I entered the small road side store and wild life exhibit. Bears, wolves, sheep, elk, scores of birds and even fish had found their way under the resident taxidermist’s scalpel. The display was realistic. If visited at night the beasts in this little spot would have terrified an old city slicker like me. There were no other visitors. Briefly I wondered if I would be allowed to leave.
An older gentleman dressed completely in black suddenly emerged from behind a long black velvet curtain. The fedora he wore was too big and drooped over one of his ears. I didn’t know he was watching me until he spoke. “I saw your car parked on the side of the road. It’s been there for two and a half hours” He was exactly right that is how long I had been walking. “You shouldn’t be out there alone. There are lots of bears and wolves around here!”
I started to explain that I wasn’t walking in the woods but along the road when he interrupted. “You have bear spray?” In fact on this morning I had been careless and left the spray in my vehicle.
He was unimpressed when I mentioned that I was heading to Key West, Florida. “Let us know if you get into any trouble”, he said as I left this strange museum which will forever haunt my memory.
Again I concluded that the wonderful, beautiful, romantic Yukon can be a dangerous place for certain fools, perhaps like me, even if we have spent a lifetime wandering the most unknown corners of the world. With a little more paranoia, yet equal determination, I took a long swig from my water bottle and race walked, alone once again, in to the rising morning sun.
A few hours later, equally unafraid, a long distance bicycler sped toward me as he descended a long hill. My sunglasses were dirty from the morning’s perspiration. I didn’t realize how close he was until a puff of wind slid across my cheek as he whizzed by me. Then a second biker approached slowly and cautiously. When he stopped in front of me I noticed his white goatee.
“Can I help you”, he said.
I was startled by this neighborly offer from an older man on a bicycle particularly since we were both more than 50 miles from any town. “I’m walking from Alaska” I said confidently to help ease his concern. “Oh, I heard of you. Good Luck!” he exclaimed. We shook hands just before he disappeared around a bend on this now not so lonely road.
I reflected that word must have passed among these rugged bicyclists that a strange, maybe tough, walker was right with them in their incredible journey. It was then that I felt the pain of a pinched nerve neuroma in my left foot