By Mel Vogel
It starts to rain more and more heavily as I walk towards Glen Morris. It’s time to look for a good opportunity to pitch my tent, as it doesn’t seem like the rain will stop in the next few hours. A cyclist tells me about the Glen Morris Boat Access Ramp, and I walk down to the river to check it out. I’m happy to see a flat area with trees and a campfire pit, a perfect location to call it a day.
I crawl in my tent to read and chill, and then I hear voices. A group of people paddling down the river land at this access point. ‘Who is in this tent?’, I hear a voice shouting. I feel uneasy, so I come out of my tent to see who is there. For peace of mind, I approach the group and tell them what I am doing. I happily answer questions and say that I am alone and that I felt nervous about the group. The young peeps were harmless, enjoying the day on the river, getting ready for birthday BBQ at a nearby property. My worries vanish and I’m glad I introduced myself.
The birthday girl invites me to come and celebrate with the group but I don’t want to leave my tent alone. Everyone leaves. A few moments later, the rain stops and allows me to prepare a warm meal for dinner. I choose a tomato soup with added noodles and dehydrated veggies. About an hour later, three of the party peeps come back, each carrying food or pop in their hand. Their contributions make for a second round of dinner with a burger, potatoes, salad and muffins for dessert. They may not know, but their kind actions have made them what hikers call ‘trail angels’.
It is still raining in the morning, and my idea of going in the water is flushed away with the deluge. It is humid and my skin feels sticky. I take a sip from my thermos that still holds cold water. I eat muffins for breakfast and wait for the rain to pass, which doesn’t take long. I pack while water from the leaves of the trees drops onto me. I give my tent a good shake before rolling and packing it up.
I walk and think. This morning, my thoughts become a mental drama. My mind takes me in all kinds of directions, but always returning to thoughts of the destruction of this planet. Conversations with people and observations along The Great Trail, which passes through nature, communities and cities, jump to my mind. I let my mind travel to a point where I become overwhelmed by the complexity of the many subjects I touch in this thought process. My sadness turns into anger. ‘How can we? How could we?’ These questions leave me wanting to scream my anger (or more accurately, my helplessness) out of my system. Instead, I cry quietly.
I see a woman walking my way. I quickly compose myself and wipe away my tears. As our path crosses I say a friendly “Hello” as she passes. I stop at a bench close to the Grand River. The rain starts again. Steam rises from the river and a canoeist paddles along in the distance. The woman comes back and we start chatting. This interaction allows my previous thoughts pass. I am in a whole new situation now.
The woman and I continue the Trail together. She tells me her story of how she started hiking and why she walks the Trail every day now. She says frankly, boldly and directly: “I was fat. I couldn’t even bend over to tie my shoes. I said to myself, ‘I am not even 40 yet.’ And so I decided to walk and now I walk every day. I’ve lost 80 pounds.” We walk through the rain. I look at her and her energy strikes me. It heals the sensitive soul that I carried that morning.
We depart. I walk across the street into a Tim Horton’s, craving a coffee that I didn’t have in the morning.
Back on the Trail, I make my way into Cambridge. I leave the Trail to walk into the city centre and towards a supermarket. It is afternoon and a band plays in a bar that has its door open. The guy standing closer to the door is playing a guitar and invites me to come inside and sing along. I give him a shy smile and decline. But I listen for a few minutes as they play Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.
I think of my harmonica in my pocket. If only I could play it. I walk on with the song in my head before stopping at a Food Basics to buy two bananas, tortellini, bread, cheese, two apples, a pepper, Snickers, oatmeal and an organic juice that I am planning to drink right away.
I walk over the bridge out of town. The view from the bridge is stunning. The clouds are still dark and it makes for a dramatic picture. I communicate with two canoeists on the river. “You’ve got a big backpack” they call over the water. We exchange a few more sentences, laugh and move on. I then meet an older couple on the Grand Trunk Trail who are telling me about two osprey towers along the Trail.
I walk into bush and wild grass to see the first tower but miss the osprey. A trail sign marks the second tower. It is located at the RARE Charitable Research Reserve and the 750m Osprey Tower Trail makes it possible to access to tower.
I put my backpack down and little red ants start climbing it instantly. I watch the osprey. Its screech is remarkable. It suddenly takes off, flies in a circle before returning to its nest. I turn my head to follow its flight and realize that it’s carrying something in its claws.
A lady stops by on her bike. We start chatting. She loves to come to this area to watch the birds as there are many more to see than just the osprey.
The colours of the sky are spectacular that evening. The lady and I are in no hurry. Suddenly three more ospreys fly over our heads on their way to their nests. I am over the moon. Witnessing such moments in nature always excite me. They never get boring.
As I make my way to Kitchener the next day I am thinking back to the osprey, its screech, the width of its wings. How lucky I am. I take out my harmonica and play. Nobody around to criticize me as I try to find the right tunes.
I planned to stop in Kitchener, formerly known as Berlin, for schnitzel and a cold beer in a German club or pub. But I am not lucky. It’s Monday and the restaurants are closed. So I walk on to Waterloo, where I arrive at night to meet Sue and John, who take me to their cottage at Sunfish Lake. I let this story end with me crawling into a comfy bed.
Find me walking