Walking in a New Environment and the People

I knew the change in biome would pose new problems and teach me a lesson or two about the availability of certain resources, such as freshwater and shelter from the sun, which I have had to quickly adapt to: I carry more water, fill up all bottles whenever I come across water, and actively scan the horizon (and GPS) for shade or shelter.

So far, the summer heat has struck early this past week, and I attribute my whining about the weather to a combination of my natural predisposition to whining and the lack of acclimation I expected spring to provide.

To lessen the impact of this early summer like heat, I wake around 4:30 am, embrace the morning shiver, scare up some oatmeal, fuss around with gear, then walk my 20 km distance (usually more) until 1 pm.

As I approach my predetermined distances each day, I scan the infinite horizon for any sized green oasis to pitch my tent aside: shade isn’t so readily available out here. Once my tent is erected and a perfect seat is arranged below a tree, I am treated to a tranquil existence for the afternoon.

The scene before my eyes while seated under the waving canopy of a tree is set on a canvas of whispy white clouds scratched across the worldly blue sky to a tabletop of golden yellow grass and dark brown plots of land. This table top is punctuated by miniature, silver silos; weathered, red barns; and tiny, animated tractors that move across this seemingly static scene.

Yet sitting around on the sidelines of a field under a tree for long periods of time with nothing to do is hard to handle, since I won’t get to Anchorage by sitting and thinking about it. I must be walking. However, I am determined to stick to the easing-into-it pace of around 20 km to sub 30 km distances for a couple weeks to thwart any overuse injuries.

At times, my laying around for most of the day has been uncomfortable; however, the ticks, which come from every direction and crawl into every crevice is unbearable at times.

Fortunately, the prairie landscape has such a special character, but the few times I drove the Trans Canada Highway across Canada was misleading and only represented a sliver of the natural gifts Manitoba beholds. The past week of walking has presented me with some surprising natural world wonders: intriguing poplar and bur oak dominant forests, colorful treed swamps and permanent marshes, rolling grasslands, and a sandy desert biome.

So far, the best part of my walking has been the people of Manitoba, which have been the most gracious host to this lone walker. In the last few weeks I have been waved into someones home to wait out a storm; a recipient of a roadside coffee delivery; and have been blessed with a cornucopia of food and drink: bottles of water, slices of pizza, and snacks while taking a break under a tree or walking along a desolate side road.

In all, the people of rural Manitoba have taken care of me while I walk across their land.

I think I get what Sir Wilfred Thesiger, one of only three westerners known to have ventured across Arabia’s great desert by camel, was once asked: “which, among all the places he had been, he would most wish to revisit?” His answer: “I cannot answer that question,” he replied. “It was not the places I have been, but the people I was with.” In my case, it is the people I meet along the road and at campsites.

Without a doubt, the people I encounter during this walk of mine help paint the landscapes I walk across and cement the lifelong memories I am creating.

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