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Hiking the Bruce Trail – Notes from the Trail

In the beginning…at the Southern Terminus of the Trail. Let’s do this!


Every foray outside one’s home brings with it the possibility of adventure and danger.  This excursion was no different.

Our journey took us from the Southern end of the Bruce Trail (in Queenston Heights Park) to just north of Hamilton, Ontario.

*Note, due to personal circumstances beyond our control, we were forced to delay the completion of our trip and return home.  We are, however, going to complete the rest in shorter blocks to ensure that our responsibilities at home are maintained in our absences.*

During our time on the trail, I managed to field test several items of kit (to be reviewed in separate posts) and streamline my hiking kit for better efficacy and efficiency.  I found that several things I had planned out, thought I might need, or were “essentials”, were not.

Depending on the context and profile of your outdoor adventure, your needs will change.

Here is a list of things that added weight, added bulk or were otherwise not needed given the profile of where we were going:

  • Teva sandals
  • shorts
  • second belt
  • short-bladed machete
  • small forest axe
  • expanded first-aid kit
  • water purification filter
  • extra sweater
  • fleece gloves
  • second dry bag

This stuff, though individually very useful in the right circumstance, became a hinderance.  It added unnecessary weight and made it difficult to move swiftly along the trail.  It also had the added unpleasantness of adding soreness to feet, shoulders and knees without any added benefit.  The other tools and clothing that I had more than covered for the loss of the above-listed items.  After ditching this stuff (at our accommodations  at the end of day one) things got much better and our progress improved greatly.

Taking a much-needed break on the trail. This version of my pack was MUCH improved after I ditched some heavy redundant gear.

The trail itself was well marked and maintained (for the most part) and allowed for unimpeded movement.  The weather was warm and clear.  The terrain a never-ending series of up-and-down, so the quads and hams got a good workout every day.  Hydration was maintained through the 3-litre bladder I filled-up every morning and I found that I never even got through the entire thing despite drinking almost-continuously through the day.  It especially helped to have lunch and “hydrate” at a local winery along the way, just off the trail.

Henry of Pelham Winery. “Hydration” at its finest!

The topography of the Niagara Escarpment and the Niagara Region in general is beautiful and rugged.  The views from the tops of the cliffs were open for miles – all the way to lake miles below.  As strange as it was to be completely enveloped in the woods and still hearing cars sometime, the peace and calm from such immersion was restorative and calming.  Even my evenings were great.  Staying at various accommodations along the way made for a recovery treat!

The view from the cottage was just wonderful and the cottage itself was so well appointed it made all the difference at the end of the day. I have already made plans to go back.


So, with all the positives that came along during this trek, there were also some negatives as well.  As mentioned previously, the overage in clothing and equipment made for a more difficult first day.  Also, the topography of the area and higher elevations reduced our daily distance from 30km per day average to 20-25km per day.  Despite the reduced trail coverage, we still made good progress.  The weather held, the bugs were barely there, and we made good use of water and breaks to not fatigue ourselves too much.

We saw a whole host of animals, interesting natural and man-made things and got a feel for some of the history and landscape in a rich area so close to home which we’d hardly get to explore had we not gone and done this.  I’m very happy I had.

Like a nomadic hobo.

While walking along, I would think about how our context will change as we make our way farther north and farther away from civilization.  Those sandals still won’t have a place, but the axe and possibly more first-aid components due to a greater removal from access to emergency medical care.  As we continue this journey piecemeal, I’ll be constantly re-evaluating my set-up.  With that in mind, to anyone thinking about traversing the Bruce Trail I would humbly suggest that you invest in the Bruce Trail Guidebook.  It’s very well laid-out, full of detailed topographical maps and chock-full of useful information.  Well worth the $40.  Also, ensure you have your compass and separate topographical map of the area.  There were a few times where I had to shoot a bearing off a distant tree across an open field with no markings to ensure I crossed to the next trail marker and not on a side trail (or worse, off the path all together).

One step at a time…till you’ve made many, many steps.

As we left the trail to get back home, one of the last things I saw on the trail gave me inspiration for not only continuing, but also for life in general.  “Keep Going” it said.  I guess that’s really it in the end.  Don’t give up.  Hustle and persevere and go for it.

Keep Going. No shit, a good mantra to have. A good form of resilience.

Till next time, stay safe and stay crafty.

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Kennedy Tactical Concepts – Masterclass Pt. 1


I want to talk about a new option for Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area (and sometimes abroad).

Kennedy Tactical Concepts is a newly opened self-defence school operated in Toronto by TJ Kennedy.  TJ has spent years honing his craft in real-world environments, training and working around the globe.  Read more about him here. TJ is an invested and knowledgeable instructor who is not only humble and down-to-earth, but pays attention to his students’ learning needs.

I first met TJ during his first drop-in Masterclass at The Night Owl bar on College Street in Toronto.  I figured that it was both local and very reasonably priced for a few hours of instruction.  About five minutes in, I knew I’d made the right investment.

TJ showing us the moves. Very solid.

We immediately began working in the alley behind the bar.  Very real-world with everything we were doing.  After a while, we moved down to the basement of the bar and kept going.  We worked on:

  • Clinch tactics from elbow & collar tie;
  • takedowns from a clinch…all from his Urban Defensive Tactics program;
  • some prone controls and rollovers from or Urban Force Options program.

This may seem like a short list, but for a few hours in an alley and bar basement, I was worked through.  All solid techniques well-instructed and executed.  No mats, just asphalt and barroom floor.  Effective and reality-based.  We also discussed the context of these techniques in self-defence in Canada and specifically in Ontario respecting self-defence and the use-of-force by security and bouncers.  An important point of his philosophy to note is that they do not advocate violence or seeking conflict, but rather giving you the tools to identify, avoid and prepare for threats should you encounter them.

Me working the joints.

One thing I did catch as we discussed and practiced throwing each other around on a dirty floor was that this was NOT a traditional take on martial arts.  This was simple, effective and hard-hitting self-defence based on real-world applications from such as Rory Miller and others.

Kennedy Tactical Concepts offers the Masterclass (once a month over several months) and a Instructor Certification Course as well.  Both worthy investments of time and money.

As I left the evening sore and exhausted, I felt good about having met TJ and did some training.  I felt good about his knowledge and skill, his high degree of professionalism and of course, he’s Canadian.

TJ, second from the right, and friends. Good times.

If you’re looking for something outside of a McDojo where you pay for your next belt and jump through hoops, check out Kennedy Tactical Concepts and add some real-world techniques to your arsenal.  Be prepared.

Stay safe.  Stay crafty.

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The Importance of Fitness in Personal Resilience

Get out there and get moving.

A topic I tend not to hear or read about very much is the fitness in every-day preparedness.  Sure, there are plenty of opinions on gear to carry, the kinds of shoes you should wear, the emergency kit in your car, etc…, but how often if physical fitness mentioned as a component of your preparedness?  Not much, sadly.

As we go through our daily lives, 99% of it isn’t a high-stress, threatening situation.  Maybe we work out or go to the gym, but we’re not threatened.

These people are not threatened…except from lack of Situational Awareness.

If we find ourselves in a survival situation, be it a physical attack, a disaster requiring us to get out of an area, a broken-down car or anything similar, your chances of successfully negotiating that event are raised directly in proportion with your level of fitness.  The right gear and training are also factors, of course, but if your body is conditioned you stand a better chance.  Here’s why:

  1. A survival event demands extreme resources from your body.  You may be required to fight off an attacker, or run/climb/drag someone/thing intensely for a period of time.  How long you’re able to last in that, or how much you can lift may directly impact who you save.  Including yourself or a loved one.  If you can’t do a pull-up, you may not be able to pull yourself out of a window in a burning building.

    Are you fit to fight?
  2. A fit body equals a fit mind.  Psychologically, if your body is in-shape, your mind will be better able to focus and adapt during a high-stress event.
  3. Staying power.  As you call your muscles into action to “fight or flight”, you will have a flush of adrenaline and lactic acid in your muscles.  It will also metabolize and work off adrenaline and lactic acid buildup created in that process.  If you’ve ever gone 100% in a fight or even on a punching bag, you’d know that that level of exertion is brutal even for one minute.  If you’re not sucking wind after 1 minute, you’re doing it wrong.  But if you build up your muscular and cardiovascular endurance through regular training, you’ll be better able to recover more quickly.
  4. You can do more.  Being fit allows you the capability to do more.  Sure, you may have all manner of skills in fighting, but someone with an equal level of skill but higher level of fitness will likely defeat you.  Strength, as well as skill, combine to the application of technique against an opponent.  If you’re weak, or overweight, you likely won’t be as agile to get out of a bad situation.  Your EDC (Every-Day Carry) equipment won’t lift you over a fence when thugs are chasing you.

    Karate Kyle says it all.
  5. Ask yourself this:  if you had to, can you pick up your 70lb child and run away from a riot or terrorist attack, or would you have a heart attack in the attempt?  I look at worst-case scenarios and work towards being able to address them.  I am by no means a Special Forces Operator, nor do I pretend to be, but I do exercise regularly and aim to be prepared for things going south.  What is the likelihood of something happening:  very low.  Impact if it does and I’m unable to do anything about it:  very high.
Kids can’t run like you can. Pick them up and carry them. But can you?

So how does one develop their physical fitness?  Here are some ideas:

  • Start small & simple.  Start walking, or jogging.  Biking, swimming.  Whatever.  Push-ups, squats, sit-ups, chin-ups.  Get out there and start.  Movement is life.  If you find yourself in an Active Shooter situation and you just stand there, you are an easy target.
Keep it simple. Keep motivated.
  • Look into joining a class or a gym.  If you’re short on cash, look up body-weight and yoga videos online for free and do them in your home.  It only costs you time and effort.
  • Change your eating habits if they need it.  High levels of processed sugars and foods aren’t helping you.  Change it up and and just your diet to something better.  Small adjustments can yield large improvements.
  • Get motivated.  Set small goals and accomplish them.  Work towards each one until you achieve it and then set the next one.  We are all motivated by different things, so find what works and “git ‘er done”.
  • Ask for help.  If you’re completely lost and don’t know where to turn, ask for advice.  I have found that the vast majority of people who are fitness enthusiasts didn’t start out as athletic.  Many worked hard to get there and are happy to offer help or advice and cheer you on.
  • You can do it.  I have seen wounded Veterans without legs, without arms and sometimes both, continue to push themselves and achieve.  If they can, then holy shit, so can the rest of us.  Stay positive.  Stay focused.

***Naturally if you’re not fit the only way to increase fitness is to begin exercising…but always consult a doctor or health professional prior to starting, especially if you have any health concerns.***

We all have our various levels and goals, and no two people are the same.  The crux of the argument here is that you are constantly trying to improve.  Various body types, health issues, etc, sometimes restrict what can be done, but with a positive attitude, setting of goals and the effort to improve, gains can be made in leaps and bounds.  Don’t be afraid to try and fail, keep trying.  Ask for help.  Its about self-improvement as much as it is personal survival. You don’t have to be a fitness model, or even look like one, but building in a level of fitness training into your preparedness mindset and arsenal will greatly increase your confidence and capability when dealing with a hostile event.

Something as simple as a lunchtime walk can contribute to your overall level of fitness.

The side benefits also include better sleep, lower levels of stress, less pain, more flexibility and agility.  Higher levels of endurance and a heightened level of calm and confidence.  You’ll also be able to enjoy more adventurous experiences.  Just, saying.

Fitness allows you to do more.


Remember that a good level of physical fitness will never be a negative or work against you, it will only ever be a positive.

Till next time,

-Stay Crafty