Why do our national champions support the TCT?

By Valerie Pringle, co-chair, Trans Canada Trail Foundation

By Valerie Pringle, co-chair, Trans Canada Trail Foundation

Veteran broadcaster Valerie Pringle interviews beloved Canadian icons – Sarah McLachlan, Martin Short, Rick Mercer and Tom Jackson – about why they support the Trans Canada Trail.

The Japanese have an expression, “forest bathing,” to describe the necessity of spending time in nature. There is also a great Latin phrase, solvitur ambulando, which means “it is solved by walking.” 

This country would be a better place if all Canadians spent half an hour every day on the Trans Canada Trail. It is good for our physical, mental and spiritual health. That love of the outdoors should be nurtured from childhood. 

We are famously blessed in Canada with magnificent geography and we are lucky that the TCT is within half an hour of 80 per cent of us. It is a phenomenal resource and treasure for Canadians.

The Trail is a magnificent project (the greatest ever!) that inspires the support of patriotic Canadians everywhere, as evidenced by the many faces in this edition of The Globe and Mail, including the growing roster of TCT National Champions on the back cover. 

We are so happy that a large number of celebrated and accomplished Canadians from many spheres have lent their voices to support the Trans Canada Trail as our National Champions. Four of them spoke to us about their love of the Canadian outdoors and their passion for the TCT.

The Trail is a national dream that, when connected, will be the longest and grandest recreational trail in the world, connecting Canadians in nearly 1,000 municipalities from coast to coast to coast.

Sarah McLachlan 

Singer, songwriter, outdoor enthusiast

HOMETOWN: Vancouver, British Columbia 

VP: What is your best childhood memory spent outdoors? 
SM: At my family’s cottage in Nova Scotia, I used to take our 18-foot aluminum canoe out to the middle of the lake, flip it over and spend hours underneath it singing. The rest of the time I spent climbing trees.

VP: Where is your favourite outdoor place? 
SM: The beaches of the Pacific Northwest – but really, anywhere in nature where you can turn 360 degrees and see no signs of humanity.

VP: How have hiking trails, canoe routes, urban bike paths or nature walks been a part of your life? 
SM:  I grew up right beside the ocean. I spent my summers free, running and climbing in the woods or swimming in the lake. Now, living in the city, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to escape into the woods and walk for hours, as we are blessed with many large green spaces in and around Vancouver. 

VP: What is your number one reason for supporting the Trans Canada Trail – what does the TCT mean to you? 
SM: It’s a wondrous thing to have a trail that unites us all from one end of our great country to the other – it’s a measure of how we, as Canadians, value our great outdoors!

Photo: Kharen Hill

Photo: Kharen Hill

I used to take our 18-foot aluminum canoe out to the middle of the lake, flip it over and spend hours underneath it singing.

Martin Short 

Actor, outdoor enthusiast, author of I Must Say (Harper 2014)

HOMETOWN: Hamilton, Ontario 

VP: What is your best childhood memory spent outdoors?
MS: Going up to Southampton, Ontario, as a kid, we would spend our days on the beaches of Lake Huron, just living outside in nature all day, for two months each summer. It was paradise.

VP: Where is your favourite outdoor place?
MS:  I’ve had a cottage in Muskoka since 1991, about three hours north of Toronto by car. It’s the most beautiful place in the world – spectacular vistas, pine woods, loons calling out each evening. I helped design a $3 coin by the Royal Canadian Mint – the image features the view onto the lake from my property. If heaven was in a loop, it would be that view, looking down from the house to the dock, at sunset. 

VP: How have hiking trails, canoe routes, urban bike paths or nature walks been a part of your life? 
MS: There was never a time when I didn’t love hiking, canoeing, kayaking – it’s always been a part of my life. It started early on – we used to go to Webster’s Falls in Dundas, Ontario, near Hamilton where I grew up. And behind my childhood home, there was a thickly wooded ravine that ran the length of our block and seemed to me to extend forever into the northern wilds.

VP: What is your number one reason for supporting the TCT?
MS: The more something has focus on it, the more it will be preserved. And the better it is preserved, the longer it will last. 

VP: What does the Trans Canada Trail mean to you? 
MS: It’s a wonderful idea – a brilliant idea, in that it unites Canada.

Photo: Sam Jones

Photo: Sam Jones

There was never a time when I didn’t love hiking, canoeing, kayaking – it’s always been a part of my life.

Rick Mercer

Star of CBC’s Rick Mercer Report, Trail Enthusiast

HOMETOWN: Toronto/ Middle Cove, Newfoundland

VP: What is your best childhood memory spent outdoors?
RM: Almost all of my childhood memories involve being outdoors. We lived in a pretty rural area, so as kids we were always exploring in the woods, riding bikes on trails in the woods and building forts in the woods. There were a lot of woods. At the risk of sounding ancient, there really was no such thing as going to a friend’s house to play inside. In hindsight, it was perfect.

VP: Where is your favourite outdoor place?
RM: The East Coast Trail in Newfoundland has so many great hikes. I grew up in Middle Cove, Newfoundland, and there are great walks minutes from my parents’ house that take you along terrific cliffs. The landscape there speaks to me like no other.

VP: How have hiking trails, canoe routes, urban bike paths or nature walks been a part of your life?
RM: Having immediate access to nature is what I miss the most about living in Newfoundland. But, even in Toronto, there are bike paths in the ravines and I will go there when I need to clear my head. It’s not a path next to the Atlantic Ocean where you can breathe salt air and watch whales, but it beats walking or biking on Bloor Street.

VP: What is your number one reason for supporting the TCT?
RM:
 It was the development of the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland that led me to support the TCT. The East Coast Trail was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. It took so much work on behalf of communities, groups and volunteers, but it is an incredible gift to residents and visitors. How can anyone not support the notion of a trail?

VP: What does the Trans Canada Trail mean to you?
RM:
The TCT is classic, old-fashioned nation-building, something that should never go out of style. Let’s finish the Trail so future generations can say, “Wow, how did they do that?”

Photo: Jon Sturge

Photo: Jon Sturge

The TCT is classic, old-fashioned nation-building, something that should never go out of style.
 

Tom Jackson 

Actor, singer, activist

HOMETOWN: One Arrow Reserve, Saskatchewan 

VP: What is your best childhood memory spent outdoors?
TJ: During the summer, as soon as the sun came up, my buddy and I would hike through the bush to a clearing and pretend we were Tarzan – we’d pick a tree, climb it, and try to work our way all around the clearing without touching the ground.

VP: Where is your favourite outdoor place?
TJ: Fifty kilometres northwest of Atlin, B.C., there is a seldom-used camp, established by the Tlingit clan hundreds of years ago, where you can sit and listen to the salmon speak.

VP: How have hiking trails, canoe routes, urban bike paths or nature walks been a part of your life? 
TJ: I like to go on a daily walk, and in the solitude, my head is cleared. It creates a great start to my day.

VP: What is your number one reason for supporting the TCT?
TJ: It allows me to be part of a community that is collectively doing something positive to promote wellness.

VP: What does the Trans Canada Trail mean to you? 
TJ: As this is our home and native land – yours and mine! – I feel privileged to be a part of the TCT. I represent nothing more than a small step in a long journey that leads to, and constitutes, being a proud Canadian.

Photo: Craig Koshyk

Photo: Craig Koshyk

During the summer, as soon as the sun came up, my buddy and I would hike through the bush to a clearing and pretend we were Tarzan...