Trailblazing: Edmonton woman set to conquer Trans Canada Trail
'I wouldn't say I'm sick of it, but I'm feeling excited about what will come after'
In a few months, Sarah Jackson may be taking her final steps in completing the Trans Canada Trail — a trek which will take her from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sarah Jackson, a 25-year-old sociology student from Edmonton, started the eastbound journey from Victoria in June of 2015, with the goal of reaching reaching St. John's, N.L. by the fall of 2017.
If successful, she could be the first Canadian woman to complete the 12,000-kilometre feat.
"It's been amazing. I've met so many wonderful people as I've gone across," Jackson said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"I've had lots of time to self-reflect."
'I feel like I live on the trail'
Catching up with her on day 376 of her hike, Jackson was hunkered down in her tent on the outskirts of Trois-Rivieres, Que.
After months trudging through the frigid Canadian winter — and falling a few months behind schedule — she's beginning to miss the comforts of home and her old life back in Edmonton.
With 2,500 kilometres left to go, she hopes to finish her cross-country adventure by the end of May.
"I feel like I live on the trail. I'm starting to feel ready to call Edmonton home again, it definitely feels like the trail has been home for a while now," said Jackson, who has been chronicling her journey with daily posts to her Instagram page.
Having recently finished her undergraduate degree, Jackson was seeking adventure and looking at long distance walks around the world. The Great Trail offered a chance to "see Canada in a different way," she said. "The country I call home, but barely know."
Jackson hikes between six and 11 hours each day, and abides by a strict "no-ride" rule. With the exception of a few ferry crossings and hitchhiking detours, all of her kilometres have been walked, with a 30-kilogram pack in tow.
The first time she camped solo, she pitched her tent on a ledge high above Lake Okanagan and woke up in the middle of the night to a rocking tent from the wind.
She heard something pawing at the outside. "Visions of coyotes and mountain lions danced through my head," she said, though in retrospect, Jackson guesses her late night visitor was likely a squirrel.
Though her trip has been without animal encounters so far, she got a lesson in the hazards of smaller wildlife after picking up some ticks in Manitoba.
'I've learned how far I can push myself'
Another lesson Jackson has learned along the way is knowing when to ask for help and being willing to accept the generosity of strangers. Though she's spent most of her night out in the wild, she rarely turns down an offer of a warm bed and home-cooked meal.
Jackson has even sacrificed her vegetarian diet so that meals of venison, deer and elk offered by hosts along the way haven't been wasted.
"Coming through towns and different cities, I've been really fortunate," she said.
"It's been really cool to see people that way. It's a unique way to jump into someone's life and see how people live across the country."
She may have embarked on this hike alone, but she's had plenty of company along the way. Her father, sister and a few friends have joined her for segments of the journey.
Having a fellow hiker on the trail, even just for a few weeks, has helped her keep loneliness at bay.
Though she's begun yearning for her old life in Edmonton, she still loves falling asleep in a new place every night and the constant rhythm of her own footsteps through the forest.
"I've never felt like I was challenging myself in a negative way. It's all been really positive," Jackson said.