I started the trail in PEI on the east end of the island as the first snow flakes of winter began to fall. The snow was light and soft and was just a taste of winter. The trail in PEI is complete and felt like a five star hotel after charming but rugged hostels. That first night I dug out my hot water bottle and filled it with boiling water and threw it into my sleeping bag. This will be a constant companion now as I venture into the winter season.
On my second day on the trail I met an elderly gentleman walking on the path with mud on his navy blue down vest. He owned land on the trails edge that he was cutting firewood on and was walking back to it after lunch at his farmhouse. After speaking for a few minutes he reached towards his back pocket and looked at me with a gentle gaze and asked, ” Do you need any money?” He saw my tent and belongings strapped to my bike and assumed I was homeless or on the run. I laughed and at the same time was touched by his concern and kindness.
As I rode away I thought about this duality of perception. When I am in the wilderness far from a community I am perceived as an adventurer. When I camp near cities or communities I am perceived as a homeless person. Oddly just a thin line seperates the two.
My next exchange on the trail was with a heron. I had just started riding for the day and my mind was elsewhere when suddenly to my left a heron took flight and just inches above the ground directly in front of me began flapping it’s large wings to gain altitude on the open trail. Together we traveled as it slowly gained enough altitude to rise above the trees lining both sides of the path. I felt the awe of a child and a sense of the Divine. It was one of those precious quiet moments that transcend the world of words. And oddly I felt less alone then I often do surrounded by people.
My third and final exchange happened two nights before I completed the trail. I awoke at 4 am to the sound of an owl. Alone it spoke in the moonlight. As my uncle Walter later said to me when I shared the experience, ” we think we are smarter then animals, but they can learn our language but we don’t learn theirs. My friend has a dog and I can say go get me the blue ball, or go get me the teddy bear and she knows and brings the toy I ask for. But I don’t understand her language. ”
I didn’t understand what the owl was saying, but what it invoked me as I laid there was a sense that everything is going to be ok.
When you read the newspaper or watch the news it is hard to believe the world is not filled with sociopaths. But if you turn off your TV and go outside you can find the kindness. It is everywhere.
The first snow storm arrived hours after i finished the trail in PEI. I will be taking a few weeks off the trail to see family and friends and to test out winter gear before resuming the trail in New Brunswick. Special thanks to Emma, Bill and Zachery Fugate and Jane McCorriston for their help and support while i was on the trail in PEI. And to Matt Rainnie at CBC radio island morning show for a fun interview. You can find the interview here. Just click on the media interview you want to hear http://500daysinthewild.com.nmsrv.com/media-jul-aug-2015/
Warm wishes and gratitude to you all