Walk Across Canada – Days 41-44

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 41 – Walk Across Canada

I decided that I’m going to keep my shoes in my tent with me at night again. I had been leaving them in the vestibule, out of the rain, but also out of the tent. But this morning, after knocking the 30 or so slugs off the tent from the inside, I unzipped my tent and went to grab my shoe, but instead, I grabbed a few slugs. Eww. Squirmy!

I shook out my shoes the best I could, but after walking for ten minutes and feeling that something wasn’t quite right under my feet, I stopped on the shoulder of the road and cleaned out another, less fortunate, slug.

Good morning, fellas.

When I was packing up my sleeping bag, I noticed an almond sitting on my air mattress. I had been eating some last night in the tent. I popped it into my mouth. It was soft. I’m assuming it’s because it was there all night and the moisture got to it. It was the moisture, right? Yes, yes, it must have been the moisture that made it so soft.

I hadn’t walked 15 minutes when the rains came again. It rained all morning, just like it rained all yesterday morning. And it was cold, with a heavy head wind. By the time I decided I needed gloves for my freezing hands, my fingers were so numb, I could barely get the gloves on. Even then, I couldn’t open the wrapping from my protein bar.

It was a miserable morning. Rain, high winds, cold, and trying to maneuver along a difficult highway with only a one-foot wide asphalt shoulder followed by 10 feet of mud on a 30-degree slant made for a very unhappy Dave this morning. Even a couple of pecan butter tarts didn’t improve my morale, since I shivered the whole time I was eating them.

After a few hours, I arrived in Sault Ste. Marie, where the four-lane road running through the commercial and residential area was lacking a sidewalk and any shoulder at all. I had no choice but to walk on the road and hope the traffic in my lane moved over. There was nowhere else to go.

And then I came to an oasis – a Husky gas station, where I had a late breakfast, served by the fabulous Sharon Dyni. She was so attentive, asking about my story, and then she wouldn’t allow me to leave her a tip. It was her contribution to my efforts, she told me. She also told me that she had served Jean Belleveau, not the hockey player, but the world walker when he came though town. He would have been very near the end of his 11-year walk around the world when Sharon served him.

Sharon really cheered me up. After shaving and standing under a hot shower for twenty minutes, I felt like a new man. I needed a shower. I might not get another one until I arrive in Thunder Bay in about 12 days. I put on some dry, albeit dirty, clothes and headed back to the road. The rain had stopped, thankfully, although the cold and wind hadn’t given up. Happily, it meant there were no bugs.

With Sharon in Sault Ste. Marie

It’s amazing how quickly morale can change. As I walked out of the Sault, I was presented with a 10-foot wide asphalt shoulder, pristine forest on both sides of the road, a smorgasbord of green colours to delight the visual sense, and light traffic to enjoy it. I enjoyed this for a couple of hours. It was bliss. I could barely contain my joy.

But then the icy wind picked up, the rain came again, and the asphalt shoulder narrowed to three inches.

The party was over.

Day 42 – Walk Across Canada

The morning was cold, a toque and gloves morning. I could see my breath for the whole first hour of walking. But there was no wind. And no bugs.

The views this morning were stunning. Coming down over a hill to see the Lake Superior with the hills rising up behind was idyllic.

The traffic was light, so I could spend most of the time up on the asphalt and listen to the birds in the forest. The sound of the lapping of the water over the rocks was to my ears what butter tarts are to my taste buds.

It rained a bit this morning. It was the kind of rain people think about when they say they love to walk or dance in the rain – light, brief, and without wind. I just walked through it in a way that people thought I was Fred Astaire. Light on my feet.

Lake Superior

I passed the halfway point of the Trans-Canada Highway between St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Victoria, BC. There is a roadside plaque commemorating this at Chippewa Falls. Here’s something I didn’t know. The Trans-Canada Highway was officially opened on September 3, 1962. She’s two months older than me. We could be dating if I wasn’t fighting with her so much. Hehe.

The first Canadian to cross Canada by car was Dr. Perry Doolittle. He did it in 1925 by fitting railway wheels to his car where there was no road. He’s considered the “spiritual father of the Trans-Canada Highway”. I wonder if he averaged 55 kms per day.

Chippewa Falls

A couple of guys who who seem to be cycling across Canada passed me about a week ago. They just passed me again, towing their little yellow trailers behind them. They cycle slowly, just lazing away the day. What a good life.

I was excited walking into Pancake Bay. There had been signs along the road advertising Agawa Crafts, which had absolutely everything a human could want. Every billboard told me how I was going to be delighted to stop, rest my weary feet, and indulge in the luxuries of life.

So now I’m in Pancake Bay. It’s a gas station that sells crafts and has a little grocery, where the fridge is filled with meat sandwiches and bottles of coke. There’s no restaurant and not much healthy to eat. Just some rotting bananas.

However, it was here that I met the amazing Reon Woolf, a New Zealander who is cycling across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. He started on May 1st and is averaging an amazing 200 kms per day. Whoa.

We chatted about traffic, road conditions, cell service, how we’re keeping our calories up, how we’re charging our phones, where we sleep, the numbness in our fingers from gripping handle bars, and what can be expected ahead. What a great guy and what an inspiring conversation. Well done, Reon.

He told me I probably won’t have a signal for another 40 kms, so I’ll post this now.

Until my next signal….

Day 43 – Walk Across Canada

After leaving Pancake Bay yesterday, a couple of Trail Angels stopped me on the highway to give me some food and juice. Pat and Lynn are friends of my high-school friend, David Deubelbeiss. Thanks guys!

The views of Lake Superior were gorgeous last night as the sun started to settle into the horizon. I was determined to find a camping spot near the lake, and after almost giving up, I found a spot under some cedars right by the water. It was perfect. The sound of the waves put me to sleep.

Perfect spot near the lake

Around midnight, I awoke to the sound of some rustling just outside my tent. I coughed to scare the critter away, but the noise continued, so I sat up. Suddenly, I saw the silhouette of a mouse crawling on the outside of the tent. I banged my hand against the tent to knock him off. Those guys can tear holes in the mesh. Not good.

I turned on my head lamp and looked through the screen, but I didn’t see any mice, so I went back to shivering in my sleeping bag on what had to be one of the coldest nights I’ve slept outside in this trip.

I few minutes later, I heard the same sound. I lifted my head and saw a mouse scurry across my sleeping bag. Donning my head lamp, I went looking for him. I found him easy enough. He was a cute little fella and I didn’t want to kill him, so I opened the tent and tried to scare him out. But he wouldn’t go. He kept climbing up the mesh and then running to the back of the tent. Finally, I grabbed a shoe while he scooted in and out of the other shoe. I whacked him once and he lay still. I went to lift him by the tail to throw him out of the tent, but he suddenly came to life and squirmed away. Darn! Just stunned him.

I whacked him again a couple of times and he lay still long enough for me to throw him out. I spent the next five minutes checking the netting to make sure the mouse hadn’t chewed a hole in it. I couldn’t find anything, so I went back to shivering in my sleeping bag while recalling the riddle of the farmer who built a fence around the garden to keep the rabbits out, but was puzzled to find a rabbit inside each day. The solution was that the fence had been built with the rabbit already in it. Perhaps the mouse had already been in my tent.

At 2 am, I awoke to the familiar sound of what I now know was a mouse near my head. I didn’t sit up right away, but instead reached gently for my head lamp. I flicked it on and stared into the eyes of the mouse. It sure looked like the same mouse. It’s too bad that mice get a bad rap for being pests because they certainly are cute.

I could see that the mouse was afraid of the light. When he tried to scurry to the back of the tent, I only had to put the light in his face to stop him. I unzipped the tent, and by using the light and some calming words, I got him to leave under his own power. I spent more time checking the netting and finally found the hole he had made. So I taped it up.

The mouse I thought I had killed wasn’t outside my tent when I checked, so I must have just stunned him. I’m glad the mouse didn’t die for his efforts. It wasn’t his fault. It was mine. I have been breaking the golden rule of not storing food in my tent. I have been carrying more food that can fit in my bear bag, so there hasn’t really been a place to put it.

After the mouse left, I spent the next twenty minutes packing as much food into the bear bag as possible. Then I grabbed a spare 10-liter MEC Brooks Bag, a waterproof bag that can keep water and rodents out, but not bears, and I filled that to the top. There were a couple of food items left over that didn’t fit into the bags, so I tucked those under the corner of my sleeping bag. Then I tried to sleep with my headlamp on, pointed at the side of the tent with the hole in it. There weren’t any further incidents.

It was an exhausting night, what with it being so cold and with the visit of the hungry mouse. I had to sleep in all the way to 6 am.

When I broke camp, I was freezing. I wore a jacket, with my Gortex jacket over top, my toque, and my gloves. It took an hour and a few monster hills for me to warm up enough to take off some layers.

  1. Lake Superior late in the day

The views again this morning of Lake Superior were stunning. I passed by a number of beaches and thought that I could just wile away the days sitting down there, watching the waves roll in with the light wind, read a good book, and eat jujubes all day. Sigh. Of course, without the wind, I’d have to lift the bug net in order to pop a jujube into my mouth.

Today was the first day on this trip where I truly felt the freedom of the road, where I truly was so thankful for choosing this path in my life and feeling so emotional about it that I just had to stop for a minute and let my spirit settle. It was a feeling that I can only describe as bliss.

The sun is shining today and I can’t see a single cloud in the sky. A retired couple from Quebec just came to chat with me and share their apple. What a great day!

Day 44 – Walk Across Canada

The bad news is that I have a rash from poison ivy. If you’ve ever had it yourself, you’ll know that the itch is maddening. And you can’t scratch it, because if you thought it was itchy the first time, you’ll soon find out how itchy it can really get. It started just before I got to the Sault. I thought it was just an itch from bug bites, but yesterday in my tent, after scratching myself awake, I took a closer look with my head lamp. I could see the familiar yellowish puss seeping from the rash. I have it on my stomach, lower back, right knee, inside of a thigh, left tricep, and the list is slowly growing. I don’t know how much worse it will get. I might still have the plant oil on my clothes, although I’m sure I washed it off my skin in the Sault.

I’ve had rashes from poison ivy before; I even have permanent scars on my right shin after a particularly bad case of it. It usually lasts for three weeks. The good news is that my friend, Kelly Sutton, gave me a topical cream for bug bites that, by chance, also provides some temporary relief for the poison ivy rash. I’ll stop at the very next pharmacy anyway.

The best thing I can do is just keep walking. It takes my mind off of the itch. It’s better than just sitting around suffering.

The mouse that entered my tent two nights ago was, I now see, a messenger. The message was to make sure I don’t keep my food in my tent. If the first mammal that tore through my tent netting was a bear, I probably wouldn’t have had enough tape to patch up the hole. Last night, after eating some food, I was able to fit everything into my bear bag and waterproof stuff sack. I hung the bear bag about 50 meters downwind and, except for the poison ivy rash, had no troubles all night.

If you’ve ever driven through northern Ontario, you’ll know there are a lot of hills. A LOT of them. Long and steep. Now I’m not one to complain about Kitty and Al (well I am, just don’t let them know), but Kitty is just NOT helping on these hills. You’d think a cheetah would claw her way up a hill, perhaps even pull me up the hill, but no, not Kitty. She demands to be pushed. And on the downhill? That’s when she tries to run, pulling on the leash like a rabid dog, nearly pulling my arms out of their sockets. There is no brake, so I tried talking nicely to her, “Easy Kitty, easy girl.” But that just made her pull harder. I tried yelling, “Slow down you stupid cat!!” But no, nothing works. She simply has a mind of her own. Don’t tell her, but I’ve thought about leaving her behind, except for the fact that, you know, she’s carrying all my stuff.

I’ve been walking through Lake Superior Provincial Park. Highway 17 goes through it for 83 kms. There are no amenities, so today I had to fill up my water bottles with river water. No problem, though, because I had my trusty SteriPen to purify it. But it failed to work. I’m hoping it’s just the batteries. The last time I checked to see if it works was when I bought it prior to leaving for Central America. Another reminder to check ALL of your kit prior to leaving for a trip, not just some of it. And I’m glad I’m leaving the park today because I only have six water purification tablets left.

Early morning mist

I’m eating lunch at Old Woman’s Bay on Lake Superior. It’s sunny and there’s a cold breeze, but the wind is keeping the black flies away which have been nasty all morning. Thank goodness for my bug net.

I found a baby mouse on the highway. It looks like its whole family was squashed by a vehicle turning into the garbage pull-out. It was a cute little thing, so helpless. I didn’t know what I could do for him, so I pushed him onto a flattened pop can and put him in the forest. I know he won’t last long, poor thing.

I’m in Wawa, famous for the goose statue on the highway. The first one was built in 1960 to commemorate the completion of the Trans-Canada highway, the last piece of the highway which connected Wawa to the rest of the world. The goose had been replaced a few times over the years and the current one is rusted pretty badly. But the town is getting a new one. Everyone here seems excited about it.

The goose at Wawa

I’ve walked 60 kms to get to Wawa and an extra two to get into town by six o’clock so that I could get to a pharmacy. Everything closed at 6 pm, the pharmacy, Canadian Tire, even the grocery. Only the restaurants and gas stations are providing service. Darn.

And so far, the clouds of the notorious Wawa bugs have not yet carried me away. Hehe.

I’ll still have to get out of town again to camp, but I have lots of time to enjoy a meal and rest my feet.

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