So long ‘Sota…Hello Dakota!

The walk out of Grand Rapids, Minnesota was filled with a handful of fun interactions that only added to the fond memories I will always have of the town.

I swung by KAXE Community Radio and did a 15 minute live interview, which was a little intimidating, but a ton of fun. I had to make sure I didn’t use any “road language,” because mine can get a little vulgar depending on the circumstances.

Across the street from the station, I visited with Eric (who had set up the interview), his wife Laura, co-worker Lara, and Eric’s sister, Katy. The group works at a CPA Firm their family owns and operates. I didn’t know accounting could be so fun, considering it was always my least favorite class in Business School.

The group introduced me to “Donut Diplomacy.” It is a regular tradition where they settle in-house squabbles or simply bond over a box of donuts. I had my first ever banana donut, which is a banana shaped donut with banana flavored frosting on top. Aparently they are a “thing” in Grand Rapids. Understandably so. It was delicious. We shared a lot of stories and a lot of laughs.

The “Donut Diplomacy” group. Thank you all for the great memories!

I left town around noon and began the three day, 70 mile trek to Bemijdi. The majority of the stretch passed through Leech Lake Indian Reservation and Chippewa National Forest. I camped next to a gas station in Ball Club, then stealth camped off a bike path outside Cass Lake the following night.

My favorite encounter on the reservation was with Chief Jay and his wife. We visited for 45 minutes. The Chief ended up giving me an eagle feather for good luck, a bouquet of plants that included sweet grass, sage, and cedar, and a hand-made leather pouch filled with tobacco. It is customary to spread a little tobacco on a piece of land as a gesture of appreciation. Chief Jay also broke off some pieces of the cedar, knelt down, and dropped them into my shoes to protect my feet. I was expecting the cedar needles to itch, but they didn’t. And my feet have been feeling great ever since! Thank you Chief Jay!

I arrived in Bemijdi on Sunday, June 24th, and already had a host lined up. Mike and Karen Forbes had agreed to put me up for the night after hearing about my walk when I arrived in Grand Rapids. And what a night we had! Mike made spaghetti for dinner and we visited around the table like old friends. The Forbes are an intriguing couple. They are both active in the outdoors and enjoy biking, camping, hiking, kayaking, and fishing (though I didn’t have much advice to offer on the kayaking or fishing fronts). The couple even lived in a teepee for two years, which is no small feat in Northern Minnesota!

They also have chickens and bees that live on the property. Karen asked me if I wanted to collect eggs for breakfast. I reluctantly agreed. I have a phobia of small spaces and domesticated/city birds, so I was nervous. It took five minutes longer than it should have, but I eventually made it into the chicken coop and retrieved six eggs while one rooster and seven hens watched me closely with their beady little eyes. Karen gave me a huge hug when I emerged, eggs in hand. She described the spectacle as “adorable.” I am glad no one else witnessed it. Karen also showed me her beehive and let me sample some “home grown honey.” I don’t have any issues with bees so when she opened the hive, I leaned in to take a closer look!

Mike, Karen, and their two dogs, Greta (right), and Reyna (left). Unfortunately our family had to put down our 13 year old black lab/sheperd mix, Tillman, a week before. It was nice to have some dog therapy. Both of their hounds are German Shepherds. Thank you for your hospitality, Mike and Karen!

After leaving Bemijdi I was four days and 115 miles from the North Dakota border. I always have a little pep in my step before reaching a state line.

50 miles west of Bemijdi, I emerged from the forest and arrived on the Minnesota prairie, complete with sugar beet farms, corn fields, and a few national wildlife refuges.

After walking through forested areas for the majority of my walk, being able to see 5, 10, or 15 miles into the distance was refreshing. I have always loved ths wide open spaces of the plains! After camping in city parks in McIntosh and Crookston, I began my final push to the Grand Forks, North Dakota area.

About 12 miles from town I anxiously watched a thunderstorm form on the horizon. There was only a 30 percent chance of rain that afternoon, so I played the odds when I left under sunny morning skies. The storm ahead grew and dark, menacing clouds closed in on me. I saw a sign for a rest area, two miles away, and started running. Five minutes into our clumsy run, a red pickup pulled over. “There is hail headed this way,” the man told me.

I joked in my Rapids radio interview that “PJ is not a jogger,” and “Why would I ruin a good walk by running?” In a scenario where hail is involved, PJ and I become avid runners. The ominous and sinister clouds swirled overhead. I eyed the small clump of trees that surrounded the rest area, in addition to a farm house that was a quarter mile south of the road. If it started raining or hailing, I would leave PJ on the roadside and make a mad dash for the house. Somehow, it never did. The storm missed us by a half-mile.

Looking back at the storm after it had safely passed. I could see the wall of water, and probably hail, a half-mile north of the road.

By the time we reached the rest stop it was obvious we were in the clear. I stopped, turned around, and was in awe of the spectacle I just witnessed. I dropped to my knees and prayed, right in the long grass off the road shoulder, thanking God for his protection. My whole body continued shaking for some time.

After the frightening thunderstorm debacle, I was anxious to get to Red River Recreation Area, where I planned on camping for the night. Unfortunately more severe storms were expected overnight.

It was a quiet night at the campground until 4 AM, when my phone started buzzing, alarming me of a severe thunderstorm warning for the area. I threw on my flip-flops and hustled to the campground shelter and waited out the storm. The alert said 60 mile per hour winds and hail up to an inch in diameter were possible with the storm. Hail that size would surely shred my tent and PJ. The storm pushed through town with an incredible lightning display, torrential rain, and wind, but no hail. I was grateful PJ lived to roll another day considering the weather of the previous 24 hours!

Within 20 minutes of resuming my walk on June 29th, we crossed the Red River and arrived in North Dakota, the eighth state/province of the trek. Minnesota had certainly gone out with a boom!

Beard today, gone tomorrow! I decided to ditch my beard at the Minnesota/North Dakota border. My face lettuce was getting too scraggly and hot, so I decided to start the second half of my walk with a clean look. It felt good to see my chin again!

PJ and I spent the morning wandering around downtown Grand Forks and the University of North Dakota’s campus. The UND Fighting Hawks (formerly known as the UND Fighting Sioux) have a gorgeous campus.

I really enjoyed the city. It reminded me of Fort Collins, Colorado, where I graduated from college. Massive trees lined the residential streets, it was very pedestrian and cyclist friendly, and had a very laid back, friendly vibe.

Despite a 4 PM departure from Wal-Mart on the west side of town, we managed to walk another 13 miles to Emerado, where I set up camp behind a gas station.

Our walk the folowing morning began just before 7. I hoped to arrive in Michigan, 39 miles down the road, by nightfall.

My first full day in North Dakota went relatively smoothly. I am expecting the wind to be my biggest opponent across the Peace Garden State. The terrain has been flat and there are very few trees, so there is nothing to stop the wind from howling!

Clear, big blue skies over beet, soybean, corn, and canola fields were around every corner. A surprising number of wetland areas off the highway provided habitats for migratory birds. It was nice to have consistent bird chirping to accompany sounds from the wind and passing cars.

One of the roadside ponds near the tiny town of Petersburg, North Dakota.

PJ and I arrived in Michigan with daylight to spare, covering 39 miles in just over 13 hours. The walk from Grand Rapids to Michigan totaled 240 miles and took nine days.

We will be taking a rest day in the quiet and friendly town before continuing west to Devil’s Lake, Minot, and Williston druing our next walking stretch.

In total, I will have slept in Michigan for four nights during my walk! Two nights in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and two nights in Michigan, North Dakota! I even have dinner plans with a friendly couple, Don and Laurie, who own the oldest house in town (built in 1901).

Trip Stats –

Days – 81

Miles – 1,808.5

Peanut Butter Jars – 56

Roadside Change – $5.39

Favorite Roadside Find – A bungee cord. I found it between Grand Forks and Michigan. I was able to use it to bungee down my solar panel on top of PJ so it won’t blow back in my face when a semi-truck passes and sends a gust of wind my way.

Favorite Three Pictures –

Thunderheads and ominous skies to the east after these supercells passed just north of U.S. 2.

Polkadots in Grand Forks, North Dakota. This is high on the list of the most unique houses I have seen on my walk! I nicknamed her the Home of ‘Dipp’n Dots .

Yellow and green canola fields in the North Dakota countryside.

PJ has gone through his first pair of “shoes” on the walk (though I have still only disposed of one pair for myself)! I put fresh new tires on my buggy this morning.

We are ready to continue our windy two-step down U.S. 2! We will tackle any and all obstacles that are blown our way!

Walk on!

Land O’Lakes

From Wayne and Marie Ferguson’s house, the U.S. – Canada border was a mere 36 miles away. I left Thunder Bay on June 12th and began the last leg of my trek through Ontario. Highway 61 weaved through farm and ranchland and was surrounded by rocky hills with flat tops. They reminded me of mesa country in the West, but with lush vegetation.

There was very little traffic (and no 18 wheelers!) to go with a massive shoulder clear through to the border. It made for a peaceful final stretch in Ontario.

I arrived at customs the following afternoon. In total, I walked 1,115 miles in Canada. 1,000 of those were in Ontario. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with America’s northern neighbor, but I was excited to arrive in Minnesota!

Getting back into the states was a breeze. The only item I was bringing back with me I was worried about getting across the border was a “bear stick” Marie had bought for me. The stick was made by a craftsman in Thunder Bay. It looks and functions like a normal walking stick, but the handle can be removed, which exposes an eight inch spear. It can be used as a weapon against a bear in a worst case scenario….if yelling and bear spray don’t work! I was worried it could be considered a “concealed weapon” or something, since the spear is hidden.

When the border agent asked me if I had any weapons, I told him about the stick. He interrupted me and simply said “That’s a good thing to have. Lots of bears around this area.” He moved along to his next question.

It was a painless border crossing. With my steps across the Pigeon River and a successful pass through customs, I had officially arrived back in the U.S., in the Central Time Zone, and in Minnesota. I achieved three milestones in a matter of minutes! I was happily back in the land of miles, gallons, pounds, and 100 deet bug spray, which wasn’t available in Canada for “health reasons.”

After taking several ceremonial selfies next to the “Welcome to Minnesota” sign, I began my 400 mile walk through the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

I was greeted with some great Minnesotan generosity within a few miles of crossing into the state. A man named Steven, who was visiting the “North Shore” with his kids, pulled over to visit with me. He wished me good luck as I began the mile long climb up Mount Josephine. Near the summit, Steven came back with a care package that included an antioxidant drink, a bag of almonds, a pouch of jerkey, a can of bug spray, and a tin of Altoids. “I bet nobody has given you Altoids yet!” Steven joked. He was right. I hope it wasn’t a subtle hint that I hadn’t been using enough toothpaste!

There were several breathtaking views of Lake Superior from the summit of Mount Josephine before the highway descended into Grand Portage.

I never grew tired of the incredible views of Lake Superior during my 24 day, 550 mile walk around the lake!

It took 1,355 miles, but I finally had my first brush with law enforcement as I made my way into Grand Portage. The town is on a reservation, and one of the Tribal Police Officers pulled his vehicle over to talk with me. I gave him my usual walking spiel before he issued me a stern warning.

“It is against our laws for someone to camp on reservation land, unless it’s at the marina campground. The res continues for another 10 miles outside of town. And since I have warned you, if you do camp in the woods and we catch you, we will arrest you for trespassing. Wouldn’t want to ruin your trip.”

I forced a smile and thanked him for the warning. I would either need to camp in town or walk 10 more miles off the reservation (though some would argue I’m already “off the reservation” considering this walk I’m on). I had already walked 25 miles on the day.

As I approached the campground, I met Anthony and Cecilia. The couple worked at the marina and had just finished their shift for the day. Luckily, they were able to set up a free site for me for the night, which made my decision very easy! I thanked the couple and relaxed at the campground for the rest of the evening. I visited with some other campers and nursed my feet, which had been “firing up,” as I like to say, over the last few days. Unfortunately, my right foot was not alright. I had a few blisters on the sole of the foot, one on the big toe, and a strange rash around the toes. My left foot was great, though. I took some benadryl when bed time rolled around, hoping the red bumps were just an allergic reaction to something (maybe remnants from my errant shot of bear spray a week earlier?).

I had crystal clear weather the following day for the 35 mile walk to Grand Marais. To my surprise, my feet felt pretty good. Julian, a man I camped next to at the campground in Grand Portage, was on an out-and-back cycling trip from the Twin Cities to the Canadian border. The weather was supposed to get nasty for a few days and he decided to wait it out at the campground in Grand Marais. He invited me to camp with him for the night, which allowed me to walk into town as daylight faded without having to worry about where I would sleep.

Julian and our travel companions at the campground in Grand Marais. I truly enjoyed his company. Thank you for hosting me, Julian!

Like the weatherman predicted, some pretty intense storms rolled through in the early morning hours. I stayed in my tent until the rain, thunder, and lightning stopped. There was a high probability of rain off and on for the next three days.

Julian invited me to stay at his campground as long as I wanted, but ultimately I said “To hell with it. I’m going to walk.” I psyched myself up for a potentially very wet few days.

On the way out of Grand Marais I was able to do an interview with WTIP Community Radio in their studio, conveniently located right off the highway. It led to some great connections down the road.

After 65 days on the road, I believe that I am a great example of a person with a “face for radio!”

Amazingly, the rain spared me for the rest of the day. Dark clouds were visible to my south and east throughout the day. The day before, the lakeshore was peaceful under sunny skies. Small waves lapped at the shoreline. Today, the lake was angry. Three foot waves violently crashed onto the rocky coast. I hadn’t seen this side of Lake Superior yet!

Despite the late start, I managed 27 miles and ended my day camping in the woods just past Tofte.

Although I was greeted with partly cloudy skies in the morning, a cold, soaking rain moved into the area by 10 AM. Temperatures were in the mid-60’s but the wind and rain made it feel 10 or 15 degrees cooler. Was it really the middle of June?

I pressed on through the cold and wet weather and arrived in Little Marais. By then the rain had let up, but fog had settled in. A vehicle pulled over near the middle of the tiny town and a man named Gary, who owned the AmericInn in Silver Bay, got out of his car. Gary heard my radio interview and offered me a room for the night at his hotel. I was so excited I nearly hugged him, but didn’t want to stink up his finely pressed suit.

I walked the final eleven miles to Silver Bay and had another pleasant surprise – sunshine! The sun stayed out for the duration of my walk before more storms moved in overnight.

I was thrilled to be safely inside. I spent the evening doing laundry, nursing my feet (which weren’t any better, but weren’t any worse either), and eating cans of tuna fish and chili with tortillas and cheese wiz. I couldn’t have been happier.

I slept in the following morning and wasn’t on the road until 11. I took a brief trip to Black Beach and said goodbye to Lake Superior. My walk around the lake had been spectacular. I had experienced the lake’s many moods – sunny and peaceful; foggy and mystical; stormy and angry. I will always have fond memories of impressive Lake Superior!

Black Beach in Silver Bay, Minnesota.

I left Silver Bay knowing that I was going to be in for a wet afternoon. After I left the grocery store, I made it about four miles before thunderstorms sidelined me for two hours. I don’t mind walking in some rain, but I draw the line at walking through thunder and lightning. I found a low spot off the road and sat under my umbrella, waiting for the lightning to stop. As I contemplated whether I would get any more walking in, the storms steadily dissipated and I cautiously resumed my stroll. The clouds slowly lifted and I managed another 12 miles. Patience had paid off.

The following day was one for my personal record books. I started my walk at about 7 AM and felt amazing. I had some pep in my step and my feet felt like new. The terrain was flat, traffic levels were low, and I had a massive shoulder all day. I ended up walking 44 miles. I didn’t really plan to cover that distance….I was making good time at 15, 20, 25, and 30 miles, then said “Why not?”

The only problem was I started looking for a sleeping spot once I hit the 40 mile mark, and had walked off national forest land. A wet spring left grass on the roadside chest deep and impenetrable for PJ. I walked into darkenss and desperately looked for somewhere – anywhere to sleep. I crossed a bridge and passed a baby skunk. It startled me a bit so I went to the other side of the road. Another baby skunk! Back to the other side, and boom! A third baby skunk. Fortunately I never saw mama skunk. Getting sprayed by a skunk would be about the worst thing that could happen during my walk – aside from an injury, PJ breaking down, getting arrested by Tribal Police, or being mauled by some animal. I decided it was good luck I hadn’t been sprayed. A mile later I came across a tiny town and decided to sleep behind the Town Hall. I “slept” in my full body bug suit for five hours, woke up at 4 AM, and continued walking to avoid detection. What a day it had been!

Looking back towards the sunrise the morning after my 44 mile day. This picture was taken at 5 AM. It gets light early in Northern Minnesota!

Over the next two days I covered the remaining 60 miles to Grand Rapids in a relatively smooth fashion. Initially, I was planning on staying with an old co-worker from the Loop in town, but he thought I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, not Minnesota.

Fortunately, I had met Dan Nielsen’s parents at the AmericInn in Silver Bay. Dan and his wife were on a four day backpacking trip while his folks watched the grandkids. Dan had reached out to me through Facebook, wishing me luck on my walk. I explained that my lodging plans had fallen through. He set up my stay for two nights at another AmericInn in Grand Rapids, and even took me out to lunch during my rest day in town. Thank you Dan!

Dan and I enjoyed a delicious lunch in Grand Rapids. There was a grizzly bear skin on the wall behind our table. That grizzly made the black bear I met in Nipigon look like a teddy bear!

There are a handful of helpful Minnesotans who have made contributions in one from or another to my walk during the last week. I am forever grateful for the generosity and love I have been shown in this incredible state!

Trip Stats

Days – 71

Miles – 1,569.5

I also completed my first 200 mile week of the trip, walking 209.5 miles in seven days from Grand Portage to Grand Rapids. It was a grand walking stretch!

Peanut Butter Jars – 47

Roadside Change – $5.03

Favorite Roadside Find – Two perfectly wrapped hard candies next to a lucky penny.

Favorite Three Pictures Plus a Bonus Pic-

The calm after the storm outside Silver Bay.

An angry Lake Superior outside Grand Marais.

I came across a very unique art display off Highway 61 just north of Grand Marais. Can you spot the famous “Wilson” from Castaway?

Minnesota Vikings wildflowers!

The Minnesota, North Dakota border is 190 miles away! I am so excited to start my Two-Step down U.S. Highway 2 on day 72 of my walk. Until next time!

Walk on!

A Superior Walk

The 11 day, 291 mile walk from Wawa to Thunder Bay has had its fair share of ups and downs….And I’m not just talking about walking the hills and mountains surrounding Lake Superior!

The mercury soared on my way out of Wawa. Afternoon highs were in the low 90’s and humidity hovered around 70 percent. In another month that may feel like a cool day, but considering it was my first dose of summer heat, I was toasty.

On the bright side, the cashier at a gas station I stopped at near the end of the day said the unseasonably hot temps would kill most of the black flies*….he did, however, caution me that more would hatch in coming days when it cooled of.

*I am happy to report that through Thunder Bay, the black flies have been a non-issue! That could change down the road, but I have lucked out so far!

Darkness quickly approached after I had walked 32 miles. I settled on a spot next to a lake in Obatanga Provincial Park. The black flies weren’t an issue as I set up camp, but the mosquitos ate me alive. It was as if they decided to swarm me right as I started pitching my tent. I put on my “bug jacket” and soaked myself in deet, but it didn’t deter them.

I hurried into my tent, drenched in sweat and bug spray. I itched all over. I hadn’t put on my “bug pants” in an effort to see how effective “Ben’s 100 Deet Bug Spray” was on its own. The nuclear mosquitos of Northern Ontario must be resistant because my legs and feet itched until morning. A constant mosquito buzz accompanied me through a restless night.

Even though the Can-Can didn’t follow Lake Superior for a few days, there were plenty of beautiful rivers and lakes to enjoy on the walk from Wawa to White River.

After steamy temperatures the day before, my walk into White River was much cooler. Overcast skies, periods of light mist, and temperatures in the low 50’s were a drastic change. Canada’s schitzofrenic weather continued to keep me on my toes.

I camped at a free campground in Winnie the Pooh’s hometown of White River. My site was right behind an A&W Restaurant. I don’t know if the employees were grossed out or impressed when I downed seven junior burgers for dinner.

I couldn’t resist taking a bearded selfie with Winnie. I just wish this was the only bear I encounted during my last stretch. More on that later!

The weather improved for two days after leaving White River, leaving me comfortable conditions for the two day, 56 mile walk to Marathon.

From there, the Can-Can returned to the shores of Lake Superior. With that came some spectacular views, but plenty more hills and mountains to climb, too.

The weather coming out of Marathon was rainy, cool, and foggy once again. About 10 miles into my walk, a small sedan pulled over. The driver, who was about my age, hopped out of the car and said “I know exactly how you feel right now.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just met “Fast Eddy.” Eddy completed a 601 day run from BC to Newfoundland (and then turned around and ran back) in 2015 and 2016. His run totaled 12,100 miles. When he told me about his achievement I was speechless.

Fast Eddy gave me a great morale boost, in addition to an apple, a soda, and a toonie for a cup of coffee at the next C-Store down the road.

Midway through my day I walked through a thick fog bank for about two hours. At times it was so thick I couldn’t see a vehicle approaching me (even with their headlights and/or hazard lights on) until they were 30 yards away. I didn’t bother walking anywhere near the road and stuck to the far left side of the bumpy, unpaved shoulder for safety’s sake. It was an unnerving stretch! But thanks to the morale boost from Fast Eddy, I was able to walk 34 miles. I was thrilled with that total given the lousy weather conditions.

Lake Superior blanketed in thick fog outside Marathon.

I continued to check small towns on Highway 17 off my list over the next two days, walking through Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Rossport, and Pays Plat. There were plenty of nice views of Lake Superior, along with some exhausting climbs, during the stretch.

Approaching Lake Superior from just outside of Rossport.

My seventh day out of Wawa began about 20 miles east of Nipigon. At about 6:30, I woke up to a series of footsteps and snorting near my tent. I froze, fearing what creature was on the otherside of my tent wall. I had slept with my tent fly open, and when I rolled over and looked out the door, a big black bear had walked through my camp and was smelling PJ. “That’s a (insert numerous expletives) bear.” I said out loud.

He was about 10 feet away from my sleeping bag. My heart pounded and my mind raced as I decided what to do. I started talking to the bear as I reached for my can of bear spray. This certainly wasn’t “Winnie the Pooh.” That boy was big, and based off the size of his gut, he was having a successful spring of eating.

“Hey there big fella. I’m just passing through. No need to be alarmed.” I said in a calm voice. I thought about my options. I could make a bunch of noise and try to scare him off. I could just lay there and hope he left. But given the fact I was still inside my tent, I was stuck. I took the safety cap off the spray and decided to use it to try to get him to run off.

I didn’t appreciate how sensitive the trigger on the cannister was and inadvertently sprayed the corner of my tent as I unzipped the door. The “phhhhhew” of the spray coming out made the bear jump. Then he fixated on my tent.

I quickly aimed at the bear’s face and let it fly, hitting him square in the nose (and also spraying PJ in the process). He looked stunned and clumsily walked into the woods seconds later, pawing at his face and running into a few tree branches during his escape. I stayed in my tent for a few minutes, stunned. I eventually got out and dumped a gallon of water on the portion of my tent I had sprayed, mopping up the peppery water with dirty shirts and socks from my laundry bag.

After packing up camp I got back on the road, disheveled from the experience. My high visibility vest, which was resting on PJ’s handlebars, had an empty granola bar wrapper in one of the pockets. I also neglected to pull out other scented items, like sunscreen and bug spray, and include them with my food bad and toiletries which were hanging a good distance from my tent. I had made an amatuer mistake, I thought, and all but invited the bear to my campsite. I had gotten sloppy. As I thought about the whole ordeal, I rubbed my eyes, not remembering there was still pepper spray residue on my hands. They started burning and watering. I had to sit on the side of the road for 20 minutes waiting for the pain to subside.

As I sat in my little camp chair on the gravel shoulder I felt a huge sense of embarrassment and regret set in. What was I thinking? I had gotten cocky, thinking “I have these woods figured out. I have these bears figured out. I have this walk figured out.” As the burning in my eyes continued I had to accept the fact that I had a lot to learn. And no matter how many miles I walked, the road (along with the animals that inhabit it) would continue to be unpredicatable. I needed to accept that and know I would never have it mastered. That things could change in an instant and I must do my best to always be ready. And most importantly, be open to continual learning and improvement.

I had been served a huge piece of humble pie for breakfast. And then I laughed, thinking about what a glorious and ridiculous journey I was on. My day got considerably better from there.

I aired out my tent during lunch, hoping to get rid of the peppery scent inside, and arrived in Nipigon later that evening. I hadn’t showered in eight days, so I decided to camp at the Nipigon Marina Campground for the night and rinse the unappealing aroma of B.O., sunscreen, bug spray, and now bear spray, off my body.

I had called the campground earlier in the day to let them know I was coming. When I arrived, Sean and Cora (two of the camp’s employees) were waiting for me. They had set up a tree tent for me to sleep in for the night. The green tent, suspended by three trees, hung about four feet off the ground. It was like sleeping on a cloud!

The eco-friendly tree tent campground in Nipigon is the first of its kind in North America. It also offered spectacular views of the Nipigon River. There were even pelicans fishing in the distance! Who knew pelicans ventured this far north into Canada in late spring!

From Nipigon, Thunder Bay was still seventy miles away. First, I needed to do laundry. Once again, I was out of clean socks. I stopped by a truck stop, which luckily had a stackable washer/dryer unit in a hallway next to the restaurant kitchen. I was expecting to have to sweet-talk a trucker out of a Tide Pod, but the Husky Travel Center provided laundry detergent.

As I was waiting for my clothes to dry, Dan and Susan Shaver (who insisted I looked good with a beard and said I didn’t need to shave) struck up a conversation with me. They invited me to stay in their yard, 27 clicks down the highway. I arrived at seven and enjoyed porkckops, potatoes, salad, and ice cream with the friendly couple.

I walked the final 40 miles into Thunder Bay over the next two days. I arrived at Marie and Wayne Ferguson’s around 5 PM June 9th. Marie is Lesley and Paul Morin’s niece. I stayed with the Morins in Sudbury. For the first time in three weeks I would have a roof over my head! I was pretty exhausted from the adventures of the last 291 miles, but a mountain of steak, potato salad, ice cream, and the couple’s company perked me right up. Their sweet and energetic seven month old Husky/German Sheperd mix, Echo, helped too!

I am resting for two days in Thunder Bay and preparing to conclude my walk in Canada and begin trekking through Minnesota, which is about 40 miles away.

Trip Stats

Days – 61

Miles – 1315.5

Peanut Butter Jars – 40

Favorite Roadside Find – New to me sunglasses! My previous pair broke. Duct tape around the rim provided a temporary fix but their days were numbered. After a little cleanup the new pair works great and is stylish enough!

Loose Change Count – Stuck on $4.66

Favorite Three Pictures

Visiting the Terry Fox Memorial outside Thunder Bay has been one of the highlights of my trip. Terry was diagnosed with cancer in the late 1970’s. He lost his right leg to the disease. In an effort to raise money for cancer research, he began a run across Canada, called the “Marathon of Hope,” in 1980. He ran a marathon per day with one good leg and a prosthetic. He started at the Atlantic in St. John’s and ran 3,339 miles over the next 143 days. The cancer returned as he approached Thunder Bay, and he had to stop his run for health reasons. He passed in 1981. Terry left a lasting impression on his native country and is certainly an inspiration to me!

A beautiful morning on the Nipigon River next to my tree tent!

I bid the Can-Can adieu once I arrived in Thunder Bay. It has been a challenging, beautiful, and often maddening road. I wouldn’t change a second of it! Except for my encounter with the resident black bear at kilometer mark 695!

A heartfelt thank you to all of the incredible Canadiens who made my walk through Ontario truly memorable. Ontario will always have a very special place in my heart!

My next post will come from the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” I am coming for you ‘Sota!

Walk on!

North?

PJ and I continued our walk across America and Canada on May 24th after we successfully crossed the International Bridge back into Ontario, cleared customs, and connected about a half-mile worth of steps.

It was much simpler getting back into Ontario than it was entering Quebec. The border agent only asked a few questions and didn’t even bother searching PJ. In fact, she never even saw him. I spoke to the agent inside the customs building while PJ lounged on the bus.

I met a man named Peter on the Bridge Bus. He helped me hold onto PJ while we crossed the bridge. The same driver from our first bus trip, Mike, knew the drill and was incredibly helpful once again. I’m positive having PJ completely block the aisle wasn’t up to code, but he sure made my life a lot easier and a bit more entertaining. Thank you Mike and Peter!

Walking north out of the Soo felt odd after a few hours. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, to my left instead of straight ahead, it felt as if we were walking the wrong way. I assured PJ we weren’t lost.

The Can-Can started climbing some pretty impressive hills outside of the Soo. I passed a sign saying “Welcome to the Superior Coastal Highlands.”

We crested a hill, came around a corner, and the road unfolded like a ribbon down into a valley and up a hill on the other side, four or five miles away. My adventure juices started flowing and I could barely contain my excitement as I let out a loud “whooooooo!” on the side of the road.

My enthusiasm was tempered a bit as dark clouds started moving in an hour later. I quickened my pace and got to a country store in Goulais River as light rain started falling. The cashier gave me permission to set up camp at the brush line next to the parking lot. It rained off and on overnight, but the clouds steadily cleared the following morning. I anxiously awaited my first glimpse of Lake Superior.

After walking through a tricky construction zone, I arrived in Havilland and feasted my eyes on Lake Superior. It was big, beautiful, and rugged. I greeted the lake with a hearty hello and said “I’ll begin my walk around you now.”

Batchwana Bay near Harmony Beach.

The Trans-Can circumnavigated Batchwana Bay for the rest of the day, giving me some great perspective on how vast Lake Superior is. In the distance I could see some impressive hills which I would walk in coming days.

Sunny afternoon skies gave way to dark clouds and the first rumbles of thunder of the trip.

As the storm approached, an older man pulled over and gave me a chocolate cupcake from a birthday party he was hosting that night. “You can probably camp in the bush at the Provincial Park three clicks ahead.” I didn’t understand two things – what a click was, and why we were weren’t invited to the party. Then I quickly remembered 36 hours on the road transformed me from a respectable looking member of society to a border-line lunatic walking down the road with a three-wheeled stroller.

As soon as the man pulled away, a biblical, torrential rain storm pummeled me. I arrived at the park 30 minutes later after several road-splash facials from passing 18 wheelers.

I took cover at the park’s information kiosk and called an RV Resort a mile down the road to get their camping rates. The owner must have taken pity on me because she made an exception to their “no tenting policy” and let me camp next to the playground, high and dry on a little hill, for free.

The rain let up later in the evening and I walked across the street to the bay, which was covered with a layer of fog. I watched the sun set and marveled at the blessings of the day, despite the soaking.

Another round of storms with some intense thunder and lightning moved through overnight but skies were clear in the morning, other than the consistent layer of fog around the lake.

The ensuing three-and-a-half day, 100 mile walk from Batchwana Bay to Wawa was pure magic. The highway followed Lake Superior’s rugged coastline for a few hours, then turned inland and climbed into the coastal highlands. The road was often even with the canopy of 100 foot pine trees. A relatively reassuring rope guardrail separated the pavement from steep drop-offs.

From the hilltops the lake was always hidden by a layer of fog. When the road returned to lake level, it would plunge into the fog and the temperature would drop 15 degrees.

I was able to camp within a stones throw of Lake Superior for two nights. Once on a little bluff overlooking the lake, and once on a sandy beach I found after doing some offroading on a hiking trail with PJ.

Our sandy camping spot. It was difficult to get to, but well worth it.

The sunset over Alona Bay. My tent was pitched about 10 feet from where I snapped this photo! What a view, and it only cost free dollars and 26 miles of walking.

There were two big coastal climbs that we walked up and down en-route to Wawa – Montreal and Old Woman Bay Mountains. PJ was loaded down with an extra 45 pounds of water when we left Batchwana Bay (there were only two campgrounds and no gas stations for 100 miles, and I didn’t want to rely on a campground for water). Fortunately, PJ is on a rapid weight loss plan. He looses about 12 pounds of water weight per day. The climbs came on days two and three out of Batchwana Bay, so he was a little lighter, making for slightly easier climbs.

We quickly climbed out of the fog at the base of Montreal Mountain and tackled the two mile ascent. It wasn’t like climbing a mountain pass out west, but still left me breathless (because of the elevation gain and the views)!

I ended up walking 36 miles the day before arriving in Wawa in order to have a short, two hour walk into town. My time in Wawa has essentially been a rest day. I chatted with a number of people in town while I wandered around, and also did a few of my favorite trip activities – drank chocolate milk, ate Subway, and grocery shopped.

The owner of the Wawa RV Resort, Renee, has let me camp for free for the night. I happily did laundry (and now have clean socks again!), trimmed up my beard, and have met some nice folks at the campground. A few of my neighbors popped by to visit and offered some friendly words of encouragement….plus a bag of homemade cookies and some warm popcorn.

I am about 290 miles from Thunder Bay and will turn back Ouest in a few days. White River (two days), and Marathon (four days), are the next stops on the bushy horizon.

Trip Stats –

Days – 48

Miles – 1,022.5 I hit 1,000 miles on day 47, which will end up being about one quarter of the way through my walk!

Peanut Butter Jars – 29

Roadside Change – $4.66 I only found one coin in the last six days. It was very rusty and difficult to identify, but I am pretty sure it is a well-traveled quarter.

Favorite Roadside Find – A toss up between a Florida license plate and an unbroken bong. Both led me to wonder why they were thrown out or left on the roadside.

Favorite Three Pictures

So many to choose from!

I was thrilled to get a selfie with yours truly, PJ, and the massive “Wawa Goose” all in one frame! I saw my first sign for the goose outside Deep River (350 or so miles ago). I couldn’t wait to honk at her when I arrived in Wawa (even though I honk at geese when I pass them daily on the highway). This one was a milestone!

This was taken from the highway shoulder as I started climbing “Old Woman’s Bay” Mountain. The fog was thick over the lake but the sky was clear after gaining a little elevation. To be honest, that old woman was a bit crotchety and stubborn, because that hill kept going, and going, and going. It was a challenge after I had already walked 27 miles that day.

I followed a little hiking path to the lake for lunch on my fifth day out of the Soo. This particular stretch of lakefront, which I nicknamed “Driftwood Beach” was littered with massive tree trunks and stumps that Superior had returned to shore. It was a reminder of the power that this lake has! It moves gigantic, hundred year old trees like toothpicks!

I am hoping to have a string of marathon distance days on my way to Marathon, Ontario!

Walk on!

-Ben

The Twin Soos

I left Sudbury, Ontario on May 16th and finally had my sights set on Sault Ste. Marie, the first big “Milestone City” of my walk. The Soo was just under 900 miles from my starting point, and is roughly one-fifth of the way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on my chosen route.

I came out of Sudbury walking hard. I was reenergized by a restful day-and-a-half break. The Morin’s revolving refridgerator door gave me plenty of fuel for the first three days of the seven day trek. I walked 90 miles in three days, camping next to “Jeremy’s Truck Stop” in Nairn Centre, then out in the woods for two nights before approaching Blind River.

On the walk out of Sudbury, I passed the Sudbury Smokestack, the second tallest structure in Canada (the first is the CN Tower in Toronto). The smokestack, built in 1972, is tall enough to get mining emissions into prevailing winds and out of Sudbury’s immediate atmosphere, into less polluted air. Construction occurred at a time when the city needed to take drastic measures to clear the air.

Near the end of my third day out of Sudbury, I met the Regional Chief of the Ontario First Nations. We had an incredible roadside talk about Native History, famous First Nation walkers, and society’s shift away from walking as a mode of transportation. As a touching gesture, Isadore gave me a wool blanket, which I used during the next few chilly nights.

I expected to maintain my 30 mile per day pace when I started my walk to Blind River, but I simply hit a wall. I walked about ten miles, got into town, and heeded my body’s advice, which was telling me to slow down. I went to Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee and was immediately greeted by Fern and Kathleen McCoy. “We are the REAL McCoys,” Fern insisted after introducing himself. The couple invited me to stay with them for the night. “You were looking pretty tired when you walked up,” Kathleen told me. I agreed without a seconds hesitation.

I stayed in the guest bedroom/art studio at the McCoy house. Fern, who was in the middle of a food fast, sat at the dinner table and visited while Kathleen and I enjoyed homemade spaghetti and coffee. The couple (who were big hitchhikers and traveling musicians in the late 70’s) continually host travelers passing through town. They have hosted cyclists, hitchhikers, people down on their luck, and now, a walker. And considering they have seven children (five of which are boys), they knew exactly how to host a hungry and exhausted walker!

Fern and Kathleen outside their vibrant home. Fern’s father built the house 70 years ago.

It is always amazing what a good night of rest, some incredible company, and a massive portion of spaghetti can do! I ended the day after leaving Blind River 30 miles west near Thessalon and slept next to an old service road. Without any bugs (yet), I didn’t even bother setting up my tent. I slept like a baby under the warmth of my new wool blanket and a starry sky.

I came very close to the North Channel of Lake Huron twice between Thessalon and Bruce Mines. Overnight lows around freezing and cool morning temps have left me starting most days with my beenie and high-visibility down jacket!

On my sixth day out of Sudbury, I decided to give it my all in an effort to get as close to the Soos as possible. At about six in the evening, I left the Can-Can and followed a few country roads for the rest of the day. The walk led me through farm and ranchland.

There are many Amish families in the area. I was passed by a few Amish carriages on the highway. Off the Trans Can, I saw a few men out in their fields with horse drawn plows. Another was walking his fields, checking on his cows and calves. Amish homes were pretty easy to spot; no cars were parked outside and there weren’t electrical lines running to the houses. Their well kept homesteads typically had a long strand of clothes hanging from clotheslines stretching from the house to a tree in the yard. Signs advertising beautiful hand-built sheds (which were on display next to the road) led me to marvel at their independence from modern technology and the many luxuries people take for granted.

Only a few cars passed me during that four hour span. It was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed the peaceful, easy feeling of the countryside. For that four hours I was able to forget about everything and simply get lost in the moment. I walked until the sun dissapeared behind the bluffs surrounding Sault Ste. Marie.

One of the Amish homesteads, complete with pristinely cut and organanized wood piles.

Aftera 36 mile trek the day before, Sault Ste. Marie was a mere 17 miles away. I was in town by noon.

I was thrilled to arrive in the Soo! The next challenge for me was crossing the International Bridge (over which walking is illegal) where I could pick up a care package my folks had mailed to me, care of general delivery, at the post office. I also needed to mail some items home, which was significantly cheaper from the U.S.

My best option was to take the Bridge Bus, which conveniantly operates on the hour from 7 AM to 7 PM. I evenutally found the stop downtown. When the driver pulled up, he looked at PJ and I and just shook his head, looking down at the bus floor.

“Any chance we can hop on?” I asked the driver. He didn’t look too happy.

“Can you get him up the bus stairs?” He asked. I looked at the stairs, looked at PJ, and looked at the driver, shaking my head no. “Let me pull over up here,” he grumbled. The driver pulled into a parking spot up ahead so other buses could load and unload.

I introduced myself to the driver, Mike, and explained my predicament. “You have walked from where?” I told him my starting date, how many miles I had walked, and my plan for the next few days. He quickly became cordial and quite helpful. Mike lowered an electric wheelchair lift, which PJ perfectly fit on, and raised him up. I carefully pulled PJ onto the bus and held on tightly as we cruised over the St. Mary’s River into Michigan. We cleared customs with no problem!

I spent the afternoon walking errands…I stopped by a shipping store and mailed Forest (my backpack who has been my domestic and international travel companion for 10 years) home in an effort to have more room inside PJ for other pertinent items. Forest was with me for the entire walk in 2015, so it was bittersweet parting with him. I did keep the detachable top of the pack with me so a piece of Forest will still play an integral roll in my journey. Later on that afternoon I purchased a small camelback to carry. In honor of Forest, the pack is green, just like him. I named him Little Forest.

I have spent two nights camping at the Soo Locks Campground in the Michigan Soo, resting, enjoying the locks, and taking in other points of interest in this charming city.

The Soo Locks are a must-see engineering feat in Sault Ste. Marie!

My rest day in the Soo has also allowed ample time to prepare for the next leg of my journey, which incudes a BIG route change. I cannot walk across the International Bridge, which I knew about when I chose my route. Initially I thought I would be ok with skipping those three miles. Ultimately, the driving desire to “connect all my steps” will take me back into Canada and I will return to the Trans Canada Highway to walk around Lake Superior. The Can-Can will lead me along the hilly coast of Lake Superior’s Eastern and Northern Shores, and through plenty of “Bush,” as the locals say, before passing through Thunder Bay, where I will head south into Minnesota. The route will add about 190 miles to my walk, sounds physically demanding, desolate (there is a 100 mile stretch with no towns or services), and more adventurous than the alternative. I am all in!

Trip Stats –

Days – 42

Miles – 879

Peanut Butter Jars – 25

Roadside Change – $4.41 I found a loonie this week, which is a Canadian dollar coin. It has a loon on one side, hence the nickname!

Favorite Roadside Find – Not necessarily a “find” per se, but the wool blanket given to me by Chief Isadore was hands down the best thing I have acquired on the roadside during my walks! What a touching gesture!

Three Favorite Pictures –

My scenic country road walk approaching the Soo was foal of entertainment and serenity. On a side note, I clearly have plenty of time to create punomimal puns while I walk.

I have retired my first pair of shoes on the trip. The white Sauconys started showing their miles with holes around the pinky toes on both shoes, and the tread was nearly gone. A general rule of thumb is once they start talking it’s time to say goodbye!

I couldn’t decide whether this was a pickup truck or dump truck…It sure is nice to have spring in full swing, finally!

In the words of the late Tom Petty, tomorrow we go “Into the Great Wide Open!”

Walk on, eh?

-Ben

Deep River to Sudbury

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.

Cart party in the boonies! Marley was comfortably lying in the shade of Jeff’s cart. Although he had some pretty out there thoughts, it was fun visiting with Jeff. And I am all for walking getaways!

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.

The Trans-Can hugged the Ottawa River 20 miles from Mattawa, creating some nice scenery.

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.

A massive statue of “Big Joe Mufferaw,” welcomes folks to Mattawa. Big Joe was an 1800’s French-Canadian folk hero because he “stood up for the little guy” in Mattawa’s early frontier days when logging was the most prevalent industry.

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.”

It was a blast visiting with these students!

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!

Trip Stats

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 –

The rocky hills around Sudbury were completely stripped of trees by the 1970’s. Some were burned as fuel to aid mining operations, and some died due to negative environmental impacts of mining. Many of the rocks maintain a dark, sooty hue from air pollution. Some 13 million trees have since been replanted. With lakes and forests scattered throughout town, it is a very pretty city now. This hillside, covered in birch trees, was looking particularly beautiful.

The best part about walking through a storm is enjoying the incredible cloud formations after the sun comes back out. This pic of the Can-Can was about four miles from Tammy’s home.

Downtown Sudbury. Enough said!

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!

-Ben

Ottawa to a Deep River

I left downtown Ottawa on May 2nd and began the trek to Deep River, 115 miles away. Google’s Map encouraged me to cross the Ottawa River and walk through Quebec for another 30 miles or so, before crossing back into Ontario (across the Ottawa River again) and eventually meeting up with the Trans Canada Highway in Petawawa.

**Author’s note – I will refer to the Trans-Canada Highway as the Can-Can, a nickname I created because it rolls off the tongue better than Trans-Canada.**

The walk out of Ottawa began under sunny skies, but threatening afternoon clouds moved in. The road I followed out of the city was less than ideal – it was a two lane, narrow road, with an unpaved and often uneven shoulder.

The miles were slow going as I had to move off the road frequently when a line of cars approached.

I had walked about 12 miles when a woman named Catherine pulled over to chat. She is an accomplished, minimalist traveler who has hitchhiked all over Canada and the U.S. Catherine once hitched from the Western Canadian border to Mexico with a mere 80 dollars in her pocket! She got the ok from her boyfriend, Joe, and invited me to spend the night at her house. Joe did a 3,800 mile cycling trip in West Africa a few years ago, too, so I knew we would all get along!

Joe found me a mile down the road an hour later. I unpacked and collapsed PJ and somehow crammed all my gear into Joe’s little Hyundai, which was full of tools and work supplies for his roofing job.

I spent a wonderful evening with Catherine, Joe, and their roommate, Camille. We had a delicious, four course meal – homemade popcorn to start, then cheese, bread, and radishes. Grilled venison and vegetables were the main course, and we had homemade apple and pear pie for dessert. It all tasted delicious.

I learned more about French-Canadian culture and Joe put some popular Quebec folk music on my phone.

My incredible French Canadian hosts outside Ottawa.

Catherine dropped me off in the morning and I completed a 30 mile day of walking through the Quebec countryside. Passing showers accompanied me throughout the day, but temperatures remained in the 60’s.

I walked over three impressive bridges on the way back into Ontario the next day. Several dams, hydroelectric plants, and expansive views of the Ottawa River kept me entertained during my soggy, foggy walk.

PJ enjoyed the view of the Ottawa River from the second of three bridges we crossed to get back into Ontario. The rushing water flowing from the dam was incredible!

Later in the evening, the fog and mist cleared, revealing a large line of thunderheads due west of me. The impressive line was moving in my direction. The next town was still an hour away, so I walked into an experimental forest operated by the Ontario Provincial Government and found a spot to camp. An experimental forest needs an experimental camper, right? I pitched my tent before rain and gusty winds moved in. The storm violently whipped through the 100 foot pines, coating my tent with needles, bark, and dirt.

Sunny, blue skies greeted me in the morning. Over the next 45 miles of walking, I was met with hospitality and generosity that rivals anything I have experienced during my walking days!

Outside Pembroke, Julia and Tyler stopped to chat with me. They set up a host for me to stay with in Petawawa and brought me a homemade dinner and snacks I enjoyed on the roadside. Julia has continued the host search for me in towns west of Deep River.

Susan was my host in Petawawa. She is a very active woman who enjoys the outdoors year-round in Ontario. She sent me on my way with liquid heat, a full stomach, and great memories from the visit.

Erik and Aime tracked me down and dropped off what I consider to be a “Canadian Survival Kit.” They gave me a full body mesh bug suit, bear spray, and a four pound jar of peanut butter.

Wendy and Israel gave me a nice donation and offered different warnings about the road ahead. Wendy asked me if I was a “God fearing man.” When I said yes, she just said to be careful in the fields and forests of Ontario, saying witchcraft is commonplace in area, and if I get a bad vibe, to keep moving. Illegal marijuana grows and moonshiners are also prevalent in the woods to my west. “That should make for some interesting encounters,” I told her.

After a 21 mile walk yesterday, I arrived in Deep River where I am staying at a house with the brother-in-law of a man I met in St. Johnsbury, VT. I am doing as little as possible today to freshen up my feet. My dogs have been barking a bit over the last few days.

The list of things to be cautious about as I venture further west through Ontario continues to lengthen. The bugs (especially biting black flies, who even drive the moose population bonkers) will be out soon. Wildlife, including bears, moose, “mountain cats,” coyotes, and wolves are widespread. And, according to Wendy I should be wary of witchcraft, moonshiners, and marijuana farmers. Add in the busy Can-Can, temperamental spring weather, increasingly desolate country, and the typical rigors of the walk, I have one hell of an adventure ahead!

I am forever grateful for all the friendly Canadiens who have gone out of their way to help me in the last few days! Thank you all!

North Bay will be my next major stop. It is a little over 100 miles west of Deep River.

Trip stats –

Days – 26

Miles – 514

Peanut Butter Count – 15

Roadside Change – A still frustrating $.65

Favorite Roadside Find – A toy miniature horse found in Quebec. I named her Francy, and she will be traveling with me from now on.

Three favorite pictures –

This house must always leave the lights on if they need a solar panel that big!

I always feel right at home walking through agricultural areas. The big skies and wide open spaces make the possibilities in life seem endless.

Crossing the Ottawa River back into Ontario. Riverside bluffs, the mystical fog, and tall pine forests made this Colorado boy feel like he had arrived in the “Great North.”

Until next time…I’ll be walking on with my bug suit on!

-Ben-