A Look At Our Approach

As promised, it’s time for a discussion on how we are approaching this monster project of travelling the Trans-Canada Trail.

On previous long distance endeavours, Helen and I have always used the 2-car shuttle method of dropping a vehicle at both the beginning and end points.  This gave us the obvious advantage of always moving forward and maximizing our time on the trail.

That was fine when we were, at most, within 2-3 hours of home and carrying only hiking gear.

This time however, we are cycling whenever possible, and neither of our cars can accommodate 2 bicycles  … a necessity when using the 2-car shuttle method.   As a result, we have had to requisition my husband’s vehicle which is the only car we have that can carry both bicycles and all our gear.

There is also the logistical problem that the distances we will eventually be travelling will become very significant. Flights, accommodations, and car rentals will be required. Needing 2 cars would make the cost of this project that much worse.

This is a long way of saying that we abandoned the idea of the 2-car shuttle method at the very beginning of our planning stage.  It sounds ugly, but we decided to adopt the out-and-back method.  That means for every kilometer we move forward on the trail by foot or bicycle, we’ve actually had to travel two.

We wanted “credit” for that extra mileage though, so we developed the idea of banking the “loopback” kilometers and applying them when needed to any section of the trail we couldn’t complete.

In earlier posts I’ve talked about closed and incomplete sections of the trail. These were relatively large sections of trail that caused us some angst, but there were also other small parts of the trail – 2 km here, 4 km there – that we didn’t finish for a variety of reasons.

We don’t have any intention of ever going back to those bits and pieces for a do-over.  As a result, we’ve been applying our banked loopback kilometers to these uncompleted sections.

To keep track of all our mileage I’ve developed a rather complicated spreadsheet.  In it I’ve recorded all our forward progress, but also the loopback mileage and whether it’s been applied to an unfinished section.

Our progress to date is 389 completed kilometers by either foot, bicycle, or car … of which 58 kilometers represent loopback I’ve had to apply.

This is what it looks like on the map of southwestern Ontario:

The green line represents the Trans-Canada Trail and the black lines represent completed sections …. as opposed to the black smudges which were just me being sloppy with the marker

There are 4 distinct areas where we have mileage completed … which brings me to another aspect of our approach.

We have completed almost 390 kms of the Trans-Canada Trail, but not all of it has been completed since we launched this project in March.

Approximately 115 kms of this mileage was completed from walks and bicycle rides prior to starting this goal.  In particular this covers all the mileage around Niagara Falls and most of the mileage around Toronto.

These sections of trail had been traveled repeatedly by Helen and I, either together or separately, and we decided that re-doing this mileage just because it was now part of an “official” goal didn’t make sense.  So now it’s classified in the *finished* category.

If you’re still with me following this wordy explanation of our approach, thank you.  I hope this answers some of the questions many of you have asked.

So far we have restricted all of our efforts to Southwestern Ontario because Helen has commitments this year that makes travelling more difficult for her.  Starting next year, we hope to cast our net further abroad to the other provinces on multi-day expeditions on the trail.

It’s going to get a lot more challenging and hopefully a lot more interesting.



  1. Oh, wow, 389 km is hardly the length of my entire Slovenia. And well done for inventing the loopback system. To have to do double distance would be just to brutal. Much joy in your future endeavours!


  2. I think that’s a good, and fair approach to the journey. You’ve got a lot under your wheels so far.

    It does make me think of another opportunity for the people who are supposed to be maintaining and supporting the trail. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a ride-sharing service for people trying to transverse the trail? I remember giving a ride to a guy once who had a flat at one end of the Windsor Locks Canal. His car was at the other end and he was planning a loop. He offered to pay, but it’s a short ride, so I didn’t mind.

    However you do it, I’m happy to share the ride through your photos and explanations.


    • I know that on the Bruce Trail, there are B&Bs that offer a shuttle service for hikers doing a multi-day trip. Sadly we didn’t know about that until after we had finished our end-to-end.
      I’m hoping that perhaps we will find some of these services along the way.
      Glad to have you along Dan.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow you’ve completed a good bit already! I think your idea to credit your loop-back miles is brilliant. I echo what has been said by others in the comments. I’m happy to be tagging along via my desk chair. You and Helen are amazing to be doing this Epic journey.


    • Thanks Deborah.
      I tend to ride the roller coaster on this one. I suspect it’s because the trail in this part of the country has proven to be uninspiring.
      But then I see photos from other parts of the country that make my jaw drop.
      I guess in all things in life, there is the good, the bad, and the mediocre … and as in life, it’s always what you make of it.
      I’m sounding very philosophical right now, but earlier this week when we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes, I was less eloquent 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Note to self…carry bug repellent. 🙂

        I imagine as the journey goes on there be more days that are very challenging, and days you’ll be philosophical, times you’ll be over the moon ecstatic after completing a tough part of the trail, and times you’ll need to vent. It’s all good. We’ll have some wine and chocolate, you can vent and we’ll celebrate with you the joys, and agonies. 🙂 xx


  4. “we’ve been applying our banked loopback kilometers to these uncompleted sections.”

    Brilliant solution. I always enjoy the planning stages of anything, so seeing how you’ve put so much thought into your adventure makes me smile. Sounds like you have this project well managed. Just pleased that I get to go along with you… in the virtual sense, that is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The beauty of a plan in retirement is that you can change the rules when it’s not working out 😉
      There will be a lot of issues to resolve before this is over, but as long as no one gets hurt I’m sure we’ll weather it ok.
      Glad to have you along giving a little rah-rah of encouragement on the sidelines 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can imagine that the “admin” side of your project might be more laborious than the actual pedaling along the trail. So many details to consider, and then the contingency plans!

    This is going to be one great ride, and I’m happy to tag along from the comfort of my desk chair.


    • You understand exactly Maggie.

      I think that’s why I had such a meltdown in Leamington when things didn’t go according to plan. I spend hours and hours planning a single day trip from home. It was days and days worth of work to plan a multi-day trip … to only then have the whole thing go sideways.


  6. We are in the midst of hiking the Bruce Trail and that’s a logistical nightmare at times with sinking our calendars for availability; booking accommodations (southern and northern end) and finding start and end points. But when you talk about adding flights which will mean airport shuttles and accommodations close to the trail as you’ll have no vehicle it boggles my mind and puts me in awe of yours and Helen’s goal. You inspire!


    • As you said, in many ways planning the logistics is at least 2/3 the effort of hiking the Bruce. For the TCT, I was really surprised to discover that not having to plan that end point made a HUGE difference to the planning effort.
      – not having to figure out how far to go
      – will there be parking?
      – how to get there?
      – how to shuttle between start to finish? On one occasion, Helen had left her car keys in my car at the start point and we had to go back to get them!!
      – coordinating timing for both of you to get to the meeting point and hopefully one of you doesn’t get lost
      …. and then the agony of getting it wrong.
      On an out-and-back, we drive together and we let the day determine how far we go.

      In some respects, Helen’s commitments this year is a blessing because it gives us a chance to try and work out some of these logistical issues. Like – what’s going to be our first big *away* trip? My mind is all over the map.


    • I had concerns that some people would think we were *cheating* and that this admission would minimize our effort.
      On a public blog, this leaves us open to criticism by those who like to sh*t on the achievements of others.

      In the end I decided it’s simply one of the rules we agreed upon and it’s our journey. I don’t care if others don’t agree 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  7. This does answer the question I had about how far is too far to drive there and back. But then you said, ‘flights, accommodations and car rentals.’ Question answered. Thanks, Joanne. I am looking forward to this challenging and interesting journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is certainly a lot to be said about those who choose to spend weeks and months at a time in singular focus moving forward on the trail. It dramatically cuts down the logistical cost.
      I can’t see us ever doing that. Days, maybe. Weeks, I don’t know. That’s pretty hard on the body.


  8. This is such a fascinating endeavor, Joanne and Helen! I love how you have problem-solved through unforeseen curve balls. Your plan above shows incredible thought and insight. I greatly look forward to tagging along from my computer!


    • I hope you enjoy the ride with us 🙂
      As you know with any long distance endeavour, *stuff* happens and I’m sure we’ll have plenty of problems to solve along the way. That’s what wine is for 😉


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