John Appleton Side Trail Story

John Appleton side trail map

This trail also now forms a segment of one of the BTC’s International Friendship Trails. The Bruce Trail Conservancy currently has 9 Friendship Trails. In each case, a route on the Bruce Trail (main and side trails) and a corresponding route on the international trail have been designated as a Friendship Trail, displaying special signs to mark the partnership. In June 2023 the John Appleton Side Trail, along with the Beth Gilhespy Side Trail and part of the main Bruce Trail,  will be twinned to a section of the Cotswold Way, a hiking trail in England.  This is especially relevant to this trail. John Appleton was born and brought up in England, in East Yorkshire, a countryside of hills, valleys and moors where hiking was simply part of a boy’s life. For John, it was a time which set fire to him, body and mind. (Read “Mr. Bruce Trail”, Russell & Katherine Ferguson, Rattler, 2011, Issue 3)

In 1997, John joined the recently reborn Peninsula Bruce Trail Club as a member-at-large. The late eighties and early nineties had been a time when the Peninsula Club was somewhat dormant, and most of the working help came up from other clubs further south. The next year he took on a newly created position of Director of Land Stewardship, and thence to Vice-President. In February 1999, he became Trail Director and stayed in that position until stepping down in 2009. This job had two objectives: to develop re-routes and new trails, and to maintain existing trails. In John’s decade as Trail Director, the Club saw a number of magnificent achievements. The quality of trail work improved dramatically.  Also, additions to the Trail on the Optimum Route came almost annually. Each Rattler had an article by John, praising those responsible for the achievements and enticing new volunteers to join the team. John was particularly pleased to be part of increasing the number of side trails so that loop hikes were more numerous. As John said, “It’s not everyone that wants or is capable of doing many of the PBTC linear sections.”  In an interview to the Sun Times in 2002, he said that “we made some great strides in trail maintenance with the good supply of Trail Captains. In particular I was always proud of our attempts to keep the treadway clear of deadfalls and keep an emphasis on blazing. The various Tom East Awards that PBTC won, were a testament to the activity happening on the Bruce.”

The tom east award

The Tom East Trail Development Award is an award given annually by the BTC. It highlights trail building and development by a Bruce Trail Club.Prior to John’s tenure, the Peninsula Club had received this award twice. Once in 1993 and again in 1995. In 2001, PBTC received BTC’s Tom East Trail Development Award for trail improvements including reroutes at the Fathom Five Land Base, a side trail in the Dyer’s Bay area, the Coveney’s Hill reroute, and the Jackson Cove loop.
Again in 2002, the PBTC received BTA’s Tom East Trail Development Award, for trail improvements, particularly in Cape Chin North area where, thanks to handshake agreements with landowners and permission from the MNR, a major reroute was accomplished adding 5.45 km to Optimum Route and 4.35 km to total trail length, 5 km of side trail and the reduction of road walking. This was the fourth time in a decade the club was awarded, more than any other club in the BTC.
In 2004, once again, the  PBTC received the Tom East Trail Development Award for adding about 8 km of new trail, including a satellite loop at Cape Dundas

In 2001 John started the Porcupine Award. Trail captain Wil Prudham arrived at the Appletons with a metal Bruce Trail sign from Barrow Bay; the entire plywood backing had been eaten away and the perimeter of the metal sign totally chewed by a porcupine. As Johnsays, “The tenacity of this animal inspired me to create an award in its honour. “ He defined the criteria for the award as, the winner “must have the characteristics displayed by the porcupine: persistence, determination, focus and fortitude. In addition, they must be trail workers of good mettle.” John and Judy Appleton were presented with this award themselves in 2009 on his retirement, in recognition of his long service and for “Judy’s equally long patience and help along the way.” The name was then changed to the “John Appleton Porcupine Award”. ​

The porcupine award
Woodworker master chain sawyer
Ladder at Hope Bay 2001

As Ross McLean noted in his chapter on John Appleton in his book, “50 to Remember”,“John’s woodworking skills brought our structures to a high standard. I am thinking of the Moss Crevice Ladder at Coveney’s Hill or the Hope Bay ladder.”As part of the McCurdy Drive Parking Lot expansion project, John created and constructed the sign welcoming hikers to the main trail leading from the parking area.  Some members of the club still wear the wooden hand painted name tags he made for them.  “As far as the badges go, I just used branches about 2-3″ in diameter and sliced them on a bandsaw. You could use any type of branches but the finer grain wood is a bit smoother. I think I used maple and maybe also sumac”. “Once the wood was sliced I then gave them a few coats of urethane and then Judy did the names using a calligraphy pen/marker.It takes
a while to work through the process, but it seemed well worth it as
many folks appreciated the effort!” 

And yet again, In 2021, even though he was retired, when a directional sign was torn from a tree, leaving only the 2 screws, John fashioned a replacement!

Community Involvement and the “Spruce up the Bruce” BBQ

Probably my greatest sense of achievement is in being part of the team that brought the local community closer to the Bruce Trail and the fact that a good percentage of the executive are now living on the Bruce. As a result, the PBTC is a much stronger organization [today.]”  Overall, it was a time to grow from when the PBTC had been “rescued” in the early 90’s to one of the vibrant strength that it is now.” Ever since John became Trail Director, he and Judy hosted the spring “Spruce Up The Bruce” barbecue that followed a day of trail work. Frequently a crowd of up to 75 people would gather to renew old friendships and to celebrate the quality of trail that was being achieved under John’s leadership. As John says,“The success over the years of the SUTB BBQ was an opportunity to create more personal bonds and socialize.”

Upon John’s retirement in 2009 he was named Honorary Director of the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club, only the second time that this award has been bestowed. 


  • 2002- Beyond the Call of Duty Award (Yellow/Brown BT Diamond Trail Marker Plaque)- Presented in appreciation for hard and generous work on behalf of the Peninsula Club.
  • 2009- Porcupine Award- For their ongoing commitment to trail work not only on their own portion of trail, but within the club section, the award went to both John and Judy Appleton.

Board Member Positions Held

1997-1998- Member-at-Large

1999-2000- Vice-President and Land Stewardship

2000-2005- Trail Director

2005-2009- Trail Maintenance Director

2009-2014- Honorary Board Director

May 2014- Retired from Board.

John Appleton