A Sherwood Park, Alta. man is back home after completing the Trans Canada Trail, an epic journey that saw him hike to the country’s three coasts.
Dana Meise, 44, spent the last 10 years doing the 21,000 kilometre hike from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean then north to the Arctic Ocean; to put it into perspective, the distance from Sydney, Australia to London, England is roughly 17,000 kilometres.
“I dropped and I was exhausted and I just cried,” Meise said about completing the journey.
“The tears literally froze to my face.”
Meise, who is a forestry technician, started thinking about the hike around 2000, saying he always enjoyed nature and exploration.
Then his father, who had had a brain aneurysm when Meise was younger and had to re-learn how to walk, suffered a stroke.
“He lost his ability to walk. That’s when it struck me. What if I lost my ability to walk and I wanted to do this walk?” he said.
Meise said that moment was a catalyst for him to put plans into motion to trek across the Trans Canada Trail.
“I promised him I would walk enough for the both of us,” he said.
The native British Columbian started hiking the trail in May 2008 in Newfoundland. It would eventually take him six years to hike to the Pacific Ocean as he coped with injuries and dealt with raising funds so he could complete the journey.
Meise said he would take time off to heal as well as make money then return to the exact metre where he had stopped previously.
“I’m not in a race with anybody. There’s no one to win,” he said, adding he enjoyed getting to know different communities and discovering the diversity across the country.
He made previous attempts to reach the Arctic Ocean but had to pull the plug after concussions, severing his tongue during a fall and, in one case, having birds shred his tent in Dawson City.
Hiking to the Arctic
Meise, who said his promise to his father was the motivation to keep him going, made his final push to complete the trail in mid-September.
“I wasn’t afraid of the cold until I got up there and that was the first time I was really humbled by nature,” he said.
“The body will follow the mind. You’re always uncomfortable and in pain. You always have blisters. I lost all my toenails many times.”
Meise, who got frostbite at the base of his neck and his mid-section, credits the generosity of those who encountered him on the Inuvik Highway with keeping him going.
“They’d stop and give me water. I didn’t have to worry about that anymore. Then they’d offer food. I realized I can slim down the stress and the pack I had, and talking to locals, I realized it was going to be okay,” he said.
“One guy would bring me root beer and I don’t really like root beer but I drank it. Then he thought I loved root beer so he’d bring my root beer all the time.”
Meise is quite candid describing how he felt when he finished the 10-year trek in Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.
“It was anticlimactic. I began with myself with nothing. I ended the same way, with a few people there of course,” he said.
“But that was how it was supposed to be. Because it wasn’t about the end – it was about everything in between.”
Meise, who returned to Sherwood Park Friday night, said he plans to call his father Sunday to tell him about his accomplishment. He has plans to write a book about his journey and start a podcast sharing stories about the country.
He said the story of his journey may be one way Canadians can experience all the different facets of their country, including the North.
“Stunningly beautiful for one thing. Culturally amazing. Unlike anywhere else in the country and it’s a place most may not ever go,” he said.
Meise is settling back into the comforts of his normal life but said he hopes others are inspired by his journey.
“When people look at the big scope of any project, whether you’re going to go to college, whether you’re going to start a weight-loss program, whether you’re going to read a book, it doesn’t matter. Just start. Just do it,” he said.
“One step at a time gets you where you want to go.”
You can read more about The Great Hike here.