West Coast Trail

Canada: the world's fourth largest country, after Russia, China, United States. When the water area is included, Canada is the second largest. A vast land area between 41 and 84 degrees. The southernmost tip is on the same latitude as Rome. The northernmost tip is near the North Pole. The USA are only slightly larger, but count 10 times as many inhabitants.

From east to west, the country displays a great geographical diversity. The Appalachian Mountains run through to Newfoundland on Canada's east coast. Going west, we encounter the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands. Further west lie the vast Canadian Interior Plains, hot summers, cold winters. Further west still, we hit the mountains of the Continental Divide, including the Canadian Rockies. The western coastline finally is green and sparsely populated. Most of Canada's land mass is virtually uninhabited: the Arctic part of Canada.

The hiking trails in Canada are as varied as the landscape. You have a wide choice of trails:

  1. Multi-use Trailways (eg Newfoundland T'railway). Many old railways have been turned into use as recreation trail, which is a very good thing of course. On these paths, cycling is probably more popular than walking, depending on the quality of the surface. Trailways typically are open to hiking, horse riding, cycling, cross country skiing and sometimes snowmobiling in winter;
  2. Wilderness hikes (for example the West Coast Trail, Canol Heritage Trail). These are rough trails, far from civilization, meant for experienced hikers who are prepared to dragging everything with them for an extended period;
  3. Long trails (eg the National Hiking Trail of Canada, Trans Canada Trail). These are semi-permanent projects to create a trail bigger than big. The Trans Canada Trail is a multiuse trail from the east coast to the west coast. Efforts to create a second trail, which is intended solely for walkers, presumably are not very succesful yet: the National Hiking Trail of Canada;
  4. Recreation Trails (For example the Niagara River Recreation Trail, visiting the Niagara Falls). These are easier paths, often multi-use, through nature, forest, fields and farmlands. Often they also have some historical significance. Along the way, options for sleeping often include hotels and B&B's beside campgrounds;
  5. The national and provincial parks offer a choice of shorter and longer walks. These trails are not allways known by a name. An advantage of this type of hiking are the often good camping facilities amidst beautiful scenery. The downside are the large crowds.

As mentioned before, trails are frequently multi-use. On the one hand there is a Canadian lobby to allow the widest possible public access to these public funded trails, including snowmobiling. On the other hand there is a counter lobby to exclusively designate these trails to the serious nature lover who is walking or skiing at most. To make things worse, we have to count on many ATV enthusiasts, who, with their noisy quads destroy the trails and squander nature. In short: war.

To conclude our brief introduction, let's spend some words to the famous Canadian bug. This is not one particular species of small animals, it is rather a collective noun for any annoying insect that you might encounter in nature, often in large numbers, such as black flies, mosquitoes, midges and deer flies. These hateful little creature often bite. They can be a plague, especially during the summer months, depending on weather conditions, humidity, and habitat. In spring they are not so numerous which makes for a more relaxed time on trail. But then there are obviously other pests, such as mud and snow.

From the small bite to the big bite: Canada has healthy populations of black bears, grizzly bears, polar bears and secretive but potentially dangerous cougars (puma's). Nature is wild and beautiful, especialy in Canada.


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