The longest recreational trail in the world

BY ROBERT JANES

The Trans Canada Trail organization is hoping to connect the trail by Aug. 26 in conjunction with Canada’s 150th birthday.

“It’s this idea that we can all be connected,” said Christina Kozakiewicz, publicist at the Trans Canada Trail. “The idea that you could be on the trail in Victoria, B.C. and if you keep going, you can go all the way to Newfoundland or you could go up to the Arctic Ocean is mind-boggling. To me it’s just the coolest project ever.”

The Trans Canada Trail, also known as The Great Trail, is the longest recreational trail in the world. To date 21,500 kilometres of the trail are operational, which is 91 per cent of the proposed route. There is approximately 3,000 kilometres of trail to be connected – much of it in unpopulated areas with difficult terrain. Four out of five Canadians live within 30 minutes of the trail. All 13 provinces and territories have parts of the trail.

“What we’re working on is a multi-use trail,” said Kozakiewicz. “It’s something that we want to appeal to the broad audience of Canada, the second largest country in the world.”

Kozakiewicz said the trail has been one of the greatest volunteer efforts in Canadian history.

“We currently have 21,000 kilometres of operational trail and that’s largely due to volunteers,” she said. “We have 13 provincial and territorial partners who are always looking for volunteers for trail building, but also trail maintenance … to clear the brush, make sure it’s properly signed and that it’s in good standing order for people to use safely.”

The trail is on crown land as well as private land and connects over 15,000 communities by paths, trail and road, as well as water routes, which occupy 26 per cent of the trail.

“If you really want to follow the entire main route you would have to bring a kayak and it would take several years to go across Canada,” said Kozakiewicz. “It’s a huge undertaking. People are doing it though.”

Sarah Jackson, a cross-country adventurer in her 20s, is currently walking a west to east route, which is approximately 11,500 kilometres. She began walking in June 2015 after saving for a year and a half to begin her adventure. She has visited home in Edmonton twice; once for her mother’s birthday and again last Christmas.

“I’ve taken a motel once or twice to avoid a storm but most nights I expect to camp,” said Jackson. “I’ve camped in some really beautiful places through B.C.

“Some nights I’ve walked under the stars in the prairies. It has been amazing.”

Jackson began walking in Victoria, B.C. and has travelled as far as Fredericton, N.B.

“I’ve come about 9,500 kilometres and I’ve got about 2,000 more to go.

“I jumped into it not really knowing what to expect and I didn’t even know when I set out that I would do the whole thing. I set out from B.C. expecting that I would keep going for as long as I was enjoying it, and I kept enjoying it so I kept going.”

Jackson said she has learned a lot along the way and that she uses the trail as a resource.

Kozakiewicz said she thinks a person would have to be incredibly strong and self-reliant in order to complete the entire trail.

“I think you would have to be good at being uncomfortable and I think you would have to be really brave and someone who can live in the moment. I would definitely aspire to that.”

Sarah Jackson, of Edmonton, was walking the trail while being interviewed over the phone. She walked off of the road to sit down and continue the conversation. Shortly after, a truck pulled over and she excused herself.

“Hi there,” said Sarah to the driver.

“Where you going?” asked the man.

“I’m walking to meet the mind,” said Sarah.

“Awesome,” the man said. “I saw you two days ago, over by Beechwood Dam.”

Sarah walked up to his truck and continued the conversation.

“You want to take the Temple Road which is down here, which I think would be about 25 kilometres,” the man said. “You’ll see a big sign that says Fredericton. Turn right, look, and there should be a little road on the left-hand side and there’s also the little Trans Canada Trail sign and a suspension bridge sign there. You want to go down what looks like a little donkey path … a little farther down, about 60 kilometres, you’re going to get to a place called Dumfries Maples. Stop in, have lunch on me and keep going.”

“Thank you so much! I’m Sarah, by the way.”

“Sarah, I’m Simon.”

“Simon, nice to meet you. Thank you, that’s amazing.”

“Stop in. Tell them you’re having lunch on Simon – I work there, I help them out on the weekends.”

“Thank you. That is so cool. Thank you so much!” said Sarah.

“No problem. Have a good one,” said Simon.

“You too! Take care.”

Sarah came back to the interview and apologized.

“I’m sorry about that. I meet a lot of people, it’s really cool. Like I said, it’s the highlight for me.”

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