Michael Yellowlees, the kilted Scotsman walking across Canada to raise awareness and money for a rewilding project in his homeland, has reached our nation’s capital.
Yellowlees started his trip last March from Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island. He spent a few days in Ottawa last week to celebrate seven tough months on the road. The Scottish Society of Ottawa had a pipe band escort Michael and Luna, as they have come to be known, into Andrew Haydon Park for a picnic gathering. Michael and his brother Jamie, who recently joined the trek, are from Dunkeld, Scotland.
Yellowlees chose Canada for his walk because of the country’s wilderness, the historic connection to his home in Scotland, and the mutual attention to saving and respecting that wilderness. He felt our country—where he had been visiting and working for a few months—would be the ideal backdrop for a fundraising walk for Trees of Life back in Scotland.
Following his trek across the country has been a bit like reading a love letter to Canada. Yellowlees has been posting photos from along the way, whenever he has wifi. His perspective is unique: a slow appreciation for the wilderness and the people, seen through a lens not coloured by politics. When the feeling hits, he sings. He is carrying a travel-sized guitar with him, and the Scottish lilt in his voice is full of emotion whether he is crooning a slow, melancholy piece or a rousing song that would rival an east coast kitchen party.
The trip hasn’t been easy. When I first met him a few days into his trip, he walked into Port Alberni from Tofino in rain that was falling so hard it was nearly sideways. Yet, Yellowlees and Luna, protected under rain gear, continued east over the Hump. He walked—walked!—over mountain passes in the Canadian Rockies, and endured black flies in Manitoba and northern Ontario. Our country experienced record heat in many places this summer, forcing the pair to seek shade during the day and walk at night when it was safe.
In northern Ontario Yellowlees switched to a canoe, paddling and portaging as those long before most of us would have done. It was here that he was truly tested on his lone trek. One afternoon in early July, Luna went missing.
For a week Yellowlees desperately searched the heavy bush in the Canadian Shield, between Kenora and Fort Frances, calling out for Luna, an Alaskan Husky who had been working as a sled dog in Alberta before Yellowlees claimed her as his companion. It was the most harrowing time of his walk, he has said, but it galvanized his supporters. Six thousand strong, many of them held their breath when Yellowlees’ friend Wayne Chisholm posted “Luna is missing” on the Michael and Luna-A Rewilding Journey Facebook page.
People from across the country tried to help, offering advice, cash and resources to help reunite the pair. After seven long days, Luna walked out of the bush and up to a cabin where Michael had been staying. After a couple of weeks’ rest in Fort Frances he resumed his trip. Luna has since taken a few breaks along the road.
If there is one thing Yellowlees will take home from his epic journey across Canada, it will be the feeling of love and support he has felt from coast to coast. “We have received a huge, huge offering of human kindness along the way,” he said in a recent television interview.
Yellowlees has raised nearly £16,000 (pounds) for Trees of Life so far. He hopes by walking across Canada he will bring attention to Scotland’s Caledonian Forest and the restoration work that organization is doing to bring back natural forests in the Scottish Highlands.
Yellowlees has an estimated two months left in his walk, and the weather is growing colder as he heads east. He planned to be Montreal, Quebec by Tuesday.
To contribute to Yellowlees’ fundraiser, go online to justgiving.com/fundraising/michaelandlunarewild.