Three pairs of boots, countless numbers of socks and a kilt that’s falling apart — that’s been the toll so far on Michael Yellowlees’s journey, walking up to 50 km a day.
“Yeah, he’s got calves like tree trunks now,” laughs his brother, Jamie Yellowlees.
Michael is walking across Canada to tell people about deforestation in the highlands of Scotland, where he’s from.
“If you visit the highlands of Scotland you’ll see the landscape’s quite barren and bare,” he told Global News on a stop Tuesday at the foot of the Galipeault bridge in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.
“It’s a bit of a northern hemisphere desert.”
He started his hike seven months ago in Tofino, B.C., arriving Tuesday morning in Sainte-Anne, escorted by two bagpipers.
Michael explained that Scotland has been destroying its trees for generations, resulting in hardly any forests and barely any wildlife.
“We’re trying to bring a bit of life back to Scotland in that regard and revive the ecology there,” he said.
He’s trying to raise funds for Trees for Life, a charity dedicated to restoring the Scottish Highlands.
“What Trees for Life is trying to do is restore the Caledonian pine forest that at one stage used to stretch from coast to coast in Scotland,” the hiker explained.
On its website, the group has information about their tree-planting efforts as well as projects to re-introduce certain animal species, like the red squirrel and the lynx.
“It’s part of my reason for being in Canada as well,” stated Michael, “is to experience the wilderness that you have here. I’m also trying to remind Canadians that what you have here is actually so precious and to look after it because it’s such a beautiful thing.”
Environmentalists like Montreal’s Chris Adam of Dawson College’s Sustainability Office have long warned about the importance of trees.
“They filter out air, they’re taking water from the soil and putting it back in the air, they’re cleaning particulates, pollution from the air as well.”
Jamie, who joined the walk for a couple weeks to keep his brother company, agrees and said there’s one thing he takes from his brother’s efforts.
“Get out there and do something to help the environment if you can,” he stressed.
His brother’s 8,000-km trek ends in about two months in Newfoundland and Labrador. He said so far, he’s raised over $30,000.