We were coming to the saints – to march from one to the other.
It was a long, twisted journey that seemed to grow out of reach. Our objective was to walk in New Brunswick province Canada from Saint John to St. Stephen, a distance of approximately 125 miles. We seemed to be “The first group of walkers to travel the newly created Coastal Link Trail on foot.”
Loredana Delucchi, a friend and experienced fellow Freewalker (freewalkers.org), had struck up a relationship with the mayor of St. Stephen, the Canadian border town, a few years ago when she fulfilled an obsession of walking to Canada from New York City. She somehow convinced others to join her along the way. You can begin to understand how this happened reading her personal story called The Return of the Canadian Penny.
To be brief, I got sucked into the new extended challenge in Canadian territory along with her traveling companion Ken Kurland and a mutual friend Tom Glynn. We were all experienced long distance walkers who had walked similar distances before; even internationally. It seems much of the world appreciates the benefits of walking as a great exercise, form of social communication, travel experience and personal challenge. We were here to do it again but in a new place.
Why the Saint Cities?
Mayor Allan MacEachern had noted in the past that Canadians were excited about the new Coastal Link Trail and others that connected their country through the huge Trans Canada Trail system and appreciated the fact that the East Coast Greenway in the U.S. ended right at the border of Calais, Maine and St. Stephen, NB. It gave the small city hope and focus for revival not only by increasing commerce but improving the health of the community.
So a new challenge was born we called the “Beyond Borders Walk.” Connecting trails means more places to walk and more opportunities to connect to others, even across borders. We soon began planning our walking event, not really understanding the challenges ahead.
Is the Trail Ready for Us?
First, there’s the logistics of the walk. The Coastal Link Trail is pretty well defined but as in most early trail efforts their are lots of questions as to where it goes, traffic, conveniences, lodging and even trail marks that show the way. Loredana worked with the trail group to iron these things out but we are pretty sure we are in for some surprises along the way.
Getting to Canada
We all know that Canada is one of the friendliest countries in the world and usually easy to cross, but this is a Covid time with a wierd business cycle. It turns out we figured the Covid restrictions were eased before we went although they do have a strict protocol for tracking vaccinations. The value of the US dollar is even stronger than ever. But one obstacle that we did not foresee is the airline problem.
About three weeks before our travel, Air Canada cancelled our flights to Saint John from Newark via Montreal. We were left with a grand detailed plan but no way to get there. We quickly scrambled to find a rental car and drive the 600+ miles to Calais, the last U.S. town before Canada. With the help of a Calais resident, Bruce Killian, we were able to leave the rental and get a ride to the border where we crossed on foot. On the other side was Cherie Stuart, of the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission, to meet us and drive us over 100 miles to Saint John where our “walking adventure” would just begin.
The Journey Begins
We arrived in Saint John at about 10:30 p.m. after starting our journey around 6:00 a.m. Loredana and Tom were registered to do a half-marathon in the morning. While Ken and I could at least sleep-in.
But tomorrow would be the first day of our seven day walk which starts July 31 and ends Saturday August 6. The first day will be relatively easy with a walk of only 7 miles. But Tom and Loredana will already have run 14 miles as their part of the marathon. I don’t envy them.
While walking or running great distances can be an extreme challenge it would be impossible without the help of all the trail staff, local politicians, friends and dreams of trail visionaries and dreamers like Loredana. Kudos to you all.
For more on the Beyond Borders Walk follow our website at BeyondBordersWalk.org