Edmonton

'Rain storms, snow, sleet, hail': Edmonton man walks across Canada for diabetes research

On Saturday, after 10 months and more than 9,000 kilometres, Jeff Laybolt will complete his Great Walk About for Diabetes.

'When you truly need help or you truly need something in life, the world will provide for you'

Jeff Laybolt is shown here near the end of his cross-Canada journey which kicked off in Halifax. (Jeff Laybolt/Facebook)

It has taken Jeff Laybolt more than 308 days and 17 pairs of shoes to walk across Canada. 

"I've had winter boots, hunting boots, hiking boots, trail runners, regular Wal-Mart sneakers," Laybolt said. "Whatever my feet need, they get." 

Laybolt, 36, began his solo hike on March 1, departing from his childhood home of Halifax.

On Saturday, after 10 months and more than 9,000 kilometres, he will complete his Great Walk About for Diabetes at Clover Point Park in Victoria before returning to Edmonton. 

"My knees and my back have had enough," Laybolt said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It's time to be done. Mentally, I'm fine but physically, I've lost 50 pounds. I'm in much better shape but after 300 days sleeping on the ground, I'm starting to feel it." 

When I say frozen boots, I literally mean pulling icicles apart to put your feet in them.-Jeff Laybolt

Laybolt's journey on the The Great Trail — previously known as the Trans Canada Trail — has taken him through snow, rain, bugs, sweltering heat and back into snow again.

"I've dealt with pretty much everything," he said.

"Heat waves and rain storms, snow, sleet, hail, the whole works, but Manitoba and Saskatchewan were probably the worst because in September they went to winter with subzero temperatures and blizzards." 

Laybolt has been living along the trail, camping and carrying all the gear he needs on his back. 

He's travelled endless stretches of highway and hiked through deep bush and across treacherous mountain passes, often going for days without seeing another soul. 

He spent many nights huddled in his single-person tent trying to keep warm. 

"It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant in the rain and the cold and getting up and putting frozen boots on is not fun," he said.  

"And when I say frozen boots, I literally mean pulling icicles apart to put your feet in them. 

"Most people would say, 'I couldn't do that.' But once you've done it a couple of times, you just accept it as part of the gig." 

On Saturday, after 10 months and more than 9,000 kilometres, Laybolt will end his trek in Victoria. (Jeff Laybolt/Facebook)

The walk was inspired by Laybolt's personal experience with diabetes. Four generations of his family have been touched by the disease. His mother was diagnosed five years ago and he's been looking for a way to raise awareness ever since. 

His original goal was to generate $10,000 in donations for Diabetes Canada. He is about to surpass the $12,000 mark.

Laybolt had always dreamed of walking across Canada, but put the idea on the back burner for years. 

Finally, last spring — fed up with his retail job in the hunting department of Cabelas — he quit, did some research, bought some gear and started walking.

'I wanted to just disappear' 

While he completed the journey alone, many Good Samaritans helped him along the way offering rides and warm meals. 

"When I was in my worst situations, somebody randomly came out of nowhere and helped," he said. 

"It's really nice to see someone, without a thought, go out of their way to help somebody out of the kindness of their own heart." 

Relying on the generosity of strangers has changed his perspective on people and made him appreciate life in a new way. 

"When I left Edmonton, because of doing retail, I wasn't interested in being around people. That was kind of the reason I wanted to just disappear. 

"And then, as you get going, people start to help. And that has really meant a lot to me and changed the way that I view Canada and the way that I interact with people. Now, I see them in a different light. 

"When you truly need help or you truly need something in life, the world will provide for you." 

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon

Journalist

Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at wallis.snowdon@cbc.ca

With files from Ken Dawson

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