“Having the opportunity to experience The Great Trail can make a big difference in someone’s life,” says Hugh Scott, who enjoys sharing recollections from an engagement with the Trail that spans over two decades and many geographic regions.
One such memory stands out – and has been captured in a photograph. “I have a picture of my granddaughter on a giraffe [bike attachment] when she was about six or seven – now she is 14. At the time, we took a ride along the Trail right through the centre of Montreal. To me, this is a beautifully symbolic picture of why and for whom we are building the Trail: the next generation,” says Dr. Scott.
Moments like these inspired the now 79-year-old avid cyclist and outdoorsman – who is also the mayor of Lac-Tremblant-Nord and a cardiologist with past leadership positions at the Université de Sherbrooke, Bishop’s University and McGill University – and his wife Paule to be the first to provide for an endowment fund as part of his planned giving to Trans Canada Trail.
“After spending the last 45 years of our lives in Quebec, we think The Great Trail is a very positive way to support the issue of unity, and we want to encourage people to embark on long-distance rides or walks to get to know different parts of Canada and the people who live there,” says Dr. Scott, who believes that shared experiences and mutual understanding bring us closer together.
At over 24,000 kilometres, the Trail connects about 15,000 communities from coast to coast to coast. While connecting represents an important milestone, the work is far from done. Beyond 2017, a firm commitment to the continuing evolution and enhancement of The Great Trail will ensure that Canada’s national Trail can be enjoyed not just today but well into the future.
Dr. Scott – who is passionate about many things, including nature, sports, education and community-building on a local, regional and national scale – says that by supporting The Great Trail, he has found a way to combine his various interests and leave a legacy in line with his convictions.
Dr. Scott first became aware of the Trail in the early 1990s when community members approached him with the idea to locate a section of the Trail on the property of Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, of which he was the principal at the time. “We agreed to have the Trail cut across the campus, since it was the most sensible way to connect it,” he says. “And I welcomed the opportunity because our students came from all across Canada, so this seemed the appropriate thing to do.”
The Trans Canada Trail symbol was also a familiar sight in the Mont-Tremblant area, where the Scott family has had a summer cottage for the last 45 years, says Dr. Scott. “It marks the trails that my wife, our children and I have used a lot over the years.”
This is the portion of The Great Trail he knows best and that is very close to his heart. He says, “It never gets boring. Being able to experience nature is such a treasure, and having access to it is one of the things that make Canada special.”
Le P’tit Train du Nord is a 232-kilometre trail that has been in use for 30 years, since the railroad was closed. It connects Mont-Tremblant, a municipality that has taken the name of the nearby mountain, to surrounding communities and to the expansive Mont-Tremblant National Park, the oldest park in Quebec. Dr. Scott calls it “one of the most accessible areas of wilderness in the region, about 113 kilometres from Montreal and not that much farther from Ottawa.”
To enhance the access to the wilderness, Dr. Scott has been working with the Trail committee to create a 10-to 15-kilometre loop branching off from Le P’tit Train du Nord and rejoining it near Labelle. “With the new addition to the Trail, hikers can access the two peaks of Mont-Tremblant plus Mont-Gorille, a peak in county Labelle that is named after a geological formation that looks like a gorilla. Along the way, you have some of the most extraordinary vistas one can see anywhere in the world.”
“For many of us, the mountains around the lake are something we look at and that are shown on postcards, but they are on Crown land and have been difficult to reach. With the new loop, we can experience them, and I think that’s wonderful,” says Dr. Scott.
Connecting additional loops and spurs to the main Trail, and converting interim road routes into greenway, are part of Trans Canada Trail’s ongoing commitment to the Trail, which also extends to keeping the Trail in the best condition, enhancing it where possible, ensuring it’s clearly marked with quality signage and making it more accessible to seniors and people with disabilities.
During Dr. Scott’s time on the Trans Canada Trail board, he attended meetings across the country and often combined his visits with a bicycle tour. “My eldest daughter accompanied me on a few adventures. We went for rides in Newfoundland, Alberta, British Columbia and, of course, Quebec. I actually managed to keep up with her,” he laughs.
Among the treasured memories Dr. Scott shares with his daughter Jacqueline is an encounter with a drenched llama. “We were riding in the pouring rain. When we came around a corner, there was a llama, a creature you’d expect in the Andes rather than in Alberta,” he recalls. Another highlight was visiting a francophone region in Alberta, says Dr. Scott. “We were surprised to learn about this, and locals were delighted to converse with Jacqueline, whose French is better than mine.
“These are perfect examples of all the things you can learn on the Trail,” says Dr. Scott. And from what he’s heard from other trail enthusiasts, he believes they all have “hundreds of things the Trail has taught them.”
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