Melanie Vogel is the first woman to complete a coast-to-coast-to-coast hike on the Trans Canada Trail.
The solo adventurer marked the end of a five-year trek from Cape Spear, N.L. to Point Zero in Victoria, on Saturday (Nov. 12).
Her through-hike, which took her to the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans, started June 2, 2017. Since then, she has walked nearly 20,000 kilometres, stopping only briefly due to pandemic restrictions.
The German-born hiker arrived at Point Zero around 12:30 p.m., with her sidekick Malo, the lab-husky mix she adopted during her travels through Manitoba three-and-a-half years ago.
Shedding tears, she was greeted by a cheering crowd filled with people from all across Canada.
While her trip was a solo one, Vogel maintains that she has never been alone, feeling the encouragement she received through social media and the support of the communities she’s passed through.
“People would just constantly invite me in. I was no stranger to them, so it seemed. So I started talking about that and then people would come back to me and say ‘you know what, you kind of reinstated my faith for humanity again, because there is all this bad news and here is your story about the kindness of people across Canada.’”
Vogel said that the kindness didn’t stop, leading her to name her trek ‘a walk powered by kindness.’ As she crossed from province to province, she experienced open hands and open hearts everywhere.
Having immigrated to Canada in 2008, Vogel had only a 10-day trip to the Annapurna base camp in Nepal to prepare her for this journey. Regardless, she was propelled by a deep appreciation of nature and a longing to experience freedom.
“Life gives you the opportunity that you can be everything you want to be,” Vogel wrote in her first blog post in May 2017. “I decided a long time ago I wanted to be free.”
Through sharing her experiences, Vogel also wants to let other women and young girls in on a little secret: the outdoors is here for you too.
“When I grew up, I always felt that there is a sort of barrier for women going to the outdoors and walking across Canada, I also experienced that there are a lot of women or young girls who are not encouraged enough to do their thing in the outdoors. We are always thinking we need to protect women more than boys. I’m always saying, the outdoors is for everyone. It’s not about strength or ‘having balls’ but to learn and observe and use your senses fully again. It really doesn’t matter what gender you are.”
Her adventure has brought her closer to nature and with every step, she has promoted sustainable lifestyle choices and eco-friendly living.
In a blog post from April 2018, Vogel shared her shock at the levels of pollution in water sources in some areas but explained why she only accepts plastic water bottles in certain cases.
“What I observed when asking for water in communities and cities across all five provinces so far was that a lot of people would hand me 500 ml plastic water bottles,” she wrote. “It has led me to change my approach by specifically asking for tap water and only excepting bottled water when people state true concerns about their water quality.”