Walk Across Canada – 15 Questions Answered on the Eve of the First Step

It’s the day before I start my walk across Canada, so I’ll use this post to try to answer some of the questions that people have been asking me about this quest so far.  If you have questions other than these listed, please feel free to ask them in the comment section below and I’ll try to answer them when I next have wifi.

1. Why are you walking from Halifax to Vancouver, instead of, say, starting in Newfoundland?

Two reasons.  First, Newfoundland alone will take a month to walk, which will make it highly unlikely that I would be able to finish the walk in the 150 days I’ve allotted for this project.  I would really like to do a separate project in the future that is only about Newfoundland, or possibly the whole of the Maritimes.  Second, I am inspired by the story of an event that occurred in 1921 after the Great War, in which five people raced by foot across Canada, starting in the middle of winter and following railroad tracks throughout.  The five heroes were Charles Burkman, Jack and Clifford Behan, a father-son team, and Frank and Jenny Dill, a married couple. In the event, Jenny Dill became the first woman to walk across Canada. This race started in Halifax and finished in Vancouver.

2. What route are you taking? Why are you walking on roads instead of through the woods or following The Great Trail?

I will essentially be following the roads and highways through Canada, without any shortcuts through the United States, in the most direct route possible between Halifax and Vancouver.  Much of this will follow the Trans-Canada highway.  In British Columbia, I will follow highway 3 from Lethbridge through Fernie, then Osoyoos to Hope, British Columbia.  This route is 35 kilometres shorter than following the Trans-Canada through Calgary, Lake Louise, etc.  However, in Ontario, I will follow highway 17 from North Bay to Thunder Bay, which is about 30 kilometres longer than taking highway 11 towards New Liskeard and Hearst.  I’ll do the extra kilometres in this section because there are more towns for resupply.  I’ve opted for roads because I can walk them faster than I can hiking trails, and the distance is shorter.  The distance along The Great Trail between Halifax and Vancouver is about twice the distance of the route along the highway, which would put me well outside the time I’ve got available to complete this project.

3. How far is it and how long will it take you to do the walk?

The route is approximately 6,100 kilometres, give or take 100.  My goal is to complete the walk in 150 days, one day for each of the 150 years that Canada has been a nation.  This would mean walking an average of about 41 kilometres per day.  I walk at a pace of about 5.3 kilometres per hour, which means I’ll need to average a bit less than eight hours of walking per day.  Of course, my real goal is to do this walk as quickly as I can.  I just hope that means I’m finished within the 150-day limit.

4. Won’t it be expensive to stay in hotels?  Where will you sleep?

Yes, hotels will be expensive, which is why I hope to avoid them completely.  My goal is to spend absolutely nothing on accommodation.  I will have a tent and will ask permission to pitch it on private property.  In a pinch, I could stealth camp, which means I would set up my tent just as it’s getting dark and be gone before the sun rises.   Some friends have offered to put me up for a night along the route, which I appreciate very much.

5. What about keeping yourself clean and using the toilet?

In towns, I can use the washrooms of restaurants and cafes that I am eating at.  I will shower and shave at truck gas stations along the route.  Otherwise, I am carrying biodegradable soap, so I will keep myself clean as if I was on the hiking trail.  The toilet will be a hole in the ground.  Toilet paper will be burned.  And, of course, from time to time I will probably smell so bad that people will try to avoid me.  All part of the adventure.

6. What will you do about getting enough food and protein?  What about water?

From experience, I know I will lose some weight.  I just need to be careful not to lose too much weight.  The advantage of following the highways is that there is rarely more than a two-day walk between towns, where I can binge eat and buy supplies.  I’ll have a protein and vitamin smoothie each morning that I know will be more difficult to choke down as time goes on.  For water, I can carry just about as much as I want since I am pushing a jogging stroller instead of carrying a pack.  To start, I have three 1-litre bottles.  I could add a couple more without difficulty if the weather starts to get really hot.  I can refill them in towns, but if I run out, I can access water from rivers, since I have water purification tablets and a SteriPen with me.  The SteriPen is a water purification system that uses ultraviolet light as its purification method.  It’s the same system I used when hiking the Bruce Trail.

7. How will you stay safe on the roads and highways?

It’s important to be seen on the roads and highways.  A sleepy or texting driver could end the show in an instant, so I’m making every effort to be seen.  The jogging stroller has reflective tape, and I have added a bicycle light to the push bar.  I also wear a bright-green reflective coverlet over my t-shirt or jacket.  If necessary, I can also wear my headlamp.  You will probably be able to see me from outer space at night.

8. Are you carrying any personal protection, such as a gun?

I’m not carrying a gun, but I have a horn to scare away wildlife. I also have a knife that is easily accessible.  My best defensive weapon, however, is my brain.  Hopefully, I will recognize and avoid danger far ahead of when I need to use defensive weapons to protect myself.

9. What if you get injured?  Will you be able to call for help?

I am not carrying a satellite phone, but I do have a reliable cell phone.  If I’m out of power or am lacking a signal, then I’ll have to self-rescue by making my way to the highway and flagging down help.  I also carry a whistle – three blasts if I need help.

10. What equipment are you taking?

I am pushing a jogging stroller in which I am carrying my duffle bag.  I have the usual pieces of kit that I would take hiking, including a light-weight tent, sleeping bag, and air mat.  I’m carrying only a single change of clothes.  Even though I have the stroller, I still want to keep the weight down because if the stroller malfunctions in the middle of nowhere, I’ll need to carry my kit on my back.  Something new that I’m trying on this trip is carrying a bear-proof food bag made of bullet-proof material.

11. Why are you pushing a stroller, instead of just carrying a backpack?

There are two reasons. First, it will be a little easier on my feet and knees over the long run, especially for some of the long stretches between towns when I’ll need to carry lots of food. Second, by experimenting, I discovered I can walk one (1) kilometer per hour faster by pushing a stroller than by carrying a backpack. This might not seem like much, but over the entire distance between Halifax and Vancouver, that’s a whole month worth of walking saved.

12. Will you accept transportation from anyone?

I won’t accept transportation that gives me an advantage on the route.  I will take rides from the route to my friends’ homes, but then I’ll be dropped back on the route where I was originally picked up.  So if you see me in a vehicle, you’ll know I’m either on my way to or from the trail.  Or the pub, hehe.

13. Are you doing this for a charity?

No.  But if you feel the urge to support the walk physically or financially, please just donate your time or money to your favourite charity.  There are lots that need help.

14. Are you going to write a book about your walk?

Probably.

15. How much will this whole trip cost you?

The flight to Halifax, taxi, two nights in a hostel prior to starting, plus the bus from Vancouver to my home will be about $550 CAD.  Food, dining, and alcohol will probably be about $600 per month.  I already owned almost all of the kit I’m using, but the stroller, bear bag, and the three pairs of shoes I bought specifically for this trip have set me back $1,200.  Miscellaneous repairs, laundry, showers, etc might cost about $300,  So if I’m able to avoid paying for accommodation, the full trip should cost a bit less than $5,000 CAD for five months.  We’ll see how close I am when it’s over.

Thanks for asking all of your questions.  Hope to see you along the route!

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2 comments… add one
  • neal Apr 21, 2017

    All the best for this fulfillment of your childhood ambition. Looking forward to hearing of the ups and downs (physical and otherwise). Will be watching out for a stroller and green vest passing by. Good luck mate. Neal

    • Dave Apr 22, 2017

      Thanks so much, Neal.

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