The Best of The Great Trail

The Myra Canyon is so spectacular that it receives unprecedented praise in Michael Haynes’ new guide, The Best of The Great Trail Volume 2.

The Nova Scotia trail explorer, travel writer and former executive director of the Nova Scotia Trail Federation spent 59 days exploring 30 routes along the Trans Canada Trail (renamed The Great Trail in 2017) between British Columbia and Northern Ontario before preparing his 340-page followup to volume 1, which covers the eastern part of The Great Trail.

During his recent presentation at the downtown Kelowna branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, Haynes was coy when asked which was his favourite part of the 690 kilometres of Trans Canada Trail (his preferred name) that he explored in “Western Canada” in July and August 2016.

“There’s something to see in every province. One trail can be 1,000 different experiences,” he responded with a sly grin.

As he outlined the details of the 30 routes he personally hiked or biked in preparing his latest guide, though, the 11-kilometre Myra Canyon was mentioned several times.

“This is the only route of all those profiled in both volumes that I returned to and visited a second time. I cannot emphasize how overwhelming this landscape is and these bridges are,” he wrote.

And in his introduction to this section, he says: “Few photographs of the entire Great Trail evoke such awe as do those taken in the Myra Canyon. And deservedly so because it is genuinely spectacular: massive trestle bridges perched high in the mountains, traversing rocky cliffs and spanning deep gorges. Nowhere else in the country has so many bridges in such a short distance and from each, there is a stunning view of the deep Myra Canyon.”

The Okanagan Valley, in fact, has two of the best routes. Myra Canyon is route No. 6. Route No. 5 is Penticton KVR, the 24.6-kilometre section of the Trans Canada Trail from Penticton to Naramata to the Little Tunnel to the blocked Adra Tunnel.

Haynes liked the “outstanding scenery, especially in the section between Naramata and Little Tunnel.”

Then, Haynes is off to route No. 7, the Columbia and Western Trail between Midway and Castlegar — 100-plus kilometres of exceptional scenery on a trail less travelled.

British Columbia has eight of the 30 routes in Volume 2 including the impressive Othello Tunnels, Sea to Sky and Galloping Goose.

One of the most interesting parts of his live presentation is the series of jokes, always ending with his characteristic laugh. The most fascinating part is the results of his intense research.

For those not familiar with the details of the Trans Canada Trail, it is 24,000 kilometres long through 15,000 communities “in an unprecedented coast-to-coast system of interconnected routes” — the world’s longest network of affiliated trails. It is managed by more than 400 different groups and communities.

When first initiated, those involved would accept just about any trail (and in the case of the Yukon, mostly roads). There was so much opposition by Saskatchewan farmers that there is no southern route. As a result, the trail winds through the northern part of the province.

The strangest part is that those who promoted the concept weren’t trail users, but others who had another focus. That would make for another fascinating book, admits Haynes.

Bottom line: this is the Bible for fans of The Great Trail with so much detail that you will want to read the entire guide and then explore as many routes as you can. Volume 1 and 2 are available through Mosaic Books in downtown Kelowna.

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