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People & Culture

First woman to walk entire Great Trail returns home after two years

Sarah Jackson talks memories, experiences, and struggles on the trail

  • Jun 20, 2017
  • 556 words
  • 3 minutes
Sarah Jackson, The Great Trail, day 428 Expand Image

After two years of walking, 25-year-old Sarah Jackson has officially completed The Great Trail.

The journey, which first began on the shores of Victoria, B.C. in June 2015 ended this year in Cape Spear, Newfoundland. Jackson’s trip took over 11,500 kilometres and seven pairs of shoes to complete; she documented the stunning Canadian landscape along the way through Instagram.

Canadian Geographic spoke with Jackson about her experiences and feelings on finishing her coast-to-coast journey.

On favorite memory of the trail

That’s an impossible question. I couldn’t answer that. I went to bed every night in the most beautiful place in the world. I loved the everydayness of it. The fact that you’re experiencing new beauty and people no matter where you are. I walked under the stars in Saskatchewan where it has this big open sky, and loved my time in Quebec and the culture. I didn’t know what to expect in northern Canada but it was so wild. I would go back to all of it in a heartbeat.

On the biggest struggle

You know, people ask me about loneliness and maybe I did feel lonely at the start, and I’m trying to look back on it now and see if I did feel that way, but near the end not really. I mean, there’s a difference between loneliness and loneliness, you know? I think when I’m alone in nature, loneliness, I just don’t feel it. I feel like I’m actually surrounded.

On her accomplishment

I don’t think I set out to accomplish anything. I didn’t know I would walk the whole way from the start to be honest. I figured I would keep walking and stop when it felt right. It wasn’t the finishing that meant something to me, it was in the doing of it. And I think I’ve definitely grown so much. The trails raised me in a way I never anticipated.

On the last push

That was interesting actually. I had found out a week before that the trail had been extended to Cape Spear. I was set to be finished on the 30th and had lots of friends and family that were waiting for me. So, I decided to tack on the last bit afterwards and catch a cab to the airport. I was a little worried I would miss my flight actually! Walking the last bit, I could kind of see the water coming up on the horizon and I got really emotional. I put on some music that carried me through parts of the trail and was crying a bit, tears streaming down my face. I think I was starting to miss being there on the trail, even when I was there, you know?

On what she will miss

Oh god. Everything. Waking up outside and going to bed outside and the walking itself. The routine of it. The people I met. Knowing that feeling that even if you’re having a crappy day in your head I was always into a new place, further along the trail, by the end of the day. I think I’ll always carry that feeling with me and hopefully apply it to other parts of my life. As cliché as it sounds, that idea one step at a time is really applicable.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 


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