This is something I wrote a few months ago, but never pushed it out of draft status.
It seems like every time I walk just a kilometer further something shiny and bright awaits me on the horizon. That shiny and bright something I talk about ranges from more comfortable places to sleep, or the kind and interesting people I meet at these special places in the horizon. The examples and benefits of my straying is just starting to be revealed, such as my straying into the little settlement of Little Rapids; free camping at Velorution Bike and Ski; camping at Agawa Bay camp ground; and a coffee at Halfway Lodge are just a few instances of the growing list.
Some sections of my walking route and many of the locations I stop at for the night are not pre-planned; these routes and locations are the result of a spur of the moment decision from either fellow road travelers: cyclists, or stopped motorists. The most gratifying locations I stumble across are from a funny feeling I get that directs me to either the left or right at some bend in the road.
An example of just walking an extra few kilometers further to a more was had just the other day after eating dinner under a small bridge on the banks of the White River. As the clack and thump of vehicles overhead played in the background — the soundtrack I hear daily in this roadway vagabond existence I now live – the small ledge in the cool shade under this noisy bridge provided me an opportunity to enjoy dinner and determine where sleep, wherever that may be. After looking at my satellite tracker, I was only a few kilometers short of 42 km, which is as far as I wanted to walk; however, sleeping under this noisy bridge was not an option. After getting up from the shaded refuge of the bridge, I lumbered forward along the side of the road in search of a location to pitch my tent. My thought was not about finding the perfect place to setup my tent, which rarely occurs, but somewhere out of the sun at the very least, which is not difficult in the beautiful boreal forest ecosystem I was traversing across!
Although I don’t mind camping within the forest, it is sometimes nice to have a place to sit and not be harassed by the insects, so a nice anthropogenic created landscape is nice from time to time; therefore, I told myself that I would walk for an hour to see if I came across anything. After just a few minutes I wanted to stop, but I carried on for another hour, where I turned the corner to see a small sign on the side of the road, and to my surprise, it was a potential spot to setup my tent on some easy terrain: the human created landscape I craved.
Above. The sign on the road that welcomed me in … I hope.
After a few meters inside the Pow Wow grounds, I saw that this was going to be an ideal location to camp for the night. As I walked further along the gravel driveway, I heard some people a short distance ahead; it turned out to be a family putting together the skeleton like wood frame of a small shelter. I asked if it was ok if I setup my tent on the Pow Wow grounds, and the guy said it would be fine, and if anyone said anything, tell them that the big Indian down the road said it was ok – definitely wasn’t going to say that if anyone approached me!
I am starting to witness what happens when you hang on for a little longer and don’t follow the path of least resistance; sometimes a small prize awaits you. Although it is easier to stop at the side of the road instead of going into a small town, I find that going those extra few kilometers usually results in a place to quench my craving of fresh fruit or vegetables, or a place to sit and document this walking odyssey; even better, these are also places I meet new and interesting people who make the walk even more meaningful.
Another time, I walked a little further to a small lodge just east of White River, ON for my morning pause and crossed paths with a cyclists on the road that asked if I wanted to stop for a coffee with her at the lodge just ahead; although I just finished having a coffee and conversation with the owner of the lodge just minutes ago — I had only walked 100 meter from the lodge, but it always nice to talk to another road weary traveler, so back for another coffee. I found out she was from Whitehorse and had started her cross-country journey in Prince Rupert, a place quite special to me. The meeting was well worth it, where I heard a great story, learned something, and received some contacts when I am in Manitoba and the Yukon!
I also found out about the abandoned motels that I came across while in Northern Ontario as I walk. For example, during a downpour one day I stopped at this small abandoned motel that still had many of the furnishings and paperwork within it, but all the windows were broken and graffiti was all over the siding – why would someone just let this seemingly perfect place become so run down? I found out that the owner passed away and no one wanted to purchase the building due to significant disrepair and the well needed to be re-drilled, which no one was willing to take on, or not worth fixing. Another place was left abandoned due to a significant issue/accident that occurred: pipes all froze after an unknowing owner shut it down for the winter; eventually, the owner walked away because of the costly repair. Another motel was deemed to be too costly and some unfortunate business decisions and issues resulted in the owner walking away for good. What a lost opportunity for alternative housing!
Another great story of straying was had the day I left Thunder Bay and walked to Kakabeka Falls. In this circumstance, it was a visit to a restaurant that had a sign stating they served panzerottis, but not any run of the mill baked panzo, but a deep-fried one! Although Calgary has many pizza places, I was never able to find a place that served a deep-fried panzerotti! I went into this restaurant and ordered the smallest and cheapest panzerotti on the menu, which was quite large anyways, but when I went to pay the waitress said that my meal was already paid for by another patron! She said that two separate people actually offered to pay for my meal – should of ordered a desert!
This wasn’t the first time someone paid for my meal, which I am very thankful for, but as time passed and my beard grew longer, I think people are beginning to think I am hard up and homeless; the waitress told me that people in the restaurant asked her if I was ok, stranded, etc. After some reflection, I think the reply to their question from her shone a different light on me: I was fine — maybe, but was just a guy walking with an odd little cart towards Anchorage, AK.