Thursday, August 27, 2020

With a Little Help from Our Friends

As a member of Canada’s Explorer’s Club it has been suggested that I and our trek are nominated for being one of the ’50 people who are changing the world, or that the world needs to know about’.  This is an initiative that the organization is embarking upon to promote the achievements and undertakings of those individuals who are striving to transform the world through exploration, research or the promotion of the ideals of the Explorer’s Club and in so doing defining exploration in the 21st century. 

We are putting this request out in the hopes that people who have been following along for the past two years (and will hopefully follow along until 2021) will be willing to help us get our message out and show the world how important the outreach and inspiration of youth is to ensure the continued conservation of nature as well as how amazing Canada’s wild spaces are!

Exploration and Come Walk With Us


For those who have followed along, you will no doubt be wondering how a 4 year hike across Canada along the 24,000km long Great Trail, formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail, visiting 15,000 communities constitutes Exploration?

To this I can only say that while I (Sonya Richmond) do hold a PhD in Forestry from the University of Toronto, have published scientific research in peer reviewed journals, and am actively collecting scientific data as we trek, you are right much of our undertaking is not what is traditionally seen as the work of an Explorer.  We are not discovering new lands, we are not saving a language, nor are we unearthing new archaeological truths  - instead we are reminding people that what ties us together is our connection to this amazing landscape, regularly revealing the beauty Canada’s wild spaces, actively reminding people across the world about how accessible the outdoors are for everyone, and educating followers about Canada’s diverse cultures, histories, geography, peoples, nature and of course birds.

Our broader goal, as explorers is Outreach in striving to remind people of why a connection to nature is essential, why a diverse and multicultural range of youth need to be motivated to be engaged with the outdoors is important, and to promote active involvement in the Citizen Sciences and Exploration by people across the country – whether in their own backyards or the Boreal.  Our contributions to Canadian Exploration, for the moment, are focused on inspiring the next generational Canadian achievers, innovators and explorers!  

I know that I am not in the league of historic adventurers like Alexander Mackenzie and Etienne Brule.  I am not an inventor like Alexander Graham Bell or Frederick Banting.  I am not an engineer of the calibre of Elsie MacGill or a talented Zoologist like Helen Irene Battle.  Nor am I an astronaut like Dr Roberta Bondar or Chris Hadfield and I am certainly not popular like the renowned David Suzuki.  However, I have the opportunity, the means, and drive to trek this country and passionately strive to inspire the next generation of youth who can change the world once again by convincing them to look up from their cell phones and reconnect to nature. I have faith that the next great Canadians are out there and believe that perhaps this trek can inspire them towards being what they have the ability and talent to be.  As a nation and world we need to keep youth engaged and bring the strength of their diverse cultural backgrounds, identities, and ideals to the forefront.  It is my faith in regular people from coast to coast to coast which inspires me.  It is my belief that we can foster change, one moment, one inspiration, and step at a time that keeps me going.

To fund this initiative we sold our house, donated our possessions, and put our careers on hold.  Since then we have not been able to garner any sponsors and have been supported largely by the generosity, encouragement and aid of Canadians across the country.  Simply put, this is a Canadian venture and Canadian initiative supported by Canadians.  It is an undertaking which is local in focus and national in scope, whose premise is simple but whose implications and goals run deep to the core of our national identity and values. 


We began hiking in 2019 in Cape Spear Newfoundland and by the end of 2020 we will have ventured on foot through to Winnipeg Manitoba covering almost 7000 km of The Great Trail in the process. While not the first to undertake this venture, we are the first to do so for a cause advocating that the youth of this nation need to be reminded of the diversity and natural beauty of Canada in the hope that in showing people that the outdoors are the heritage of all peoples that they are inspired and motivated to further learn about and protect our wild spaces. Moreover it is worth remember that fewer people have undertaken and completed this trek on foot than have gone to the Moon.

As we hike the Great Trail, we are raising awareness of the importance of connecting to nature, protecting migratory birds and bird habitats such as the Boreal Forest, as well as protecting areas of Scientific and Environmental Importance (IBAs). We emphasize the many opportunities available for becoming active participants in the vibrant outdoor recreation, conservation, and Community Science organizations across Canada.  Our focus is on connecting families and youth to nature through birding, promoting healthy active lifestyles, and inspiring a passion to become lifelong explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainable stewards of the nation’s resources.  A major goal of our walk is get a diverse range of youth active and involved in experiential education opportunities in their own backyards and communities.  Research has shown that engagement with nature helps develop healthy, independent, confident and creative individuals who have the self-awareness, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as the creativity necessary to make meaningful contributions to their communities. We believe that birding can be a key means to connecting a youth to nature and a way to focus their online activities.  In addition we want to remind Canadian Youth regardless of their circumstances, cultural background or identity that with hard work and determination inspiring achievements, wondrous discoveries and amazing innovations are possible – one step at a time.  We are a big and great nation capable of so much and we hope to remind the people of our country of its diversity, natural wonders and potential. 

Over the course of our 4 year trek we are we are inviting people across Canada to 'Come Walk With Us', and strive to share a positive message aimed at encouraging and inspiring youth to focus their online and screen time toward becoming Community Scientists, to experience the benefits and rewards of spending time in nature, and to become lifelong explorers and protectors of important natural areas.  To dated we have talked in classrooms, to nature groups, trail organizations, and at outdoor and sports shows across the country delivering unique, positive, accessible, experiential learning opportunities aimed at connecting students and families to nature through birding, and we do our best to lead by example and inspire through passion.   In addition to which we hope to connect with Indigenous and Northern Communities to further explore how traditional perspectives and scientific research might complement one another to foster new opportunities and strengthen our common aspirations.

En route we are photographing, posting regular updates about our trek and the how Canada looks from the trail on our blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter which are freely available for anyone to enjoy and follow along

In these ways we are constantly striving to inspire, engage and empower individuals as well as communities from coast to coast to coast to improve their own backyards, strive to protect the environment, and to become active members in their communities towards make a difference and protecting Canada’s wild spaces.

We believe that a nomination for myself in light our 4 year undertaking is important not only to help get our message out, but because it is a Canadian initiative on a Canadian trail supported by Canadians!  To dates, unfortunately, many Canadian undertakings, achievements and Explorers are not showcased by international organizations which we think is an oversight which fails to promote the wonder of our nation. 

Help us get the word out and take a few minutes today or this weekend to fill out a short nomination!



To nominate us all you need to have a Google Account and to tell the Explorer’s Club organization in 350 words or less, why your nomination is extraordinary and unique in its approach.

To help us out and nominate myself (Sonya Richmond) please follow the below link, log into your Google Account and answer the few short questions as well as writing in why you think our project deserves to be recognized.

To submit a nomination please follow this link and log into your Google Account: 

Thank you so much for your consideration and support! If anyone has any questions, needs help, or requires a picture to submit with their nomination feel free to email us!  Thank you once again!

To follow our journey and learn more about our #Hike4Birds, please visit the links below:


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