North

She was walking across Canada, but the pandemic keeps her in this Yukon hotel

Melanie Vogel is spending the winter at the Eagle Plains Hotel, while she waits to continue her 27,000 kilometre walk in N.W.T.

Melanie Vogel is spending the winter in Eagle Plains, while she waits to continue her 20,000 kilometre trek

Melanie Vogel and her dog, Malo, have been walking across the country. (Submitted by Melanie Vogel)

Melanie Vogel never expected to spend the winter in a remote hotel in northern Yukon.

She spent the last three years walking from Newfoundland to the North — and then the pandemic hit.

Vogel arrived in Yukon just before borders closed in March, abruptly stopping her 20,000 kilometre route.

Now the German traveller is planning to spend winter at the Eagle Plains Hotel on the Dempster Highway, while she waits to be allowed into the Northwest Territories.

"It's almost like a mini adventure in this adventure," she told CBC's Yukon Morning.

Vogel is walking the Great Trail, formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail, which runs across Canada.

She had been living in Toronto beforehand, when she decided one day, "I need to go."

"My personal calling is just for the road," said Vogel, age 45.

She started in Cape Spear, Newfoundland and has covered 10 provinces so far. She was joined by a dog, Malo, in Manitoba and had planned to end her journey in Victoria, B.C. at the end of the year, after making it to the Arctic Ocean.

But like everything else, COVID-19 changed her plans.

Vogel celebrated two years on the Great Trail in Yorkton, Sask. (Submitted by Melanie Vogel)

Trapped in Yukon, Vogel says a couple let her stay in their home south of Whitehorse. She only planned to stay a night, but ended up staying for three-and-a-half months.

"I was kind of blown away by this kind of hospitality and kindness," she said.

When Yukon travel restrictions relaxed in July, she started walking again, spending a week in Dawson. She arrived at Eagle Plains in September, hoping to cross the N.W.T. border.

But the N.W.T. does not allow Yukoners to enter the territory, and Vogel's application for an exemption was denied.

Vogel and her dog are staying in Yukon for the foreseeable future. (Submitted by Melanie Vogel)

"I could complain about it, but I decided not to spend so much time on being frustrated," she said.

Instead, she's focusing on the positive parts of the journey: the Dempster Highway will have much less traffic, and she's been offered housekeeping work in Eagle Plains.

She's looking forward to experiencing winter life in Yukon, which will give her time to start the book she is writing.

Vogel says she saved money for the trip while living a minimalist lifestyle. In 2019 she received a grant from the Royal Geographical Society, and says she gets sponsors and donations from people who follow her journey.

She has about 400 kilometres left to walk to Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. on the Arctic Ocean, before turning south on the trail. Vogel said it will be "a huge milestone for me as this is the mile zero point of the Great Trail up here in the North."

"It took me three years and [four] months to get to where I am right now," said Vogel.

"I do not just want to cancel all that just because the pandemic hit. The pandemic is now part of my journey. I will be patient. I will wait here. Then I will continue."

Written by Laura Howells, with files from Elyn Jones and Yukon Morning

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