Dan and Carole Hunt have chosen P.E.I. to kick off their retirement this summer not by lying under a beach umbrella with a juicy novel and cold drink, but by walking — and running — 700 kilometres around the Island's perimeter.
The couple from Sudbury, Ont., are among visitors from Canada and around the world coming to experience the Island Walk.
"We're both very active and we're not people who go sit on the beach for a week at a time. So that's the appeal," Carole Hunt said in an interview with Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.
"This will give us the opportunity to spend more time, you know, see everything that we want to see and not be rushed."
Modelled on Camino de Santiago
The Island Walk, modelled on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, includes parts of the Confederation Trail, beaches, red dirt roads and paths along the ocean. It uses some secondary roads, but not main highways such as the Trans-Canada.
It was created in 2020 but COVID-19 prevented many people from experiencing it.
This summer is different, said Bryson Guptill, chair of the Island Walk committee. The Island Walk has been featured in international media, including National Geographic and Travel and Leisure magazine, and word is spreading.
"This year we got a lot of inquiries early on, even back in February and March," Guptill said. "A lot of those people have indicated they want to do the walk in 2022 so we're expecting people to start as early as May 1."
Some have indicated they plan to cycle the trail, or ride an electric bicycle.
Gene Oickle of Cole Harbour, N.S., is planning to walk the western part of the trail in June. He did the Camino in 2016 and has done other long-distance walks across Europe. But he wanted to stay closer to home this time because of COVID-19.
"I think it's a good way to ease back into it," he said.
I get that sense of accomplishment, achievement of a goal and spending a lot of time in nature, you know, disconnect from some of the technology. — Gene Oickle
"I might lose a little weight, helps me reduce my stress a little bit and then a bit of a physical and mental challenge, as well. I get that sense of accomplishment, achievement of a goal and spending a lot of time in nature, you know, disconnect from some of the technology."
The Hunts plan to do a combination of running and walking over the course of 21 days. Carole admitted it sounded a little "crazy" at first.
"Being together, doing stuff together is always a good thing. I was just a little concerned about, you know, the 50- to 55-kilometre days would be quite challenging, but I'm up for a challenge and looking forward to it."
The Hunts are planning their adventure in September to coincide with P.E.I.'s annual Fall Flavours Festival.
"It'll be rewarding to know at the end of the day that there's something, you know, a nice meal waiting for me," Carole said.
Guptill advises anyone planning to do the Island Walk to plan ahead, especially in the summer when accommodations can be booked up. He said the Island Walk committee is always looking for accommodation partners along the trail, including people who use their home as an Airbnb.
It is also a good idea to download the map, though there are signs along the way that point walkers in the right direction.
Oickle said it's an adventure he can't wait to get started.
"I love meeting people, talking to people and … walking and hiking and going around every turn — and not knowing what that experience is going to lead you to — is going to be great."