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The ultimate hike: three tasters of Canada’s Great Trail

The ultimate hike: three tasters of Canada’s Great Trail

When I was a teenager, I met someone who had done the Pennine Way long-distance footpath. And I gazed with awe on him. After all, 267 miles seemed a heroic achievement, requiring several bars of Kendal mint cake and the courage to face aggressive sheep dogs. I recall that man as I step out, for the first time, on Canada’s new long-distance footpath, The Great Trail (aka Trans Canada Trail). I am not at the start, or the finish, but somewhere in between, on a path that is a mind-boggling 15,000 miles (24,000km) in length, by far the longest footpath in the world. If you were to chop this distance into a series of satisfying 20-mile-long day walks, there would be sufficient for two years.

Yukon, Tombstone park

The Great Trail starts near St John’s, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and finishes on Vancouver Island, after an Arctic detour. I am in Yukon Territory’s Tombstone territorial park, taking the first of my own day walks along the path. Here it follows the Dempster Highway through the park, heading north towards Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic coast. I am not going that far, only a few miles up a valley called Grizzly Creek towards the spectacularly jagged Tombstone peaks. Underfoot is soft mossy forest floor speckled with flowers, the path later climbing steeply on to a stony ridge with sweeping views of dark brooding peaks. En route, my guide Benny points out moose, then marmots, but no grizzlies.

I’m not sure what I think about the grizzly bear, the Great Trail’s top predator. In theory I would very much like to see one. In practice I have twice watched The Revenant, a movie that shows what will happen if you wander alone through the woods without bear-repellent spray. I’m pretty sure Leonardo DiCaprio will not be making that mistake again. Read more

The ultimate hike: three tasters of Canada’s Great Trail

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