It has been a very memorable battle with the Trans-Canadian Highway since Deep River.
I arrived in Sudbury, Ontario on May 14th after a seven day, 183 mile stroll down the Can-Can. For the first time on the trip, I sustained a marathon pace (26.2 miles per day) for a week.
Mattawa, with a population of 2,400, was the first significant town I would walk through on the way to Sudbury. It was a two day, 63 mile walk from my starting point. There were two gas stations in the first 25 miles, then a whole lot of nothing for 38 miles, aside from a few houses and signs warning me of moose.
The highway continued to follow the Ottawa River, winding through mixed pine, birch, and maple forests, over pristine creeks, and past lakes that still had chunks of ice floating towards shore.
I made a new friend 10 miles outside Deep River – a man named Jeff, who was walking from Ottawa to Mattawa with his dog Marley. I came across Jeff at a scenic overlook near one of the hydroelectric dams on the river.
Jeff had some choice words about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s immigration policies that I’m not comfortable repeating. Ultimately he just wanted to get away from politics in the capital city so he was walking to Mattawa to camp on Crown Land (the Canadian equivalent of BLM land) for a few weeks. It was pretty obvious he was excited to talk to someone. I was, too.
I ended my first day of the week in Bisset Creek, a town (if you could call it that!) 30 miles from Deep River. I camped in the woods just off the highway and made my first attempt at hanging a bear bag. My fellow Boy Scouts or any avid outdoorsman would laugh at the result, so I would rather not share the photo! On the bright side, PJ, my food bag, and I survived the night! I will get better at those moving forward.
The following day was a warm, windy, 33 mile walk to Mattawa. The miles drug on by the end of the day, but I had a host lined up for the night. The promise of a shower and a hot dinner fueled my steps.
Daisy, my host in Mattawa, had a chicken and vegetable dinner ready when I arrived at her house. She also has two black labs, Toby and Raven, that reminded me of Tillman, the family lab back home. Toby loved me, but Raven wouldn’t stop barking and circling me. I blamed it on PJ.
I left Mattawa early the following morning and had a shorter 21 mile day ahead. Daisy put me in touch with a friend of hers named Tammy down the road.
I spent the first few hours of the morning at a riverfront park near the confluence of the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers. Low clouds and bluffs bordering the water made for a picturesque writing spot.
I checked the weather forecast (it had rained overnight) before I left town and thought I was in the clear.
Instead, five miles outside of town, I started walking through a chilly, steady mist that lasted for three hours. None of the precipitation showed up on the dopler radar app I WAS using. Fortunately it has been dry since and I haven’t had to experiment with my new weather app yet.
I arrived at Tammy’s beautiful home in the early evening. She greeted me with a welcoming smile. Her lovable boxer named Rider warmed up to me right away. She fixed salmon and salad for dinner. I was amazed to be eating salmon for the second time in five days (my host Brian in Deep River cooked salmon, too)! I didn’t eat this well when I had a fully functioning kitchen back home!
I arrived in North Bay, a city of 50,000 people situated on the north shore of Lake Nipissing, the following afternoon. I took a nap at a lakeside park and decided to walk for another few hours. My initial plan was to spend the night in town, but I really just felt like walking!
I ended the day at a C-Store, appropriately named “How Convenient.” It was a stones throw away from the highway, so it truly was convenient. The clerk, also named Tammy, gave me permission to camp there for the night.
After my tent was set up, a local man named Mike, who was running errands and cruising down the highway on an electric bike, saw me and came over to say hello. We chatted for a bit and he gave me some valuable bear advice.
“I recommend you move your tent over next to the building,” he told me. I had pitched on a springy, lush patch of grass. “The bears are just coming out of hibernation, and it has been a long winter…really been winter since November. They eat grass like this to wake up their stomachs before eating more meat. Over there, under the light, they won’t bother you.”
I heeded Mike’s advice. After speaking with him for a few minutes, and hearing him tell stories of bear encounters he had in the bush, I figured he was right. I moved next to the building after he left, enjoying another wildlife free night.
I camped next to another gas station in Verner the follwing night before a difficult final 45 miles to Sudbury.
The 30 miles I logged on Mother’s Day proved to be the most challenging day of my walk so far.
It was hot, windy, and road crews had recently started grading the highway shoulder (I would give them a C- walkability wise). As a safety measure, crews will put down a mixture of rock and dirt and level it with the highway asphault. The problem was it hadn’t been completely leveled, or packed down yet, so pushing PJ over the rocks on the shoulder and through the loose dirt was a challenging process. High traffic levels kept me off the pavement. Progress was slow. I found myself frustratingly cursing at rocks. Swearing at inadimate objects is typically a sign I need a break from the road!
My day ended with a camping spot behind a utility building off the highway. I was exhausted. Fortunately , Sudbury was only 14 miles away the next morning, and I was able to follow quieter residential streets into town.
My host in Sudbury has been well worth the challenging walk. Lesley, her husband Paul, and their two boys, Matt and Griffin, have taken me in and shown me a lot of love! Lesley made baked chicken, quinoa, and spinach salad for dinner…And had two liters of chocolate milk to wash it all down. The family has opened their home – and their fridge – to me. It has been a walker’s paradise.
This morning I walked with her to work (she is an instructor at a hair style academy) and I was able to speak to her class about my walk, chasing things we are passionate about, and accomploshing goals, one step at a time. One of the students named Zach even gave me a great trim and freshened up my gnarly “road hair.”
I will be leaving Sudbury May 16th. The Sault (pronounced Sooh) as the locals say, is my next destination on the Can-Can….180 miles and six or seven days away. I am hoping for smoother shoulders!
Days – 34
Miles – 693
Peanut Butter Jars – 21
Roadside Change – $2.86. I found a toonie (Canadian term for a 2 dollar coin)!
Favorite roadside find(s) – Three signs – One saying “student driver,” one saying “slow down,” and one Ontario license plate. I would like to know how that student driver lost their sign!
Favorite three pictures –
A huge thank you to Brian of Deep River, Daisy, Tammy, “How Convenient” Tammy, the Morin family, and others who were instrumental in finding me hosts this last week! You all are wonderful and I am so grateful!
Walk on y’all!