Hiking Through Grif

After the Loss of his Mother, Kevin Moore
Takes to New Zealand’s National Long-distance Trail

Story by Alley L. Biniarz

“Never stop adventuring.” This was one of the last things that Kevin Moore’s mom said to him while he was living in New Zealand. She was visiting him, as she often did while he was backpacking across the world.

“While she was there, I talked about the Te Araroa a lot as we drove through landscapes that the trail passed through,” Kevin describes the pull he felt to climb the over 3000 km hike that stretches from Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island to the Bluff at the bottom of the South Island. 

From untouched old growth forests, never ending sandy beaches, and the mighty Southern Alps, New Zealand’s national long-distance tail is considered one of the wildest and most accessible hikes on the planet. Kevin had the privilege of hiking a few of the popular sections before but never believed he would have the time, let alone the finances, to walk all or even half of it. 

When he’d suddenly lost his mom to cancer, it felt like nothing could pull him out. Kevin was left lost, devastated, and angry as he fell into a depression of drugs, alcohol and food to soften the hurt. “I lost the most important person in my life and I didn’t know what to do.” 

Kevin says that’s when her words, never stop adventuring, started ringing through his head. 

“I needed to do something to give my head and heart a bit of clarity, and what better way than to wander into the bush, alone and terrified, with only my thoughts?” 

At the time Kevin felt unhealthy and completely unprepared, even though he’d been hiking all over the world, he’d never done anything like a thru-hike. Even though he didn’t think he’d make it, he decided to attempt the South Island/Te Waipounamu section. 

“I only hiked a couple of kilometres and I was destroyed. Carrying over 25 kilos of old, worn out gear and dry boring food was the most difficult part. Every single part of my body was in so much pain, but physical pain was nothing compared to how I felt inside.”

Still, Kevin pushed on. Day after day. Section after section. Injury after injury.

Continuing the hike meant that Kevin was able to experience views and terrains of a lifetime, and he was able to do some of it with newly met friends along the way. 

“I ended up meeting some amazing people along the way and we formed incredible bonds. We would spend our rest days between sections eating and drinking as much food as possible to catch up on calories.” Kevin says that the amount of energy used to hike up and over mountains for upwards of 10 days was unbelievable. Most sections took five to seven days and there were a total of 12 sections…all of which, Kevin says, consisted of eating the same, boring dried foods. “If I never see muesli, peanut butter, or lentils again, I would be a happier man.”

Together, they were able to cross the Rangitata River, which is considered dangerous and impassable, but they had the perfect conditions to do so. They had the opportunity to see the setting for Realm of Man from Lord of the Rings and then reached the highest point of Te Araroa, which at 1925 metres, is an incredible accomplishment. They carried the weight of ten days of food; Kevin with an injury to his right foot. He didn’t think he’d complete the trail, but in 69 days, he did. He had to. 

While hiking, Kevin kept a journal. He says that he always writes in a journal while traveling so that he can remember every moment, but this time putting words to paper helped him process his emotions. Writing and reflecting kept him motivated long after the hike was done and once he was back in his hometown of Chatham. This is when he decided to convert his words into a book about his adventurous trek and grief. 

“Being back home was especially difficult as my siblings and I had to sort out my mom’s estate and go through a lifetime of her things.” Kevin says that having a project that he was dedicated to finishing helped him from falling back into old habits. 

“I never meant it to do anything other than just help me process what was going on in my head,” Kevin adds about his surprise that his now released book, Dude, Where’s My Walking Stick? has hit the #1 bestseller list on Amazon in multiple countries, as well as in multiple categories.

“I think it’s selling so well because it’s an adventure and travel story that any regular person could relate to. Plus, with travel restrictions, I think more people are getting their taste for adventure through books and other forms of media.” 

As much as this book was written as something to keep him on track to process his loss, it has also been a way to relive and share his adventure with others. Dude, Where’s My Walking Stick? is filled with humour, as we can see through the title. Kevin explains that he best processes emotion through humour, and in this book, it’s done through the addition of the character of Richard, Kevin’s personified walking stick. 

He was the only person on the trail who used an actual stick rather than hiking poles. “Everyone thought I was crazy; the stick weighed more than ten walking poles!” Kevin says that rather than just being a piece of equipment, Richard (aka Dick) ended up being a bit of a celebrity on the trail, which is why he’d given him a place in the title. Anyone who picks up the book will learn all about the infamous titled walking stick. 

Kevin says that so many people spend their entire lives waiting until they’re ready to travel and experience the world, and this hike prompted him back into a life of exploring. He says that he feels like he’s always on an adventure, and recently just spent the last five months travelling around Canada in a van that he built into a camper. 

He’s put 25,000 kilometres on his van since June and has summited Ontario’s highest peak, ventured into northern Saskatchewan, hiked Section E of the Great Divide trail, toured around Vancouver Island, taken a ferry to Port Rupert through the Inside Passage/Alaska Marine Highway and driven some of the most incredible roads that BC has to offer.

Now we can find the former Chatham-Kent resident as far from the area as possible. He’s not sure what’s next for him, but currently he’s staying in The Kootenays at a hot springs resort for the winter, and once spring hits, we may find him wandering down to South America. 

One thing is certain — he’s stuck to his promise to never stop adventuring. 

You can find Kevin Moore’s book, Dude, Where’s My Walking Stick, on Amazon. 

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