Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Stormfronts arise : West Arm to Hagar

As we crawled out of the tent this morning there was a thick layer of dew on the grass, but the sun was beginning to peak through the trees, bringing the promise of warmth to the chilly, damp air. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers swooped in from across the water, landed in the trembling aspen at the edge of the campsite and then were gone, just like that, even before Sean could dive for his camera. What an exciting way to begin the morning!


After checking out we headed down the highway again. We didn't have far to go before the Voyageur Cycling Trail markers directed us down a side road called Lake Dr. Although we were grumbling about adding 5 km to the day's walk, we had high hopes that this detour would provide some nice views of the water. Although this didn't turn out to be the case, it was an interesting walk nonetheless.


As we hiked down the forested road, which was lined with cottages, large puffy white clouds began to appear in the sky. We couldn't see the water because the forested properties were too deep, but one of the highlights was watching a Black-throated Green Warbler foraging in a white pine at the edge of the road. It was collecting large beak-fulls of large, juicy, green caterpillars. Somehow it seemed unlikely to me that the delicate looking, long, sharp, inedible seeming pine needles could house so many caterpillars, but the little warbler was collecting a feast.


We took a long break on a nice piece of exposed shield, enjoying the diversity of green, grey, and red grasshoppers of all sizes that surrounded us like an ever moving wave. We have been taking our time over the last few days, walking less than 30 km each day for the first time this year, and we have been enjoying the slower pace.




It turned out to be a nice detour through farm country, with far less traffic on it than the main route. We passed hay fields with lush green grass, and fields with hay bales picturesquely arranged under a dynamic sky. We passed pastures of yellow flowers, and golden fields of grain. There were wonderful wooden barns, pastures with horses, and herds of beef cattle. It was a beautiful walk.

As we approached the small community of St. Charles the landscape became more and more hilly. We found ourselves climbing more than descending, but the rolling landscape was very beautiful.

As we entered St. Charles a small child, standing on the deck outside his house, asked us what we were doing. We told him we were walking across Canada, and that we had started in Newfoundland. He just looked dubious. I think it might have meant more to him if we'd said we walked from Sturgeon Falls.We often forget in the middle of this trek in which we are always thinking in terms of counties and provinces that to so many people their worlds are based on area events and regional locations.

We passed a large sports field, and made our way to Main St. The town had a post office, liquor store, grocery store, and variety store - all the staples of a typical small Ontario town. We stopped at the variety store for iced tea, and as we stood there a man pulled up in a minivan. He came over to us, and gave me a beautiful necklace made of nuts and seeds, saying that because we were nomads, it was a gift to us, from his tribe to ours. He then asked if we knew how a cemetery and a bathroom were the same. The answer was that 'When you've got to go, you've got to go.' With a smile and a chuckle he turned and left, leaving us with a beautiful gift, but no idea who he was.  Another small gift of kindness and encouragement delivered to us.

As we walked north through St. Charles we passed a majestic Roman Catholic Church with a tall white steeple and several very unusual metal crosses outside. It had a memorial to the soldiers who had died during WWI and WWII, once again reminding us how many people these small towns lost during those wars. We can only imagine what the loss of a generation must have felt like and meant to these communities.

As we continued north towards highway 17, the sky began to darken. The sun was still shining brightly behind us, turning the storm ahead of us into a dramatic bank of black clouds. The landscapes around us were set aglow, but we couldn't help worrying about the coming shower. Sometimes you can't help but feel that you are definitely heading in the wrong direction. As we climbed the hill ahead we thought maybe the clouds had passed, but no ... we got a thorough soaking.

After a 15 minute shower the cloud passed and the sun returned, causing steam to rise from the hot asphalt. The world became a sauna, and we took a break to remove our hastily dawned raingear.

Shortly afterwards we passed a pasture of horses, two of which were grazing near the road. A mother and her mottled brown and white foal began trotting towards us from the far edge of the field. Horses by nature are curious animals. As we've walked across the country, horses from countless pastures have stopped and wandered over to get a better look. Since we've starting pulling the cart, we've began noticing that they now do an exaggerated double take when they see us. They look, then they sidle and toss their manes, then then stare really hard. It is very comical. Do I look like a horse with the cart? Like a centaur? Dogs also have mixed reactions, with very small dogs often woofing and charging at the cart, and larger ones taking a more cautious approach, sometimes hiding behind shrubs while they woof uncertainly.


About half an hour after the first shower we were hit with a second, even more vigorous one. Walking along the side of the highway, the cars sent extra waves of water our way. At least it was warm!

Today we made it back up to highway 17. It is a warm, sunny afternoon which will hopefully give us some time to dry our things out. Tomorrow we have another walk along the busy Trans Canada Highway, when we hope to get to the edge of Sudbury. The last few days have been a detour south into beautiful pastoral and shield country, and we have enjoyed being closer to nature once again, even if we were still somewhat separated from it on the road.

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