Michael Yellowlees was at a loss for words when he arrived at Cape Spear, N.L., on Sunday, after nine months of walking across Canada — in a kilt, with his dog Luna by his side — raising money for a Scottish charity.
So his supporters spoke up themselves, cheering and singing For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow to Yellowlees — a 32-year-old man from the town of Dunkeld and Birnam, Scotland, who walked over 8,000 kilometres from Tofino, B.C., to Canada’s most easterly point.
“I think we’ve really accomplished something amazing this year, not only just with the fundraising for the charity, but with the message we’ve been putting out,” Yellowlees told CBC News from the sun-clad hills of Cape Spear, the final stop on his journey.
“The support has been amazing right throughout Canada, from the West Coast all the way across. I think it’s relating to a lot of people at the moment. I think people have been needing probably a feel good story as well.”
Yellowlees raised money for Trees for Life — a charity that works to restore the Caledonian Forest of the Scottish Highlands. According to the organization’s website, the Caledonian Forest has been reduced to about two per cent of its former area.
Yellowlees said the climate crisis has meant people have been quick to get behind his fundraising effort, with supporters often asking him for photos along his walk.
After he finished the last leg on Sunday — walking about a marathon, or 42 kilometres, a day, for the last 20 days — Yellowlees had raised about $63,000.
“It’s been an amazing, amazing journey. It truly has. It’s been beautiful,” he said.
End of the road
With the hard work now complete, Yellowlees plans to stick around in St. John’s for a couple of weeks to unwind.
He said Newfoundland and his home country have a lot in common, including the landscape, the heritage and even the accent.
“People in mainland Canada started saying, ‘You’re not going to understand anyone when you get here,'” Yellowlees said with a smile.
“But I’ve understood everyone. [It’s] very similar.”
Yellowlees has been away from home for nearly two years, spending time working in Tofino with a dog-sledding company, where he found Luna, who he credits for being his inspiration to keep moving each morning.
But he found a welcome surprise when he arrived at Cape Spear: his mother had flown from Scotland to meet him at the finish line.
“It was a lovely, lovely surprise having not seen any of my family for a year and a half, two years,” he said.
“It’s been such an intense year, so [I’m] just trying to process it all.”