Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Decision Day : Quit or Continue?

Last weekend – marks the 3 year anniversary since I sold my house determining the course of our lives for the coming 3 ...er 4… or maybe 5 years.  While reflecting on the significance of the date we also concluded that it was finally time to decide whether to quit or continue. The debating and frustration were getting to be too much, in addition to which it is now spring time and therefore the time to either get back onto the trail or find another contract to continue working.

Since setting out from Cape Spear Newfoundland on July 1st, 2019 onto the Trans Canada Trail so much has happened.   In the past 3 years we have seen and experienced so much natural beauty, amazing wildlife and tremendous hospitality across the nation as we have walked the length and breadth of 8 stunning provinces. 

In 420 days on the trail have had so many unique experiences such as hiking through hurricane landfalls, tornado warnings, hail storms, snow blizzards, trail washouts, river crossings, ATV accidents, police ‘questioning’, historic droughts, forest fires and prairie mud, as well as navigating through vast sections of the TCT that exist more in theory and online maps than in reality.  In the process of trekking 10,000 km we have seen icebergs, whales and puffins, moose, bison, elk, and hundreds of species of birds while meeting and presenting to thousands of people in every province and territory in Canada.

Without a doubt it has been an amazing trek and experience – regardless of the obstacles.

This winter, as many of you know, has been one of deep challenge and profound doubts.   

Not having our trek known by the Trans Canada Trail after 3 years, thousands of postings and over 100 presentations about the national pathway was humbling. 

Similarly no longer being an official expedition for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society at the end of 2021 also led us to have doubts about the value of our undertaking and message.

And of course the fact that we been unable to garner any sponsorship, or interest in publishing our award winning images of Canada as seen from the Trans Canada Trail and have similarly been unable to beget backing for our developing academic story map for Canadian classrooms featuring the TCT, historic and cultural sites, ecozones and birds has all been hard.

As a result the past few months – while working full time – have felt to us as though we are running full steam with no result and no purpose.  

Adding to all of this, in the process we have continued to be critiqued for our slow pace (which has put us behind schedule), as well as being been critiqued for our fast pace (not letting us get to know the regions).  I have been criticized for not venturing off the national pathway to chase rare bird species, been informed that our sightings “are too common to be enjoyed”, told that “we should not be inviting new people into bird”, and was recently informed that I am “not to talk about birds anymore since [I] only hold a PDH in Forestry NOT birding” (not MY spelling error by the way, which says so much).  And so the social media aspect of our outreach continues to be hard to navigate and also keep the message positive.

In fact, given the comments and critiques we regularly receive it is fair to say that our sole source of encouragement and motivation has come from the hundreds of kind emails and supportive messages that we have received from those who have followed us throughout the years – thank you so very much.  Without them I am not sure we could have continued on into the whirlwind for so long.

Reservation Day

While a few gentle words, a encouraging emails might not sound like much the fact is that politeness and kindness do change the world.  As such, because of your support, we made the decision and reserved our tickets for 2022 thereby committing to another season on the Trans Canada Trail.

For us, Sunday was Reservation Day.

This said there is no denying that this year, Reservation Day, has a dual meaning.  In 2022, ‘Reservation Day’, was not only the day in which we decided to continue but it was also the day that we committing to overcoming our own personal reservations and doubts about venturing forward, about the value of our message and worthiness of our trek.  It is the day that we had to commit to overcoming our uncertainties and diminishing energy levels for completing this trek and sharing what Canada has to offer to those who walk, cycle, bird, and explore it.  Fittingly our decision to get back into nature was spurred on by yet another round of online commentary and emails pushing us to realize that we absolutely did not want to spend any more time in front of computers than Covid has already pushed us to.  

If the choice was between the call of the mountains and the 'bing' of incoming emails then it would be the former that we would follow.

Plans and Preparations

On Sunday we ordered our train tickets from Toronto to Montreal which will allow us to complete western Quebec in April 2022.  Here we will be venturing 250 km from Montreal along Le P’Tit Train du Nord to Mont-Laurier and then an additional 228 km along the various highways, roadways, and local pathways south back to Hull QC and Ottawa Ontario.

Following the completion of  Western Quebec and owing to the sheer number presentations as well as other outreach obligations we will then be taking about 40 days off the trail as the logistics of presenting from a tent in Northern Alberta are beyond us at the moment.  This time off the Trans Canada Trail will also give us the opportunity to venture along quiet pathways, visit an old friend, and give them a long awaited – and Covid delayed – hug.

Then in June, we will return to the Trans Canada Trail.  We will once again take the Via Rail train to the Saskatchewan-Alberta border where we we will resume our westward trek on July 1st.  Our plans suggest that it will take us 40-44 days to venture across Alberta, and then 60 days to trek from the Rocky Mountains to Vancouver where we hopefully will arrive in time for Thanksgiving on the Sunshine Coast.  Here we will take the opportunity to paddle the Salish Sea Marine Trail, which is a water route of the Trans Canada Trail, before taking 10 more days to hike Vancouver Island and arrive at Victoria in late October 2022. 

If all goes to plan upon arrival into Victoria we will bring our East-West trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans to a conclusion.  And sets the stage for 2023 (and possibly 2024) when we will hike north from Fort Saskatchewan Alberta to Tuktoyaktuk Northwest Territories.

Emerging Challenges

These plans are however not to suggest that all is wondrous and without challenges.  As we have long learned things are always easier looking on paper than in real life – especially on the Trans Canada Trail.

Owing to our timing this year we once again unable to get space or reservations in the Charlevoix region of Quebec meaning that 125 km section of trail is still inaccessible to us.  In addition to which the western portion of Quebec from Montreal to Ottawa is a dedicated snowmobile route until much later in the season and so we will have to walk beside the TCT, Route Verte, and HWY 1 through this region rather than on it.

Returning to the prairies in July also means that rather than venturing through Alberta and parts of British Columbia in the cool spring weather we are set to walk amid – what could again be – the extreme heat and humidity of the summer months. 

Adding to these minor bumps on the pathway we have also spent the last few weeks pouring over new trail guides learning about the TCT route as well as drafting alternate routes through Southern British Columbia.  According to a number of emailed reports and trail groups in southern BC there are vast stretches of the TCT which have been undermined by 2021’s devastating forest fires and floods. The result being, if these reports are true, that without plans we would have to reroute to the very busy and dangerous HWY 1 (Trans Canada Highway) for up to 500 km – something we really wish to avoid.

So there are – as always – challenges and the unknown on the horizon, but that is the nature of adventure.

Regardless, the plan is now set, the tickets have been purchase and so we are once again on our way and will walk across Alberta and British Columbia to the Pacific Ocean in 2022.

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