Thursday, February 4, 2016

Day 97 I was a Drunken Moose

I've got a few more minutes at a computer finally, so I'll try to make up for the last rushed post.  A funny blogworthy thing happened a week or so ago... I was mistaken for a drunken moose.

A light snow was falling after a night of steady accumulating flurries; no storm or anything harsh, just a morning that dawned a winter wonderland... On a backroad, presumably a gravel road, but unused as it had been that morning, I was happily walking through ankle-deep fresh snow without ice beneath.  The temperature was comfortable; there was no wind to speak of.  I walked for hours alone to the sound of snow, sometimes falling lightly, sometimes clumping down off tree tops, and sometimes just squeaking under my boots (not enough snow for snowshoes).

Who wouldn't enjoy such a morning's walk?  For miles and miles, I was absolutely alone in the woods.  Unwatched, unaccompanied - what is the saying? 'dance like there's no one watching; sing like there's no one listening...'  so I sort of was, but walking, not dancing, and not really singing out loud, but with happy random thoughts savoring the journey of the day... I wandered the full width of the track - this side to peer into the woods where there were fresh deer tracks, that side to follow a wee mouse along the slight crust of the snow for a remarkable distance considering its size until it spied me and jumped into the forest... meandering onward now stopping to watch a red-headed woodpecker pound persistently into a tree top... wandering sort of straight down the middle, then stopping for a bit of a piddle on one side, later sitting on a snowbank on the opposite side to eat an apple... adrift in my own thoughts for hours and hours, unhurried, unwatched, totally enjoying my morning walk - yikes!  suddenly, silently, a small car was behind me! Hello?!  A puzzled woman shouted out - 'what is this?? I thought I've been following a drunken moose for miles!  What are you doing out here?'  I looked back down the track I'd walked... sure enough, little prints in the snow, never in a straight line for very long, tracks that could have been made by a drunken moose, indeed.  Or a pilgrim enjoying the solitude.  We both laughed fully, well into the evening, it turned out.  Why not?  Dance like there's no one watching.  Sing like there's no one listening.  Walk like a drunken moose through the fresh snow.

Some days later, at the Martyrs' Shrine, I took a day of rest as a guest of the Jesuits.  A pilgrim from Toronto came to visit.  With much deliberation, I parted with my snowshoes.  The end of January - winter's half over - not much snow to speak of.  While I used them a few times, I never really needed them - not like the deep deep snows of Serbia and Montenegro last winter.  If I find I need them again, we can be reunited in short order.  Now, without the added weight on my pack, with virtually no snow left on the ground, I can leave a trail of light prints in the mud - perhaps not as easy to mistake them as being made by a drunken moose.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Day 86 Finally some snow

My travels around the north shore of Lake Huron - actually more along the Georgian Bay - has been in part on snowshoes -- as the photos suggest -- yeah!  I've been following a fair number of snowmobile trails, and conveniently there's really not enough snow for them to be officially open to snowmobiles.  By sticking to the back-country, I've enjoyed some solitude and beauty but haven't even seen the tracks of the wolves people with expressions of great horror warn me of.  Happily, I've at least seen a few moose.

Hosts and other people I encounter continue to be kind, and I've been with the three general groups of collocated communities - general English-speaking Canadians, French-speaking Canadians, and First Nation folks, one fun evening being welcomed for accommodation in one of the Elder Homes of the Serpent River band.  Every day is new and adventurous, a few bitterly cold days, some fluffy snow days, but no harsh storms.

Pushing for the Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, the northeastward into deeper snow.... more soon...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Day 71 Through the Soo

Au Canada!  How nice it is when everything falls into place - an easy border crossing for me.  Few international borders are set up for pedestrians, especially those defined by a river.  The high, arching bridge can be crossed by bicycle, the border guards related, but not by foot.  No one had a bicycle for me to borrow, so a little 'bridge bus' was flagged down, and on I got for the crossing.  Welcome to Canada >stamp<.

The UP of Michigan flew by under my feet more than my snowshoes, but I got in some off-road and forest walking and was met with kindness (and coffee) everywhere.  Overall, the warmest gesture I met in all six of the states I walked through since Denver has been the offering of cups of coffee, so often right through the car window.  I haven't encountered this anywhere else in all my travels.  God Bless America.

Amid all the joy and fun I've been having, a highlight before exiting the country was found just north of Paradise - and what pilgrim could bypass a town so-named?  Just north of Paradise is a Catholic community called Companions of Christ the Lamb.  They've got a substantial wilderness area and offer short and long-stay wilderness retreats in small hermitages away from the world.  It's a funny perspective that such a place could be dubbed 'wilderness', but it's an apt title.  While I associate wilderness areas with a rugged lack-of-life appeal - those many deserts I've crossed, the high-altitude way-above-the-treeline aretes, the vast uninhabited tundra all with an imminent threat of death with the slightest lapse of senses - a cozy hardwood forest with meandering rivers and plenty of wildlife certainly qualifies for a comfortable wilderness retreat anyone could enjoy.  To the surprise of the residents, I approached in great tranquility on foot along snowmobile tracks rather than on the paved highway, quiet as it may be.

Onward toward the Shrine of the Martyrs in Midland, Ontario...maybe by the end of the month.  More snow is forecast, so soon, I hope, the snowshoes will be off my back and on my feet for good.

Happy New Year...

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The "Winter Pilgrim" stayed the night at Bay Mills before hitting the Caffey Truck Trail this morning. Ann Sieben has walked many parts of the world as a "Winter Pilgrimage", Today she will enter the 44th country (Canada) as this Winter's walk takes her from starting point in Denver, Co. to Quebec's Atlantic seacoast.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, December 30, 2015