In his off-grid, homesteading lifestyle, Ron Melchiore has mastered gardening, animal husbandry, logging and milling lumber.
On the running track, he has become a masters champion.
The soon-to-be 67-year-old resident of Isaacs Harbour has lived a life of self-sufficiency in the great outdoors for 43 years. A competitive sprinter in his salad days in Pennsylvania, his lifestyle requires him to be physically fit. But the only running he did living in the bush of northern Saskatchewan was to escape from a fast-approaching forest fire or a hungry black bear.
But after Melchiore and his wife Johanna moved to the East Coast six years ago, he saw an advertisement for the Nova Scotia 55 Plus Games in Antigonish. His competitive juices began to flow.
“I got the bright idea, thinking how hard could it be to get back in shape, have a little fun and compete,” Melchiore recalled. “Well, as it turned out, it was quite hard.”
Melchiore overcame torn quad muscles, pulled hamstrings and a rotator cuff injury brought on by exaggerated arm swings to land a spot with Team Canada at last year’s World Masters Athletics Championships in Finland and win gold at both the Canadian Masters Athletics indoor and outdoor championships.
“I paid a high price to get back into shape but it meant I was getting back into running competitively and it’s paid off,” he said.
The road Melchiore has travelled has been an unbeaten path.
Born in Philadelphia and raised in nearby Warminster Township, Penn., Melchiore left his job in electronics in 1980 and, with Johanna, headed north for a life of homesteading on a 120-acre property in northern Maine near the Canadian border.
After 20 years of living off the grid in Maine, the couple emigrated to Canada in 1999 and a remote lake somewhere in the wilds of Saskatchewan. A computer-satellite link served as their connection to the outside world.
As Melchiore puts it, “100 miles from civilization and only accessible by float plane.”
“We didn’t see another human for six months at a time,” continued Melchiore, who holds dual American and Canadian citizenship. “We only shopped twice a year, received mail twice a year.”
But as they got older, living in the bush became too challenging. The call of the ocean beckoned the Melchiores back to the east coast.
“Not that it was insurmountable, but it was time to make a move,” Melchiore said.
They decided to start from scratch again in Guysborough County and another lifestyle of “hard, satisfying work, coupled with clean air, fresh garden vegetables and healthy living.”
“When I look back at my life, each move – Maine, Saskatchewan and now Isaacs Harbour – are all stepping stones,” he said.
Melchiore has written two books about living unplugged – The Self-Sufficient Backyard and Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness.
In the winter of 1990, he successfully hiked the entire 3,500-kilometre Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia.
A couple years later, he cycled across the United States.
“My lifestyle gave me the opportunity to hike the entire Appalachian Trail,” he said, “which gave me the freedom and confidence that I could bicycle across the U.S. So, I did that.”
That enduring spirit has carried over onto the track.
Melchiore represented Canada in the 100, 200 and 400 metres at the 2022 world masters championships in Tampere, Finland.
That preceded a bronze medal showing in the 200m (men 65-69) at the 2022 U.S. masters indoor national championships in New York City.
This year, he scored victories in his age group in the 60m and 200m races at the Canadian Masters Athletics indoor championships in Toronto. And then last month, he won gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m at the CMA outdoor championships in Langley, B.C.
“The times were pretty lousy, not up to my expectations. But I still won and that has a nice ring to it,” Melchiore said.
“I’ve always been in good shape. I think I could challenge just about any younger guy and keep up with them. I’m strong and I’m healthy. If I could stay injury free for a year or two, who knows what I could do?
“But I will compete any chance that I can get. It keeps me in shape. I still go to the gym a couple times a week and I train aggressively.”
Melchiore said the building – a former school – in Isaacs Harbour which houses the fitness centre, post office and a small lending library will permanently close this month.
“I’m losing my training facility,” he said.
Melchiore has to train for the Nova Scotia 55 Plus Games, which begin Sept. 20 in Pictou County, and prep for next August’s World Masters Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“I have every intention to continue with this,” he said.
“I guess you’ll see me dragging a tire backwards down the road or sprinting along Isaacs Harbour road. I’ll have everyone scratching their head, wondering what this old guy is doing.”