After a few months of walking, I now realize that my world has become infinitesimally small, and the following story illustrates this oddity.
While walking, especially on the Trans-Canada Highway, you are passed by hundreds, maybe even thousands of people each day. I imagine these people get to reach their destination in minutes, hours, or days, whereas I must patiently wait for my destination to come to me. However extreme the contrast between ‘Matt the snail’ and all those people driving past me at such a magnificent speed is, sometimes our paths meet when I reach a town, enter a store, or I magnetically walk into them!
The other day was one of those times in life that unexpectedly occurs, and awakens you, maybe this is a spiritual awakening of sorts. The day started like all other days: wake-up; listen to the quiet sounds of the forest floor in the morning; pack-up and put away all of my belongings; heat up some oatmeal; drink some water; start walking. There was nothing especially different as I crossed over the many gravel side-roads that flow into the highway along the way, or the errant signs of a bygone business that stand alone on the side of the roadway, even the vehicles and accompanying passengers I cross at each gravel side-road looked to me like figurines in a locked cabinet.
Anyways, the hours passed quickly under this bright, warm, sunny day, and the push towards Winnipeg — the final destination of this year’s walking odyssey, allowed the waves of future thought churn within my head; my return to Barrie and Calgary and the excitement of running across B.C. in October, which was grounding and refreshing this time. Regardless of all that noise, my only real concern is to make sure that I arrive in Winnipeg on-time for my flight!
As the day of walking was coming to a close, a nearby truck loaded with wood in its trailer was travelling along the same light brown gravel side-roads that terminate at the edge of the highway. As this truck stopped at the sign, I lumbered across and waved a thank you to the driver and passenger. A few hours later, I felt a strain in my ankle, which has been on the mend for a couple weeks now, so I needed to find a place to setup my tent, eat, and relax on for the night. Although I usually setup my tent within the forests along the side of the highway, this time I was in search of convenience and ease: a flat, grassed location. Luckily, in the distance, a side road appeared; an oasis in the asphalt and concrete desert I have been walking across.
Turning onto the shaded and cool side-road was calming and the enticing shade from the trees lining the road drew me in and away from the rumble and whine of the highway. A few meters more, a private campground sign greeted me, but I don’t pay to camp unless I need a shower and laundry facilities, especially since I was only a day walk from Winnipeg. Surely I would be able to find something for free somewhere along this roadway oasis, so I walked further down the road in search of the sacred lands I long for.
After a short walk down my gravelly oasis, a small patch of that all green piece of ground I craved was within reach; however, it was obviously on someone’s property, but hidden from the front of their house, but as I peered around the corner of the forest I saw some children and adults working in the small garden at the front of their house. The majority of the time I try and avoid camping at locations like this, however, my tired feet and the heat of the day caused me to reconsider this stance; my want to be away from the highway noise that evening was strong, so I walked out from behind the secret veil of the forest, and walked up the driveway to ask the homeowner for permission.
Above. The house in Manitoba where Daryl, his wife, and their 6 children welcomed me.
My approach was quickly observed by the playing children who yelled that someone was walking up the driveway, which caused the adults to stand erect in wonder. I greeted a man, Daryl, who was the father of the 6 children in the yard with a hello, my name is style greeting. I began to tell Daryl what I was up-to: walking from Barrie to Anchorage, 2500 km walked, etc. After a brief discussion, Daryl’s response was unexpected: they were a Christian family and couldn’t turn me away — fantastic! I stood for a long second and thanked him for letting me pitch my tent, and that I would be gone in the morning; however, the kindness wasn’t over, he asked if I was hungry. I stated that I wouldn’t mind a home cooked meal instead of the dehydrated meals I have eaten for the last few months. A home cooked meal is such a desirable commodity for me lately! He told me that his wife would make a plate for me, and that we could both sit down and eat together in a half hour by the fire.
When I finished setting up my tent and bed on that glorious patch of grass in-front of Daryl’s home, he came over and told me that dinner was ready. When I sat down by the fire, Daryl gave me a plate of pan fried Walleye and a side of sweet potato, corn-on-the cob, cauliflower, and green beans. The meal was especially tasty that evening, but maybe it was because all of the ingredients on the plate were locally caught and from their garden. After a few servings of fish and corn, I was treated to an excellent cup of strong coffee and an ice cream sandwich.
When dinner was cleaned up by his son and daughters, Daryl, his wife, mother, and myself poked around the garden and soil until the sun went down. The topsoil was a dark brown sandy soil (>75% fine and coarse grained sand), with small pockets of a gleyed clay soil a few centimeters below. During the garden tour we spoke about various gardening practices, and the issues they were having with grown some items, which was mostly related to select nutrient deficiencies associated with a sandy soil such as this. We also talked for a few hours over the fire about my walk, religion, gardening, home schooling, and other social anomalies.
The night ended with late-night snack: two pieces of a freshly baked cake, and a conversation about homeschooling and post-secondary education.
Above. Where I enjoyed a wonderful dinner, desert, and coffee.
In the morning I woke up and remembered that I forgot to set my alarm so that I could watch their son milk the goats and look around their backyard barnyard. Eventhough I missed the goat milking, I still poked around with Daryl and his son, where I learned a little about the husbuandry of goats and chickens.
Above. Three goats for milking.
Above. The chicken coup.
When breakfast was almost ready we headed inside, where everyone was busy helping bake muffins, fry eggs, toasting of the homemade bread, and the cutting up of tomatoes for breakfast. I sat and had a coffee with Daryl before breakfast was served. Just before breakfast was being served, Daryl, his son, and wife — as she was frying the eggs on the stove, all sang a hymn, which I have never observed, but was relaxing to hear. The two youngest boys and girl, aged 4 to 6, were told no giggling, since the contagion of giggles infected everyone that morning! When breakfast was served Daryl said a prayer before we ate to thank the Lord for the food we were blessed with and a safe journey for myself.
Above. The first course of a wonderful Sunday breakfast.
At the conclusion of breakfast, the family was going to church, and it was getting late, so I thanked Daryl and his family for being such gracious hosts and feeding me such delicious food. Like every meeting on the road, it must end with me walking down that dew stained sideroad and onto the shoulder of the highway towards my next stop. Whenever I meet such friendly people, which has become so common now, I smile from ear to ear and store that great memory for later use, like when a storm rolls in and soaks me for the afternoon, which happened!