Dana Meise ready to hit the Trans-Canada Trail again after a good meal at the Seoul Restaurant on 50th Street in Wetaskiwin.
When Dana Meise set out from Cape Spear, the farthest east point of land in Canada, at sunrise on May 6th, 2008, he was beginning a unique epic journey that will see him walk every metre of the 23,000 kilometre Trans-Canada Trail over an eight year period. Now in the sixth year, he had walked more than 13,650 kilometres as he passed through the area of Pigeon Lake, Millet, and Wetaskiwin. He carries a 50 pound pack, including a tent, and rarely knows where he will spend the next night. His intent is to get to know Canada and Canadians up close and real from sea to sea to sea, take pictures, and publish a book of his pictures and his adventures for Canada's Sesquicentennial, the 150th Anniversary of Confederation, in 2017. That will be a book worth getting!
Initially the dream of Canada's first two astronauts in space, the Trans-Canada Trail was begun in 1992 with plans to complete it in time for its 25th Anniversary and Canada's 150th Anniversary in 2017. By the end of 2012, 16,800 kilometres or 73 per cent of the trail was completed. With trailheads in St. Johns, Newfoundland, Victoria, British Columbia, and Tuktoyaktuk, North West Territories, the trail will pass within a thirty minute drive of 80 per cent of Canada's population and pass through 1000 communities. Most of the trail is multi-use for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding in summer, and skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in winter. Parts, such as the Athabasca and Mackenzie River system from Alberta to the Arctic Ocean, or at least the last leg to Tuktoyaktuk, include waterways for canoeing and kayaking. Parts of the trail were specially built, parts are previously existing hiking trails, parts are abandoned railway lines with tracks removed and finished with fine gravel, parts link along existing roads.
Meise had already seen a large part of Canada before starting his hike. He is from Prince George in B.C. but presently lives in Ontario, near Thunder Bay, right across from where Terry Fox was forced to stop his run. As a Forest Technologist, he likes to work for the Alberta Government, which pays the best, so has worked out of Grande Prairie quite a lot. With his hiking season being from approximately April to November each year, he needs to earn all that he can during his few working months. He's on a very tight budget this year, because he was finally forced to take time off from both work and hiking to treat the very painful Planter's Fascaeitis which had plagued him for some time. He did not get back on the trail until June this year, but is glad he completed his treatment because he is walking pain free on the trail for the first time.
During his first season on the trail, Meise hiked all of the trail in the Atlantic Provinces. Along the way, he learned many skills such as various fishing methods and how to catch lobsters. In Cape Breton he learned to play the fiddle. He frequently volunteers to assist with whatever work is being done in the region he is passing through. He considers this part of really learning how Canadians work and live. During his second year as he hiked Quebec, he learned to speak French. Ontario took two hiking seasons. As a patron of the Trans-Canada Trail, the Governor General naturally met Meise. In fact, Meise has met many important people in his travels. Last year, his fifth year on the trail, he found that he could hike two days, then had to take two days off, but he still managed to cover Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In Manitoba he was especially well received, with people frequently waiting for him. He hiked 1400 kilometres in Manitoba, and only used his tent four times, with two of those times his choice to get a break from constantly being with people. On the prairies he got involved with the farming from planting to harvesting. In this, his sixth year, he has already hiked 1000 kilometres from where he started in Saskatchewan to Wetaskiwin. He has now been in 800 communities and intends to complete the trails in Alberta and British Columbia this year, and visit his home town of Prince George, even though it is not on the Trans-Canada Trail. Meise expects that it will take two years for the Yukon and the North West Territories which includes hiking the Dempster Highway and canoeing or kayaking to Tuktoyaktuk. He also plans to walk to Yellowknife, the only provincial or territorial capital on a road but not on the Trans-Canada Trail. In 2016, the ninth year, he plans to pick up some spots he missed, such as the Cyprus Hills which are on the trail in the extreme south on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, or Igaluit, the capital of Nunavut, which is not on the trail and is not accessible by road. He wants his book to cover Canada and Canadians as completely as possible, to tell the good stories of a good people, to make a positive difference.
Meise is determined to maintain a positive outlook, to treat the people he meets with respect and humanity. He has family in the Edmonton, Wetaskiwin, Red Deer areas and is anticipating enjoying time with them. He certainly enjoyed his supper at the Seoul in Wetaskiwin with his cousin, even though he was also talking to me at the same time. Aside from the pain he hiked with during the past seasons and the inevitable loneliness of parts of the trail, he had a serious set back at the chuckwagon races on the Onion Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan where his backpack was stolen and burned, which meant the irreplaceable loss of hundreds of hours of pictures and documentation stored on a hard drive and of special memorabilia collected along the way, as well as the loss of all his replaceable ID, including his passport, and credit cards. He appreciates all the help he had in replacing his necessities. On a brighter note, he barely hiked 15 kilometres the day he went around Pigeon Lake because he'd meet someone wanting to talk every 100 metres or so. It should be noted that if he gets a ride somewhere, he goes back to his hike exactly where he left off, so that he will be honestly able to say that he hiked every metre of the Trans-Canada Trail.
People around the world are following his hike in real time as he maintains his web site, The Great Hike-Dana, and is also on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. He has had e-mails from students thanking him for the material on his sites which have helped with assignments. His father, who is unable to walk, also follows closely. Dana Meise views his hike, his documentation of it in real time through the internet, and his forthcoming book as a way to give back to his country and especially to those, including some relatives, who fought in the World Wars so that we can be free to hike and enjoy this great country. He finds great joy and satisfaction in what he is doing, in meeting so many people all across this great land, in conversation and high-fives.