You may know her from the first series of the SBS hit show Alone Australia but how Kate Grarock found her connection to nature is a whole other story.
When she was about 14, Kate’s mum would drop her off at the start of hours-long hiking trails in Victoria’s Grampians National Park and pick her up at the other end.
“When I think about it, it’s kind of wild that she would let me do those hikes on my own, but that was the ’90s,” she laughs.
“I got to plan the trip, navigate myself. I loved it.”
This early experience ingrained a profound connection with nature that even Kate didn’t fully appreciate until years later.
Life happened. Kate followed a career in the navy, and before she knew it, those long hikes had become a distant memory. Then, when she turned 19, she unexpectedly lost her mum.
It was a pivotal moment that made her stop, reassess her life and discover a large hole.
“I didn’t need to probe much for it to become clear to me what was missing. It was nature,” she says.
She quit her job, went to university to study environmental science, completed her PhD at the Australian National University and rediscovered her love of hiking.
In the initial stages, it was a coping mechanism for the pain of losing her mother.
“It helped me process the grief. Nature can have wonderful healing effects,” she says.
“In hindsight, it’s always been my safety net – whenever anything bad happens, I have nature to turn to.
“Now, even when life is good, I like to go hiking at least once a month. It re-energises me and sets me up to be a better human.”
It’s a tonic she wants to help others discover, making her the ideal ambassador for Coastrek Canberra.
Coastrek has been around for decades, but March will be the first time the event is held in Canberra.
Autumn in Canberra will provide a stunning backdrop for teams of four to take an epic trek around Lake Burley Griffin, past the cultural landmarks and natural bushland of the nation’s capital.
Participants will choose either a 30 km full-day adventure or a twilight 20 km trek crossing the finish line at dusk, having followed a 12-week training program to kick off new year fitness goals.
Funds raised from the event will support the Heart Foundation and help close the gender gap in heart health for women in Australia. This includes research focused on women’s specific risk factors and programs to help end rheumatic heart disease – an entirely preventable disease, most common in First Nations people, and twice as common in women than in men.
Though there’s a distinct lack of sand in this Coastrek compared with its classic locations, participants can expect the same vibrant Coastrek energy in the heart of Australia’s bush capital.
“Why should Canberra miss out? Sure, technically it may not be the coast, but Lake Burley Griffin is right here, and it’s beautiful,” Kate says.
“Like so many people here, I’m a public servant and I know it’s easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle, so it’s nice to have a goal to get up off the couch and into our natural beauty.
”And because these are not just distances you bounce up off the couch and straight into, it’s a bit of a challenge and something you have to work towards.
“It’s especially exciting because it’s not just about doing it as an individual. You do it as a team, and there’s an element of camaraderie that comes with it, which is beautiful.”
Beyond being an ecologist and a hiker, these days, Kate is also a YouTube creator and a keynote speaker, often sharing her journey to inspire others about the positive impacts of nature and hiking.
“I don’t feel I am anything unique but hopefully that in itself is inspiring,” she says. “It’s evidence that if you can just take one step after another, you can achieve some pretty cool things.
“When you think about it, hiking is the ultimate metaphor for that.”
Original Article published by Dione David on Riotact.