Smart ‘Bear’ spotted on Cape to Cape Trail

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By Eric Wilson


Alasdair Veitch is no ordinary bear, but he did study black bears in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador for five years as a wildlife biologist. In Norman Wells, NWT, he got to know Dall’s sheep and mountain caribou.

Annually, he was dropped off by helicopter in the MacKenzie Mountains to spend 10-12 days doing research with these species, sometimes in the company of wolves and grizzly bears.

One expedition hike in the MacKenzie Mountains took 21 days. The Canol Trail from Norman Wells to the Yukon border is considered the “toughest long-distance trail in Canada.” As if that wasn’t enough, in 2014 Veitch hiked the Scottish National Trail from the Scottish-English border to Cape Wrath in the northwest corner of the Scottish Highlands. It only took 54 days. He camped most nights and experienced both excellent, well signed trails in the south and trails with little or no signage in the north. So, why hike here in Pictou County?

Veitch retired in 2013 and came to live with his wife Cheryl in New Glasgow. Hiking, along with cycling, swimming and running easily filled retirement days. He joined the Cape to Cape Hikers and then the C2C Committee of the Pictou County Trails Association. At a recent meeting the idea of a promotional hike was raised. The idea was that a group would start in Colchester County on the Rogart Mountain Trail (Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown) and go east through the Gully Lake trails (Cobequid Eco-Trails Society – CETS) to the Glen Road. There they would connect with the Pictou County Cape to Cape trails and continue east via the Dalhousie Mountain Trail, Six Mile Brook, Fitzpatrick Mountain, Durham Hills, and Greenhill Trails. The summit of Greenhill at the park would be the goal. Could it be done in three days and two nights?

Not much for words Veitch said, “I’ll do it.”

There were sceptics, but when I caught up with him as he rolled down the Fitz Trail from Smith Rock Chalets into Scotsburn with a 45-pound backpack, a GPS receiver, cell phone and his SPOT transmitter at 1 p.m. on the third day, I wasn’t one of them; not anymore! ‘The bear’ had spent the first night smack in the middle of the Gully Lake Wilderness area, the second at the bothy on the Six Mile Brook Trail and was looking forward to having a cold drink at Deb’s Hidden Café. He’d sent me some SPOTs enroute and I kept the C2C membership informed by emails, but Veitch was confident he could get to Greenhill by 6:30 p.m.

He did it! Ten trails in three days and two nights totalling 71 kms and he averaged 3.4km per hour.

Join C2C by email at ericnosliw1@gmail.com, visit capetocapetrail.ca and FB Trails of Pictou County.