With a country as vast as Canada, Ross Newhook’s progress might seem like baby steps.
But every seven kilometres counts and at the end of the day really adds up, according to the Tiny Township man.
After moving from Toronto to a cottage along Wymbolwood Beach in 2020, the newly-retired Newhook decided to venture by foot for a daily return trip to Balm Beach.
“A year into my walk, I realized how much I had walked,”says Newhook, who had been an avid walker while living in Toronto where he and his partner still maintain a home.
“I thought, why not make a goal of it. It’s always important to set goals. And seven kilometres a day is really easy and really attainable.”
While the 63-year-old is nearing the end of his 5,514-kilometre, cross-country walk from his native Newfoundland (Cape Spear) to Yukon’s border with Alaska, Newhook has his sights set on his next challenge: A trek that begins in Canada’s northernmost point (Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island) and ends in its most southernmost region, (Middle Island in Lake Erie) a distance of about 4,634 kilometres “that should take about two years to do.”
During his career, Newhook worked as both a high school guidance counsellor and educational psychologist and later as a professor teaching teachers how to become guidance counsellors.
And while he still does some online teaching, Newhook says he's always enjoyed his interactions with others and now enjoys meeting new people as he ventures along the beach.
"To get outside for 90 minutes each day in the fresh air is wonderful, but the greatest pleasure has been getting to know so many people and their pets along the way. I always carried treats in my pocket and soon became a favourite of almost every dog along the way - almost all of which I can call by name,” says Newhook, who hopes to welcome a dog into his home in the near future.
“I’m very much a people person and relationships are very important to me. I have so many supporters along the way. One guy joked that ‘we should have a big banner when you’re done.’”
And while walking along the beach might seem an easy task in the summer months when the sand is warm and the waves sparkle like diamonds, Newhook makes the trek every single day even when it’s raining, snowing or when a mighty storm comes in off Georgian Bay.
“It’s just a way to get out and enjoy some fresh air,” Newhook says of his daily 10 to 11:30 a.m. constitutional. “I rarely miss a day, even in the worst of weather.
“To me, this journey has been one of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences of my life as it meant committing to walk every day despite the heat, cold, rain and snow and the nastiest of weather conditions.”
And his inspiration for the cross-country trek is none other than Canadian icon Terry Fox, who Newhook had the good fortune to meet back in 1980 shortly after the British Columbia native began his cross-country walk from Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
“My brother John and I were making the 100-kilometre drive to St. John’s from our hometown of Norman’s Cove when we saw coming towards us a brown Ford Econoline van with a young man with curly hair and a significant limp running in front,” Newhook recalls of that rainy April meeting.
He and his brother stopped their car and Fox introduced himself as Terry and told them he was running across Canada to raise money for cancer research.
“After a brief conversation we wished him well and sent him on his way,” Newhook says. “It wasn’t until weeks later that he started to make a media presence and the magnitude of what he was attempting to accomplish never left me.”