Providing a legacy to preserve The Great Trail of Canada
Pat Junkin has many positive memories of enjoying The Great Trail and is grateful for the gifts it provides, including access to a measure of comfort and peace in difficult times.
“Nature is the greatest healer,” she says. “Throughout my life, and especially in the hardest moments, I’ve found solace in the great outdoors.”
Pat particularly cherishes memories of the years when she and her long-time partner Harold owned a lake resort near Lindsay, Ontario, located just two blocks from an access point to the Trail.
“Harold shared my passion for the outdoors and, together, we took much pleasure in helping our guests to enjoy it, too.
“We often crossed paths with visitors exploring the Trail: hikers and cyclists, troops of Scouts, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers,” Ms. Junkin recalls. “They would stop and camp with us for a night or two, share the stories of where they’d come from and what they’d seen, and then continue their journeys.”
In 1996, the couple sold the resort and moved to the Niagara area. In the intervening years, Harold, as well as Pat’s son, passed away. Currently living in Welland, Pat has new opportunities to venture onto The Great Trail – explorations that have helped her deal with her own losses and allowed her to support others in coping with theirs.
She shares her appreciation of nature’s healing powers through her volunteer work at a hospice in her community. Once a week, she and other volunteers go walking on the Trail with people who have lost a loved one.
“We call them ‘grief walks.’ Walking on the Trail is a beautiful way for folks who have lost someone to process their grief, to ground themselves in nature and to find some peace,” she says.
In her group, the walk begins on the Merritt Trail, an 11-kilometre stretch of The Great Trail that begins in St. Catharine’s with a gentle descent down a small hill onto a flat path that follows Twelve Mile Creek.
“The idea is that people who are grieving connect with someone who has experienced a loss too, and some amazing friendships and long-lasting support systems have come out of these groups.
“There is something about being in nature that calms you down and levels you out when dealing with loss. It helps you feel more at peace.”
To honour her memories and to act on her desire to see future generations share the wonders of Canada’s natural environment, Pat has donated to Trans Canada Trail for the past 20 years and is leaving the organization a gift in her will.
“This gift is a tribute to Harold and my son, both of whom loved connecting with nature. I like to think about all the people in the future who will be able to hike, bike and paddle their way across The Great Trail because I decided to do my part,” she says.
“If someone finds healing, or calm, or a connection to our world through an experience on the Trail, then I think that’s a pretty good legacy to leave behind.”