Réal Martel, director, Hike Canada en Marche (2021)

My short story;

Following an expedition to Baffin Island in 1978, my wife and I became members of the Club de Montagne le Canadien (CMC), but it was only 6 years later that we began our activities with them.

It was with members of the CMC that I discovered part of the Pyrenees, the Appalachian Trail and especially trail maintenance, where I feel connected with nature. It was thanks to these activities that I got away from big game hunting, although I was passionate about it, but I had found something that was more like me.

Later on I wanted to take charge of the maintenance of a trail, so I joined the Sentiers de l’Estrie which put me in charge of the Echo section with its 19 km trail. This trail had been closed for a few years due to lack of maintenance. A year later I contracted with the Sentiers de l’Estrie to help maintain the other 7 zones, in addition to volunteering at the CMC on the Laurentian trails.

At a certain point I felt that a turning point was approaching;

1st The taste for a greater adventure was becoming ever stronger.

2nd Something was wrong in the Laurentians because unfortunately people were buying land for development with trails that Herman Smith-Johannsen (Jack Rabbit) had built; trails that were maintained by the CMC.

3rd We couldn’t go on long hikes anymore because my wife was a homeworker and we had 4 children at home and I only had a small salary.

4th In the summer of ’89, when I had only 10 months left as president of the Fédération québécoise de la Marche, I decided to launch the development of the National Trail in Quebec (SN, SNQ) in January ’90 because I loved the great trails, I love the rich nature of Quebec: we have the perfect territory for this great trail which was launched in the 1970s at the Canadian level by Doug Campbell but which was still dormant in Quebec. I chaired the National Trail committee in Quebec for over 25 years.

Around 1993, Mr. John Bellini from Trans Canada Trail, met with me because he had just been given the project to establish a multi-use trail crossing Canada. He wanted to use the SN but would include snowmobiling, horseback riding, biking etc. My answer was a categorical no, not on the SN, but I advised him to go instead to the Regroupement Loisir Québécois at the Olympic Stadium and to talk to the federations or provincial organizations for each activity and to ask for a representative to form a committee. The Conseil québécois du Sentier Transcanadien was born. I became chairman of this committee for 5 years from 1996 to 2001.

When I first got involved in trails I was working at Steinberg in the warehouse, then after the company closed I became a postman. Thus I was maintaining the health of my legs during the week and when I was not maintaining trails on the weekends I was a tour guide for various organizations for over 30 years.

So, for over 36 years I have volunteered in trail maintenance and development. Maybe that is why our ex-governor Mr. David Johnston told me at a trail inauguration, shaking my hand, that I was the biggest trail developer in Canada.

Currently I am happily retired with my wife and still do trail maintenance.

Réal Martel

Note:  Réal Martel coordinated the development of the SNQ in Québec from 0 to over 1000 km!