Army veteran encourages fitness with hiking guide

Article / September 3, 2020 / Project number: 20-0108

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Prescott-Russell County, Ontario — Ex-Canadian Army (CA) member Victoria (Walsh) Lanthier is sharing her passion for health and the outdoors in the form of a self-published guide to hiking trails in the Ottawa region.

The guide is available via her website, girlgonegood.com. The retired Master Corporal is donating a portion of the proceeds to Boots on the Ground, a non-profit providing peer support to first responders, and the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust, which protects habitats and wildlife in Lanark County, southwest of Ottawa.

Ms. Lanthier says she joined the CA in 1997 as a signal operator in part to find adventure. From her first deployment at age 20 as a UN Peacekeeper to East Timor with Operation TOUCAN, to a year-long stint as a member of the SkyHawks, the CA’s precision skydiving team, she found it, and more, over her 14-year career.

“I’m using some serious skills from my time in the Army now,” she says, noting that a strong “tent routine” comes in particularly handy during longer excursions.

Ms. Lanthier established Girl Gone Good, a website focused on hiking and health, in 2011. She soon began receiving “an abundance of requests” from readers, friends, and colleagues for help in finding the region’s best trails.

“I realized that because all trails are governed by either different levels of government or different private landowners, there’s no one spot to go look for everything in Ottawa. So I thought I would create one.”

A first draft was completed in January 2020 and garnered a strong response.

“It got a lot of attention and I realized this could be my avenue to pay it forward - ­my way of giving more to charities.”

Aside from providing a single, comprehensive source for Capital-region trails, Ms. Lanthier also wanted to publicize lesser-known ones in the rural counties surrounding it, including Prescott-Russell County, where she resides.

“Everyone goes to Eagle’s Nest Lookout and Gatineau Park and they don’t necessarily know anything else,” she explains. “There’s so much more out there. The counties are fantastic. They have cute shops and cafes and they have trails and waterfalls and towers and vistas. So it’s also to encourage the core city folks to explore the counties more and support local.”

Ms. Lanthier’s passions began to take root as she grew up in the natural beauty of the counties.

“I’ve always wandered,” she says. “I’m happiest when wandering. I started travelling on my own when I was 17, 18 and just never stopped. If there’s a road I don’t know, I’ll drive down it. If there’s a trail I haven’t seen, I’ll walk it. And that has always been my happy place.”

Military life is behind her now but Ms. Lanthier is currently employed as a civilian consultant with the Department of National Defence. She says Girl Gone Good is a natural extension of all her life and work experience to date.

“I was in the military for 14 years. I work as an IT consultant currently, and I just finished a nursing degree. Those three things put together are Girl Gone Good. The adventure, the media, the health. That’s really me in a nutshell and that’s what this website came from.”

That nursing degree, Ms. Lanthier explained, is part of an ambitious “retirement plan” to work as a psychiatric nurse on a casual basis.

“I would like to put my efforts into trauma support, PTSD, mental health crisis, and coping mechanisms,” she says.

And, she adds, attaining the degree brought the health benefits of hiking into clear focus.

“It really came to the forefront as a way to balance out the stress. I was working as an IT consultant full-time while taking a full-time university degree. So burnout happened really quickly. However, hiking came to the forefront because it takes away all the noise.”

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