It Was the Name That Got Me…
As we near the departure date (less than two months now!), working with great collaborators like Bird Studies Canada and Nature New Brunswick and gaining great support from Clif Bar Canada, Briden Solutions, and the Baillie Bird Fund, the question we get asked most is… Why? Why this trail? What, at first, drew you to this venture?
To be honest, there are countless reasons to toss it all in, and get out into the Canadian wilderness. Yes, I want to get youth outdoors again; yes, I want to promote the protection of the boreal forest; and yes, I want increase participation in the citizen sciences. But those aren’t the original reasons I wanted to hike the Trans Canada Trail.
To be honest, none of us really need a reason to go into your backyard, watch birds, or go out onto a local trail, visit a provincial park—or if you are lucky enough—stay in a national park. But in this instance, the notion of trekking along not just a trail but the Trans Canada Trail, seemed too irresistible to pass by. Yes, I know it is now officially called The Great Trail. But its original moniker, the Trans Canada Trail, evokes everything an outdoors person, a hiker, and an explorer could hope for. It reminds you of the majesty of the Trans Canada Railway, the history of racing to complete the rail line, or the beauty of traveling in VIA Rail’s Canadian or ocean trains from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. It reminds you of summers spent in the backseat of your parent’s car passing through the countryside from coast to coast on the Trans Canada Highway–HWY 1. Of climbing Signal Hill, visiting the Citadel in Halifax, getting your Dirt Shirt in PEI, seeing the Bay of Fundy, touring Montreal, camping in Algonquin Park, being stunned by the vastness of the prairies, exploring the dinosaurs in Drumheller, or relaxing in Tofino on the Pacific Coast.
Like its forebearers, the Trans Canada Railway, and the Trans Canada Highway, the TCT calls you to explore and see the nation. It is yet another thin line across the map—built by Canadians—that is both too large to consider all at once, yet which ties the nation together. It reminds you that amid all of the nation’s vast geography, beautiful landscapes, and cultural diversity, it is still possible to follow a single band of rail line, road, or trail from coast to coast to coast. It is one of those great and improbable national projects that reflect Canada’s wonderful culture. And it connects so many of us together and the promise that if you stay on it long enough you will see the unexpected, learn something new, find that rare bird you have always sought, to spend a night above the tree line under the Northern Lights.
The notion of the Trans Canada Trail has it all. It is the stuff that dreams are made of, and the sort of undertaking that improbable ventures can be built around. The Trans Canada Trail allows anyone to explore the myriad of connections available in this great nation.
Yes, I guess you could say that at the outset it was the name that got me. I am a romantic. I am a geek for nature, the wilderness, and yes, for Canada. I love watching fishing boats in the Atlantic, the food in Quebec, the forests of Northern Ontario, the big sky of the prairies, the majesty of the Rockies, and kayaking along the Pacific Coast. I love that you can see the same birds across the entire nation while at the same time see different species in almost every province and ecological niche on the continent. I love the notion that we have a ton of different landscapes—from the Arctic tundra, to the prairie grasslands, to the tidal marshes of the Bay of Fundy, but that we also have vast systems such as the boreal forests that span the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Amid all of this the Trans Canada Trail ties the parts of the nation together and makes it whole once again. It allows us each to explore the connections—familial, social, cultural, and ecological—that make us Canadian.
We are a great, vast, and privileged nation. We are safe, secure, and prosperous all at once. I am privileged to be able to embark upon this three-year expedition. I am privileged to be Canadian, privileged to have the time, the means, and the support to see Canada and to be able to share my love of the outdoors and birding with others. But most of all, I am privileged to live in a country that has continually sought to ensure that any of us can trek from coast to coast to coast for ourselves.
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