The Great Trail … Something a Little Different
Like many in the backpacking community, I am looking forward with anticipation, impatience, and at times a bit of secret apprehension to the start of a big hike this spring. I too have spent the past few months obsessed with hiking a trail, planning the itinerary, finding available water sources, organizing resupplies, putting the rest of my life on hold, and, of course, the biggest obsession of all—the gear. But this is something a little different. This is the Great Trail.
Wait … You’re Doing What?
In June 2019 my partner and I are heading out on a hike across Canada on the Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail). We will start at the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the easternmost point in North America, and walk west toward Victoria, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean. After that, we plan to head north from Edmonton, Alberta, to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, on the Arctic Ocean. At approximately 24,000 km (14,913 mi) The Great Trail is the longest recreational trail in the world, and we estimate it will take us three years to complete.
As many hikers we’ve met can attest, the honest answer to this question is usually quite complicated, personal, and can actually evolve over the course of a longer trek. For now, we’ll just say that we want to have an adventure, to see and photograph Canada in a way few others do. We want to share a positive message about the amazing people and places that can be encountered on trail. Finally, we want to inspire others to get outside, take a hike, go birding, and enjoy nature. Put simply, and in the words of a popular cliché, we believe there is more to life than paying bills before we die, and we want to find out what.
How Can You Give Up Your Life for This?
Yes, I’m leaving a job I enjoy, selling our house, and saying goodbye to the stability and predictability of a privileged life. At times I agree we must be crazy. But then I think about not just the joys I want in my life, but the challenges I’d rather face. On one hand, there is paying the bills, the car breaking down, the furnace not working, and the frustrations of a math-centered desk job. On the other, there is the physical exhaustion of hiking all day, being cold, wet, or hungry. For me the answer is simple—I’d rather give up the safety of routine to be out in nature, exploring new places, meeting new people, and discovering the world. We are dedicating our time on the trail to connecting people to nature through birding. So, in a way I’m continuing what I’ve been doing my whole life—working to promote conservation. I don’t look at it as giving up my life, but rather as beginning a new chapter.
As with many in my generation, I will never have enough money to retire, and I’m not willing to bet my life that I will survive long enough to reach retirement with the health and energy to do all the things I want to do. While hiking in Spain and France the number one comment from the people I met was. “Don’t wait until you’re too old to enjoy it, hike the world now, and have the time of your lives!” I don’t know where this journey will take us, but I know that whatever happens, it will be worth it.
So there you have it. For more information on the Great Trail, our preparations, our message about the opportunities and benefits of birding from the trail, and starting in June our regular trail updates, we invite you to Come Walk With Us.
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