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Smartwool Apparel Review: A Few Thousand Kilometers of Use

After more than 2500 kilometers of this walking odyssey towards Anchorage, Alaska, and the few hundred kilometers and one marathon of running across those breath taking landscapes of Ontario and British Columbia, I will write a review of how the apparel performed under my misuse and abuse.

I must first state that I have been using Smartwool products for many years before I received this wonderful care package from Smartwool Canada — thank you again.  My fortunate slip down the slippery slope of this walking odyssey, and the running along the highways of Ontario and British Columbia as a member of the run across Canada for Cours Pour Ta Vie (Run For Your Life) — whose goal is to raise awareness among the young and old in the importance of adopting an active and healthy lifestyle– is a great opportunity to challenge a product(s) quality, ruggedness, and comfort.

Laundry Care

While walking for four months and running/living out of an R.V. for almost a month, laundry care isn’t at the top of your mind; in essence, you stop at any laundromat or washing machine along the way, throw everything you can realistically put into a washer machine for a few dollars, then let your whites, lights, and darks finally unite (sorry mom!).

wp-image-643048194.jpgAbove.  A typical laundromat I visited every seven or more days.

Conditions of Use

I tried caring for all apparel as best as I could, but sometimes that late night camp setup after an exhausting day causes you to do funny and irregular acts with anything at arms length!  Other inconspicuous events also add an extra strain to gear, like my multiple encounters with those spiteful chipmunks that chew threw anything with a food scent (gear, clothing, food bags, you name it).  I also believe that my gift in jurry rigging that cart of mine can can result in the unintended stress to various clothing and gear items.

 

 

As you can see in the pictures above, the day in, day out wear and tear of the socks and t-shirts were similar to the conditions that any outdoor enthusiast would put these items through.

Results and Conclusions

With all of the walking and running of 2017, I think an unhealthy attachment to some of the apparel had formed, much like the relationship Tom Hanks character in Cast Away formed with the volleyball he named Wilson; however, I have not named any piece of apparel, yet!

 

 

 

 

The Smartwool items revealed almost no wear and tear after all they have been through.  I wish I could say the same!  For example, the base-layer t-shirt and regular t-shirt sent to me by Smartwool still look brand new, even after improper washing procedures, care, and strenuous use.  I really like the lighter weight socks while walking and running in warmer temperatures, even though they demonstrated greater wear in the top of the toe and some localized areas of the mid-foot and heel area, primarily due to the upper toe box of one pair of shoes I wore and the orthotics I wore, respectively.

My favorite apparel item(s) were the two t-shirts, especially the base-layer t-shirt.  The shirts fit well, were comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and they can withstand an inordinate amount of use and misuse.

For socks, it is a little more complicated to name a favorite sock, due to both seasonality and activity of sock usage.  The lighter weight socks were great for both walking and running during those high 20 and 30 degree Celsius days, whereas the medium weight socks were ideal in cooler temperatures for walking; a big day of running the mountain passes in B.C.; or as those dry pair of socks you put on while you lay in your tent during a storm.

Getting Closer: Hope, British Columbia

Usually, I write my blog posts within the mono-culture of corporate sanctioned tables and chairs of the many McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s locations with free WiFi, electricity (sometimes), and a stable seat; however, today I write this blog post outside a Save-On-Foods on a bright green picnic table in Hope, B.C.  This location is prime, complete with an electrical outlet, free WiFi, and a welcoming picnic table with a view!

IMG_20171012_104318295[1].jpgAbove.  What a view from the picnic table in Hope, B.C.!

There is something magical about this particular spot, or maybe it is the volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) I am breathing in from the cigarette catcher beside this green picnic table?  Regardless, the early morning chill and rain I heard dancing atop of the R.V. this morning has passed, and that mild afternoon temperature has arrived.

While resting our legs in Osoyoos, Michael met a young lady who was painting by the window in a Tim Horton’s across from where we were parked for the day.  After a brief conversation, she joined us in the board game we were playing: Nintendo Monopoly.  The young lady’s name was Anna and she was from Mexico.  Anna was working in a nearby apple orchard as a picker to fund her upcoming two month journey in India.

After the board game was completed, we invited her to join us for dinner later at the R.V.  She agreed.  Somehow a conversation regarding a cheap place to shower began — it has been many days since we last showered — which peaked my interest, especially since it was only a dollar!  After a longer than expected walk to the showers at the R.V. park, we ate a dinner and convinced Anna to run with us for a couple of days after our rest day.

The run out of Osoyoos was uneventful and we made some good time, due to the addition of Anna, who ran a nice 8 km uphill section outside of Princeton, BC.  When we arrived in the small town of Princeton, BC., Anna hitched a ride back to Osoyoos to continue working.

IMG_20171008_180852806Above.  J.C., Anna (front), and Michael walking ahead of us after picking up some groceries in downtown Princeton.

After the rest day in Princeton, I thought it would be a good idea to put a marathon worth of kilometers behind me — a distance of 42.2 km.  The title picture is the starting line of my one man marathon.  I know taking on this sort of distance is not very responsible, especially since I have some more 20 km days ahead of me until Vancouver is reached, but a roll of the dice and everything is fine, sixes, not snake eyes.  My rationale for doing the marathon was because I believe my body is able to buffer against big kilometer days; I have been running  20 and 30 km distances 5 days a week and I have been walking distances of between 25 and 50 km this summer.

 

Above.  The finish line.  What an odd expression!

IMG_20171010_103014026Above.  A river during my run.

IMG_20171011_105052112Above.  Another picture of some watercourse from the R.V. while waiting for J.C. outside of Hope, B.C.

We can all smell Vancouver from here, and everyone is really, really, really anxious to reach the finish line, especially J.C. and Michael who have been at it since April, but we have to make sure that we time our arrival at just the right moment, since J.C’s parents and others are flying in on a scheduled date for the final 5 kilometers — the long awaited finish line in Stanley Park.   Good health, positive spirits, and fun times ahead!

A Distance Milestone Reached in Osoyoos, B.C. By Cours Pour Ta Vie

Title photo taken by J.C. as I was nearing the end of my run up Anarchy Mountain and our entrance into the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia (Michael in foreground).

This isn’t in any chronological order, but I wanted to start at our ending in Osoyoos.

After a rest day in Cranbrook, BC we have been running the hills and passes of Highway 3 to those big, scenic, fall landscapes of the Kootenay’s.  After a few hundred kilometers of running, we have come upon some rest days in Osoyoos, yes rest days.  The weather has been prime for running and the energy level still feels high; however, for J.C. and Michael, 7 months on the road and only 400 km until the end of this gargantuan run can cause one’s energy to be wicked away at times, but these are the moments when you have to draw on your inner strength to move forward.

An exciting life milestone was reached by J.C. on October 4th, 2017: he has run 3850 km, which is the kilometer halfway mark of Canada.  This is a big achievement not only for J.C., but also Michael and everyone that has run with, helped, or given a donation to J.C.’s Cours Pour Ta Vie project.

When I look back at the chance meeting I had with Michael one rainy afternoon outside of North Bay, Ontario, and the privilege of being a small part of this amazing feat by two guy’s from Quebec, and the absolute determination — grit, and the power of comradery by one man to help another achieve his cross-Canada running dream against all odds.  My involvement in this story as it unfolds is a life changing experience and thought provoking.  Without a doubt, their story has been a highlight of my walking odyssey across Canada and towards Anchorage, AK, and even if this is the only and last great story I have to tell during my walk, it is enough.

It was an absolute pleasure to run the last 6 km with J.C. to the 3850 km mark, but we are still not finished running!  This is just a milestone, but one of importance.  After a number of discussions with both J.C. and Michael, and having the pleasure of being allowed into some personal parts of this project, I truly think all the stories from the Cours Pour Ta Vie project demonstrates the power of team work, community, and grit needed in achieving a goal and dream.

IMG_20171004_143041171.jpgAbove.  J.C. and Michael just after the halfway mark was reached.

Honestly, I never started, or expected this walk to be about discovering the many psychological and social aspects required for someone to achieve a cross-country, life changing goal, but I am beginning to uncover and live them.

IMG_20170930_152355697Above.  The scenery while running along the side of the road.

img_20170930_163928952.jpgAbove.  After having our tires checked and changed in Cranbrook that day, J.C. is inspecting a tire with obvious low pressure. IMG_20170930_162841802

Above.  My ‘room’ in the R.V.

IMG_20171001_140733006Above.  As I look out of bedroom window while waiting for my turn to run.

img_20171001_084303441.jpgAbove.  Me making toast in the morning at a gas station in Christina Lake, B.C.

img_20170930_105520984.jpgAbove.  The morning scenery while running.

img_20170930_105427680.jpgAbove.  Driving to the end of another 10 km section along Highway 3.  One person runs, while the others drive ahead in-wait.

IMG_20171002_103329030Above.  To me, the scenery became even more beautiful.

IMG_20171001_102533198Above.  During one of my running sections outside of Greenway, I saw this table with corn for sale, but no one was around to keep an eye on the money!

IMG_20171001_143643824Above.  We camped at B.C.’s small City: Greenway.

img_20171001_143716049.jpgAbove.  The beginning of Greenway, B.C.

IMG_20171004_120409478Above.  The Sasquatch sculpture before entering Osoyoos.

IMG_20171004_121536655Above.  Deep thoughts during a break before the kilometer halfway mark of Canada was reached.

img_20171002_142647860.jpgAbove.  Osoyoos Lake.

img_20171005_094508643.jpgAbove. I fished this whole flat of strawberries out of the dumpster after watching a Sysco delivery truck driver from the R.V. window place this flat in it (8 lbs).  He dropped only 2 or 3 of these containers in the parking lot during a delivery to a restaurant, but ended up throwing out the whole flat!  As expected, all of the strawberries were fine.

img_20171006_150149648.jpgAbove.  Garbage bin strawberry fruit salad!

A visit to one of the estate wineries in Osoyoos during the day, where we tasted many wines and were treated by one of the staff at Adega On 45th Estate Winery to some wine, grapes, cheese, and crackers free of charge!  J.C. was the only wine expert among us!  Michael doesn’t drink, but hung around to watch us and join in on the experience.

IMG_20171005_141417606_HDRAbove.  Me inspecting the grapes.  The volcanic parent material of this soil helps to define the unique flavor spectrum of these grapes.

IMG_20171005_141455241Above.  The winery

IMG_20171005_142050302Above.  J.C. doing this odd thing with his mouth while tasting the wine.

IMG_20171005_145301031Above.  Another photo of me inspecting the oak barrels, which cost a few thousand euro’s each.

img_20171005_154140978.jpgAbove.  Snacks after the wine.

IMG_20171005_154208920Above.  Being cool and eating.  My hunger is without bounds!

img_20171005_145235730.jpgAbove.  Posers.

img_20171006_121803947.jpgAbove.  J.C. and I visited the Osoyoos Desert Centre for a few hours.

img_20171006_121814344.jpgAbove.  The Desert Centre.

IMG_20171006_121948618Above.  Antelope Brush shrub (Purshia Tridentata), a defining species of one of the four most endangered ecosystems in Canada — the Antelope-Brush Ecosystem of the Okanagan Valley.

img_20171006_130044904.jpg

IMG_20171006_130054351Above. Me poking around in the soil and that thin biotic layer at the top of this desert soil that sustains life here!  I’m sorry, but if you don’t know soil, you don’t know jack about how ecosystems function!

Whenever I Stray

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!

Above.  Some band members enjoying a swim at the lake.

Above.  The grounds I camped on.

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.

Walking, Running, and Everything Inbetween

Title photograph by Xavier after our meeting on the side of road a few days walk east of Fort Francis, ON on Highway 11.

I moved back to Calgary on Sept 21, but it was brief; Portia and I headed out to a nice little log cabin in Brisco, BC for a few days to relax and be cool before I headed out to meet with J.C. and Michael to run British Columbia.

Not sure how to start this post off, or what to really talk about, but it is always best to start from the beginning and end at the end.

The last few months of my vagabond lifestyle has been such a mind opening experience, and I have yet to unpack all the thoughts, experiences, and memories of my new walking life. First off, the walk was not what I expected it to be, but really, how was I to know what walking day after day would be like, and how I would be able to handle the lengthy periods of monotony, boredom, loneliness, and the almighty fear of missing out on the ‘normal life’ events that many in my life are players in.  I have no qualms against normalcy — I quite like knowing where I will sleep at night.

One of the learning outcomes of my walking was that you never really realize how adaptable the human body and mind is until you test it and trust it, which I did to some extent.  The only emotion or feeling I still have little control over is fear and anxiety. These emotions are chiefly centered on the unknown and unmitigable circumstances that are likely to present themselves over time, such as apex predators (bears and wolves), and the hundreds of vehicles that whiz past me at > 100 km/h.

Although vehicle vs. human conflicts pose a great danger if you were to look at historical occurrences of fatal human conflicts with bears and wolves – fatal bee stings and stray dog attacks encounters numbers are surprisingly greater (I will post a citation of a statistical summary later).  However grounded in hard facts and numbers one can be, I occasionally wonder about what lurked around my tent as I slept, or the reason I woke up in the middle of the night some days and how close a conflict might have been!  Maybe fear and anxiety will always be in my life like blisters on my foot and Microsoft updates, but just maybe, this is just a primal emotions of my brain’s overactive amygdala, which can be beneficial at times to keep me on my blistered toes.

Even though this walk was not what I expected it be, I did not expect that this walk would redefine many items on that check-list of life we all have, and how it has had an indelible mark on how I view the world and people around me.  I have also no allusions about my being on the road and the impacts this choice will have on that complex web that is life, but I am going to put my faith that everything will fall into place, like it always has throughout my life.  In the meantime, I look forward to enjoying the pleasure and pain of this multi-week running task I have decided to take on to help some friends finish their cross country run, and to support a cause they are running for: increasing the awareness that being active has resounding benefits to the well-being of one’s life!

Anyways, when I finish this run there will be many months (6 to 7 months) of being in a state of relative physical stillness while in Calgary for the winter.

From the Couch to 50 Kilometers in a Few Days

The beginning of my running with J.C. and Michael was rough on my body, specifically my right knee, but somehow the aches and pains have subsided.  The first two days of running was maybe a little excessive: more than 50 km of running in 2 days; however foolish this was, a rest day was scheduled on day 3 for us.  Regardless, I cannot express how thankful I am for that rest day, since a slow transition into a consistent running schedule takes time to adapt to, which I have little of.  As expected, when I asked J.C. and Michael how they felt on this rest day their reply was simple: they were fine, indeed, but they have been at this running gig since March 11th!

I think back to the last time I met up with J.C. and Michael outside of North Bay, ON, and the rest day I spent with them; we visited a plastics manufacturing business that J.C’s dad works for in Quebec, and we all swam in Lake Nipissing, ON on a warm summer afternoon.  Today’s rest day was much different: we slept in and squatted in a Starbucks inside the city of Cranbrook, BC; working on our cellphones and computers in a valley cradled by the Rocky Mountain’s of British Columbia.

The rest day allowed us to make a nice tasty vegan dinner, since we only eat vegan during the run.  Below is the final master piece: a Szechuan Tempeh (Soy instead) with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce that we adapted with odds in ends that were hanging around in the kitchen.


Above.  Michael in a food moment.

Instead of hanging out in the R.V, or sitting in Starbucks, we decided to try our hand at bowling.  During the three games we managed to throw some strikes, spares, and the hilarious all out misses.
Above.  J.C. and Michael
img_20170929_192241549-e1506982884945.jpgAbove.  Michael and the winning throw.

 

 

Running British Columbia

I have now joined J.C. and Michael of Course Pour Ta Vie to run across B.C., and will now live in an R.V. for a few weeks as we traverse across this beautiful province to the end in Vancouver.

Meeting up with J.C. and Michael was an exhausting exercise, which included a 20 hr journey from Calgary to Invermere.  The bus ride was nice enough, but the guy smoking in front of me during the bus ride, and the little sleep was my least favorite part of this journey, however, the 11 hr layover in Cranbook was a head scratcher.  During the layover I ended up in a McDonald’s for a few hours to redeem some free coffee cards I had from all the stickers I collected from all the coffee cups I found on the side of the road during my walk, but I was exhausted and needed to lay down for a few hours to sleep, but you can’t sleep properly in a McDonalds without being harassed, so off I went in search of a place to lay down at.  After an hour of walking along a road and pathway, I found a nice spruce forest stand to lay down in for a wonderful 2 hr recharge nap.

When I got up from my forest nap I wandered around for a little in town, ate some snacks I brought with me, then boarded a large Mercedes van with three other passengers to Invermere, finally!  To my surprise, J.C. and Michael were staying at somebody’s house in Invermere they knew from Quebec, but the best part was arriving just in time for a delicious vegan dinner Michael had crafted – Michael is such a great cook of healthy meals.  Thank you Julie and Bruno for hosting  us and the comfortable bed you setup for me on the floor — the foam pad on the floor was very comfortable.

IMG_2935Above. Julie, Bruno-Pierre (back), and Me, Michael, and J.C. posing .

After a great night of eating, catching up, and some hilarious singing, I quickly feel into a deep sleep to start my new task of running 20 km each day as part of team Cours Pour Ta Vie.  Let see if this walker can run!

So far, the first day of running started with the tread on one of the back tires of the R.V. coming off as we were travelling west on Highway 3 towards Cranbrook (title photo).  We ended up getting some help, but further repairs to the R.V. are needed in Cranbrook — ball joints, tie rods, and an alignment, so we wait in Cranbrook until the repair is done tomorrow afternoon.  Thankfully we were still able to get our kilometers after the tire was replaced.

My first day of running was a foolish 30 km day, but I am not going to do that again; I have 3 weeks of running ahead of me and cannot do many 30 km days if I want to be injury free.

The End of A Beginning

Ego and reality can sometimes get in the way, but it is even harder when you have to post it online for all to read; nonetheless, I still like using this blog as a means to document the lions share of this walking odyssey.  It is interesting how in the beginning I wanted to start walking and reach the finish as quickly as possible versus today, where I rarely think about finishing as the kilometers pass underfoot, and my thoughts are of the great people I will meet and the interesting sights and experiences I have had and will continue to experience in the future.

The decision to end the first year of my walk on September 5th, 2017 was difficult; however, the logistics of getting back to Winnipeg to catch my flight as I start walking along highway 3 was filled with too many unknowns, and would of have had to walk many unneeded kilometers to get to a place where I would be able to catch a previously booked flight 10 days later.  The bright side of this premature stoppage is that Winnipeg will be an easy location to resume the walk next year!

The temporal slack in my schedule now gives me some time to figure out the what, when, and how’s for my eventual transition back into Calgary, which is going to be a true test of the patience and understanding I have strengthened during this trip.  This additional time will also allow me to do a little half ass physical preparation before my planned meetup with J.C. and Michael of Cours Pour Ta Vie in B.C. on October 1st, since I will be running for approximately 3 weeks on the last leg of their cross country run.

Honestly, the last two days before I arrived in Winnipeg have been nothing short of hilarious, where I have had to deal with the onslaught of physical pain and the most challenging weather to-date.  It all began after I left Daryl’s house, which was such a great encounter, but it quickly spun out of my control because of a nagging lower leg and ankle strain, which caused me to stop and address the problem.  My experience with injuries during this walk is that when I feel the beginning of an injury — not the normal aches and pains that subside after a good nights rest — it is best to stop early and address.  Unfortunately, this time I can’t stop for a couple of days, since I must be in Winnipeg to catch; my plan to have an easy last few days of walking is ruined, but that is what happens when you plan on having things go your way, I guess.

After a quick stop on the side of the road, I ended up limping down the first side road off the Trans-Canada Highway where it transitions from a forest dominated landscape to the agricultural and prairie landscape I imagined Manitoba to be.  Thankfully at the end of this gravelly side road was the small town of St. Anne, MB, where I was able to buy a bag of ice and some Zip-lock bags to ice my ankle and lower shin.

After a short walk from the local grocery store, I found a picnic table at the back of an elementary school, where I was able to lay on the ground and elevate my ankle/shin on while I was icing it.  A couple hours of icing, along with taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), the swelling and pain was temporarily relieved; however, I didn’t cover the kilometers I originally planned, so now I have to cover almost 50 km on the last day to make it to the location in Winnipeg I want to stop at.

Above.  The majestic church in St. Anne, MB.

During my stay St. Anne had a festival or something going on beside the school, so there was lots of activity and to my surprise that night, a world class fireworks show, which I enjoyed while laying in my tent at the back corner of the schools yard (title image).

A good nights sleep and an NSAID must of helped me out; my ankle issues were almost absent when I woke in the morning.  After a few rotations of my rusty ankle, some instant oatmeal, and off I went to do my 40+ km day.

That morning of walking went well, but the weather slowly transitioned in the afternoon from annoying to annoyingly scary.  First, the wind picked up, but it was a very strong and constant head wind, with gusts of wind that pushed me like an angry bully in the school yard.  After a few hours of that incessent push from the wind, I walked into some dark clouds; however, some 20 km of walking brought me to a location of refuge: a small wooden bridge, where I could crawl under to cook some lunch, which will fuel the next half of this wonderful last day.

Even though the weather was terrible and it was hard going, I reveled in this moment, since I knew that after today all was going to change.

Above. The wooden bridge I took refuge under to get away from the driving head winds to cook some lunch.

The last geographic point of interest I will walk across this year was the Longitudinal Centre of Canada.

After lunch the clouds got darker, and the rain and hail came down upon my head.  My only option for today was to continue walking and hope the weather passes, which it did, but in the meantime I took the abuse for a few more hours, with the passing thunder and eventual lightening being the lowest point of the day!  As the landscape is now , where you can’t take cover from the wind, rain, or lightening you really feel helpless and naked.  At one point I yelled “Is that all you got”.

Hours of abuse later, I walked into sunshine and happiness; Winnipeg was now within sight and a new journey is on the horizon for me.

Above. The ending location for 2017.  I overshot where I am actually going to start next year, but this spot gives me options for next year.

A Final Act of Kindness

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!  

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