By Jennifer Vardy Little
Bob Melville is young at heart – and he can run circles around many people.
The 75-year-old Port Williams resident likes keeping active, but he’s taking it a step further next month when he participates in a trek through Patagonia, Chile, to raise funds in support of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust.
There are 12 Nova Scotians participating in the expedition – “I’m the oldest one,” Melville admits with a grin – which departs from the southernmost tip of South America on Feb. 1. Over the next nine days, they’ll travel through majestic volcanoes, turquoise lakes, granite towers and glaciers found in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
Raised in Wawa, Ontario, the son of a tourist outfitter in Canada’s sub arctic, and a graduate of UNB in Forestry, Melville has always had a keen interest in nature and outdoor pursuits. Following his graduation in 1961, he spent seven years working as a forester, and then the rest of his career as the owner/manager of a retail building supply business.
When retirement came, he decided to put as much energy into retirement as he did work, and to experience as many interesting activities as he could. That included bicycling across Canada with his daughter, Jennifer, at the age of 58.
“She had just graduated from Acadia and was going to work in September, and she wanted to bike across Canada, but she couldn’t find someone to go with her. So I volunteered,” he said.
“I had just the best time. I like doing interesting things, in nature, and keeping my health as well as I can.”
At that time, he thought he would repeat the ride at age 75, but his daughter is now married with children and he didn’t want to go alone. Then his son-in-law told him about the Patagonia expedition.
“At first, I signed up just because it looked like another fun thing to do while I’m still young,” he quipped. “But as I became aware of what the Nature Trust is doing, the people involved, and the importance of their work for the future of Nova Scotia, I became more and more interested in and enthusiastic about the cause.”
Participants had to pay for their own trip, in addition to raising at least $2,500 in funds for the Nature Trust. With a few weeks left to go before the trip, Melville – who has become very passionate about the group – already reached that target.
“I didn’t know what the Nova Scotia Nature Trust did before I started looking into them. Let me tell you, this is a good outfit,” he said.
“They’re trying to save pieces of the province for us, and the plants and animals. They pay fair market price and raise the money for purchasing the land.”
To help raise funds for the Nature Trust, Melville spoke to several local organizations, like the Rotary Club, and is willing to speak to other groups on his return about his experiences.
In addition to raising money, Melville also had to prepare physically for the intensive hike.
“I’m just an ordinary person,” he said. “I was never a great athlete, but I always liked the outdoors and nature, and I bike daily during the summer.”
He’s spent time hitting the gym and snowshoeing at Sunken Lake. He recently began hikes three times a week from Delhaven to the lookoff, all while carrying a 20-pound bag on his back.
“You’ve got to bring your jammies and your sleeping bag, everything you need, and carry it on your back,” he said.
Melville will leave for Chile on Jan. 31, and the hike will get underway Feb. 2. Over the next five days, he’ll hike through Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, at one point climbing 4,000 feet in just one day.
“This little adventure is a perfect way to celebrate my happy years on planet earth,” he said.