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Crossing Canada for the birds

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Sonya Richmond has worn via 5 pairs of mountaineering boots in three years.

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That tends to occur whenever you spend your days strolling throughout Canada.

After almost a decade as an analyst with Birds Canada in Norfolk County, Richmond determined to take to the air on a cross-country quest to get Canadians enthusiastic about nature.

She offered her home in Simcoe in 2019 and headed to Cape Spear, N.L., along with her companion, Sean Morton, to begin a 28,000-kilometre journey that has, thus far, seen the couple cross eight provinces on foot and provides greater than 100 talks about birding and citizen science.

“We’re attempting to encourage individuals to reconnect with nature,” Richmond mentioned.

Particularly, she hopes to get tech-obsessed youngsters off their gadgets and into the outside “to show among the display screen time to inexperienced time.”

One of the best ways to begin, she mentioned, is to search for.

“Birds are mainly free. Regardless of the place you reside or who you might be, you possibly can go outdoors and also you’ll see or hear one chicken,” Richmond mentioned.

“Even in the event you can’t go outdoors, you possibly can have a chicken feeder and have a look at it via the window, and you’ve got that connection to nature.”

After mountaineering greater than 10,500 kilometres in 450 days, Richmond and Morton are motivated to proceed their self-funded journey by the “overwhelmingly constructive” suggestions they get from fellow hikers and folks they meet at their shows.

They usually stroll six days per week, toting backpacks that weigh between 40 and 60 kilos, relying on how a lot meals and water they’ve.

“We don’t eat very effectively,” Richmond mentioned with amusing.

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They store at grocery shops after they can, however in any other case rely upon snacks from fuel stations. When tenting within the woods, it’s a gentle weight loss program of oatmeal, rice and beans, sweetened by wild strawberries and blackberries.

The couple had accomplished a number of long-distance hikes earlier than tackling the longest leisure path on this planet.

On relaxation days, they recharge their digicam batteries and put up updates to social media and their web site, ComeWalkWithUs.on-line.

For this interview, Richmond was on the telephone in Ottawa, ready for a prepare to take her to a Canadian Wildlife Federation awards ceremony in Prince Edward Island. The federation not too long ago named her its Canadian Outdoorsperson of the Yr in recognition of her work to advertise conservation and encourage Canadians to change into stewards of the surroundings.

Richmond referred to as the award “extremely humbling.”

“I see it as recognition of our targets and our message, and that’s actually encouraging to me.”

She mentioned she is especially excited that her journey will get her speaking to Canadians of all ages and from all walks of life, permitting her to achieve past her common spheres of academia and authorities.

“To create larger change, all of us must pitch in,” Richmond mentioned. “It might’t simply be a handful of scientists or a handful of presidency staff. It must be everybody.”

The couple will subsequent decide up the path on the Saskatchewan-Alberta border, with plans to achieve the Pacific Ocean at Victoria, B.C., by mid-October.

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As soon as the snow falls, they may head to Morton’s hometown of London, Ont., the place Richmond does contract scientific work — and impatiently waits to get off the pc and again on the path.

After the spring thaw, they may begin north to their remaining vacation spot of Tuktoyaktuk, Nunavut.

“Relying on forest fires, floods, climate, all the pieces else,” Richmond mentioned.

The pandemic pressured the couple to skip over Quebec when that province tightened its borders, and as a substitute hike via Ontario and Manitoba in 2020. They doubled again to Quebec this spring.

“Each season has been shorter than we initially deliberate,” Richmond mentioned. “We needed to await the lockdowns to finish.”

However she mentioned the expertise of staying inside to cease the unfold of COVID-19 made individuals throughout the county hungry for the outside.

“Now that there’s this curiosity in nature, we have to maintain growing that and maintain it alive.”

J.P. Antonacci is a Native Journalism Initiative reporter based mostly on the Hamilton Spectator. The Native Journalism Initiative is funded by the Authorities of Canada.

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