Monday, August 2nd, 2010
I noticed in the Hope visitors guide that there seemed to be a trail leading south from the town avoiding the clogged traffic on Highway Number 1 West.
“It is a dirt road through the Skagit Valley Provincial Park”, the town guide told me. “Just three km’s west, then 37 km’s to the park entrance. In a short 23 km’s more you are at the U.S. border”
Off I went walking on the lonely dirt road. It was fun but I was also concerned about the wild life. I kept my bear spray close and once again loaded the bear blaster. For a day and a half it was up and down hills along the loose gravel road. Rainbow trout anglers sped by in high powered pickup trucks kicking up big clouds of dust stifling my breathing. I stop often to remove stones from my shoes being careful not to bend too quickly straining my weary muscles.
Then at 7:30 PM, Ross Lake sparkling in the distance. A short walk later a small sign welcomes travelers with the simple words “International Border”. I walk into the woods and the State of Washington. I take pleasure in remembering that I have now walked more than 2500 miles since this quest began a few summers ago. I smile briefly until the mosquitoes swarm, bite and nibble voraciously enough to send me home to Scarsdale.
Saturday, July 31st, 2010
It is a hard climb out of Boston Bar. Up again, walking into the Cascade Mountains. Today is a holiday, B.C. Day they call it. Traffic is light at first. The narrow road shoulder still frightens me. The tunnels hewn through the mountain require caution. I stop to push the bicycle warning light which signals cars and trucks that a bike is in the tunnel. I wonder if drivers are angered by the sight of a lonely race walker. I am elated to have an elevated walk way through the tunnel even if it is only twelve inches wide.
Clouds aid my long, fast, morning. Then it is noon and I am tired. The fatigue heightens as I push my way up still another part of the massive mountain. [OK, I am not perfect. I stop like a normal tourist and take a brief ride on the Hell’s Gate tram. It is exhilarating, motivating me to keep walking] I reach Hope. It has been my target destination for several days. I know the end of this very long race walk is near!
Friday, July 30th, 2010
The Tompson and Fraser canyons will always be dear to my heart. Well, at least I will remember them. They roll up, up, and more up then pleasingly for a much shorter time down, Help! The roadway through the canyons always seems to shoot its steepest grade at me at the exact moment the sun reaches its zenith at high noon. “Water”, I cry to myself as the temperature reaches 90 degrees. As I drink I realize that the water seems nearing boiling as it has been sitting in my fanny pack. Oh well, I push on thinking there will be a cold glass of chardonnay somewhere on the other side of the mountain.
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
The rushing, raging, thundering Tompson River glistens to my left, hundreds of feet off of a sheer cliff. High above, along a tree barren mountain slope, a long, long freight train trudges its way around the great river. Trucks, giant motor homes, and cars race by me, too close for comfort, on the near shoulder less highway.
Up I march again enduring the steep climbs and sun. I carry extra water but by the time there is a downhill the water bottle is dry. Yet the beauty, the elegance, the sheer wonderness of this long canyon makes me pray to God in thanksgiving for having the opportunity to race walk here.
Friday, July 23rd, 2010
OK, I do meet a lot of people along the road. They are a real treat. Each is unique pleasingly breaking up long days walking on the road. As the sun descends, the trucks go to sleep, the tourists’ rest, as hunger begins to talk to me and as the body says “take a rest for God’s sake!” I seek refuge. I look for a familiar experience. I wish, in a way, I were somewhere else. That’s when I call home and speak to the love of my life, Doris.
Thursday, July 22nd, 2010
As I race walk along the lonely narrow by ways of British Columbia during the day, and often at night, my thoughts gravitate to bears. There are 120,000 bears in this Province. I have encountered handfuls of their relatives face to face. The meetings are inevitable as you constantly walk through woods, around isolated lakes, up mountain passes and across great rivers which would make New York’s East and Hudson Rivers cry with envy.
Then there are the Grizzlies. I have only met two of their 10,000 brothers. Each greeting has been unforgettable. They leap, always unexpectedly, causing their 400 pound frames to glide just a few feet from your frail wobbling body like a menacing prehistoric bird. It occurs just at those moments when I am dreaming of both a big hug and a cold chardonnay back in Scarsdale.
But it is the bears constant companions, at least for the last several thousand years, which are creating the most lasting impressions. We have come to call these associates of the bear “men”. And these folks may not be your typical first nation aboriginal.
He was six feet tall, heavy set, dirty and a native with a long history in these parts. “I am really tired, been out there 16 hours”, he says in a raspy low barely hearable voice. “Got to go back to the mine. Its gold I’m after,” he confides.
Grizzlies are the sworn enemies of the black bear. Men have their differences too.
He was shorter, whiter, just as chubby and wore Texas style cowboy boots. “There are two other gold and copper mines back at Galore Creek. Them Indians got all the contracts”, he laments. Another weary eyed long distance trucker angrily adds his perspective. “Two Indians in a pick-up pulled right in front of me at Burns Lake. “You’re standing on my land”, the Indian tells me”.”I was here fifty years before you was born I told him. Lucky we didn’t start shooten”
Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
Williams Lake [named after an aboriginal chief William] is as cowboy as Montana. Tall hats, horses, muddy knee high boots, cattle, country music, and more horses define the soul of the town. Locals pride their ranching and logging traditions. Large pulp mills take in freshly cut lengthy oversized logs from giant trucks which buzz highway 97 day and night. Dark smoke plumes billow constantly from the receiving factories seemingly poisoning the otherwise beautiful, but dry, countryside.
Now on day 29 of this stage of my Dream Walk having walked more than 600 miles, I am a little tired. I start walking at 6 AM and go all day until the fatigue sets in. I have a cooler filled with iced water bottles. They don’t help during the last most difficult two hours. I am reminded of the cowboy at McNesse Lake “Hey partner, there was a lot of things they didn’t tell me when I signed on for this outfit”
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
I always think back to all that my Dad taught me on the anniversary of his birthday, July 20th. What a man, what a father, what a brother committed to a life time of helping his sisters. “It is not what you make, it is what you save”, he told me a thousand times. Here I am walking a wondrous adventure enjoying the dear fruits of his sage advice.
Monday, July 19th, 2010
Highway 97, a scenic road, is deafly busy. Big trucks, big RV’s, big supercharged pickup trucks and big, big noise make the walking uncomfortable. The speeding scares me. I always look for a parallel road to get me off of the highway, and give me peace.
Finally, today I found that parallel route, the Kersey road. Farms, horses, dilapidated buildings but no trucks. It is exhilarating.
And besides at the end of the Kersey I meet ranched Doug Fawcett. “The cattle business is tough. Can’t make money with what beef prices are today”, he said. “We haven’t had rain. I know you haven’t seen much hay during your walk along the road. My wife is ill so we put our ranch and 50 acres up for sale. We want to by RV and travel. We’ll go to Williams Lake [40 miles away], camp, and stay three weeks. We never go far from home”
“On this road you should be wearing a reflector vest”, he cautioned. I had made another friend.
Friday, July 16th, 2010
Elton John is in Prince George for a concert. Fans are everywhere. In a local restaurant concert goers gobble their food in anticipation of the big event. I feel out of place dressed in my one pair of dress shorts and my best, soiled, walking shoes. I am grateful that on my rest day I had also taken the time to get a haircut. The concert is a success. How old is Elton anyway?