Walk Across Canada – Days 30-34

⊇This post is a compilation of my daily field notes on Facebook.  If you would like to see them daily, you can follow me here.

Day 30 – Walk Across Canada

Many thanks to Rick Malone and his wife Barb for hosting me last night and feeding me to the point of bursting. It was great catching up after 27 years. And thanks to Rick and another ex-radio operator, Gord Meighan, for donating a $40 Timmy’s gift card to the cause. You guys are awesome! Thanks.

Barb and Rick Malone

Gord is a Cape Bretoner who plays music. He played a few songs on the guitar this morning and now I’ve been singing ‘Norwegian Wood’ from the Beatles all day.

Gord on guitar

I started late at 10:30. I was having too much fun at Rick’s place. The road was a slog today except for a 10-km stretch where I could get two of Kitty’s wheels on the asphalt. I grabbed that tiny bit of real estate and didn’t give it up except when a transport passed me. What a difference in workload when Kitty is rolling relatively smoothly.

My biggest concern at the moment is the rate at which I’m losing weight. Last night at Rick’s, I weighed myself and found that I am now down 20 pounds. I barely recognize myself when I look in the mirror. After eating the equivalent of a medium pizza last night, plus potato salad, cake, and beer, and after having a breakfast of four eggs, three bagels, butter, peanut butter, jam, and cake, I had gained back 3.5 pounds. I have to find a way to increase my caloric intake or I’ll have to cut way back on my mileage, which I don’t want to do.

Petawawa, Ontario

I noticed after shaving last night that I have a lot of bug bites on my face. Really a lot.
NO, NO! DON’T LOOK! I’M HIDEOUS!

And there were quite a few black flies today, with very little wind to help keep them away.

I’m at a Subway in Deep River, Ontario, known for the Chalk River Nuclear Research Laboratory. I’m doing my best to stuff my face with 1,200 calories of food. It’s a chore. Whew. I’m drinking Pepsi whenever I can get it now, just for the extra calories.

It’s late, already after 6 pm and I’ve only walked 6.5 hours. I’ll see what I can accomplish before nightfall. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of camping spots, so I can walk later into the dusk.

Nighty night.

Day 31 – Walk Across Canada

It was exactly one month ago today that I started in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax on this walk across Canada. This is the second most frequent time on the big hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail when hikers drop out.

I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a day yet when I’ve felt like quitting. Sure, I have fantasies about getting a posh hotel room, sitting in a soapy bathtub all day, drinking wine, watching old reruns of Barney Miller with Al, and slowly slipping into a ju jube induced coma. But I haven’t wanted to quit.

Even on really crappy, challenging days, I haven’t felt like quitting. Those days actually strengthened my will to endure.

View along highway 17

I’m enjoying the journey, at least most of the time. The people I meet along the way make it even more rewarding. My eight-year-old self thought it would be fun, and he was more right than the fifty-four-year-old man thought he would be.

I have already learned a lot about what I am capable of, such as the productivity my body is able to produce consistently, and I’ve learned about my weaknesses, such as my lack of knowledge in calorie management. Who would have thought a long walk would be such a learning process?

I walked through Rolphton today. Rolphton is where Canada had her first nuclear power station back in 1962, which is also the year I was born and the year the Bruce Trail opened.

Kilometer markers are now showing up on the highway. Looks like I have about 1,800 kms to go to get to the Manitoba border.

Thanks to everyone who gave advice on nutrition. Working on it.

Another view from the highway

Just as I was leaving this gas station, a couple of anonymous new friends, people I had just met at the gas station earlier, caught me and gave me a bag of food with cake and other goodies, $20, and a cup of hot tea. Wow. Such good people. Thanks so much guys.

Day 32 – Walk Across Canada

It rained all day and night starting yesterday at noon. I didn’t have a sit-down break all day because of it. Only standing, drinking water, and eating as much food as I could take in. Thanks again to a couple of anonymous donors for bringing me food and money on the road. Such good trail angels.

There wasn’t really anything to do but walk. There were no restaurants to hang out in and nowhere really to get out of the rain. So I walked 65 kms.

There was still quite a bit of time before sunset and I felt like I still had lots of gas in the tank to keep going, but for the first time, I said, “Dave, show some restraint.” And so I did.

So I found a camping spot off the highway even though it was still light. It’s unlikely anyone would find me in this rain and vast forest. So I got a longer tent rest last night than usual.

The black flies were atrocious today after all that rain. Apparently they didn’t get the memo that the mosquito repellent is also supposed to deter black flies. I applied bug spray twice, but it only seemed to encourage them.

So I had to bring out the heavy artillery. First, my outback hat, and then my mosquito net. Wow. It worked perfectly, although admittedly, it was kind of difficult to pick the ju jubes pieces out of my teeth with mesh all around my face.

Black fly defence – step 1: Outback hat

I’m not sure why I never used the mosquito net before. I’ve always had one, but not being a ‘hat guy’, I never had a hat that would work with the net. And now it’s my new favourite piece of kit. Black flies always hang out at the highest point in the body, so I can wear the netting and they don’t go for the skin down lower. When I first put the mosquito net on, it was freaky to see about twenty black flies settle on the netting in front of my eyes. Very freaky! But I soon got used to it, and every time a transport truck drove by, the wind cleared the net of bugs, kind of like window washer cleaning a dirty windshield.

Black fly defence – step 2: Bug net

I was excited when I got into Mattawa early afternoon. I’ve always like this small town. They have wood carvings all over the place of all the voyageurs who came through here so many years ago. I even met the man who repairs them when they are damaged.

Everyone is friendly here. A couple of people stopped to say that they saw me on the highway and to wish me well. The police officer I saw in order to return a drivers license and wallet I found on the highway was equally friendly. He is ex-military too, so we had a good chat about the transition from the military to the civilian world.

I had lunch at a diner recommended by someone I met in town. It’s called Myrt’s and it’s the kind of place where the servers call you ‘hon’. So nice. I ordered a medium veggie pizza, so I’m doing my best to put in the calories. It took almost two hours to eat this 1,830-calorie meal. Whew!

It’s 7 pm and I’m sitting on a boulder at the side of the highway snacking on peanuts and M&Ms. Trying to take more breaks and eat more in a day. I’ll restrain myself again today and only walk 55 kms, so I have about another hour before I call it quits for tonight.

Until tomorrow.

Day 33 – Walk Across Canada

One of the things I like about this journey is that I’m learning all kinds of new things about myself. For instance, I snack on peanuts and M&Ms all day now, so while sitting on an outcrop of rock at the side of the highway, if I were to drop an M&M all the way down to the bottom of the rock outcrop, well I would climb all the way down, pick up the M&M out of the dirt, and eat it. But if I were to drop a peanut (and believe me, I love peanuts) right there at my feet, I wouldn’t even expend the minuscule amount of energy to bend over and pick it up.

I’m sure the reason is because I like M&Ms much more than peanuts. But truthfully, I’m looking for a more existential reason.

I talked to Al about it, but he just went on about quarks and hadrons and electromagnetism. He thinks spirituality can be explained with science. So I’ll leave it to him to find the equation. He is the genius, after all. It’ll probably be a quiet day, though, while he’s thinking. I might have to sing some oldies tunes to keep myself occupied.

Samuel de Champlain

I’ve actually been doing a bit of math myself.
I burn about 62.5 calories per kilometer. So for 55 kms per day, that will be about 3,438 calories burned per day. Add 2,000 calories for normal bodily function and I need to replace about 5,500 calories per day.
Wow. Isn’t math fun?

I walked through Bonfield this morning. Bonfield is famous for being the home of the “first spike” for the transcontinental railroad. There are a few lines from a poem by Randy Sterling that I like:

“Right here in Bonfield Township
Seemed a damn good place to start
To build a railroad to the west
She’s a long and stubborn hike.”

He’s got that right. It’s a long a stubborn hike.

Bonfield is also the place where a nice woman at a roadside food stand called The Backyard Kitchen offered to cook me up some pickerel. I’m a veggie so had to refuse but was thankful she was even thinking about me.

Yes, I would climb down this to pick up a dropped M&M.

About five minutes later, a trail angel named Leea Morin stopped to give me water and peanuts. She had seen me the day before in Mattawa. And then later she texted me saying she had left a food cache under a sign for me. Wow! Such nice people. Thanks guys.

I passed through North Bay in the afternoon and stocked up on food. I actually felt a little dizzy walking around the mall, so I took a little extra break and ate lots of yoghurt. I was fine afterward.

On my way out of town, there was a collision on the road that was backing up traffic. As I passed the waiting line of cars, one couple rolled down their window, asked me a few questions, and gave me some bananas. Turns out the fellow in the passenger seat ran across Canada in 2015, from St. John’s to Victoria. I didn’t get their names because they had to move along. But wow.

And then a little later, my old high school friend, Alan Yeates, stopped on the highway for a visit. I haven’t seen him in 35 years, but I recognized him right away. He still has that youthful look.

What a great day all around. Still 2 1/2 hours to go. See you tomorrow.

Day 34 – Walk Across Canada

I heard noises outside my tent last night. Branches breaking close by, something coming nearer. I zipped open the tent and vestibule, my plastic spork at the ready as an offensive weapon. But it was only a deer. I would have liked to say it was a bear or a Sasquatch to make it seem more dramatic, but it really was just a deer. A scary-looking deer, mind you. With scary-looking teeth. Brrr. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I’m lucky to still be alive.

Still alive and eating in my tent

The road was flat and very busy as I walked for a couple of hours to Sturgeon Lake. Timmy’s didn’t have a plug-in for my phone, so I went to McDonalds and ordered three egg sandwiches, a muffin, and a coffee. Lots of calories.

There’s an interesting friendly fellow sitting at McDonalds. Everyone seems to know him. They all sit with him for a few minutes and then the next person comes along. When it was my turn, we talked about fishing and the different fishing license rules in the various communities, the difference between fishing on a nice day vs a crappy day, and the best-tasting fish (he thinks pickerel, and I think fish-shaped tofu).

When my time was up, the next guy came in to talk about the weather and ground frost and car batteries. Good guy. Easy to talk to. Every community needs one like him.

Today was a bug net day. The black flies were fierce. And now I’ve learned that there are actually bug-net rules. Who figured?
Rule 1: Don’t forget you’re wearing a bug net.
Rule 2: If you cough up a loose peanut, don’t spit it out while wearing a bug net.
Obviously, if you break rule two, you’ve probably broken rule one.

I finished my day at Kate’s Kountry Kitchen in Warren, Ontario, just after 6 pm. I was just about to sit down at a table when a gentleman named Leo Martel chatted me up. He had seen me on the road way back in North Bay. Although I had told him I wasn’t walking for a charity, he still proceeded to hand me $10. What a great guy. Thanks Leo.

The trillium, Ontario’s provincial flower

I finished at Kate’s Kountry Kitchen because this is where I will meet my friend Margaret O’Dell tomorrow at 6 am. She’s a fast hiker and wants to experience a day on the trail with me. She thinks it will be fun. If she enjoys walking for 55 kms along a busy highway with awful shoulders during intermittent periods of rain followed by black-fly-hoard attacks, while being unable to talk because of the volume of the traffic, all while avoiding maniacal highway drivers, well then she’s going to have LOTS of fun. Hehe.

I hope she also feels the amazing freedom I enjoy every day out here. I just texted her. She’s pumped for the adventure.

Until then….

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