at home in Granville Ferry April 10, Bill Monk was in sunny San Diego, CA less than 20 kilometres north of Tijuana -- getting ready for a long walk.
Tomorrow he’ll be just east of Canyon City and south of Campo, a stone’s throw from the Mexican border, where he’ll start hiking to Canada.
That’s 2,653 miles. A tiring 4,270 kilometres that climbs to 4,009 metres and includes more than 1,000 kilometres of desert.
The Nova Scotia inn owner is tackling the Pacific Crest Trail in what could be five months of danger and adventure in a through-hike to Manning Park in British Columbia.
And he’s no novice when it comes to hiking the longest and toughest trails. In 2017, at 58 years old, he through-hiked the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail in a life-altering walk through nature. Monk’s moniker on the trail was Whistler and one of the results of the often harrowing hike was a 289-page book called ‘Whistler’s Walk: The Appalachian Trail in 142 Days.’
Monk’s as ready as he can be both mentally and physically after months of preparation for the daunting West Coast trail that follows through mostly through National Forest and protected wilderness.
“I feel great. I trained this winter by taking the 14-mile (22.53 kilometres) hike on the Harvest Moon Trail from Bridgetown to my house in Granville,” he said from San Diego. “I did this training about three times each week and with my fully loaded pack.”
And Monk’s been known to vigorously run up and down the stairs in his old Victorian-era home on the edge of the Annapolis Basin – wearing that same loaded pack.
Monk, who saw many people abandon their Appalachian Trail though-hike dreams, said hiking a long trail can be just as difficult mentally as it is physically.
“Mental training is a funny thing and can be different for each hiker,” he said. “Some really never get there and thus won’t finish the trail. Being comfortable in your own skin and being okay with isolation certainly helps.”
As for the PCT, Monk has no illusions about what he’s getting into.
“The desert (first 700 miles) can be brutal,” he said. “High winds, hot temperatures, and long and heavy water carries -- water weighs two pounds per litre) with periods requiring six to seven litres. This on top of your 20-plus-plus pack/supplies.”
Monk is aiming for a five-month through-hike – “God willing.”
In his book about the Appalachian Trail, Monk recounts the numerous people he met along the way – young and old alike – who figured in his experience in positive ways. Monk hadn’t even started the PCT journey and new characters were emerging.
“I’ve already met people -- at the hostel I’m currently at -- from all over the world,” he said. “Italy, Ireland, Croatia to name a few. FYI, Scooby will be hiking the first 652 miles with me.”
But the Granville Ferry innkeeper will have a lot of time all by himself. What goes through a hikers head?
“Where will I get my next food supply,” he said. “Seriously, it’s too individualized to say but I personally do a lot of self reflection while I walk. It’s not that unusual for me to stop and make a note on my phone as random thoughts pop into my head. I like to think that my walks/hikes can still be productive. It’s my personal belief that we should always produce something. Part of our legacy?”
Monk does that. His entire journey, day by day, will be available in his notes as he puts one foot in front of the other. What started as a way to let friends and family know he was okay turned into an online blog followed by more than 200,000 people.
Monk was born in New York, raised in Miami, and is in Canada by way of Charleston, South Carolina. He and wife Ann Marie own her ancestral home in Granville Ferry, A Seafaring Maiden Bed and Breakfast.
Monk was a grocer by trade -- a district manager for a large supermarket chain in the United States for 31 years.
His book ‘Whistler’s Walk: The Appalachian Trail in 142 Days’ has achieved a 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon with numerous positive reviews.
“With every milestone achieved throughout his life-changing, unbelievably difficult journey, Monk paints a magnificent portrait of the outdoors, and what it's like to fully immerse oneself in nature's glorious, awe-inspiring-and challenging-beauty,” Amazon’s introduction reads.
“From Day 1, I could hardly put the book down as I looked forward to the next experience,” said reviewer Phil Rosson. “His writing was so personal, I felt the effort, emotion, challenge and the personalities of each person on the trail. The insertion of specific poems throughout the book was very clever adding another element to the book. I highly recommend the ‘Whistler’s Walk’ as I suspect you’ll be captivated by each word as I was. Selfishly, I hope the Whistler will write another book centered around his next adventure!”
Follow him daily at https://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/609936