Walk Across Canada – Days 51-54

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 51 – June 10 – Walk Across Canada

It’s 6:20. I would normally be on the road by now, but I’m still clinging to the comfort of my sleeping bag. It’s raining, and probably will continue to do so for another couple of hours. There are about 200 mosquitoes trapped (or waiting?) between my tent and the tent’s fly. I counted fifty of them and thought that was about a quarter of the lot. So you can understand my reluctance to get moving.

But I must. So down comes my sleeping bag zipper. I pull on my dirty shorts. Feet get rubbed down with Vaseline. And on go the damp socks. Shake out the sandals and on my feet they go. Time to get in the game.

A waterfall down some interestingly-coloured rock.

Last summer, I saw my first cougar in the wild in a place called, believe it or not, Cougar Canyon. I also saw my first rattlesnake in the wild on Rattlesnake Hill. So I decided today to take my first break at Wolf River. I’ve never seen a wolf in the wild. So why not? You never know what can happen.

No luck, though, by which I mean I didn’t see a wolf. But I did see a worm. I shall always think of it now as Worm River.

By the way, I also did not see a wild maple tree down Maple Road. Just grass and reeds. Thought you should know.

I love that those responsible for naming streets have made it easy for people like me who rarely take out a map. Here are some street names I passed recently: Fish Hatchery Road, Golf Course Road, Old School Road, Bible Camp Road. You pretty much know what you’ll find down any of these roads.
Although, considering some of the drivers I’ve seen in these parts, I imagine a conversation going something like this:
Joe: Hey Bob, we missed you at golf this afternoon.
Bob: Couldn’t find the golf course.
Joe: You didn’t go down Golf Course Road?
Bob: What? I thought it was on Fish Hatchery Road. Darn.

I took another break at 2:30 pm in a snowplow turn-around spot. The sun was shining, the wind was up, and nary a bug to be seen. I sat on the asphalt, leaned up against Kitty, and promptly fell asleep for ten minutes. Woohoo! My first nap.

Looking into the bay outside Thunder Bay

I sat around for another 15 minutes or so. Lots of people beeped their horns in hello. But may I suggest that there is a technique for horn-blowing. The time to give a beep-beep is well before you get to the pedestrian. It gives the pedestrian time to lift his head and wave hello. The time to beep your horn is NOT when you are right beside the pedestrian because that only causes him to mess his pants.

Later, I took yet another break. Lazy boy, I know. It was at a picnic area and I was able to dry out my tent while I chatted with a US veteran for an hour. Interesting guy. He thinks Trump will win the next election again.

I had seven blissful hours without any bugs. It was like Mother Nature turned off the tap. And virtually no hills all day. Beautiful.
There were a few bugs showing up just as I was entering this truck stop for something to eat, so we’ll see what they’re like when I’m finished.

I’m about 40 kms from Thunder Bay, where I will be picked up tomorrow and treated to a bed, shower, laundry, and a veggie stir fry. Woohoo! Looking forward to it. I’ll do another 10 kms tonight and then have a short day tomorrow so that I can spend a little extra time at the Terry Fox monument.

Make it a great evening, my friends.

Day 52 – June 11 – Walk Across Canada

It’s a BIG day today, with a couple of BIG milestones. First, sometime early this morning, I passed the 3,000 km point on this walk. And now, at the end of the day, I have reached about the midway point.

52 days, over 3,000 kms. I’m averaging almost exactly 58 kms/day.

Feels pretty good.

I really wanted to go see the Terry Fox National Historic Person Plaque. But, surprisingly, you can’t walk or cycle on highway 17 in this area. I was diverted off the highway to Lakeshore Drive, which is lovely, but the Terry Fox Plaque only seems to be accessible by cars.

I’m actually not as bummed out about it as I might have been a month ago. I seem to be a little calmer about things these days. Maybe the bombardment of traffic and insects has hardened me against the little disappointments in life.

In any event, I’m driving back to Ontario right after this walk is finished, so I’ll stop in to see the Terry Fox Plaque then.

At the Thunder Bay International Hostel

I was actually quite happy to get off highway 17 onto Lakeshore Drive. This section of highway 17 is newly widened into a four-lane divided highway. The paved shoulder is only one foot wide and is covered in rumble strips. The highway is very busy, so I was only able to walk on the gravel shoulder, which isn’t the worst it’s been along the way, but was nevertheless energy draining.

Lakeshore Drive was like a bit of heaven. It has wide paved shoulders, an 80 km/hr speed limit, and beautiful acreages all along it. In my first hour on this road, only 8 vehicles passed me, and not one of them a transport truck. I could hear the birds, the insects, and the tiniest trickles of water as I walked along. It was bliss.

A warning though. If you think you would like to drive down Lakeshore Road because it sounds like it might actually weave its way along the Lake Superior shore, you’ll be disappointed. There were only a couple good views of the lake all along this road. But, lordy, it was peaceful.

I had forgotten what it was like to pass through a town with more than 1,500 residents. So when I finally arrived in Thunder Bay just before noon and saw the restaurant choices, I was paralyzed with indecision. I finally decided to get some Italian food from Angelo’s Pizza, but, sadly, there was no seating. So across the street I went to La Poutine. Why not? It brings back memories of my favourite part of this walk so far, which was through Quebec.

Veggie poutine

I’m not even finished this walk and I’m already nostalgic for earlier parts of it.

Gotta run. I’m at my end point and my ride is on it’s way.

Day 53 – June 12 – Walk Across Canada

I want you to try an experiment. See how much of your body surface you can see with your eyes without using a mirror. I’ll tell you why in a second, but first……

A big thank you to Julie and Steve Elliott for hosting me last night outside of Thunder Bay in Julie’s Backyard. What a friendly, authentic, and interesting couple they are. Their backyard out in the country is way better than tv. In the bird feeders, I saw blue jays, a hairy woodpecker feeding her young, a raccoon (aka Rocky), hummingbirds, and various other birds I have never heard of and whose names I immediately forgot once Steve told me what they were. There are squirrels everywhere and skunks living under the shed. It’s a very busy backyard, often visited by deer, moose, and bears. And for drama, you can watch the house cat chasing down various animals, which, when he captures them, he brings into the house to the dining room to eat. He’s quite the hunter.

Julie and Steve have taken early retirement just like me and have travelled widely. They don’t apologize for the decor of their home, which is filled with photographs and items from their travels, all things that they love and that remind them of the beauty of nature. They are so authentic that Steve had no qualms about pouring his cereal into his bowl and then eating it with his fingers. “I don’t like milk in my cereal,” he explained with a shrug. What a hoot these two are. Thanks guys!

Steve and (squinting) Julie

Ok, back to the experiment. The reason I asked you how much of your body you can visually see without a mirror is because I’m having trouble doing my tick checks at the end of the day. There could be one attached to any place on my back and I wouldn’t know it or even feel it since I lack the flexibility to reach all parts of my back. Yesterday, I had a shower and with the big mirror in the bathroom, I was able to fully check my body for ticks for the first time. There weren’t any, thankfully, but you can see that there would be a challenge while in the woods. I ask Al to look, but he doesn’t have his glasses. Poor fella. But then he also doesn’t see the transport trucks bearing down on him, so maybe not having glasses is a good thing for him.

In the mirror, I was also able, for the first time, to see the extent of my poison ivy rash. Sheesh. It looks disgusting. However, there are only a couple of spots that are still itchy, so it’s starting to heal. Thankfully.

I got off to a late start because I didn’t want to stop drinking coffee and chatting with Julie and Steve. When I finally got going, it was blissful walking. The sun was shining, the shoulder of highway 102 was wide and paved, and there was friendliness everywhere. I walked into a strong headwind for most of the day, and although this made walking up hills a struggle, the wind was warm and it meant that there were no bugs to be worried about. I thought it was a good trade off.

Along highway 102

It’s getting late in the day and I found a little country store that was open where highways 11 and 17 split off 52 kms west of Thunder Bay. I’m eating banana bread and coffee cake for supper. Luxury, I say!!

Until tomorrow, my friends.

Day 54 – June 13 – Walk Across Canada

I woke to a beautiful day. I had a great campsite out in the open, hidden from the highway by some trees. So I lingered like a lazy boy, enjoying my extra moments in my comfy sleeping bag.

I took a break on a low rocky ledge beside the highway and spent twenty minutes watching some ants go about their business. I don’t think I’ve seen ants like this before, with red bodies and black abdomens. Spiders were scattered about, waiting patiently on their webs for their prey to arrive. I could see an old web with a dead ant on it, so there was some drama as the ants wandered close to the webs. I watched a fly buzz around and was hoping to see him fly into a web, but instead he landed on me. And as he was about to take a bite out of my leg, I swatted him dead. Like the spider, I also waited patiently.

Along highway 17

In the end, I left without seeing any of the spiders catch a thing.

Al is in good spirits today. We haven’t talked much lately, but when a bear suddenly appeared at the side of the road, I said, “Look Al, a bear.” He was pretty excited, but it was only later that I wondered if Al heard, “Look Al, a beer.”

When the bear and I saw each other, we both did the right thing. He ran into the woods and I kept walking. We both get to live another day and eat blueberries.

I met a couple more tribe members today, both cyclists. Larry Hooge is cycling from Victoria to St. John’s, a dream he’s had for 35 years. He retired early last year at the age of 56 and decided that Canada’s 150th anniversary was the year to do it. His wife is driving their vehicle with a trailer and she’s delighted to be able to say that she drove across Canada solo.

Larry Hooge, fulfilling a 35-year dream of cycling from Victoria to St. John’s

Ten minutes later, I met a retired military fellow named Ritchie (didn’t get his last name). He and his wife are cycling from Victoria to Ottawa to raise awareness for PTSD.

There are so many ways to have a cross-Canada adventure. You just need to pick one and go for it.

Before noon, I passed into the Arctic Watershed. From this line, at a location on the highway of 504 meters, all flowing water eventually reaches Hudson Bay. This was considered the southern boundary of Rupert’s Land, the territory controlled by the Hudson’s Bay Company until 1870. In 1883-1884, this boundary also figured prominently in the Ontario-Manitoba boundary dispute.

Apparently, entering into the Arctic Watershed also meant I crossed into deer fly and horse fly territory. I fought them for a steady hour, receiving two good bites, but killing a dozen of them. I couldn’t get any horse flies though; they’re too wily. And yet, when I was at a gas station eating sandwiches, the employee plucked a horse fly off a window sill with a thumb and a forefinger. What talent!

I was feeling pretty pooped today, so I took a break at a picnic spot, where I hung out for an hour before noticing the giant billboard behind me indicating that I’m crossing 90 degrees longitude west and passing from the Eastern time zone into the Central time zone. Another small milestone.

And I’m finally having a sit-down meal of three egg salad sandwiches. Mmm. Oh, and some butter tarts. Yum. Oh, and chocolate milk. Slurp.

Make it a great evening, my friends.

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