Thursday, May 26, 2022

Go Time : Return to the Trans Canada Trail 2022

It is that time of the year again!  The seasons have changed, trails across the country are reopening, the birds are migrating … and thankfully travel restrictions have relaxed!  In other words, it’s go time! 

Given a number of factors we are once again leaving later than usual in the season. We are once again facing a number of logistical challenges in front of us that we had never expected across a number of different regions.  And we are once again trekking into a great amount of uncertainty. Yet best of all and perhaps most of important of all, the simple and most exciting fact is that we are also once again back on the Sentier Transcanadien!

 “It's been a long road
Getting from there to here
It's been a long time
But my time is finally near…”

                                                                    Russell Watson “Faith of the Heart” Lyrics

In the months since we left the Trans Canada Trail in 2021 – first in Alberta and then in Quebec - so much has happened! We have helped publish a number of articles on hiking, birding, the new Island Walk in PEI and Canadian Caminos!  In addition to which we have also been fortunate to be able to continue to give dozens of free presentations across Canada (with lots more planned during 2022) to school classrooms, nature groups, Rotary Clubs and various interested organizations.  And amazingly we have been working hard to amplify our message with the award winning Eh Canada Travel and collaborate some with the amazing people at Nature Alberta in the coming year.

In late March – in a twist of fate and in a moment of need -  I was very fortunate to be asked to lead a birding trek during which ultimately covered almost 1100 km of pathways, over 45 days, and which led us to identify more than 40 new species of birds, lizards, snakes, and wildlife!

(a huge thanks to Friederike Strohbach for the picture of us while birding and training)

En route we met a great diversity of amazing people, made new friends, collected memories, learned about new trailways, took too many pictures, and thankfully got a little bit back into shape for the Trans Canada Trail in 2022. (We hope to share more about the series of trails and adventures we have enjoyed in the coming weeks and months – once one of us stops editing his pictures.)

A couple of months ago while off the TCT, I was also nominated for the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s prestigious Stan Hodgkiss Canadian Outdoor’s Person of the Year Award!  CWF has given out this award since 1975 and it is presented to an outstanding individual in conservation who has demonstrated an active commitment to conservation in Canada!  To receive this nomination is a deeply humbling reality which has done so much to confirm my hope that our 28,000 km trek on the Trans Canada Trail promoting diversity and accessibility to the outdoors and to inspire Canadian youth to reconnect to nature through birding has had a positive impact.

In addition during this period, while our time as a Royal Canadian Geographic Society Expedition came to a conclusion in December of 2021, our work with RCGS is far from done.  In April of 2022 we were notified that I had received a Research Grant by RCGS to help fund the development of an Educational Story Map to take students on a virtual hike across Canada on the Trans Canada Trail / Sentier Transcanadien to learn geography, history, and science as explorers from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic!   

This resource will help students discover places they may not have the opportunity to visit, allow youth to experience the nation from the perspective of the national trail system, and enable all persons to learn more about the country’s geography, history, ecology and wildlife.  All of which means that our ‘Come Walk With Us’ Expedition will continue on and be developed into a free, easily accessible, interactive, user friendly tool to make Canada better known to Canadians and the world!

Better yet (in my opinion) than all of these amazing things – is what comes next!  Tomorrow we are set to step back out onto Canada’s national trail and by the conclusion of 2022 we will have hiked a total of between 14,000 – 15,000 km along the Trans Canada Trail.  This is an undertaking only a handful of individuals including Dana Meise, Sara Jackson, Dianne Whelan, and Mel Vogel with Malo have sought to complete on foot!  That regular people can safely set out and explore one of the world’s largest nations with its cultural, historic and natural diversity in safety is incredible and a testament to our nation and its peoples.

In our case so much of this adventure and hike has only been possible with the amazing support, encouragement, and kind messages sent from countless Canadians since 2018!  En route there have been unexpected challenges, physical boundaries, trail closures, extreme weather, emotional breakdowns, and moments of great uncertainty – yet one step at a time we have nonetheless been able to move forward – all because of all of you. We simply could not have gotten so far without all the regular kindness Canadians have shown from coast to coast to coast.

This year our goals are simple and vast.  We will continue hiking in western Quebec, venturing north from Montreal along the beautiful P’tit train du Nord to Mont Laurier before turning south and trekking through Gatineau to Ottawa Ontario (and RCGS headquarters) covering about 500 km in the next 20 days.  Then, after a short break and exciting announcement, we will return to Alberta’s eastern border at the outset of July were we plan to hike almost 1400 km across the southern portion of the province through Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Banff in 40 to 50 days. At which point, hopefully by mid August, we will arrive into British Columbia were we will begin the final 1900-2100 km of the east to west portion of our #Hike4Birds! All of which means, if we can keep our pace, our health and our strength up that by October 1, 2022 we will arrive into Vancouver and then by mid October (with some time off to paddle parts of the Salish Sea Marine Trail on the Sunshine Coast – a wonderful part of the TCT) we will walk into Victoria, B.C. and find Mile Zero on the Pacific Coast!

So with fingers crossed, we once again are returning to the Trans Canada Trail, and are set to explore this wonderful nation, meet amazing people, and experience Canada’s natural beauty!

In 2018 when we planned this amazing adventure the possibility of getting so far, experiencing so much and finding so many amazing people (and birds) was only a distant dream.  In 2019 when I sold my house to fund our hike along the world’s longest trail the possibility of connecting Canada’s oceans on foot was a goal so far on the horizon I often felt that it was a fool’s task and an undertaking too immense for a regular person to undertake let alone complete.  Yet now in 2022 we are set to fulfill a huge part of this dream and in doing so we hope that all of you will once again Come Walk With Us!

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