Some 16 years ago, a Canadian hiker decided to create a long-distance trail on Vancouver Island. Today, the 800-kilometer trail is almost complete, a winding trail passing mountains, logging roads, rugged coastlines, and the territories of 49 First Nations. Brendan Sainsbury tests out a section and speaks to those involved in its creation.

It was an ambitious plan. In 2005, Gil Parker, a lifelong Canadian climber and hiker fresh from completing the 4200-kilometer Pacific Crest Trail in the US, came up with an exciting idea: to create a similar long-distance path on his native Vancouver Island. The adventurous route would help link communities, stimulate recreation, and awaken outsiders to the island’s largely hidden natural wonders.

Making the dream a reality was a daunting prospect. Vancouver Island extends for 456 kilometers, from the city of Victoria in the south to rugged Cape Scott in the north. Traversing it on foot meant constructing a continuous 800-kilometer-long path, zigzagging through a mix of crinkled mountains, private logging roads, storm-lashed coastline, and the territories of 49 First Nations.

Unintimidated, Parker, a retired structural engineer, formed a non-profit body called the Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA) and set to work. Today, some 16 years later, after numerous donations and countless months of hard labor by a small army of volunteers, the Vancouver Island Trail (VIT) is over 90 per cent complete.