Consummate traveller, exclusively on foot, cross-country walker, Boyd Lalonde, has a knack for finding beautiful spots to rest along his way and the good karma required to meet a host of friendly people to help him get there. His nomadic way of life may seem harsh to some – he’s worn out four pairs of boots so far – but Boyd says he’s never had it so good!
On February 18th this year, Boyd set out from Lund, BC, to walk across Canada – for the second time. His first trans Canada trip, which took 18 months, was completed last year as an antidote to depression and this time Boyd intends to record his journey and follow it up with a video and book. Readers can track Boyd’s progress at canforrest.blogspot.ca. “My friends told me I was Canada’s Forrest Gump,” Boyd laughed, “so that’s what I called my blog.”
Meeting up with Boyd at Palm Beach Park, where he quietly set up his tent and spent a reflective evening pondering life down by the sea, provided a lesson in simplicity. He carries a backpack that weighs in at around 90 lbs., and contains all the layers of clothing required for cold nights and warm days. A tent, sleeping bag, ground cover, small stove, kettle and cooking apparatus take up 1/3 of the bag. Food, books, electronics, first aid supplies, bear banger and water bottles all have their space, as well.
“When I made my first trek I thought three weeks worth of food was necessary,” Boyd laughed. “It didn’t take me long to learn three days’ supply is enough, there’s always somewhere along the way to replenish my supplies.”
Boyd has plenty of stories to tell, like the time he was in the interior of BC and was greeted by a very inquisitive and aggressive, lone wolf. “I knew where there is one wolf there is probably more,” he said. “And I was checking to the right and left and becoming a bit distressed when a Conservation Office truck came around the corner and saved me by arranging a short lift to the next town. The officer told me this particular stretch of highway was dangerous with more than three known wolf packs so I allowed myself to bend my own rules and accepted the ride.”
Boyd ‘s foot journey has been life changing and soul saving. “Healing from depression is hard work, especially when the condition is complicated by pharmaceutical drugs and dead end prescriptions,” he said. “A few years ago, I was a successful business man living in Sechelt with my own company, complete with trucks full of tools. Everything seemed great in my life until my relationship fell apart and my life did, too. I turned to the medical profession for help and once I was on anti-depressants it was a downhill slide. Things just got worse and worse until I was self-medicating to deal with my massive anxiety attacks. I realized I was killing myself, slowly, so I gave everything away and went for a walk.”
He hasn’t stopped. All the way through Alberta, across the prairies, unending Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. He’s seen black and brown bears, rams, mountain goats, elk, caribou and more birds than he could ever count. Along the way he’s met every demographic group with people young and old stopping him along the way to share encouraging words, gifts of food and drink, places to sleep for the night and safe havens where he can rest, wash up and do his laundry.
“My only self-rule is I must re-start my journey where I was picked up from,” he said. “And people have been great about that. They’ll take me off to their cabin in the woods, or place down by the beach, then get me back to the exact place on the highway where we met. I am so grateful to them all.”
Several times a week Boyd phones his mother and grandmother to let them he’s okay and to tell them where he is. “At first my family thought I was nuts,” he said. “Half were supportive and half still have trouble accepting what I’m doing. But, I’m alive and I sincerely believe I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t decided to change everything and heal my depression myself by walking it out. I’ve experienced the entire range of emotions you’d expect, being alone, feeling lonely and sometimes scared. But it is so healing to be outdoors, to be in the elements, one with nature, feeling the fresh air and solitude. When you are depressed your world shrinks and shrinks until you’re living in a small box. You’re trapped. All you see is bad, there’s nothing good anymore.”
Now Boyd feels the best when he’s on the open road or walking through small towns; he tries to make his way through cities as fast as he can. “When I get to a city I feel the barrier of stress, I can taste it and feel the weight of its negativity. I dread walking through it so I move through the city streets quickly. People are different. Instead of the friendly folks I usually meet, city people don’t stop to say hi, they are focused on their cell phones and are too busy to share their time.”
After spending the past winter in Ontario, Boyd came back to the west coast to start his second cross country trek. He’s grateful for the experiences provided on his first trip and is physically, emotionally and mentally prepared for the new journey. “I feel completely renewed,” he said. “I am happy and confident I can do this. I have lost the depression and look forward to the journey – meeting new people and sharing stories.”
After walking from Lund to Saltery Bay, Boyd walked to Langdale and took the ferry to Horseshoe Bay. “I’m heading across to Vancouver Island, as I missed it the first time round,” he said. “I’m going to visit my uncle in Comox then walk to Victoria and Mile Zero, where Terry Fox dipped his toe into the ocean.”
For good luck, Boyd carries a medicine bag around his neck – a gift from a First Nations’ friend. “It also a contains a small vial of sea water from the Pacific that I will pour into the Atlantic when I arrive, a year or so from now.” Happy trails, Boyd.