Benjamin Pinch is not the same man he was 44 days ago. The woods, he says, have a habit of changing you.
It’s dusk, and his silhouette bobs as he ascends the Kettle Valley Rail Trail towards the Little Tunnel, overlooking the South Okanagan town of Naramata. Weaving around him is his canine partner, Jade, carrying her own food in a makeshift saddlebag.
The arid, rocky landscape is covered with desert grasses, bushes and cacti. Turkey vultures fly overhead, some landing to take shelter from the impending rain in the distance.
Clad in a wool poncho and jeans, it’s the twinkle in his eyes that catches your attention.
With over 700 kilometers now behind him, every day Pinch comes one step closer to his final destination: Newfoundland. His reason for walking across Canada? To fulfill a lifelong dream.
Now through Penticton, Pinch has but 23,221 km to go on his eastbound adventure.
“It’s my second dream, I already accomplished my first dream: I got my self-sustaining cabin out in the woods,” he said.
“When I was younger, probably elementary school, Terry Fox was going across Canada, ever since then, it stuck in my head.”
It’s at this cabin in Winnipegosis, Man., that the Campbell River native plans to hunker down for the winter, before completing his walk by the end of summer 2021.
The 32-year-old has been walking his entire life. In fact, he didn’t feel the need to get his driver’s licence until he was 25. In Campbell River, he ran a cleaning business, Static Cleaning, off of his bike.
At the beginning of May, Pinch sold some of his possessions, and with the support of his kids, left home.
“It’s kind of like a big spiritual journey too. Something just told me at the same sense, this is the time to do it, it’s the time to go now. Just go,” he recounted.
Sticking to the Great Trail (also known as the Trans Canada Trail), Pinch covers about 30 kilometers a day. Coming out the other side, he hopes to gain a deeper understanding of himself.
It wasn’t until he starting walking, and had time to think, that Pinch realized he had already accomplished his first dream. Time on the trail has allowed him to slow down and examine himself.
“I had a tough time to slow down and process, and go through the things in my life, because I was always a super, super busy person,” he said. “I worked days. I worked nights.”
So far he’s been blessed with good weather, good people, and just a few wild animals. One section, however, caught him off guard.
“Coming over Paleface Mountain (east of Chilliwack Lake) I wasn’t expecting there to be a whole bunch of snow. There was snow probably up to my neck. I had no snowshoes or nothing. It was nice and hard at least, but in the sun it was soft, and I dropped into a couple of wells and stuff like that.
“I had the trekking poles that are on the side of my bag and I bent one of them trying to catch myself, so I didn’t break my leg on the ice on the inside.”
At this point he knew he had to slow down if he was going to get through the section safely.
“I was in a rush to get down the mountain because it had taken me too long, and I didn’t want to be stuck on the top.”
It was on this mountain that Pinch also encountered two black bears. He saw two more once he entered into the Okanagan region.
He also came across another predator that wasn’t as skittish as the bears.
Pinch rounded a corner and saw a cougar stopped on the trail in front of him. After discharging a bear-banger, the cougar weaved from side to side, and disappeared.
“It’s been pretty epic,” said Pinch.
Along the journey so far, Pinch has met some interesting people. Those that take the time to stop and say hello will hear his story; others who walk or ride past will never know.
“A lot of people, they think it’s an impossible journey, but realistically when you actually think about it, you’re just walking. And how much walking do you do every single day,” he explained.
“Just go and do it. Because if it’s one of your dreams, you’re going to be working towards somebody else’s dream the rest of your life.
“So you might as well stop what you’re doing and do what you need to do, to get your dreams out of the way.”
Pinch has no plans of stopping once he completes the Great Trail. Next he hopes to take on the Pacific Crest Trail, a 4,270 kilometre trail winding down from the Canadian border, through Washington, south to the U.S./Mexico border.
“After all this is done, I think I’m just going to keep on walking.”
Throughout his journey, when he has service, Pinch updates his Facebook page, Stacking The Steps.