With a 60 pound backpack strapped to her back and a Nordic Walking Pole in each hand, Melanie Vogel came off the Confederation Trail at the Old Stone Station Park in Alberton just before 2 pm on Nov. 7.
Ms Vogel is hiking solo across Canada.
Originally from Germany, Ms Vogel came to Canada in 2008 and has been a permanent resident since 2011. She has travelled extensively in the past. Between 2011-13, she visited India, Nepal, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
“I always felt the urge for travelling and the constant need for change,” she explained, “After my last travel, I felt the desire for adventure and exploration more than ever.”
Fuelled by that desire to travel again and a wish to see more of Canada, the 42-year-old who calls Toronto, Ontario home made the decision in July 2016 that she would hike, by herself, 15,000 kilometres across the country using Canada’s Great Trail system.
Taking 11 months to prepare for her cross-country trek, which included doing research on hiking equipment, learning survival skills and about winter camping, Ms Vogel embarked from St. John’s, Newfoundland on June 2, 2017 for what will be a two year journey across Canada.
From Newfoundland she made her way to Nova Scotia, taking the ferry to Cape Breton. She then hiked all the way down to Halifax before backtracking by vehicle to Pictou to board the ferry to PEI, arriving on the Island on Oct. 9.
From Wood Islands, she hiked to Murray Harbour to begin her walk across PEI via the Confederation Trail. While in Murray Harbour though, after speaking to some local fishermen, she put her journey on hold for a day to join a crew going out to catch tuna. They ended up returning to the harbour with a 705 pound fish.
“I’m trying to step off the trail here and there for a little bit so not only to explore the trail, but really the province, as much as I can,” Ms Vogel explained.
With the prospects of facing two Canadian winters still ahead of her, Ms Vogel said she has enjoyed experiencing the fall on PEI.
“I always have my home with me, which is my tent, but of course I am always happy when people offer me a place to stay,” she said, “It’s absolutely amazing how hospitable people are in Canada. Like when you’re passing through and how many people will open their doors for the simple things like to refill your water bottle or let me pitch my tent in their backyard or even offering a bed.”
Ms Vogel’s ideal goal of ending her two year adventure would be arriving in Victoria on Vancouver Island for Canada Day 2019.
“If everything was to work out to the best, it would be Canada Day with some fireworks in British Columbia,” she said with a laugh.
Ms Vogel said she is often asked if she is scared to be travelling alone.
“Everyone has their own dreams or ideas what one wants from life,” she said, “I want to be on the road. It’s the place where I feel most content and happy. Even though I travel solo I never feel lonely as I am meeting so many interesting people along my journey and remain friends with many... There are moments of fear of course but they pass. As long as fear is not dominating our mind it is a good impulse to take extra caution in certain situations.”
After a nice rest and hot soup from the Alberton Bakery, Ms Vogel continued on her way, hoping to do another 10 kilometres, aiming to at least reach St. Louis before stopping for the night. Her plan for the following day was to finish the trail in Tignish, with hopes of visiting the lighthouse in North Cape to see the sunset to help mark the end of her time on PEI. The next day she planned on backtracking by vehicle to Emerald to hike the last 18 kilometres to the Confederation Bridge to take the shuttle to New Brunswick.
Ms Vogel said she is growing stronger every day with every step she takes.
“I had many struggles and pain in the beginning of my journey but I stayed determined as there were also so many rewards, so many amazing moments which kept me going. For a long time, during the first three months, I didn’t see much improvement until one day I realized I could easily go so much further and my 60 pound backpack didn’t feel like a ton anymore,” she said, “The easy, comfortable way is not the way we grow and learn. However, we should set our focus on what we gain and for myself; getting to know this country by hiking through its nature and communities alike will become an incredible and unforgettable experience.”
Those interested in following Ms Vogel’s journey can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram under the handle Between Sunsets.