British Columbia man hopes his solo canoe trip across Canada will inspire others

When Bert ter Hart started preparing to paddle across the country, he hadn’t been canoeing in over 40 years.

“I was not at all, in any way, prepared for the amount of work it required,” says the 63-year-old.

It was different when Bert was a kid, when everything was going so easily.

“One of the things that gets erased from your adult life is that sense of adventure that you have every time you step out of the house,” he says.

As Bert grew up, he became « hyper focused » on his career, before stopping to question his priorities.

« Perhaps there is a way to make a greater contribution? » he remembers wondering.

One of the ways the 63-year-old decided to do this was to start a solo canoe trip at the mouth of the Fraser River on the British Columbia coast.

For the past five months, without electronic navigation, Bert has paddled and ported over the Rockies, across the Prairies and now across Ontario, covering more than 40 kilometers a day.

“The pace is relentless,” Bert says. « The hardest part isn’t the physical. (It’s) the mental discipline you need to get up and paddle every day.

After sleeping about four hours a night, Bert spends up to 12 hours a day traveling with his canoe, following the same system of rivers and lakes that Indigenous peoples have traveled for millennia.

« If you want to know something about a person, you should walk a mile in their place, » smiled Bert. « I chose to walk 4,000 miles. »

Bert plans to travel to the Atlantic in mid-November and blog about his trip on his website.

But more than halfway through his seven-month trip, he finds a deeper connection to Canada and its people.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful country. It’s incredibly diverse,” says Bert. « People are amazing! »

While the strangers he met along the way left encouragement through signatures that cover his canoe, Bert hopes he was able to return the favor by offering inspiration to achieve their own dreams.

« You’re never too young or too old to walk through that door with an open heart and an open mind, » Bert says, encouraging people to reconnect with the natural world with the wide-eyed wonder of youth.

And like the photo of Bert portaging the highest peak of his journey (surrounded by snow-capped rocks), it shows that no matter how small you feel in the face of enormous adversity, your determination will always be greater.

« You just have to persist, » smiled Bert. « If you choose to persist in anything, you will succeed. »


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