The Great Trail is the world’s longest recreational route, spanning more than 24,500 kilometres and linking 15,000 Canadian communities. We sent two photographers – Alana Paterson in British Columbia and Farihah Shah in Newfoundland – to capture opposite ends of the trail that unites the country.
Two photographers capture both sides of the cross‑country trail.
enRoute What inspired you to take on this assignment?
Alana Paterson For me, it was a chance to tell the story of where I’m from. I live in Squamish, B.C., and I grew up on Vancouver Island. This assignment was right in my backyard.
Farihah Shah I’m originally from Alberta, and I’ve been living in Ontario for the last 15 years. I had never been out to the East Coast. I’ve always wanted to go there, so when the opportunity to travel to Newfoundland came up, I was pretty stoked.
ER What was the most awe–inspiring moment during your assignment?
AP The Kinsol Trestle, an old wooden train bridge that was restored for tourism purposes, is a feat of engineering. It’s absolutely massive. I had never seen it before, even though I grew up exploring the area, so that kind of knocked my socks off.
FS At the end of a really cloudy day, a burst of sunlight beamed through the clouds. It completely changed the mood of the place and made everything look even more majestic. I really appreciated small moments like that.
ER What was it like to stand on opposite sides of the country knowing you were both on the Great Trail taking pictures at the same time?
AP The mind boggles at how big Canada is. Farihah and I were farther apart than if we’d been on opposite sides of Europe, and yet we were on the same path. That’s pretty wild. And who knows how many other people along the Trail took a photo at the same time as us?
FS It was certainly a moment to take in how extensive the Trail is. There was so much variety in the weather along different parts of the route in Newfoundland that I wondered what conditions Alana was dealing with. It was comforting to know she was shooting at the same time as me, despite the distance. It reminded me of what locals kept saying about the Trail: It’s more than just a hike – it’s about building a community around shared experiences.
ER Was there anything about the experience that the images didn’t capture?
AP Photographs can communicate a lot, but they don’t let you smell the way the air changes when you walk down into a river valley, the way it suddenly smells of earth and moisture. Or when you’re deep in the woods and everything is bathed in a green light. It’s almost incommunicable. It’s a green you have to see with your own eyes.
FS For me, it was the people. Everybody was so friendly. You really have to experience the space as a whole, and that includes the people, the culture, the food. I want these photos to encourage people to chase that holistic experience.