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This man and his dog are crossing a continent on foot to support rewilding in the Highlands

Michael Yellowlees and Luna.
Michael Yellowlees and Luna.

The idea for Michael Yellowlees’ epic trek across Canada has its roots in the Highlands.

The musician is walking from the shores of the Pacific Ocean to Newfoundland on the edge of the north Atlantic.

Dressed in a kilt, with his guitar and some belongings in a handcart, and his Alaskan husky Luna by his side, the distinctive figure is covering around 5,000 miles.

He is raising money for Highland-based rewilding charity Trees for Life after being inspired on a walk three years ago.

“It is a beautiful landscape but with a strong sense of sadness because of the absence of woodland, wildlife and people,” he said.

World is ‘on high alert’

“So I decided then to walk across the great wildernesses of Canada to raise funds for Trees for Life and its work to restore Scotland’s Caledonian Forest, at a time when the world is on high alert over climate chaos and biodiversity loss.”

Michael, 32, from Dunkeld, will cover around five times the distance of Scots naturalist John Muir’s famous 1,000 mile journey.

In 1867, Muir crossed North America on foot from Indiana to the Gulf coast.

After working in Vancouver, looking after sled dogs to fund his venture, Michael set off in March, having been delayed by Covid.

He is currently in Quebec, after trekking across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

Michael and Luna are right on track.

He expects to arrive at his destination, the headland of Cape Spear in Newfoundland, in early November.

Michael has set up a fundraising page and has more than £23,000 pledged towards rewilding.

Already on his journey he has encountered black bears and listened to the howling of wolves.

He also lost Luna for a week when the dog jumped out of a canoe and into dense wilderness in northern Ontario while on the Great Canada Trail.

“I was totally distraught. For months, we had been best friends and had looked after one another,” said Michael.

Escorted by pipe bands

“After seven days and seven nights, just as I was giving up all hope, Luna appeared like an apparition, strolling casually back as though nothing had happened – although she had lost some weight.”

But he says there have been plenty of highs, not least the reception from the Canadian public.

In some towns and cities he has been escorted by marching pipe bands.

People have also offered money and even paid for hotel accommodation.

Michael said: “The warmth of the people has been amazing.

“In every town and village people have offered me food, shelter and donations. So much kindness.”

Michael aims to finish the walk in November

Michael’s mother Karen has been following his adventure and speaks to her son most days.

She said: “I’m full of admiration for him.

“It shows incredible courage and staying power to do what he’s doing.

“I’m really proud of his achievement. I’ve no doubt at all he’ll finish.

“He’s said that it’s not the physical challenge that’s the issue, but the mental challenge.”

Rewilding project restoring nature in Highlands

She added: “It’s a tremendous cause.

“It was not planned this way, but, as it happens, he will be concluding his walk just after the end of COP26.

“It all fits.”

Trees for Life has established nearly two million native trees at dozens of sites.

The charity recently launched Affric Highlands, a 30-year rewilding project to restore nature across 500,000 acres stretching from Loch Ness to Kintail.

It is also building the world’s first rewilding centre at its Dundreggan Estate on Loch Ness.

The epic walk covers nearly 5,000 miles

Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “Restoring native habitats and wildlife to the Scottish Highlands is a big task that no one can do alone.

“But Michael’s extraordinary trek is proof of the power of the individual to make a difference.”