The Great Trail Tramp
It snakes it’s way across Canada from the ocean through the mountains. It traverses immense valleys and skirts entire cities. It crosses open fields of endless miles, hides under forest canopies, hugs lakes. It currently connects 75% of the entire country, a feat in itself. Wrapping it’s way up the unexpected hills of the area, it is cloaked in bur, aspen, and maple, dotted with wildflowers, sand and gravel underfoot. It is the Great Trail.
Also known as Trans Canada, The Great Trail connects the country to those who wander by foot, by bike, or horseback. And you can wander along its paths too, right in Morden.
Our Day on the Trail
We (my partner and myself, two friends, and their two children) decided to hike it on a crisp, beginning-of-Fall afternoon; the colors in the tips of the trees just starting to turn. We drove west of Morden only a short few minutes, down country roads lined with farmhouses and fields. We parked in a tall grassy area, the Trans-Canada sign nailed to a post opposite us.
To me, half of what makes The Great Trail interesting is just the nature of connection. Some who walk its path have been putting one foot in front of the other for weeks, months. Others, like us, opt for an afternoon stroll, kids strapped to their backs or dogs leashed at their sides. Some go for the weekend, camping just outside their hometowns, seeing their backyards in a whole new light. Winkler and Morden have a number of activities for outdoor adventurers, but still, they seem so often associated with the sprawl of flat that spills from them. Driving only minutes, seeing hills of green spring from the ground is a perfect juxtaposition to the assumptions of the area. We begin hiking down a steep embankment at the start, gravel crunching under our feet. My friends’ 3-year old daughter sprinting ahead, giggling.
Down into the valley we descended, tall grasses everywhere, to cross Dead Horse Creek. This year the drought has left plants desperate, and the creek has been almost entirely leeched of water. I’m told though, that often the creek is full, rushing and bubbling under the small bridge we cross. It’s still beautiful: from a now-marshy area thrives its own life forms.
We spend the next hour and a half walking the trail: up and down hills, through forest, next to a seemingly deserted farm. It’s picturesque, isolated, easy to access. I am surprised we are the only hikers today taking advantage of this trail so close to Winkler and Morden. We see countless birds, happen across a small garden snake, witness squirrels, chipmunks, and even muskrats scurrying through the marsh.
I’ll be frank: whoever you are, you should spend time on this trail. A grand accomplishment of Canadian volunteers, The Great Trail should be enjoyed by everyone. Whether you are participating in a day hike, or decide to go for a week or a weekend, The Great Trail introduces you to the Winkler/Morden area and beyond in a way that will thrill you… And is beautifully reminiscent of a time before cities and sprawling fields of corn.
Getting here is easy. Head West out of Morden until you come to Road 32. Turn left on the gravel road, driving until you reach Road 12. Turn left again. The trailhead will be just ahead, less than 1/2 kilometer on your right.
For more information on the Great Trail/Trans Canada, visit their website. Consider volunteering if you too are a lover of the great outdoors!