Vancouver Island

63-year-old B.C. man canoeing solo across Canada hopes to inspire

Published Aug. 27, 2022 3:33 p.m. ET

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When Bert ter Hart started preparing to paddle across the country, he hadn’t actually been in canoe in more than 40 years.

“I was not at all, in any way shape or form, prepared for the amount of work it required,” the 63-year-old says.

It was different when Bert was a kid, when it was all so effortless.

“One of the things that gets scrubbed from your life as an adult is this sense of adventure that you have every time you step out your front door,” he says.

When Bert grew up, he became “hyper-focused” on his career, before pausing to question his priorities.

“Perhaps there’s some way that I can make more of a contribution?” he recalls asking himself.

One of the ways the 63-year-old decided to do that, was to begin a solo canoe trip, at the mouth of the Fraser River on B.C.’s coast.

Over the past five months, with no electronic navigation, Bert’s paddled and portaged over the Rockies, across the prairies, and now through Ontario, covering more than 40 kilometres a day.

“The pace is relentless,” Bert says. “The hardest part is not the physicality. (It’s) the mental discipline you need to get up and paddle every single day.”

After sleeping about four hours a night, Bert spends up to 12 hours a day travelling with his canoe, following the same river and lake system that Indigenous people have been travelling for millennia.

“If you want to know something about a person, you should walk a mile in their shoes,” Bert smiles. “I’ve chosen to walk 4,000 miles.”

Bert’s planning to make it to the Atlantic by mid-November and blogging about his journey on his website.

But more than half way through his seven month journey, he’s finding a deeper connection to Canada and its people.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful country. It’s unbelievably diverse,” Bert says. “The people are amazing!”

While the strangers he’s met along the way have left encouragement through signatures that cover his canoe, Bert hopes he’s been able to reciprocate by offering inspiration to realize their own dreams.

“You’re never to young or too old to step outside that door with an open heart and an open mind,” Bert says, encouraging people to reconnect to the natural world with the wide-eyed-wonder of youth.

And like the picture showing Bert portaging over the highest peak of his journey (surrounded by the snow-covered rockies), he shows that no matter how small you feel in the face of enormous adversity, your determination will always be bigger.

“You just have to persist,” Bert smiles. “If you choose to persist at anything you will succeed.” 


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