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Day 45 – Walk Across Canada
I found an excellent stealth camp site last night. Just over a hill beside the highway was an open meadow, surrounded by trees and completely hidden from the highway.
It rained most of the night and was raining hard when I woke up at 5 am. The forecast said that it would stop by 7 am, so I closed my eyes and, although I didn’t fully fall asleep, I had a restful two-hour meditation, interspersed with bouts of what I can only describe as ninja-level discipline in which I managed to avoid scratching my poison ivy rash.
There hasn’t been a single building or other sign of habitation in the last 35 kms. This is a remote area. I should be in White River by noon tomorrow though.
When I finally found a place to camp last night just outside of Wawa, I was about 480 kms from Thunder Bay. I should be able to do that distance handily in 8 days. There isn’t really much else to do except walk. There aren’t as many nice views along this stretch of highway. I don’t like to stop for long when it’s raining, and when it isn’t raining, as soon as I stop and sit on the side of the highway, I am inundated by insects. The bug net helps my face, but I still have to lift it to eat. And insect repellent doesn’t seem to work on all the flying and crawly things that want a piece of me. Al seems to be immune. He hasn’t got a single bite on him. Thin blood, I guess.
I stopped at the Halfway Lodge, which is half way between Wawa and White River. The owner told me that 7 years ago, a guy came by who had cycled across Canada twice, had walked across Canada once and was walking back when he stopped at the Halfway Lodge. He was upset about something, rented a cabin for a week, and then left all his stuff with the owner. After a number of years, the owner didn’t think the guy was coming back, so he got rid of all his gear except for a custom-made banner that had a picture of two hands, with the forefinger of each pointing in opposite directions. What’s so crazy about this is that the guy just returned a few days ago, after 7 years, and collected his banner. Crazy people. (And no, I’m not walking back across Canada again when I’m finished).
Well, I wanted to walk 60 kms per day for 8 days until I reached Thunder Bay. There are kilometer markers on the highway every two kilometers. I’m sitting in a rock on the side of the highway at my 60 km point and I see that it has taken me 9:25 hours to walk it. It’s only 7 pm. There’s 2.5 hours before sunset and there’s nothing to do but sit here and count the number of black flies sticking to my bug net (about 12).
So I’ll post this, since I found a signal, eat a chocolate muffin, and put a few more kms behind me.
Day 46 – Walk Across Canada
I saw a raven standing in the middle of the road ahead of me. He didn’t try to fly away when cars approached. He seemed normal. He was standing, eyes open. I walked out in the highway after a car stopped for me and picked up the raven – he didn’t resist my touch – and carried him to the side of the road. When I set him down, I saw there was blood on my hands.
I had never touched a raven before. Not once in my entire life. I thought he might attack me when I reached for him, but I think he was in too much shock. Ravens are large birds, but he was surprisingly light when I held him.
I sat with him for a while talking softly, trying to keep him at ease, not really knowing what else to do. He just stood there looking at me, not understanding that he was probably about to die from his injuries.
Or maybe he knew.
After fifteen minutes, I wished him a swift recovery and left him. As I walked away, I thought, if he is going to die, I hope it is also swift. Poor fella.
Zig Ziglar used to say that FEAR is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. Last night, I pitched my tent in a field behind some trees that is covered in what I believe is poison ivy. I didn’t notice at first. I pitched my tent, and as I was carrying my bear bag to hang at the other side of the clearing, I noticed all the plants with three leaves. I went back to the tent and realized the whole area was covered in it.
I thought about everything I had done since arriving. Perhaps the plant oil was only on my shoes and hands. So in desperation, I pulled out my hand sanitizer and cleaned my hands. But I knew it was a desperate move. I must have touched my face, arms, and legs, not to mention all my kit, so if it was on my hands and shoes, it could be on everything.
That’s when FEAR set in. If you have never experienced a bad outbreak of poison ivy rash that covered your body, you cannot appreciate where that fear comes from. You would be so desperate that you would promise even to love your in-laws for eternity if only the bloody itching would stop. Yes, you would sell your children, go three rounds in a ring with Predator and Alien, and even promise to do your own laundry if only the ITCH would STOP!
So yes, I had fear. But now it’s 14 hours later and I haven’t developed any new lesions. Typically, if I’ve touched poison ivy, I’ll have an outbreak within six hours, although normally it would be between 12 and 24 hours.
So I’m at a loss. I am hoping beyond all hope that the three-leafed plant was not poison ivy. It’s possible. There seems to be a lot of plant varieties that have three leaves. But this sure looked like poison ivy.
What seems to be true is that the FEAR of getting a rash is just as bad or worse than actually having the rash. Yet I lost some sleep last night just worrying about it, trying to think about what I could do if all of my kit was covered in the oil. I wasn’t even worried about the current rash that is slowly making me mad. I was worried only about the possibility of a worse rash to come.
I don’t know how this will turn out. The evidence may have been false. And if the worst happens and I end up with the most disgusting rash ever, I’ll deal with it head on, because that’s the only reasonable choice.
Life throws us challenges, sometimes really big ones, and we just have to deal with them. The only other option is to quit living, and that’s not really a viable option. Just like quitting this walk because of poison ivy isn’t a viable option. As tough as it is, our parents were right when they said, “Adversity builds character.”
I’m in the town of White River now. Claim to fame: where Winnie the Pooh began. It’s the central theme here. Winnie the Pooh paraphernalia is sold everywhere. I can get a 490-calorie pecan butter tart and a stuffed Eeyore in the same place. It’s a bit of a stretch, though, if you ask me. A.A. Milne based Pooh on a bear called Winnie that he saw in the London Zoo. The bear was originally bought from a hunter for $20 by a Canadian military officer, who was on his way to England in the First World War. The bear was bought in White River. So based on that single sale of an animal, I think that’s quite the claim for this town to say that White River is where it all started. Could Winnipeg make the same claim? That’s where the officer was from and after which Winnie was name. Could the London Zoo make the same claim? What about the manufacturers of the toys of A.A. Milne’ son? Could they make the same claim? They were the source of all the other characters, such as Piglet, Eeyore, Roo, and the others. Still, every town needs something to make it famous. And I give full marks to the residents of White River for their creativity. Well done!
Dig deep, small-town mayors, and you’ll find something to put your town on the map.
I stopped for a shower at the Husky in White River. I cleaned off any residual poison ivy oil and changed out all my clothes.
I even changed my hiking sandals. I should have done it back in Sudbury. The soles are completely worn and the laces broken, but they’ve been so comfortable. And they carried me 2,600 kms. But it’s time. On to pair number two.
I’ve only walked four hours and it’s after 3 pm, so I better get moving.
Day 47 – June 6 – Walk Across Canada
I figured I better start adding the date to these posts. I’m getting confused myself on which number was the last day.
Yesterday after leaving White River, I met a guy named James Woods (no, not the actor). He is cycling from Vancouver to Fredericton. We shared a few travel stories and compared notes on stealth camping, phone charging, calorie consuming, and all of the other topics important to cross-Canada travelers. I asked him if he’s thought about cycling the extra five days and going to Halifax so that he can say that he cycled across Canada. But that’s not his thing. He thinks it’s cooler to say he cycled home from Vancouver. Just goes to show you that there’s an adventure for everyone.
It was great to meet up with someone again from my own tribe, even if the interaction was brief.
Yay, saw my first moose today. He wasn’t much in the mood, though, to stand still and have his picture taken. He disappeared back into the woods as I approached. What a beautiful creature.
I received another fright today. But first let me say that there is no doubt that walking along a highway is dangerous, especially if you are pushing a stroller that is virtually impossible to push through the thick gravel of the shoulder.
And as I’ve eluded to a few times, highway 17 is the worst. I’ve been lucky lately to have about a 1 1/2-foot asphalt shoulder, which allows me to leave at least one or two wheels on the asphalt as vehicles approach. When my lane is clear, I put all three wheels on the asphalt so that at least one of them crosses the white line into the driver’s lane.
It’s not the traffic in front of me that worries me. It’s the traffic behind. To this point, about a dozen vehicles have passed vehicles behind me while I have been fully on the highway. It’s unnerving when a car comes up from behind you only a foot or two away.
Four times, drivers in pick-ups have passed transports while I was walking in the lane, once in a no-passing zone. I can’t even imagine what’s going on inside those pick-ups.
Joe: Uh, Bob, are you trying to pass a transport truck while a helpless human who can’t see you is in the other lane?
Bob: Uh, yeah.
Joe: Um, Bob, I don’t think you can squeeze between that unsuspecting human and the transport.
Bob: Here, Joe. Hold my beer.
As bad as those episodes have been, today was the worst. While I had one of Kitty’s wheels over the white line on a really long straightaway, a transport truck passed another transport truck. No warning. Just whipped right by me. What could he possibly have been thinking? There’s no way he couldn’t have seen me. If he could see far enough ahead to know that the lane was clear of vehicles, he couldn’t have missed seeing me with my safety vest. That means he consciously made the decision to pass knowing full well that there was a human in the other lane with his back to him. I can’t even imagine how little space there was. Maybe a foot, two at most, if the other truck driver had moved way over? Really, what an ass. I was seething with anger for almost 15 minutes. I wanted to FIGHT! Sigh. Where’s a kangaroo when you need one?
I think if anything tragic happens on this walk, and I’m sure nothing will, you can guess that it came from behind me. I’m confident about avoiding anything coming at me, but not from behind.
I don’t have much choice but to stay the course and trust that any idiot who chooses to pass a vehicle from behind me at least has the driving skill to miss me.
Pushing Kitty through the sand dunes they call a shoulder on highway 17, while trying to walk erect on a 25-percent grade is not what I would call an option. For that kind of effort and pace, I’d rather be hacking my way through the jungle along the Amazon River. I surely can’t wait to get to the Prairies where the highway builders have made it easier for cyclists and pedestrians.
As I’m writing this, a big black beetle was crawling on my shorts. I went to flick him away, but he escaped and crawled inside my shorts. Eek. Two unnerving events in one day. Waaahhhh!
A couple of hours before reaching Marathon, I met a nice couple from Edmonton who live full time in their motor home. The car they were towing behind them had three blown tires, so it was being towed back to Marathon. The woman gave me a couple of liters of water and asked me about my trip.
Her: Oh my, you are brave to do this walk.
Me: No, not brave. Tenacious, maybe. But for sure stubborn.
We both laughed.
Weather wise, it’s been a gorgeous day, sunny, warm, without nary a cloud to be seen. I drank six liters if water before getting to a restaurant outside of Marathon. Just a splendid day all around for walking.
I’ve walked about 58 kms so far, so I’ll have my dinner and put in another hour or more to make my 60+. Until tomorrow.