Friday, June 11, 2021

Since we last met.....

It has been 8 long months since we were last really on the Trans Canada Trail in 2020.  While we have ventured on the TCT some in Simcoe and St. Thomas Ontario, it has not for extended distances or periods.  In April we had sought to head back out onto the trail in Quebec, but the third wave of Covid set in and it no longer became responsible to be out there.  Then, we had our moment of supreme doubt when we started to receive waves of hateful emails with several people treatening us and demanding that we quit.  It was at this point that we came closer than ever to simply walking away from this expedition.  Doubt is a challenging adversary, self doubt is even worse.

Then time, distance, and the world seemed to transform around us.  While ultimately we received 127 emails of hate we received more than 500 messages of support and encouragement via our blog, facebook, instagram and our inbox.  The truth (that we came to remember) was that there will always be those who critique and hate, but there are far far far more amazing Canadians that are kind and supportive.  Because of those generous souls who have helped us, encouraged us, and supported us were able to continue on. 

So the questions naturally are, what has happened since we were last on the trail? What comes next on our trek?  Where are we set to in 2021?  We finally have those answers....

I sit here writing this while on the Via Rail train travelling from Toronto back to Manitoba in order to…..first quarantine (our 3rd this year) and then resume our trek across Canada on the Trans Canada Trail (formerly the Great Trail, formerly formerly the Trans Canada Trail). Travelling across Canada on the train is a wondrous experience.  It affords the traveler an amazing view of the country, from a luxurious seat amid friendly companions and crew.   

While those who have never taken the train from coast to coast might think that such a mode of transit does not allow passengers to take in the landscapes of the nation however the reality is that the pace of the train and its pension to frequently take long stops on sides or wait for cargo trains to pass in fact means that travelers are given long periods to get very familiar with the varied regions of county.  In almost 20 years of riding this same train back and forth between Toronto and Vancouver, as well as its counterpart from Montreal to Halifax we have spent many hours and sometimes several days in wonderful communities such as Capreol, Gogama, Hornepayne, Sioux Lookout, Malachi, Portage la Prairie, Melville, Biggar,  Jasper, and Kamloops.   Like our own trek, Via Rail’s Canadian is not a venture for those in a hurry but instead an amazing experience for those who want to savor the moment. Even when the train is moving, its pace is more stately than rushed and even those more accustomed to a rapid form of transit are soon lulled by the rhythmic sounds of the ties beneath the wheels and rock of the carriages.  Travelling in this manner has always been a wonder for us.  The natural diversity and scale of the country are made evident by the fact that the trip takes days rather than hours - a fact that often stuns European travellers.  

This trip, our first on the Canadian in almost 7 years, shakes loose memories from the Trans Canada Trail itself.  The railbeds of hard blast gravel remind us of Newfoundland’s T’Railway trail, which we experienced at the outset of our adventure.  The frequent piles of wooden ties and metal rails scene at the side of the tracks remind us of the number of railtrails which we have traversed in Canada since 2019, and the seemingly endless landscapes remind us that while we have already come so far, there are still vast distances to go which by their very nature cannot be rushed through.  It is humbling to watch the kilometers speed by at times, so much so that our trip from Toronto to Manitoba will take about 30 hours compared to the 108 number of days it took us to trek that same distance in 2020.   Yet this seeming haste suits us this year as it means that we are finally ‘getting on with it’.  

 

Owing to the realities of the year and slowly concluding pandemic, the delays over the past 14 months have been felt most keenly.  To watch the cool weather of spring pass by has been a challenge.  It now means that our trekking across the heart of the country, in the prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan will be undertaken in the extreme heat and humidity of the summer months.  There will be far more 30-40 degree days and very few 15-20 degree days as we cross the heart of the nation.   It also means that old hopes of trekking from Winnipeg to the west coast have had to be set aside.  So the Pacific Ocean will be our goal in 2022 not 2021.  Such is life, you adapt and continue on. 

Since we left the Trans Canada Trail last October we have sought to continue our outreach and inspire youth to reconnect to nature through birding and citizen science. Thankfully we have been able to continue to connect with nature groups and hiking organizations across the nation during our time away from this hike. 

In our time off we have produced videos on trekking the East Coast Trail in 2018 as well as our trek across Ontario in 2020. 

And we have begun to resort images and draft our first of many provincial photo books starting in Newfoundland - which owing to the natural beauty of the region is no easy task.  

We have received a number of amazing trail memorabilia and even donations in our name to support the Trans Canada Trail!    

We have also begun to write out to TCT volunteers and trail builders to ask them to share their stories of developing the world’s longest pathway to be included in a future project of ours. Sean has begun researching the history and development of the Trans Canada Trail as we both feel there is a need to tell the story of the dedication of all the volunteers and trail builders who made this improbable pathway possible.

We have been fortunate to be recognized by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society as a Major Expedition and been granted the privilege of carrying RCGS Flag #5 in 2021!

So far, we have already ‘enjoyed’ 2 rounds of Quarantine totaling 30 days in isolation between Quebec and Ontario, while also getting our vaccinations and waiting for the conclusion of the third wave of Covid in Canada. 

In addition to which, we have given more than two dozen free nature presentations, podcasts, and interviews since leaving the trail in 2020.  We have chatted with Eh Canada Travel, the Women’s Portrait Project, She Inspires Me, the Universal Women’s Network, been featured by Canadian Geographic, and been interviewed for Hip Camp as well as ExploreWeb.

In the process I have also been honored to have been nominated as an advocate for diversity in the outdoors and accessibility to nature as well as for our message which strives to inspire youth to reconnect to nature through Citizen Science in a number of forums.  Indeed I have been featured in the INSPIRE: Women’s Portrait Project, recorded a talk with She Inspires Me, been interviewed for several articles including those from backpacking and ornithological publications to tourism and travel magazines.

In addition to which I have been nominated for the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Nature Inspiration Award.

I have also been nominated for the Universal Women’s NetworkInspire Award and been supported to have my venture included in their book to be published in the fall of 2021.

For my outreach I have been nominated as one of the Top 100 of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

I was also asked to write an article for Canadian Geographic (how cool is that) on how the pandemic has affected our trek on the Trans Canada Trail.  

In addition to which Sean has been nominated to become a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for his contributions of making Canada better known to Canadians as the Expedition Photographer on ‘Come Walk With Us’ and his photography of the nation and its wildlife. 

This year our blog and travel writing has also led us to be named as one of Canada's top travel and hiking blogs!

 

We have also begun collaborating with Eh Canada Travel as a Canadian Travel Adventure Seeker, and are helping the Universal Women’s Network to encourage young ladies to excel, become explorers, scientists, innovators, and the next generation of environmental stewards as well as community leaders.

And not to be outdone we have received an amazing box of new trail swag from the Trans Canada Trail - owing to their name change and cool updated logo - to help us out along the way!

While all of this is amazing, the reality (as many of you know) is that amid everything not all has been  well.  We have shared a few of the less crass emails and messages that we have received our trek regarding our message, and goals.  And thankfully at our darkest moments, we received hundreds of supportive emails as well as a very generous letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraging us onward!

As we head back out onto the Trans Canada Trail (after our next round of quarantine)….this time in Manitoba we are excited to continue westward to see what the prairies have to offer in terms of experiences, nature, and of course birds!  Regardless of all that has transpired in the past 14 months we as Canadians have overcome the challenges, are now vaccinated and ready to return to the outdoors!

Since spring and the onset of bird migration season I have constantly heard the call of the wild, the pull of the outdoors, and the desire to again feel the trail under my feet.  While our plans have been subject to constant revision the fact is that it is time to get going again.  

There is no denying that Covid has altered the flow of this hike from being an uninterrupted trek from East to West, to having to temporarily set aside the province of Quebec, deal with quarantine (x3), get vaccinations and endure increasing online critiques.  However it has also brought a lot of people back to nature, increased the number of persons interested in exploring Canada, and inspired tons of individuals to get into birding!  So all in all I would say that the sun is shining again and the trail is calling once more.

Since last we met the world has changed, but nature is still there beckoning us to return.   Hopefully with all the wonders yet to see and share we can convince you all to ‘Come Walk With Us’ once again…..


 

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