1. What is this “walk-across-Canada business” about? (“What are you doing with that big backpack?”)
At the beginning of June 2015 I dipped a foot in the Pacific Ocean near Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Trail in Victoria, and embarked on a cross-country trek. My goal is to be in St. John’s in the fall of 2016. The only rule I have given myself is the no-ride-rule. All of my kilometers covered are walked, except for when logistics require that I ferry across a body of water. (I am allowed to catch a lift away from the trail I’m walking only so long as I return to the same point on the trail to resume.)
2. Why do you want to hike across Canada? Why not bicycle, drive, or hitch a ride?
I have always been interested in the idea of a thru-hike. I remember my Uncle talking about Camino de Santiago when I was in high school, and being enthralled. Before that, books about distance trips struck a chord. After University I found myself questioning my Canadian identity, especially with respect to our history (and the ongoing reality) of colonization. I found myself reflecting on the fact that there is so much of this country (a country that I have claimed as my own, but never was mine to begin with) that I don’t know. Walking Canada began as a way for me to reflect on my place in society as a white settler, and also to understand how that interesects with other aspects of my identity. I’ve found walking to be meditative, but also challenging. There are so many places I have stumbled across, and people I have met because of the walk.
3. What path are you taking? Are you walking on the highway?
I am following the Trans Canada Trail, to the best of my ability. The trail is comprised of many different types of terrain, ranging from former railways, to mountain passes. Occasionally I reroute, owing to the fact that the TCT is only 80% complete. I do my best to avoid highways, and instead will choose side roads, logging roads, and alternate regional trails.
4. What is the Trans Canada Trail? Where can I find out more?
The TCT is one of the world’s longest networks of recreational trails, and will stretch nearly 24,000 km when it is complete. It links the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans, and connects nearly 1000 communities. It is a multi-purpose trail. To find more information on the Trail, click HERE.
5. Do you see many people on the trail?
Because the trail is so long and so diverse, the number of folks I come across on varies depending on which region I am hiking in. In more urban areas it is common to see people on the trail for day-use (walking dogs, jogging, cycling, etc). Between towns and cities I often come across cyclists. I’ve only seen one other backpacker so far (Hi, Norman!).
6. Did you train for the hike? How did you prepare for it?
Training for the hike has been the hike itself. I don’t have a set-in-stone time frame, and listen to my body when it tells me to slow down, or to rest. I have built up endurance gradually.
7. How far do you walk each day?
At the start, I was walking anywhere from 15 to 20 kilometers per day. After two months, in a full day of walking I generally hike anywhere from 25 km to 40 km.
8. How long will it take?
My goal is to be finished before October of 2016. But in honesty, I don’t have a set timeline. This trip is about the journey, not about the end.
9. What do you eat on the trail? How do you know how much food to take with you?
My diet varies. I go through trail mix and dehydrated apples faster than I can reload. A typical day consists of energy bars and fruit bars for breakfast, trail mix and dehydrated fruit throughout the day, and a warm meal at night. This might be any combination of ramen noodles, instant potatoes, kraft dinner, pasta noodles, vegetable or bean soup, and any fresh food that I can get my hands on. In town, Subway is a staple. Knowing how much food to bring has been mostly trial-and-error. I started the trip carrying five times more than I needed. I keep in mind how many days between grocery stores/markets, and usually carry 3-4 days worth of food.
10. How much does your backpack weigh? What is in your pack?
My backpack weighs in somewhere between 40 and 50+ pounds, depending on whether or not I am hiking with a partner (splitting the load), what season it is, and on how much water and food I am carrying. Click HERE for an all-inclusive list of my pack’s contents.
11. Why do you have a mask attached to your backpack?
Cougars generally attack from behind. Some people draw eyes on the back of their packs, and I’ve been using a mask as an alternative. (I have gotten attached to him, and suspect that he will stay with me long after I am out of cougar country.)
12. Do you hike alone? Do you get lonely?
I usually hike with a partner, and am always looking for folks to walk with! (Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are interested in being a part of the walk.) Sometimes between hiking partners I spend a few days alone.
13. Has anything scared you so far?
The first night I solo-camped I pitched my tent on a ledge high above Lake Okanagan, and woke up in the middle of the night to a rocking tent (from the wind) and something pawing at the outside. Visions of coyotes and mountain lions danced through my head, though in retrospect, it was probably a squirrel. To be honest, I don’t scare easily on the trail. I think that the one thing that gives me pause is the idea of not being able to see this through. This has been the most incredible experience, and I don’t want it to end.
14. Why do you have ski poles?
The poles that I hike with are trekking poles. They provide stability on rough terrain, rhythm to my pace, and take stress off of my knees.
15. How do you keep in touch with folks back home?
I carry a cell phone with me, and make use of it regularly to update blog entries, and to keep my parents and friends from worrying. For occasions in which cell-service is lacking, I also have a SPOT gen3 GPS, which tracks my movements and can send pre-programmed messages back home.
16. What has been your favorite part so far?
This is by far the most difficult answer to pinpoint with any semblance of specificity, because the truth is, all of it. I love falling asleep in a new place every night, and waking up to the sunrise each morning. I love the people I meet, and the bits of advice and wisdom that I pick up along the way. I love the routine and the rhythm of walking itself. I love being almost entirely self-sufficient. I love the smell of the woods. I love that at 6:00 pm I can look up after any kind of a day (regardless of how much my feet hurt, of how much I miss food that isn’t trail mix, of how devastatingly hot the day has been) and be overwhelmed by the beauty of this country, and feel immense gratitude wash over every bit of me.