Five months. Eight provinces. One territory. Fourteen legs of the journey.
It was the cross-country camping trip of a lifetime for local couple Magee Walker and Cedric Schell, who were chosen from thousands in an "Ultimate Canadian Dream Job" competition for Woods Canada.
"I would say it's above and beyond the trip we want to take," said Schell.
Walker added: "Yes, 14 times the trip we wanted to do."
It all began last year when Walker entered the competition to be Woods Explorers, travelling across the country along sections of the Trans Canada Trail, blogging, taking photos and video, and testing out Woods gear along the way.
Walker and Schell were chosen, along with another couple, and their whirlwind adventure began in P.E.I. in May and they worked their way westward for five months in the summer, returning just before Thanksgiving.
"How do we ever top this summer?" asked Walker.
Her favourite leg of the journey was in northwestern Ontario, a surprise for Walker who grew up in that province, in a place called Quetico Provincial Park, on the shores of Lake Superior, close to Thunder Bay.
"I thought I knew Ontario," said the Oakville native.
"To me, when I picture wilderness in Canada, that's what Quetico is — pristine lakes that we would literally just dip a cup and drink right out of, beautiful rich forest along the edges, moose that come out in the morning when the lakes are misty, we had a bear swimming right in front of us, fishing every night. It was just so quintessentially Canadian."
Schell's favourite, on the other hand, was unexpected, a place that was never really on his bucket list — canoeing the Mackenzie River in the Northwest Territories.
"The river was big, the weather was crappy, it was hard, challenging," he said. "We covered 250 kilometres in seven days of paddling."
Their campsites were just flat muddy areas on the side of the river, more often than not with wolf prints tracked through it.
But then there was the amazing northern lights show of the aurora borealis, the giant moose antlers on the rivers' edge. And there was the feeling of conquering something big.
"It just keeps coming back up for us," said Schell on reflection of the NWT leg. "It really stood out."
Through it all they learned about the similarities from coast to coast — the friendliness of Canadians, the willingness to help.
But they also appreciate the differences — the turquoise blue waters in Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario, the majesty of being north of 60, the black flies in June in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick, the spoils of the Atlantic in PEI, the absolute perfection of kayaking in Howe Sound on a new marine trail on the Trans Canada Trail, close to home.
"Now that I've seen so much of Canada, I want to see what I didn't get to see," said Walker.
"The more you see, the more you want to see."
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