SaskHiker: Jay Brown

Tell us your Secret location? The place where you don’t write about, because you don’t want to be disturbed.

I don’t really have a secret location – if I find something that I think others will enjoy, I will share it. One of the reasons I started SaskHiker is because there are too many secret locations in our province. I don’t think this is purposeful, it is just because we as a province don’t often talk about what is in our own backyard. It is amazing the amount of “secret locations” that people have shared with me since starting. I am inundated with places to visit now. There is always someone saying, “have you ever heard about this?” and then they will go on for 30 minutes passionately telling me all about some little nook in the province that they have fond memories of. Why shouldn’t we share those memories with other people? Nature is for everyone, not just a select few.

Tell us Who Jay Brown is?

I am just someone looking to enjoy the moments we have between living and dying. We are on this planet, if we are lucky, for 90 years. That is a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the Earth. I believe the purpose of life is to experience as much as you can while sharing those moments with others and leaving the places you love in a condition that allows others can love it too.

I guess this makes me sound a bit like a hippy but during the week I am a dress shirt guy who builds excel spreadsheets and sends emails. I have lived in Saskatchewan my whole life. I grew up on a 100 acre acreage west of the small town of Qu’Appelle. Fun fact about Qu’Appelle – it was in the running to be the capital of the province but due to some very shady political practices and someone having land holdings in Regina, it lost out to our present capital.

I am the youngest of five siblings (three brothers, one sister) and the acreage we grew up on is a natural haven. For whatever reason when they were clear cutting for farmland they left our property untouched. So my backyard growing up was a dense birch forest, which is full of natural wetlands and all sorts of plant and animal life. We grew up surrounded by deer, coyotes, badgers, owls, hawks, ground squirrels, weasels, and pretty much any other prairie animal you can think of. My brothers and I used to spend our weekends out in the bush getting full of woodticks, making forts, and following animal tracks. This is really where my love of the outdoors began. Even though I know every deer trail in our property, I find something new every time I explore it. Nature isn’t a constant – it is ever-changing – and if you pay close enough attention you will find out what it is telling you.

If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, with money not being an issue, what would it be? And it doesn’t have to be your current passion or profession.

That’s a tough question… I don’t think I could do just one thing for the rest of my life. I am happiest when I feel uncomfortable and then find a way to overcome what ever is challenging me. So doing one thing for the rest of my life would mean I would get used to whatever I was doing and never feel challenged again. Hell, I can’t even lay on a beach for an hour without going crazy and wanting to do something else.

So I guess to really answer your question – if I could do one thing it would be to learn whatever I wanted without having to worry about how I am going to pay for it.

What is the biggest misconception of hiking and adventure in Saskatchewan?

That there are even places to hike here. Sure, we don’t have the Rockies, I understand that, but Saskatchewan is twice the size of Germany and we only have 1.1 million people living here. The whole province cannot be endless wheat fields.

We as a province have for 100 years told the entire country that we are just some boring, flat place that you should just drive through as quickly as a possible. If we want people to start thinking about Saskatchewan as the diverse ecosystem it is, we need to start talking about our province with pride.

Next time someone from Ontario makes that same old joke about seeing your dog run away for three days, respond with, “Yes, and it is beautiful to stand on a hill and see the earth’s curvature as it drops off into the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. However, it might be tough to find my dog in the boreal forests of that cover half of the province and holds 100,000 lakes and sits on the same Canadian Shield as your province.”

How has social media, for better or worst affected your passion?

It is a lot of work. As I have gained more and more of a following there is a constant pressure to make updates, post relevant information, and deliver the message that I want. The other thing that makes it tough is that Facebook makes you “pay to play”, so I have to put a few dollars into every post I put there. However, I would rather drink one less pint of beer a week than not tell the stories and locations that I have.

The thing I truly like about social media is that is has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I often have people sending me messages asking for my suggestions on places to explore in Saskatchewan. When I started SaskHiker this isn’t something I thought would ever happen. I get a sense of satisfaction knowing that I have spurred someone on to go out and experience something new.

Sometimes I lose motivation but whenever I get one of these messages from people it rejuvenates the project for me again.

What is the hairiest situation you’ve been in?

I am not sure if this some sick joke on my inability to grow a beard or…..

All kidding aside I have been lucky enough to not be in too many hairy situations that I knew I couldn’t get out of. However, I was known to put myself in some stupid situations when I was younger and little less informed about my own mortality.

When I was about 17 I went to Vancouver Island with my parents and spent a weekend in Tofino, which is a gorgeous little town. Tofino, of course, has lots of places to explore and I went out solo one day to see what I could find. What I found after climbing a steep embankment was a tree that had fallen over a cliff and was dangling precariously over the edge. I was probably about 80 feet above the ocean below me. I decided it would be a good idea to climb out onto this tree and sit with my feet dangling over the sharp rocks below. Today, this is one of my more vivid memories – sitting on this massive log overlooking the Pacific Ocean and listening to sounds of the waves crash below me.

In hindsight this was a dumb idea and could have gone really bad, really quickly. This isn’t something I would recommend to anyone nor would I do again.

Is the world of adventure blogging cutthroat? Do you try to one up each other or share?

So far I haven’t had anyone try and smother me in my sleep. There are a couple other great Saskatchewan bloggers out there that I have been in contact with, such as The Saskatchewan Border. We both started our projects at the same time and we met after I made a post on Reddit. His photography is much better than mine, so I really enjoy seeing his shots as well as his adventures. He lives in the Duck Mountain region which is a gorgeous part of our province.

If I lived in BC or Alberta I would be one of hundreds of people trying to write adventure blogs, but this concept is pretty new to Saskatchewan – A young, excited Saskatchewanian who is trying to do his part to change the perceptions about this province. To me the more people who start talking about Saskatchewan, the better.

After a hard day of hiking and adventure, what’s your beverage of choice?

12 year Glenfiddich scotch on the rocks. The first one always bites, the second goes down smooth.

What is one piece of equipment you couldn’t do without?

Wool socks. This is a bit of a PSA  for people living in Saskatchewan.  Stop wearing cotton socks and start wearing wool. It will change your life.

If you could meet one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

I would like to sit in a room with General Middleton and Louis Riel and actually get their perceptions on the Louis Riel Resistance. Qu’Appelle, the town where I grew up, was the launching place for General Middleton’s men before they began their march north to Batoche. Growing up I read a lot about this highly important piece of Canadian history. I wish I could hear from the mouths of these two men what they believed they were fighting for.

Jay Brown, aka SaskHiker, writes a blog dedicated to providing information on Saskatchewan’s hiking trails and other outdoor adventures he finds. Find him on Instagram and Facebook to learn about his latest adventures. 

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