A kilted Scot and his dog have trekked the width of Canada from the Pacific to the Atlantic, raising more than £40,000 for a Highland rewilding charity.
Michael Yellowlees, 32, set out along with his Alaskan husky Luna on March 1 on the 5000-mile journey, which took more than nine months to complete and raised funds for Trees for Life.
The feat drew praise from Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney.
On Sunday, throngs of well-wishers gathered at the remote Cape Spear Lighthouse in Newfoundland to welcome Michael, dressed traditionally in a kilt, at his journey’s end.
“My best wishes on the successful completion of your incredible walk across Canada, Michael,” Trudeau said.
He added: “Michael chose Canada for this mission due to the many Scots who left their homeland generations ago, settled here, and contributed significantly to the fabric of our country.
“He was also inspired by the many and vast beautiful natural environments Canada continues to enjoy and protect.
“Despite the challenges faced by the pandemic, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael for his inspirational adventure.”
Mr Yellowlees, a native of Birnam in Perth and Kinross and a former pupil of Breadalbane Academy, has Canadian roots and travelled to the country in 2020.
While working with sled dogs before he set off on his journey, he befriended Luna, who would become his constant companion every step of the way.
Midway through the journey, Mr Yellowlees was distraught when Luna vanished into the Canadian wilderness.
After a week searching high and low, aided by local volunteers, the two were reunited when Luna suddenly reappeared at his side – having chewed away her lead, which appeared to have become entangled in forest vegetation.
“Apart from that horrible scare, the journey through Canada has been amazing,” Mr Yellowlees said.
“And so too have the people. I’ve been marched into towns by pipe bands, applauded by crowds lining the streets, and inundated with offers of food, clothing and shelter.
“It has also been emotional.
“The huge population of people of Scottish descent in Canada is partly a consequence of the Highland Clearances, which were accompanied by ecological destruction.
“Canada is a beautiful land with an abundance of woodland and wildlife.
“This journey has been about raising awareness and funds to help restore the Scottish Highlands to a flourishing ecosystem as part of our contribution to tackling the twin global emergencies of climate change and biodiversity loss.”
Scotland’s deputy first minister John Swinney – who is Mr Yellowlees’s local MSP – said: “I warmly congratulate Michael on the astonishing feat of endurance he has accomplished in support of a cause to which he is devoted.
“Michael has demonstrated the power of individual action to raise awareness of this vital issue of our day.
“His commitment to restoring our natural environment is an inspiration to us all.
“I have had the privilege of knowing Michael and his family for many, many years.
“He is a shining example of the tenacity and inspiration that his family have brought to all they have done.”
Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “We want to say a huge thank you to Michael for walking across Canada for the last nine months and raising so much money for our work rewilding the Highlands.
“His journey is a powerful reminder that rewilding offers hope for tackling the nature and climate emergencies, while benefiting people and local communities.”
Mr Yellowlees also received a video message from Scottish entertainer Elaine C Smith, who told him: “You’ve done a wonderful, wonderful, thing. It’s just brilliant.”
The adventurer said he is exhausted after the trip, adding: “So now I’m looking forward to taking a couple of weeks of rest, decompress, then try and process everything that’s happened because it really has been a magical year and experience.”
To support Michael and Luna’s epic fundraising drive for Trees for Life, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/michaelandlunarewild.
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