Today I sit on Manitoulin Island on Lake Huron, the largest freshwater lake island in the world. Manitoulin is Ojibwe for, Island of Spirit. I am on a 100 acre farm with two women, Becky and Maureen, one 16 week old Pyrenees mountain dog, three cats, two huge pigs called Monroe ( as in Marilyn Monroe because she has big eyelashes) and Beautiful, and running amongst them, 60 chickens. There is lots of spirit here.
I have been off trail for a week waiting for Ann and some warmer winter gear. She has since arrived and in a few days will provide logistical support as I resume the journey to Iron Bridge.
Once there I will bid farewell to Merlin the bike until next summer and prep backpack and snowshoes for a 200km hike on the Voyageur trail.
After the hike, I begin planning for a 2300km paddle, 1000km on Lake Superior, and 1300 km on a series of rivers called, Path of the Paddle.
But now I return the story to where I left off on my last blog, in Labelle Quebec. After leaving Labelle I made my way following the trail to Ottawa. The heat through July and August was the hottest weather ever recorded so anything under trees was a gift. One of my favourite moments was coming out of the trees in Gatineau Park through to the shores of Meech Lake where I found myself all alone, dropped my clothes and jumped into the beautiful cool waters. I swam and floated for over an hour. Paradise found. On the other side of Meech is a public beach with hundreds of people but where I was – nobody, and this is precisely the gift of the journey; some bits of paradise cannot be driven to.
When I had visited my friend Dianne for guidance, tepee instructions and a lesson in cooking a wild goose over a fire, she also arranged for me to visit a friend of hers, Danielle Ayotte at her farm outside of Ottawa. “ Go spend some time with the horses, ” she said. Danielle is a healer who wears many hats, but the one that intrigued me when I went there was that she healed folks with PTSD with horses. I have had minimal exposure to horses but on this journey have stood quietly at trail side fences and could almost say I have had telepathic exchanges. What Danielle confirmed is that horses can read our body language and our energy. A few days on her land was healing, she shares her home with her daughter Elise and her grand daughter Dawn; I loved my time with the maiden, mother and crone.
Another beautiful exchange on this part of the trail was with Edmund Aunger in Sharbot Lake. His journey began five years ago when he and his wife Elizabeth decided to ride the trail in PEI. They organized the journey so that they could stay in B&B’s just off trail along the way. At the end of the day on July 14th, 2012 as they were riding on the roadside to that evening accommodation, Elizabeth was hit and killed by a drunk driver. And in that moment, a part of Edmund was killed too. They had been high school sweethearts and now as they approached retirement looked forward to doing some of the things they hadn’t been able to do as parents and people with careers. As Edmund shared his story with me I could see the pain still in his face. A year after her death Edmund began riding his bike on the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria to Charlottetown.
He split the journey into five parts, this summer he rode from Sault Ste Marie to Ottawa where he organized a rally on the steps of Parliament Hill. He will finish the journey to Hunter River PEI next year where he will hold a memorial Service for his wife Elizabeth on July 14th, 2017, the anniversary of her death. Edmund believes no highways or roads should be part of the Trans Canada Trail. They were never meant to be and hopefully one day will not be. It is an ambitious plan to make a 24000km trail across this land and sometimes trails are joined by back roads or highways.
People always ask me if I am afraid of bears, wolves and cougars on the trail. To which I reply, ” No, my greatest threats are hypothermia and highways. ”
My hope is that by inspiring people about this trail we will also inspire people to keep working on it like an unfinished piece of sculpture. It may take many generations but I hope one day all of the trail is off roads and highways. It is a cause I will remain dedicated to throughout my life. You can follow Edmund here. www.ridethetrail.ca
A week later I arrived in Peterborough as day was becoming evening. I was scouting out for a place to camp as I had an interview the next day with Kevin Callum, the Happy Camper, for Explore magazine. In addition to writing guide books and writing for Explore magazine, Kevin has a youtube channel called the Happy Camper. When Kevin heard I was thinking of camping at a park in Peterborough he charged over in his Subaru, and kindly insisted I crash at his place. If you ask him he will tell you he saved my life. Kevin lives in a community where neighbours watch sunsets sipping drinks and connecting. It was kind of like walking into a Coronation Street episode. The next morning we filmed this video for his Happy Camper channel.
After another week on the trail I landed in Ajax and camped on the land belonging to these beautiful people where I was fed beautiful food and made to feel like a relative. Emilio is passionate about three things; his wife, his daughter and bikes. Within minutes of my arrival he had his garage door open and Merlin on his bike stand. He cleaned the chain, the derailers, he took off the fender and custom cut and fit the fender back around the bike frame. And then he polished the whole frame.
While on the island of spirit I have been thinking a lot about all the people I have met and the idea of tribe. We lost that connection to each other and to the land when our clans became cities with millions of people. We can’t turn the clocks back on modern society but we can learn from the wisdom of those still connected to these old ways. We are all members of the human tribe. We need each other. Everyone is necessary.