Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Big Dreams and Huge Plans: My body has been a good friend....

There is no denying after more than 2300 km in 3 months of trekking across the prairies that we are both physically drained and mentally exhausted.  The scope of the Trans Canada Trail and nature of sections of the pathway have taken their toll in unique ways on our bodies.  In the past month of hiking we have taken almost 14 days of rest time and the engines are empty. None of this has been aided by the delays brought on by Covid in the spring of 2021 or the frustration at not being able to responsibly push westward in the past few weeks. 

Yet all is not lost as we have a unique opportunity at our disposal. 

While explorers must be culturally sensitive, environmentally conscious, and be socially responsible in their endeavours…..it does not mean that they are necessarily entirely sensible. Indeed so many discoveries and expeditions are the product of improbable and impractical ventures – the results of big dreams and huge plans.  Something which I think we need more of these days. 

While given the current state of affairs in Alberta it is certainly not be responsible to continue westward, that does not mean that our year of hiking is at an end.  Indeed given the sections in Quebec which we have yet been able to trek over the past two years – despite three repeated attempts to do so - it means that there are a number of possibilities still open to us.  Namely 1100km of trails in La Belle Province.

Moreover, to ensure that we conclude the East-West portion of the Trans Canada Trail in 2022 we need to now push harder and be better than we have ever been – we need to trek 900 + km of Quebec in just a little less than three weeks - before the snow falls and deep cold sets in – which we do not have the gear to deal with.  When we began to realize that this possibility was available to us only one set of lyrics came to mind…. 

“My body has been a good friend, but I won’t need it when I reach the end…”

Cat Stevens, Miles from Nowhere 

Quebec, I have little doubt will be an absolute joy!  The fall scenery will be beautiful, the landscapes and culture will be amazing, the French people are wonderful…and the food – well there are no words! (I am thinking Chocolate Croissants!) To take it all in, to enjoy it, to share it, and to complete it will require sacrifices and a tough pace.  To complete this means we will need to push through fall rains, early snow squalls, against the cold seasonal winds coming down the St. Lawrence Seaway, through the Laurentians and more than anything - maintain an average of between 40 and 50 km a day regardless of how we feel or what the conditions present.

Most sensible individuals would not attempt it with full backpacks, but as the inspiring Mel Vogel once told us “you have to be a little crazy to take on this trail anyways.” 

Big Dreams, Big plans, and Discovery

Exploration of the world and voyaging of pathways such as the Trans Canada Trail – are ultimately about discovery.  While such ventures are often about historical and cultural discovery or discoveries of the natural world they are also a means for self-discovery.

So much of the past 3 years on the Trans Canada Trail for us has not just been about promoting diversity and accessibility in the outdoors and striving to get youth to connect to nature through birding and Citizen Science – it has also been about trying to live our lives to the up most…..

Unfortunately today, few individuals have the privilege and the opportunity to get out there to see and experience Canada for themselves while at the same time learning more about who they are. This is a real shame as it is such a grounding experience.   In our homes and comfort zones we can hide so much, convince others and ourselves that we something we are not, and in the process lose touch with what is essential.  Don’t get me wrong, the ease of Amazon and the relative safety as well as the convenience of door to door food delivery in the age of Covid is very appealing.  But it is also very isolating.   Yet to move beyond the digital world and beyond our comfort zones is a real challenge.  Few want to place themselves at the behest of the unknown, the unpredictable, the elements, and weather.  To step outdoors is to gamble, to trade sleep for discovery, to accept the aches and pains, to learn to love dirt and at times discomfort.   More than all of this it is to surrender personal control of our lives to those in other communities that you don’t know.   It is to trust in the kindness of strangers and our fellow country persons.  Yet if you are willing to accept these challenges, to confront our own limits, and even venture past them we discover how much more that we are actually capable of and how amazing our fellow Canadians around us actually are.  This nation is so much more than many of us assume, and so much better than the news will ever tell you.   

“Canada and Canadians are amazing!”

So after a tough year and a challenging trek across the prairies, let’s see what we have left.  Let’s see who we are, let’s see what we can do, let’s see what Canada and La Belle Province have in store for us this time around….

This time around there is no cart and wheels, all the weight goes back into the backpacks and we push on in the manner we set out in 2 years ago. It will be hard, it will be a challenge - but as Canadians this is very much what we do as a people – we push through the tough times together, we overcome the challenges that present themselves as a community, and do better than we did before. 

Personally I am once again betting that Canada – its wild spaces and natural places – as well as amazing Canadians en route will once again give us the boost and inspiration we need!

And so, once again we invite you to Come Walk With Us….

I needed to try
I needed to fall…
….I need never get old”

                                                                              Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

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