If Jaime Manness tells you to take a hike, heed the advice. After all, she wrote the book on the subject.
After graduating from Red River College with a Bachelor of Nursing degree in 2009, Manness began her career as an emergency nurse at Health Sciences Centre. While a challenging and rewarding environment for a nurse, Emergency is also intensely stressful, particularly for a recent graduate.
Manness took to the trails to de-stress. The hikes evoked fond memories of family camping trips as a youngster, complete with hot dogs roasting over the campfire.
“I was chasing that restful, tired feeling at night,” she says. “I wanted a kind of mental and physical exhaustion to a point where I would get a good night’s sleep.”
“The more I hiked, the more peaceful I felt. I started to fall in love with the idea of what I might see next.”
Manness started volunteering for Trails Manitoba in 2015, giving recommendations — and just as important, reassurance — to weekend hikers.
“I realized that what was common to me was not comfortable to others. People wanted to know a little bit more about what they might find.”
If that was the seed of an idea for a book, Manness give much credit to her then-boyfriend and now fiancé, Ed, with bringing it to fruition.
“He’d remind me every month or so — ‘You should write that book.’ Then it was every two weeks, then every 10 days,” she recounts with a laugh. “It’s like he had a calendar set to remind me to write the book.”
The result was Hike Manitoba, a compilation of 51 hikes, all within the province. Launched June 30 — just in time for the Canada Day long weekend — the volume is lightweight and coil-bound, designed with a hiker’s needs in mind, Manness says. It includes trail tips and etiquette, evocative photos, hand-drawn maps, and lovely watercolour cover art.
Demand for the book has far exceeded her expectations, Manness says.
“We sold our first 100 copies within a couple of days. We’ve now sold more than 2,200 copies.”
By mid-September, Hike Manitoba had ascended to a lofty perch: the top of the bestsellers list (paperback non-fiction) at McNally Robinson Booksellers.
With COVID-19 restrictions limiting travel and many types of gatherings, Manness is glad to offer her experience.
“People have told me they felt their wings had been clipped. They felt stuck at home. It’s nice to offer people a bit of help.”
Manitoba offers plenty of natural beauty, she says.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Manitoba. It’s not the oceans or the mountains — it’s a quieter, more subtle beauty.”
Manness is quick to cite examples.
“At Pine Point in Whiteshell Provincial Park, about three and a half kilometres along the trail, you’ll see these rapids that are absolutely fantastic — they don’t freeze in winter. At Clearwater Lake, you’ll find these beautiful rock crevices where the rock has split away. Huge boulders in an emerald-green lake.”
A second volume, focusing on winter hikes, is set to come out November 1.
While she’s covered much of Manitoba by ground, Manness has also taken to the air. She’s proud to have served as a nurse with Lifeflight, which has a distinguished record of providing critical-care medical air transport for patients in Northern Manitoba. She calls the achievement the realization of a dream that “reshaped what I think I’m capable of.”
In 2018, Manness returned to Red River College as a part-time instructor in the Nursing program. She values the time with students, particularly as they develop their clinical skills.
“I always look at it as, ‘In a year, I’ll be working side-by-side with them.’ However I can help shape them and lead them to success, we’ll be peers.”
That includes an emphasis on self-care, she says.
“I’m trying to inspire my students to set aside time for themselves, apart from their studies and career. You get so much back by investing in yourself.”
“When I graduated, there was little emphasis on self-care. As a nurse, you look after others, but no one urges you to look after yourself. You’re at risk of becoming indifferent and callous, almost. Hiking was my first step. It was maybe the first time I felt I did something for me.”
With her experience as a student, a nurse and an instructor, Manness has a place in her heart for Red River College.
“I’m so proud of the school. I’m a donor and I’m the first person in my family to get a degree — all because the good folks at RRC were there with the right programs and incredible instructors.”
Profile by Randy Matthes (Creative Communications, 1993)