Have you ever thought of just chucking it all and going for a long walk?
Dr. Sonya Richmond and her hiking partner Sean Morton did. In 2019, Richmond quit her job as a GIS Analyst assisting in the development of Provincial Bird Atlases for Bird Studies Canada, and an Ornithological Researcher for the Canadian Wildlife Service. She sold her house, donated her possessions and, along with Morton, began a 28,000 km hike across Canada, via the Trans Canada Trail.
“We started in Cape Spear, NL on June 1st 2019 and we are walking west to Victoria, BC, and then venturing north from Fort Saskatchewan to Tuktoyaktuk, NT,” Richmond said. “While few others have made this trek in its entirety, none have done so for a cause and with the primary purpose of promoting diversity and accessibility outdoors while striving to get youth engaged with and connected to nature.”
So far, in 500 days of hiking they have walked over 12,000 km, through nine provinces. They arrived in Kimberley last week, where they spent a few days before heading over the Gray Creek Pass. They have 40 more days of hiking to reach Victoria.
Kimberley struck a special chord with Richmond because her father James (Jim) Richmond worked for more than 30 years for Cominco as head of HR, and was one of the last executives for the company as it merged with Teck. She last visited Kimberley when Kimberley Alpine Resort was being built in the late 90s.
To her delight, the hotel she chose, the Larix, used to be the old Cominco office building, where her father worked for many years.
Walking into Kimberley, Richmond and Morton hiked the Rails to Trails, part of the Trans Canada Trail.
Unfortunately it rained the day of that walk but they did appreciate the views and the little touches people have left along the trail such as painted rocks and the hand made wooden kilometre markers. They also enjoyed the interpretive signage, explaining the geology and the Ktunaxa creation story.
During their long hike, Richmond and Morton encourage others to walk with them for a few kilometres.
“ Our focus is on connecting families and youth to nature through birding, promoting healthy active lifestyles, and inspiring a passion to become lifelong explorers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sustainable stewards of the nation’s resources. A major focus of our walk is get a diverse range of youth active and involved in experiential education opportunities in their own backyards and communities. Research has shown that engagement with nature helps develop healthy, independent, confident and creative individuals who have the self-awareness, communication and critical thinking skills, as well as the creativity necessary to make meaningful contributions to their communities.
“We believe that birding can be a key means to connecting a youth to nature and a way to focus their online activities. In addition we want to remind Canadian Youth regardless of their circumstances, cultural background or identity that with hard work and determination inspiring achievements, wondrous discoveries and amazing innovations are possible – one step at a time. We are a big and great nation capable of so much and we hope to remind the people of our country of its diversity, natural wonders and potential.
“As we trek we are also be collecting publishable scientific data to aid Graduate Students, Researchers, Explorers, Businesses, and Industries continue to better understand people’s connection to nature. In addition to which we hope to connect with Indigenous and Northern Communities to further explore how traditional perspectives and scientific research might complement one another to foster new opportunities and strengthen our common aspirations.”
You can follow their progress online at comewalkwithus.online