Sometimes danger is obvious. Like the day the winds sucked me out to open water on the Bras D’or lake. As soon as I lost control of the canoe I could taste the fear.
Sometimes danger is not as obvious. Two days ago I woke up in my tent to wind and rain. It was warmer then it had been for past few days and after looking at maps it seemed I had a long but easy ride to New Glasgow. So getting wet wouldn’t be a big threat as I could find somewhere warm and dry in the town if I needed it. So I put on my rain gear, had a coffee and a few oat cakes, and headed for the trail. My route that day took me through the woods by Eden Lake along a trail to Sunnybrae where I would pop up on pavement for the final 25km to New Glasgow. My total distance would be 45km.
The rain and wind increased in velocity as the day unfolded and the trails became riverbeds I soon was pushing my heavily loaded mountain bike through. After four or five hours all four layers of my clothing were soaked right through and I realized there would be no New Glasgow that night. I was hoping though to get through the off road portion as the wind was gusting to 80 km and setting up a tent was not going to be easy.
By 5pm that night I was pushing my bike up a big vertical hill soaked to the bone, hungry and tired and that danger that had been slowly creeping in slapped me on the face.
The warm winds were cooling now quickly and I was starting to shiver. I finally had one bar on my cell so I called Ann, my co-producer. I was trying to push to at least the paved portion to find a place to camp but instead found out I was lost. Then phone went dead. The backwoods are filled with logging roads, snowmobile routes and ATV trails, somewhere I had made a wrong turn. The problem was I didn’t know where. I was exhausted, cold, hungry and now upset. All bad signs.
And then in the distance a slow moving set of headlights coming my way. I should have been relieved but because I was feeling vulnerable and ungrounded I was suspicious and scared. The red jeep slowly approached me and in it were two local hunters, Jimmy and Brad. Brad was smoking a cigar, their hunting rifles were in the back seat, and they were wearing camouflage gear. They confirmed to me I was lost, and that I was miles from the trail I was meant to be on. They said I could stay at their hunters cabin. They suggested I hide my bike in the trees and get in the jeep. I had some reservation but risking a night in the storm still uncertain of where I was was the more dangerous option. So I trusted them.
Meanwhile Ann had called her cousin Ian Gunn in East River Saint Mary’s who called his friend John Cameron, who set out to find me.
I hid the bike, got in the Jeep and we drove to the hunters cabin. Jimmy then got in his pick up and went to get my bike and Brad stoked the wood stove so hot he was dripping with sweat. Then he started cooking deer meat and potatoes, and hung a rope up so I could hang my wet clothes to dry. I ate a warm meal sitting inches from the wood stove then smoked a cigar. They were kind, they were gentlemen and now they are friends.
Who knew angels smoked cigars and carried hunting rifles. They do in Pictou County.
Warm gratitude to you both Jimmy and Brad, Ian and John (who did eventually find me at the hunters’ cabin), and to the folks at the Travel Lodge, the Holiday Inn, Sally and Cheryl, and the town of New Glasgow for providing me with warmth and comfort after a bad storm. I am moved and humbled daily by the spirits of this land.