The Trans Canada Trail adds colour, variety and excitement to the world of horseback rider Thomas Ketelsen of Rossburn, Manitoba. Mr. Ketelsen, along with his wife and son, raises Tennessee Walkers and offers horse-back riding to guests at their ranch, and also makes regular use of the Rossburn Subdivision Trail.
“The Trail is on an old railway bed, making it a safe and easy place to really let the horses run,” says Mr. Ketelsen, noting the riding environment is pure prairie, “right down to the dust on your boots.
“We ride past abundant grain fields, and when it comes to colour, it’s hard to beat blooming canola and flax fields,” he says. “I’ve seen fox and coyote, listened to the geese and ducks, and especially love the forlorn sound of the loons.”
If he starts his ride at the Birdtail Bridge, he can travel through the Waywayseecappo First Nation Reserve in the Birdtail Valley past interpretive signs telling the story of the people and animals that call this stunning landscape home.
An avid cyclist, Alex Armitage of Vancouver makes extensive and frequent use of cycling routes on the Trans Canada Trail.
“The beauty of the Trail is that you can use it both recreationally and for commuting, and many of us fall into both categories,” says the sales and marketing executive, adding that just a few blocks from his front door is access to a network that could take him from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland, or just across town.
And while recreation, exercise and just plain old getting from A to B are important, esthetics are also a big part of the attraction.
“Vancouver has the best of all worlds,” he says. “You get this beautiful cityscape with all the buildings, but also fresh air off the water and views of the mountains. There’s even a pair of bald eagles nesting in a tree on the False Creek trail, which is basically downtown Vancouver.”
He has further ambitions, including a cycling expedition to the world-famous Kettle Valley Trail that follows an abandoned railway bed in south central British Columbia.
Fredericton, New Brunswick
For Carol Randall, the Trans Canada Trail and the attached networks in and around Fredericton, New Brunswick, represent freedom.
“I’d be pretty much housebound without them,” says Ms. Randall, a polio survivor who has relied on a wheelchair and scooter for mobility for the past 25 years. The network of trails allows her access to both downtown Fredericton as well as non-urban environments rich with wildlife and lush vegetation. With 13 kilometres of Trail paved and ploughed in winter, she can travel independently year round.
“All the different trails have their own personalities,” she says. “The South Riverfront Trail has lots of tourists because of the downtown cultural and historical scene, while the Gibson Trail is a wilderness experience with magnificent silver and red maple trees, songbirds in the trees and wading birds in the Nashwaak River.”
A highlight is the Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge spanning the St. John River, a decommissioned railway bridge affording panoramic views of downtown. An avid photographer, Ms. Randall keeps her camera at the ready for sightings of raccoons, fox, beavers and even deer.
Although he’s got nearly seven decades of hiking experience under his belt, Ken Bouchard never tires of the trails he can explore in his own backyard of Wakefield, Quebec.
“I help look after a 30-kilometre section of the Trans Canada Trail here in the La Pêche region, but you could follow it right through Gatineau Park to the city of Gatineau and see the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa,” says Mr. Bouchard, adding that much of the Trail is laid over abandoned rail bed, making it wide enough to be both multi-use and all-season.
In addition to incorporating the picturesque Wakefield Covered Bridge across the Gatineau River, the Trail in his neck of the woods passes by MacLaren Cemetery, final resting place of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, and within a kilometre of the current prime minister’s summer residence at Harrington Lake.
And wildlife abounds: “I’ve seen herons and bald eagles, geese, ducks, lots of deer in the fields and evidence of beavers,” says Mr. Bouchard. “Once a bear cub was spotted trying to swim across the river.”
If Jim Connor needs fresh fish in the middle of winter, all he has to do is hop on his snowmobile, ride 100 kilometres or so up to Braeburn Lake on the Trans Canada Trail, saw a hole in the ice and drop in a line.
Seems like a lot of work, but for Mr. Connor and all the other snowmobile enthusiasts in the Klondike, that’s the fun of it. And traffic jams are virtually non-existent.
“You see the odd bison, although dog sleds are common,” he says, chuckling, adding that you could ride 600 kilometres to Dawson and be lucky to see one other party.
Travelling along meandering valley trails on short winter days in the shadow of mountains like Grey and Golden Horn, Mr. Connor says the company includes fox, coyotes, wolves and ptarmigans living out their hardscrabble existence under vast northern skies. Unlike Mr. Connor, they aren’t able to haul sleeping bags, an essential part of every Klondike snowmobilers emergency kit. A harsh and beautiful world, and that’s the way he likes it.
Dr. Ed Shields
Thunder Bay, Ontario
It takes only four words for Dr. Edward Shields to sum up how he feels about the paddling sections of the Trans Canada Trail near his home south of Thunder Bay.
“A joy to experience,” says the retired medical geneticist who has paddled “every centimetre” of the Trail along the north shore of Lake Superior. “Many areas are quite isolated, but the rewards are great. The wildlife, the scenery and the lack of ‘civilized’ impact allow for the emergence of profound emotions about humans being a part of a greater whole.”
In addition to a “Serengeti-like spectrum of wildlife” – including waterfowl and raptors, moose, otter, deer, weasels, martens, foxes and beavers – Dr. Shields says there are geographical wonders in abundance.
“The paths are vast in their environmental reach,” he says. “From the sheer cliffs and deep green waters of Lake Superior to the startling mesas of La Verendrye Provincial Park to the streams of underwater flowing grass in Quetico to the transitional forests north of Atikokan and on to the big water of Lake of the Woods. Marvellous!”
Sierra van der Meer
Whitehorse snow bike enthusiast Sierra van der Meer is more than happy to share her preferred segment of the Trans Canada Trail with snowmobiles, dog sleds and cross-country skiers.
“They pack the snow down for us,” she says. “It would be really hard trying to ride on two feet of fluffy snow.”
Hybrid snow bikes incorporate super-fat tires in order to “float” on the snow, she says, and the sport is taking the town by blizzard. She and her fellow “snowblokes” converge on the Dawson Overland section of the Trail, onetime dog-sled and stagecoach highway to the gold fields.
“It’s amazing,” she says. “You travel through this vast environment, often coming across things left over from the gold rush like collapsing log cabins and rusted machinery. The thing I like best is a little grave marker for a dog that died along the way; it’s a really sad and touching place. These things remind you that although you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s also a place where people have been travelling for hundreds of years.”