Even with GPS you can get lost trying to follow the Trans Canada Trail through Nanaimo.
Dana Meise, who left his career as a forestry technologist in Prince George in 2008 to walk the entire Trans Canada Trail, found that out when he tried to follow the path through Nanaimo Tuesday and got confused when trail marker signs and his GPS map didn’t match up around Buttertubs Marsh.
Meise has been on the trail most of the last six years and is nearing the end of the first phase of his quest to walk and canoe the entire Trans Canada Trail system.
Before he reached city limits on his southerly trek to Victoria Wednesday, he had covered 16,300 kilometres and holds the distinction as the first person to walk the entire south portion of the trail across Canada.
Meise crossed into B.C. in September and admitted he was exhausted when he met with the press Tuesday after trekking 50 km through the Lower Mainland Monday. He has walked seven months this year.
Why hike across Canada?
“There’s a million reasons that happen in life, but realistically what it is is you have one shot at life. Just do it. Why not?” Meise said. “The only thing I gave up was a fancy truck I used to drive.”
There’s a deeper reason. No one has done this before, sure, but this is a chance for Meise to explore Canada in a way no one else really has.
“This is a labour of love,” he said. “I wanted to explore my country, so a lot of that was learning how to lobster fish, crab fish, interviewing my fellow Canadians. I’ve interviewed thousands of Canadians. Their political views, their aspects. What do they eat? What’s unique in the area? I did that because … we don’t have anyone doing that anymore. We’re always Americanized. I love Americans. I’ve been there many, many times, but we’re Canadians and we have a unique history.”
So, this is the Canadian version of American writer John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie?
“That’s exactly it,” Meise said.
But the journey is also meant to inspire Canadians to discover a greater sense of who they are and where they come from as a nation and a deeper sense of patriotism through knowledge gained from visiting more than 1,000 communities along the way, he said.
“I’m not talking about blind flag waving,” Meise said. “We do have history. I’ve walked trails that are 10,000 years old – let’s not forget that – and now they’re roads or pathways like this. I’ve slept in the same places as Louis Riel, Champlain, Cabot – you name somebody that’s settled this area – and that’s what the Trans Canada Trail does. It’s designed to connect beauty, community and history, so what better way to see the country than through 1,000 hamlets, villages and cities?”
Meise might be physically exhausted, but leaves no doubt he has a virtually inexhaustible passion for his calling.
Meise financed almost all of the journey himself, but recently managed to gain some support from corporate and private sponsors after writing nearly 1,000 letters to potential sponsors and being rejected by nearly all of them.
Meise will hang up his boots and back packs for the winter when he reaches Victoria and finally complete the southern east-west route of the Trans Canada Trail.
Come spring he will set off north from Edmonton on the land route of the trail system to the Yukon and finish that section in Inuvik, N.W.T. The year after that, he’ll tackle the water route of the trail on the Mackenzie River and finally be finished after covering more than 23,000 km.
The most daunting task is yet to come, sorting and editing his text and video journals chronicling his journey across the country. At least one producer has expressed interest in telling his story and several publishers have approached him for book deals. Meise has yet to choose a publisher, but plans to have his first book published in 2017.