Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Dan Davidson

TRAVELLING FRIENDS – Melanie Vogel and Malo are seen with their trailer near the Hunker Road intersection just north of the Dawson City Airport.

Intrepid trekkers may winter in territory

Melanie Vogel started walking the Great Trail (otherwise known as the Trans-Canada Trail) over three years ago, setting off with her fully loaded backpack from Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador, on June 2, 2017.

By Dan Davidson on September 4, 2020

DAWSON CITY – Melanie Vogel started walking the Great Trail (otherwise known as the Trans-Canada Trail) over three years ago, setting off with her fully loaded backpack from Cape Spear, Newfoundland and Labrador, on June 2, 2017.

She arrived in Dawson on the evening of Aug. 14, pulling a small cart full of the necessary equipment she had acquired along the way, and accompanied by her dog, Malo, who joined her journey when she was passing through Manitoba.

He is named for Saint Malo, Man., where he found her and would not go away.

Her original plan was to go from ocean to ocean – Cape Spear to Victoria – but along the way, she decided to try to add the third ocean and make it to Tuktoyaktuk.

Of course, when she started in 2017 there was no COVID-19.

She has since found out that the government of the Northwest Territories does not consider her to be an essential traveller, so she can’t go there.

She hopes to complete that part of her trek when things get back closer to normal.

She was a little later than she had planned arriving in the Klondike, as she took four days off to spend picking morel mushrooms at Ethel Lake. They were good to eat and let her pick up a bit of cash.

This trip has been funded from savings she built up while living frugally in Vancouver, but folks have donated money and she has a number of equipment sponsors listed on her website.

Last year, she received a Women’s Expedition Grant from the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

On leaving Dawson, she will catch a ride to the Dempster Corner (having already walked that part of her journey) and then walk up as far as the border before finding a ride back down to the Klondike Highway.

She spent the better part of a week in Dawson, and was hosted by Chris Ball.

While here, she added to her adventures by being treated to a ride on the Yukon River, and walking every trail she could find out about in the area, including the Ridge Road Heritage Trail and others.

These were backpacking adventures with Malo walking with her, leaving her cart in Dawson. She says she hiked about 65 kilometres during her “rest” days here.

Vogel grew up in Germany and moved to Canada in 2008, in her early 30s, becoming a permanent resident in 2011.

She loves to travel and has previously undertaken a bit over two years to travel around south-east Asia.

It was that trip that confirmed her love of minimalist travel.

Reading about the Trans-Canada Trail convinced her that she would spend a chunk of her fourth decade walking the entire 15,000 (or 18,000, depending on the source) kilometre route. She was 42 when she started and is now 45.

She originally planned to finish the trip in Victoria this year, but now thinks that she might just spend the winter in the Yukon – probably Whitehorse.

The thought of walking outside over all those hills on the Alaska Highway as winter closes in is daunting, even for her.

She speculates that she might get a job, acquire a camper van, and use it as a mobile base from which to continue her walk, driving over routes she has already travelled on foot.

She then sees herself parking the van, completing a local trail, and then returning to the van to move on to the next challenge.

While she had planned to be in Victoria by the end of this calendar year, she says the journey matters more than the destination and the timetable.

Her 25 km/day average is taxing. Early on, when it was just a backpack, her shoulders, along with her legs, bore the brunt of the effort.

Since acquiring the small trailer, she finds that her hips are feeling the strain.

Vogel says that she finds travelling in cold weather (not too cold, mind you) less taxing than in hot weather. But rain is not much fun at all, and there was a lot of that as she made her way up the Klondike Highway.

She says that she used to be afraid during the nights when she first started, but now being alone on a wilderness trail is a pleasure.

While she spends a lot of nights on the trail in her tent with Malo, she also accepts offers of shelter from people along the route who are following her journey, and that’s how she connected with Ball in Dawson.

As she travels, Melanie keeps updating her many followers via social media, keeping her cellphone charged with a portable solar panel, when there is enough sunshine, and posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

She also has a webpage with more than 10,600 followers at betweensunsets.com.

Between Sunsets – A Trail Story is the tentative title for a book that she may get around to writing about this journey. All of her posts will make good trip notes for that project.

Here’s some of what she wrote about Dawson:

“Walking through Dawson City feels like walking through a film set displaying the present and past of a town. I am not talking about the fake Disney kind of tourist attraction style.

“The town located right at the Yukon River has a natural and very unique, and eclectic charm with its wooden sidewalks and old homes and its love and creativity locals pour into this town.

“Some houses stand crooked as the melting permafrost destabilizes the fundament of some homes, which is a great concern in this town but makes for really interesting sites.”

She and Malo walked all the streets and lanes of the town while she was here.

“I like to stroll through the small dirt roads and explore the little neighborhoods a few blocks off the center. (Both Jack London and Robert Service) were inspired by the gold rush and Yukon’s wilderness.

“Malo and I stroll, explore, meet locals and relax. I have to say that Dawson is kinda the most dog friendliest town we stayed in so far. I can’t count how many times locals asked me to give Malo a treat. Incredible.

“Malo in return seems to be the barkiest dog in town. His nose is mostly glued to the ground and when he lifts it he barks, greeting people and dogs. I always excuse him with ‘he is just barky but very friendly.’ But people seem not to mind and give him the attention he is barking for.”

Last week, she moved on to the Dempster Highway and by then she had an offer to spend some time in a cabin up there.

She posted: “…my head says ‘get moving winter is coming’ and my heart says ‘go with the flow because adventure awaits for those who say yes to unexpected invitations...but yeah it may delay your journey.’

“So I will listen to my heart first and let my mind figure everything out from there. I can change my mind but not my heart and it beats for adventure...”

Comments (3)

Up 1 Down 0

Diane McMillan on Oct 27, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Missing your postings, Last I saw, your were at Eagle Plains, hope all is well and we will be getting an update soon, Take care !!!!!

Up 31 Down 2

Josey Wales on Sep 5, 2020 at 8:40 am

Most certainly inappropriate to the hyper sensitive, context matters.
as a illustration of respect for the travel accomplishment, serious set of balls the MVM team has.

please just take it as that folks, a Josey thumbs up.
enjoy your time here, many many good folks still in our herds.

Up 28 Down 4

ted guthrie on Sep 5, 2020 at 7:21 am

Well written and thought out article. Interesting that the NWT government feels that this person and her dog walking across our great nation, is a threat to the well being of the NWT.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.