When wandering in Ontario's Highlands, please be aware of any local travel restrictions and guidelines. Vaccine passports accompanied by photo identification are currently required to enter some businesses. 

Is there any better feeling of aliveness than the way we feel when we connect to ourselves and others? Connections give us a grounded, joyful sensation of awareness and interaction that runs through our veins and leaves us feeling utterly – alive.

Whether it’s a hug from loved ones, working with others in an effort to improve our community, or watching the sun rise – our inherent need for human connection is as important as our food choices and exercise. We all need it.

Maslow’s commonly referenced “Hierarchy of Needs,” includes the concept of social connection, and there is an abundance of research that supports both social connection and nature as significantly impacting our well-being.

So what-the-bananas does this have to do with you, hiking, and Ontario Highlands? The answer is: Everything.

Responsible Recreation is an overarching term that encompasses safety and environmental impact. It means being a good land steward while being respectful of oneself, others, and nature.

This article will take a closer look at our connection to people with that responsible recreation lens, an aspect that we can all nurture for our collective “wellth”.

Environment and Community

Connecting with people and sharing the outdoors is beautiful indeed! How can we positively contribute to ensuring that we host nature trails and locations that are for all persons?

Answer: by learning, advocating, and implementing inclusivity. For example, when hiking,  inclusivity does not take away from those already out on the trails, yet it adds significantly to those experiencing barriers.

This is why GirlGoneGood® has launched the #goodhumanrevolution™. We don’t have all the answers surrounding inclusivity resources and environments, but as a community we can put effort into making this world a better place – one little change at a time.

As Brené Brown often states, “I’m not here to be right, I’m here to get it right.” As a #NatureForAll partner, the #goodhumanrevolution is our initiative to help the community connect with self, others, and nature. Learn more about our #goodhumanrevolution.

The Experience of Others

 Getting out into nature is often a personal experience, yet it is also a public space. It is through our individual habits with each interaction outside that we impact  not only the environment but the experience for the next hiker that comes along.

When it comes to preserving the ability for all to enjoy nature, there are a few responsible recreation tips and habits that can positively contribute.

  • Ditch the beer or wine nights and share your love for the outdoors by inviting friends and family to join you on a hike. Some may not know local trails or have the knowledge or skills to be comfortable going out alone. (Ok, ok, maybe hike first and still have a social afterwards!)
  • As in the Connection to Sound article in this series, leave the music to the car rides. Listening to music on the trails not only disturbs local wildlife but also robs others of the opportunity to enjoy and connect with self and nature.
  • With the same intention in mind – to allow others to fully enjoy their time outdoors and nature’s beauty – kindly take any dog poop bags with you versus leaving them on the trail to collect on the return. Same goes with toileting outdoors and camping food, remember always follow the Leave No Trace principals and pack out your trash!

Safety and Self

When it comes to our own safety, there are a few responsible recreation tips for connecting with others outdoors.

  • Always let someone know your trail, route, and estimated return time⁠.
  • Choose a more popular trail if hiking solo⁠, hike in groups, and/or bring your dog⁠.
  • Catch up to another group of hikers if you feel unsafe⁠.
  • Have your phone on if cell reception, or carry an emergency spotter if none⁠⁠. Have a whistle on your person⁠ and accessible (My favourite being Storm Whistles that you can purchase online. It is extremely loud, weather proof, and should be used in emergencies only).
  • Do not hike with earphones in⁠.
  • Do not wander off trail⁠.
  • Carry bear spray…for bears…⁠and if your gut tells you something is off, leave.⁠
  • Never post your location on social media until you’ve left that location. Please seriously consider this habit. That awesome stylish picture at the lookout can wait until you’re safely off the trail and in your car.⁠

Now that we’ve explored the responsible recreation side of people in nature, what can we do to enhance our experience?

  • Prior to visiting our incredible Ontario Highlands, look up local meditation, forest bathing, and yoga events to enjoy.
  • Opt for a sunrise hike to start the day off with a heightened experience of connection with the world.
  • Adopt the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding exercise, although commonly used as an aid to managing anxiety, it’s also a great exercise to focus on the present while in nature.
  • Sit in nature to practice conscious breathing or the WimHof method of breathing techniques.
  • Final thought: There is no doubt that our ability to connect with self, others, and nature, is part and parcel with our well-being.

    As Maxime Lagacé is quoted: “By discovering nature, you discover yourself”. When we gift ourselves that time to connect, we set ourselves up for enriching and deeply meaningful connections and experiences. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what life is all about?


    Looking for more inspiration for connecting to people in Ontario’s Highlands? Click here  or read the stories below.


Victoria Walsh

Victoria is an avid day hiker and frequent road tripper fueled by coffee and a sense of wonder. She runs girlgonegood, a ridiculously named website that focuses on wellness and wilderness. She believes in the power of connection, community, and nature. Beyond hiking, you can find her paddling on local lakes, writing in cozy cafes, or shouting from the roof tops about responsible recreation.

Respecting Nature’s Soundscape