ST. STEPHEN – When you love to walk, and you love seeing coastlines, it only makes you would want to walk along the many beautiful coastlines in Charlotte County and throughout New Brunswick. During the summer of 2016, that’s just what one woman from Nova Scotia did, but she walked a bit further than most. Emily Taylor-Smith decided she wanted to walk the entire coastline of N.B., and accomplished the task in just 60 days. This year, she published a book about her experiences on that journey titled, “No Thanks, I Want to Walk: Two Months around New Brunswick and the Gaspe’.
“The reason that I named it, ‘No Thanks, I Want to Walk’ is because I had to say that to so many people, because New Brunswickers are so friendly and helpful,” said Taylor-Smith. “People kept stopping their cars and saying, ‘hey, where are you going, do you want a lift’. I kept saying, ‘no thanks, I want to walk’. That was why I chose that title.”
Taylor Smith said she began her journey at the U.S. border crossing in St. Stephen on June 26, 2016, hugging the coastal roads, including the Fundy Footpath, before heading up the Eastern shore and finishing the trek during the third week of August. When she got to the top of N.B., she followed the coastline around Gaspe, ending her journey in Quebec City. Each day, Taylor-Smith would begin walking at around 6:30 a.m. Among her fondest memories of her trek are the things she saw while walking from St. Stephen to Chamcook.
“I remember looking on the map, and it’s called the Ledge, I think,” said Taylor-Smith. “I went around that. I remember thinking it was very, very beautiful. I hit Saint Andrews probably around four in the afternoon, and then I rested a little bit and then headed up to Chamcook.
“I finished my day in Chamcook. I did that fabulous trail that follows the coast, coming out of Saint Andrews. I ended-up in the woods. I thought I was lost. The trail becomes more of a footpath through the woods. But, I just stuck to it and I ended up on a little road and then I could find myself on the map again and I continued onto Chamcook.”
Taylor-Smith said she has a strong memory of leaving St. Stephen and passing by a graveyard in the early morning light. She said the early morning sun was lighting up the dew on the grass, and that it was a gorgeous morning to begin her journey. On that first day, she walked past the Ledge, and came through a field of wildflowers before arriving in Saint Andrews and working her way through a “fabulous little trail through the woods” to Chamcook.
“The pastoral quality was incredible,” said Taylor-Smith. “Then, you hit Saint Andrews, and it’s like being in a New England tourist town. It was really busy. Everyone was walking around with ice cream. It was such a bustling little town. I would say what I experienced on that first day, it was a wide, wide diversity of scenic views.”
As a teenager, Taylor-Smith struggled with weight and her body image. When she was in her 20s, she began taking long walks. At first, it was just to help with weight loss, but she soon discovered something happened to her when she took longer walks. She would feel an “incredible sense of accomplishment”, and between that feeling, all the fresh air she was getting, and the other health benefits were helping her mental health as well.
“You feel like yes, it tends to keep me at a healthy body weight, but it’s more about the mental health and the sense of well-being that I have just being outside and being in touch with nature. Breathing the air and moving my body makes me feel well.”
As a child growing up in Salisbury, N.B., Taylor-Smith said her father was quite an outdoorsman, and the family would take regular hikes through the woods in the area. She thinks that is where her love of walking began, and taking long walks became her passion. At the age of 30, she decided to walk along the coast of Prince Edward Island, and a few years later she completed a 3,000 kilometer walk along the coast of Nova Scotia, which took three months to complete.
Six years after the Nova Scotia walk, Taylor-Smith had the financial means to take another summer off and walk along the N.B. coastline, a total of 2,400 kilometers from St. Stephen to the Gaspe. She didn’t have as much time to train as she did for the Nova Scotia hike, but she still managed to take two to three hour walks twice weekly, on top of her usual one hour per day walk.
“I remember that first day. I really felt it,” said Taylor-Smith. “I remember I was surprised at how much I was really feeling it in my legs. But, I would say that it really only takes about a week for your body to start accepting that you’re going to be walking all day long. Blisters were much less on this one. I would get them, treat them…You don’t train yourself out of blisters.”
And where did Taylor-Smith spend her nights? For the most part, she camped on private land. She had heard many stories about people camping who were told by the police to leave in the middle of the night, so she decided she would knock on doors and ask people if she could pitch her lightweight tent for the night. She said everyone she asked was very kind, and some people even invited her inside for hot meals and offers of spare beds to sleep on.
These days, it is not always safe for a woman to be traveling alone in a vehicle, let alone on foot. Taylor-Smith said there was a “crazy amount of people” who were worried she would be all alone in the wilderness, including her partner. She took as many precautions as possible, including carrying a solar pack so she could keep her cell phone charged at all times. She recalls only one incident where she felt vulnerable and frightened.
“I did have one night that I was tenting, not too far from any houses, and some four wheelers showed up in the middle of the night,” said Taylor-Smith. “They were shouting and talking about drinking. I got really, really frightened, but nobody bothered me. They went away. I was pretty terrified and felt pretty vulnerable, but nothing happened. I’ve never in all my walking I’ve never had close calls with traffic or anything like that, so it all worked out.”
As soon as she finished her hike and returned home to Nova Scotia, Taylor Smith began writing her book. During her journey, she kept a voice recorder with her, and at the end of each day she would make digital entries. On arriving back home, she looked at all the photos she took along the way, listened to the recordings, and wrote her book. She said she had been looking for a daily spiritual lesson, so she didn’t figure there would be many publishers who would be interested in the book. She figured wrong.
“When I wrote it up, I was thinking, this is too ooey gooey,” said Taylor-Smith. “I don’t think any publisher is going to want this. But, I got encouragement from other people and friends. I sent it off to the Pottersfield contest for creative non-fiction. I actually won. I couldn’t believe it. I sent it off January 2020, and I found out at the end of March I had won. Part of the prize is that they promised to publish.”
Because Pottersfield Press doesn’t have the resources to be able to add a lot of high quality photos to books, there are no photos in Taylor-Smith’s book. But, there is a hand-drawn illustration of a map of the route she took.
“A good friend of mine, an artist, she drew an illustrated map of my journey, and that’s at the beginning of the book.
When asked if she has any words of encouragement for others who are interested in long hikes such as hers, Taylor-Smith said the main thing to keep in mind is to get gear that is as light as possible. She carried 30 pounds of gear including her tent, and said even that was a heavy load to carry. She also had one more thing to say to anyone who wants to start taking long hikes.
“What I’ve discovered about walking being such an important part of my well-being and my mental, and physical health, it doesn’t have to be an entire summer of walking. If people can find a way to incorporate a little bit of walking in their day and just get outside for 10 to 15 minutes, they’ll find a huge difference in their sense of well-being.”
“No Thanks, I Want to Walk” is available at Chapters book stores, as well as on Amazon. Taylor-Smith said it can also be ordered through Nimbus at www.nimbus.ca