Waterwalker is the title of Bill Mason's iconic movie on canoeing. And indeed, canoeing and walking have got a lot in common. Not only the same traveling speed of about 4 kilometers per hour, but also a meditative rhythm. Countless steps on a hike match numerous paddle strokes on rivers and lakes. Similarly, the lessons to be learned - either in high mountains or on remote rivers. Lessons about one’s own insignificance in such oversized settings. Modesty and humility will take you farther.
But there are also marked differences. While you can wander around in Central Europe with, let's say, 10 kilograms of equipment (all told), a canoe trip in Canada's Back of Beyond may require an outfit that soon weighs 10 times as much (excluding food). Take drinking water: In Canada, it carries your canoe. On a hike you carry the water. Or the margin for error: Whereas on a hike one single wrong step can wreak havoc to your journey, it is unlikely that an erroneous paddle stroke will bring your journey to a halt. Take the consequences of a blunder, or bad luck: Where in Central Europe a rescue helicopter is often not too far away, a distress signal triggered in the far reaches of the Canadian North may activate a Hercules CC-130 many thousands of miles away. Or take free miles: Where you may well travel long distances on a river without expending yourself, you won't cover a single meter on a hike if you don't push yourself. Silence and solitude, so deeply tied to Canada's North has become a matter of fortune even in ancient forests or on high mountain slopes in Central Europe. In short: Canada's North provides for grand escapes, the mountains of Central Europe for small ones.
These galleries are intended to convey an idea of what is in store along the way. For those who are planning to go and those who share an interest into long distance hiking and mountains but cannot go have a look for themselves. From Munich to Venice entices by traversing three different countries with their traditional food, customs and languages. Whereas the special charm of the Pyrenees for me was crossing Spain from one ocean to the other. The Grande Traversata delle Alpi (GTA) is a physical challenge accompanied by Italian food. The Dientes are hardly worth mentioning from a hiking perspective. It takes only a few days to complete the circuit. But this trail is truly south of 60 degrees (north) and the southern beech tree is a noteworthy beauty. The Via Dinarica was born out of the necessity to start early (June) with mountains en route but avoiding issues with snow. With regards to through-going natural beauty, I would not rank the Via Dinarica in first place. This hike is for those who are particularly interested in the Balkans. And it is a good idea to learn about the complicated and tragic history of this region beforehand. There is a very good 3-part documentation: "Balkan in Flammen". Revisiting the Pyrenees was owed to the virus.
This site is also a plea for one’s own tent. Some campsites and the hours you spend there cannot be matched by anything you could ever get in a (serviced) mountain hut.
With regard to the facts, the above mentioned routes turn out as follows:
GR 11: 800 KM distance – 50 days – 34 KM ascent and descent.
HRP: 740 KM distance – 58 days – 37 KM ascent and descent.
GTA: 700 KM distance – 50 days – 46 KM ascent and descent.
Munich to Venice: 610 KM distance – 33 days – 30 KM ascent and descent.
Via Dinarica: 1130 KM distance – 74 days – 42 KM ascent and descent.
Now, especially the numbers on ascent and descent should be viewed with caution. Different algorithms result in different numbers for one and the same gpx file. E. g. Outdooractive estimates 43 KM for the ascent and descent of the HRP, Google only 37 KM in comparison.