jon and amy

Jonathan’s Hike to Defeat Depression – Take Four!

James Ryan

Greetings everyone!

As many of you probably know by now, Jonathan Toews (pronounced toes not taves) has been hiking along the Bruce Trail in an effort to raise money and awareness for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada as part of a national campaign called Defeat Depression. It’s pretty amazing actually.

At first, I think most people hear that Jonathan is hiking for 24 consecutive hours and they think to themselves, oh, that’s cool. But I don’t think most people really grasp the level of difficulty in something like this. For example, think about the last time you ever went on a really long hike. How long was it? Two hours? Four hours? Do you even remember how tired you felt afterwards? How sore your knee was? I just went out on a six hour hike this past week and I was feeling pretty spent afterwards. I couldn’t imagine doing that exact same hike four times over. It’s crazy!

Let me tell you, people… hiking non-stop for 100 kilometers (approximately 24 hours) is nothing short of insane – but in a good way. I think more than anything, it just really demonstrates the mental strength required in order to pull something like this off. And if that doesn’t already sound tough enough, now imagine doing it for five consecutive weekends, in the month of February, in Canada, in just about every weather condition you can imagine for this time of year in Southern Ontario. #hatsoff

It is for these reasons and more that I am especially proud to be involved this weekend as part of the official support team. This will be the fourth major hike that Jonathan and friends will be embarking on, and I’ll be driving up with the crew in order to help out in any way that I possibly can. One thing that I’ll be doing, besides hiking in the evening portion, is that I’ll providing live, ongoing updates directly onto Jonathan’s Hiking to Defeat Depression Facebook page.

So please feel free to click on the above hyperlink and join in on the adventure. Cheers!

James Ryan


Week 1 Update – Read about it HERE

Hiking Partner: Alex Glenn

Total Time: 22 hours

Total Distance: 107 kms

Average Day Temp: -8 degrees

Average Night Temp: – 10 degrees


Week 2 Update

Hiking Partner: Amy Tunstall (

Total Time: 22 hours

Total Distance: 89 kms

Average Day Temp: +2 degrees

Average Night Temp: 0 degrees


This week, Jonathan was lucky enough to have a young travel blogger by the name of Amy Tunstall by his side for the entire duration of the hike. What’s kinda funny actually is that by her own admission, Amy did not immediately realize that she was agreeing to complete the full 24-hours when she first spoke to Jonathan, and yet despite that, she was more than willing to rise to the occasion.

It was by way of a mutual friend, who had come across one of the articles about Jonathan’s fundraising efforts, that Amy then sent Jonathan an email expressing her sincere interest in wanting to help out. In fact, Amy herself is planning to hike the Bruce Trail from Tobermory to Niagara Falls (with her dog) later this year in order to raise money and awareness for the Canadian Mental Health Association, Niagara Branch. You can learn more about it by visiting her blog HERE.

When asked, Jonathan mentioned that they were both keeping a fairly good pace for about the first 10 hours or so, with the exception of the first two.

“The first two hours were the toughest,” said Jonathan. “A lot of pretty crazy up and downs at the start.”

In the first 20 minutes of the hike, Jonathan slipped pretty badly on some ice and landed hard on his back – TWICE, but claims that his backpack is what saved him.

“My neck snapped back neck pretty hard but it wasn’t until around noon that I started to feel it,” he said. “It got really sore, but I just dealt with it.”

Then there was the coconut water incident.

“I packed my food in the bottom of my backpack. I wasn’t thinking that I was gonna fall on it, so I forgot that I had a coconut water in the very bottom,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about falling, but when I fell, I landed directly on my coconut water and it broke open. At first, I thought it was just snow that got into my pants and was running down leg. My butt and my legs were all soaked. It really put a damper on things – literally. But eventually, I figured it out and it finally dried up on its own after about eight hours.”

The biggest challenge came at the end however.

“Amy was a real trooper,” said Jonathan, who at one point had a genuine concern for his hiking partner. “Her knee had swelled up really badly, but she’s definitely not a quitter – she’s a trooper. There was no complaining. But sometimes you just have to accept your best.”

week2 map

Week 3 Update

Hiking Partner: Joe Zack

Total Time: 22 hours

Total Distance: 90 kms

Average Day Temp: +10 degrees (windy)

Average Night Temp: +2 degrees

Back in 2013, a good friend of Jonathan’s – Tim Arnold, the outreach pastor at Southridge Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, was planning on participating in the NY City Marathon, but unfortunately, it got rained out due to a severe thunderstorm, so ultimately the race was cancelled. On his way back to Canada however, Tim made his own arrangements to do a marathon back in the Niagara Region in order to raise money for the Red Cross. It was a mutual friend of Jon’s who contacted Tough Mudder athlete, Joe Zack, to ask if he wanted to participate in the marathon. Having never done one before, he agreed and that’s basically the story of where and how Jonathan met Joe. They’ve been friends ever since, so when Joe saw what Jon was doing by hiking the Bruce Trail, he couldn’t resist and immediately volunteered to help out.

It had snowed for much of the week leading up to their hike, so they both made sure to wear their snowshoes.

“The first four hours felt like 14 hours,” said Jonathan. “It was really tough. The snow was about a foot and a half deep – very heavy. But it was mild out, so the snow stuck to our snowshoes and our boots.”

During the day, Jonathan estimates that they hiked 90-percent of the time in their snowshoes, but by 8pm, they only used them once.

“The trails had gotten crispy from the colder temperatures,” he said.

When asked what adjustments he made this week compared to the previous two, Jonathan stated that having the proper footwear made a world of difference.

“The Salomon outlet store donated a pair of ultra-light hiking boots, which made a huge difference,” he said. “Having new boots allowed me to stay dry for the better part of 12 hours. I also switched out my socks, which I changed every four hours.”

When asked if he picked up any tips from Joe, he did surprise me a bit with his answer.

“Yes, use diaper rash cream on your feet,” he said. “It has a medicinal aspect to it, helps with blister control, and repels water for about 4-6 hours. Believe it or not, my feet felt really comfortable. It looks like white paste, and there’s that oily, waxy feel, but I’d recommend using it any time of the year. Any new hiker that wants to do more, should use diaper rash cream on their feet.”

Jonathan also mentioned that he hit the wall mentally after only about 10 hours.

“Mentally, I just felt really bad – extremely tired. At around eight hours in, I remember thinking to myself, I gotta do this two more times?

Funny enough, it was around the 18 hour mark that Jonathan recalls having what he would refer to as a “Runner’s High.”

“I was really kicking it up,” he said. “Flying downhill, I felt really good and I was hardly breathing heavy.

Every week, I seem to feel better and better at the 22 hour mark.”

When I asked him what the absolute best part was so far, he said: “I love the start of the day – seeing the sunrise come up, being fresh, feeling really positive and setting the tone for the day. Just looking out at the sunrise. There’s so much scenic beauty throughout the entire day, it’s hard to pinpoint just one spot. So many spots are really beautiful. The waterfalls – even at night time, you’ll be walking along, up and down, going through these winding trails, and all you can hear in the distance are these waterfalls and streams. You get a totally different perspective at night. But if I had to say; Hockley Valley is incredibly gorgeous, and Devil’s Glen is also super nice.

“The other great part is who’s with us – the support crew. Just the encouragement that we’re getting from both Leo and Kathleen – it’s incredible, man. They’re just as much a part of this as we are.”


map2 jr




FB: Jonathan’s Hike to Defeat Depression

Website: (Donate)


Text: 289-241-7368

TW: @JustToews

IG: @JonToews

The Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) is a national non-profit charity which works collaboratively with health, research, private sector and government partners so that these organizations keep people with mental illness at the forefront of their activities. MDSC seeks to improve access to services, more research, better programs and government policies that have our interests in focus. Please visit our website to learn more:

Written by James Ryan at The Fallen Trail



James Ryan
James Ryan

jon and james

Leave a Reply