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Couple completes 27,000 kilometre walk across Canada

Sonya Richmond and Sean Morton have concluded their cross-country journey on the Trans Canada Trail. They passed through Kamsack and Canora in August 2021.

KAMSACK — A couple who were walking on the Trans Canada Trail across the country, and passed through Kamsack and Canora in August 2021 when their excursion was featured in a story in the Kamsack Times, concluded their cross-country journey on Nov. 25 and have expressed their thanks for the support they received along the way.

The Kamsack Times gave a terrific interview and publication by Kulchera Nicholson on our #Hike4Birds as we ventured from east to west,” said Dr. Sonya Richmond, who had made the trip with Sean Morton. “The article resulted in a great deal of help for our trek for which we wanted to thank you.

“Having starting out on July 1, 2019 and after 556 days hiking from Cape Spear, Newfoundland on the Atlantic Coast and covering 13,716 km on the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) across 10 provinces, we arrived to Point Zero in Victoria, British Columbia on the shores of the Pacific Ocean on Nov. 25.
“In process we achieved a number of firsts for the Trans Canada Trail,” Richmond said. “In our weeks, months, and years on the Trans Canada Trail, we have been the first to see the sunrise in North America, we have scaled cliffs on rope ladders, walked along coastal footpaths, seen icebergs and puffins, spent evenings on the sides of crystal clear lakes, and gone days in remote wilderness without meeting anyone else.

“We have seen whales and seals in the Atlantic Ocean, watched herds of caribou, encountered moose and deer on the trail, listened to coyotes call throughout the evenings in the prairies, had black bear encounters in almost every province, and of course seen over 400 species of birds!

“However, best of all, was experiencing the overwhelming generosity, random acts of kindness, and countless words of encouragement from people in communities across Canada.”

Dr. Sonya Richmond ( was a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Analyst assisting in the development of Provincial Bird Atlases for Bird Studies Canada, and an Ornithological Researcher for the Canadian Wildlife Service. In 2019 she left her job, sold her house and donated her possessions to fund a 28,000 km hike across Canada along the world’s longest pathway, the Trans Canada Trail.

“While few others have made this trek in its entirety, none have done so for a cause and with the primary purpose of promoting diversity and accessibility outdoors while striving to get youth engaged with and connected to nature through citizen science,” she said. “We are only two of a very few number of people to have ever completed the main route of the Canada’s Great Trail on foot by hiking from the Atlantic to the Pacific unsupported.

“Indeed, fewer people have accomplished this goal than have walked on the moon.

“In the process of hiking coast to coast, we are the first duo to trek on foot from the East to the West on the Trans Canada Trail. We are the first to comprehensively blog and document the Great Trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific, providing a comprehensive guide and map of the national trail for others to follow in the future for their own exploration of this amazing country.

“I am the first to bird the nation along the Trans Canada Trail and share more than 400 species with Canadians striving to learn about Canada and its wildlife,” she said, adding that Morton is the first to comprehensively photograph and document the trail and the modern Canadian experience along the trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

“In the process, we took more than 750,000 pictures of Canada and have shared more than 100,000 of them on social media,” she said. “We are the first to trek the national pathway for a cause, dedicated to encouraging Canadians to engage in citizen science and using the TCT to campaign for bird conservation, the protection of important bird areas and the Boreal forest, as well as promote youth engagement in their home communities.”

While trekking, the #Hike4Birds gave more than 150 free presentations to school and nature groups, hiking clubs, conservation organizations, Parks Canada Sites, and communities across the country, she said. “We published more than 24 articles on the national pathway and released more than 800 blogs detailing every day on the Trans Canada Trail, providing a guide for future Canadian explorers, while striving to share Canada with Canadians.

“En route we have been privileged to be advised by members of the Canadian Explorer’s Club, collaborate with the Great Trail and to have partnered with groups such as Nature Newfoundland, the Island Nature Trust, Nature New Brunswick, Bird Protection Quebec / Protection des oiseaux du Quebec, and Parks Canada throughout the Maritimes as well as Ontario Nature, Nature Alberta and Can Geo Education.

“The efforts of this endeavour, have led us to become members of the Canadian Explorer’s Club, be inducted as Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (RCGS) as well as be supported as an official flag carrying RCGS Expedition and RCGS Researchers.

“In 2021 and 2022, owing to our efforts, we received a generous letter of support from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were a finalist for the Canadian Museum of Nature's Nature Inspiration Award, was awarded the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s prestigious Stan Hodgkiss Canadian Outdoorsperson of the Year, and was named by the Universal Women’s Network as one of Canada’s Inspirational Women for promoting diversity in the outdoors, advocating increased accessibility to nature and striving to inspire youth to reconnect to the nation’s wildlife and land through Citizen Science.

“In the past year we have also received an Ontario Federation of Ornithologist’s Certificate of Appreciation in acknowledgement of our leadership and dedication to promoting bird conservation and ornithological research through the #Hike4Birds across the Trans Canada Trail in recognition for connecting people to nature and promoting stewardship for birds and their habitats.

“In 2023 we are set to venture onto the last major spur of the Trans Canada Trail, and will hike more than 4,000 km north to the Arctic, hiking from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. to Tuktoyaktuk, NT, while continuing to share Canada’s north, its landscapes, wildlife, and birds with all persons.”

In the story printed in the Kamsack Times in 2021, Richmond said they had sold theirhome and all their belongings in order to engage in the four-year, 27,000 kilometre trek across Canada.

She said her love of birds, nature, and the outdoors led her to a career in environmental conservation, while Sean Morton had transitioned into the world of freelance writing and landscape photography.

Between Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Good Spirit Provincial Park they have seen American White Pelicans, Common Loons, Red-Necked Greebes, Franklin’s Gulls and many prairie swallows.

“We met in Peterborough, Ont. while attending Trent University. As students, we spent a lot of time camping and kayaking together in provincial parks.

“We both had desk jobs, and didn't enjoy spending all day sitting in front of computers,” she said. “We were beginning to feel like the digital world was taking over our lives and those of our family members, and that we were becoming increasingly disconnected from nature, ourselves, and each other.

“In 2016 we walked across Spain on the 800 km Camino Frances, and we liked that so much we walked across France on the 780 km Via Podiensis the following year, and then across Portugal on the Camino Portuguese.

“While in Europe, we were frequently asked why we weren't hiking across Canada, since we were Canadians and Canada is one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” she said. “When the Trans Canada Trail announced it was officially connected for Canada's 150th anniversary, we decided to hike across our own country to learn as much about it as we could.

“Walking the trail has given us a much deeper understanding of Canadian history and culture than we ever expected. We've walked through fishing villages in Newfoundland, learned about Acadian culture in the Maritimes, early French exploration and the fur trade in northern Ontario, pioneer history, and the settlement of the prairies in Manitoba and Saskatchewan by a diverse mosaic of different cultures.

“We've also learned about First Nations and Métis history as we cross the land that was traditionally part of First Nation's territories. The Trans Canada Trail connects us all, and gives us a deeper appreciation of the ties that bind us together.”