Bay of Quinte Tourism

Backpacking and Forest Therapy with Blue Bark & Co

Jessica Spooner of Blue Bark & Co holding a bird on a nature hike.

Reconnect with nature (and yourself) on a guided forest therapy hike with Jessica Spooner.

Meet Jessica Spooner, a multi-talented woman running two local businesses: Blue Bark & Co and Women Hike Wild. With this she wears many hats: guide, coach, teacher, founder, forest therapist and entrepreneur. Jess works with people to help reconnect them with the healing powers of nature.

Bird on a hand during a forest therapy hike.Jess is primarily based in Belleville and works with people, bringing nature back into their lives with the goal of building personal inner growth. Women Hike Wild, which began in the summer of 2016, is a lifestyle backpacking enterprise designed to provide women with a full hiking experience in Belleville and the surrounding area.

The name of the company aims to inspire more women to get outdoors and into the wild, which has often traditionally been seen more as something men do.

“Even though nature is gender neutral, men also connect with the land through their feelings and emotions, they don’t have to be ‘this man’ – just be you. But women are still not as represented for this,” says Jess.

Path at a conservation area during a forest therapy hike.Blue Bark & Co was created in 2018 and grew from Jess’s initial business, Women Hike Wild. It provides forest therapy and life coaching with added day trips. “Blue Bark & Co started as a way for me to get more people outside and be connected to the environment, get people outside with themselves, using the natural world as an example for them,” says Jess.

The difference with this company is that it focuses on forest therapy and life coaching. As seen from her website, forest therapy is a practice that involves four main steps:

1. Establish embodied contact with the present moment and place
2. Receive a series of connective invitations, mobilizing the power of the senses adapted to the location and the needs of participants
3. Enjoy wander time, and/or find a sit spot
4. Participate in a tea ceremony where we share tea made from local foraged plants

The combination of backpacking and forest therapy in the wilderness is meant to push you out of your comfort zone, remove you from the day-to-day, and to help get out of your head. So, with all of this, the guide will really help you within a nature setting.

It’s not all about the business. Jess is genuinely a huge fan of conservation areas, wilderness and trails, being close to the beach, and having a strong community and being surrounded by like-minded people, which is just what the Bay of Quinte is all about.

Path at a conservation area where Jess takes participants for forest therapy hikes.While walking on a beach, feet feeling the ripples of the water, who wouldn’t want to make a change in career path? From teaching in a classroom and working in the Sustainability Department at Loyalist College, Jess now enjoys teaching individuals and groups in the natural environment how to reconnect and reconstruct their own inner strength.

Jess sees herself mostly as a guide. One of the main reasons she began her businesses is to get people to be active, not only physically but mentally as well.

Being in nature, mindfully, means being present in the moment. You’re able to take a break from everything in your hectic life, in order to calm your busy mind and process what’s going on immediately around you.

Jess actually unintentionally started a #20minutesoutside following. A personal challenge to spend and record, on social media, a minimum of twenty mindful minutes outdoors, starting January 1, 2019, led to over a hundred others doing the same. Sitting in silence in the forest or just going for a quiet walk is even better when you’re mindful of how and what you’re feeling.

There’s no doubt about why forest therapy is useful to improve mental health and to awaken a mindful perspective. This is where nature-based coaching, a new feature of Blue Bark & Co, can be beneficial. This coaching takes place outdoors and can be followed up with virtual or in-person coaching.

Jess’s main piece of advice? “It’s simple, go outside.”

For more information on how to get involved with what Jess has to offer, follower her on Facebook and Twitter @bluebarkandco, @womenhikewild and #20minutesoutside, and her website:

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Bay of Quinte Region is an alliance of interdependent communities, bound together by a common history, shared economy, and the water that surrounds and defines us. We hope to welcome you soon.

© 2023 Bay of Quinte Region | © TripAdvisor 2023

Bay of Quinte Region is an alliance of interdependent communities, bound together by a common history, shared economy, and the water that surrounds and defines us. We hope to welcome you soon.