What! Where is that sound coming from? Where am I? Oh yeah,
I'm in Port Philip, just past Pugwash, it's 1:30 AM and I have been
washed out of my sleeping bag by the amount of rain falling out
of the sky. Everything I have with me is soaked. I'm wearing all my
clothes, rain gear and heat shield. I have my soaked sleeping bag
held over my head for some sense of protection.
I'm sitting under a tree like a drowned rat.
I'm getting slowly soaked from the outside in, from the top down, from
the bottom up. There is a very special emotion
that comes over you if you spend a lot of time semi-unprotected in a
downpour. When the water creeping under and through your gear finally
gets to the place it has been zoned in on for the last hour or so, your
body sends that ever so unpleasant signal to your brain...
Hey! My scrotum is wet!!!!
So, I now know where I am and what is happening.
I suppose the better question is: Why am I where I is???? Your guess is
as good as mine. It was a very distinct series of decisions that brought
me here. You decide if the situation is one I should have expected. I
offer no defense. Viewed from most angles, this is a stupid situation in
the middle of an ill-advised trip.....Or is it?
I had just retired from my career job at Dal and was looking for
some sort of short trip to mark the changing of my life circumstances. It needed to be
simple and in-complicated and it needed to be hard.
I know...I'll walk to PEI to visit my Mom. Sounds good.
The Big Trip
I am planning a fairly ambitious trip that will take me to New York, British Columbia, New Zealand
and perhaps around the world over the next year. I like to travel light
and as uncomplicated as possible. I also have a very small budget and will have to do
some sort of unpaid labour to get by and extend my trip enough to mark some items off my Bucket List.
This means that I will end up in situations that work better if they are
I decide that a nice 280 km walk to PEI with just a sleeping bag, mat,
rain gear and a change of clothes will place some stress on my systems
and show me just how soft I really am and how much tougher I need to be.
Tuesday - Day One - 41 kms
Out the door, down the road, simple as that. I'm a hobo.
Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let...50 cents
No phone, no pool no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road
I have your basic NS road
map and a plan to walk about 30 kms a day. I have lots of backpacking
experience and many days of walking under my belt, including a few all
day hikes with gear, with and without rain.
What I don't have is multiple day, rainy conditions experience without
a tarp or tent.
Now I do.
The walking is easy until the Big Stop and my first 3 problems. I am
using 'water-shoes' for footwear. They are for adventure races and are
very light with a sturdy sole that allows running. I have 10 hours
walking experience in them, but without a pack. Problem is, they move
around a bit in the heel when there is some weight on your body. I have
a blister! First full-out blister in my decades old hiking career and
it's in an odd spot (back outside heel). Not a problem in itself, but it
does mean that I have at least another week in which I have to nurse
this thing. Dang!
The second problem is that it is only 3:30 PM. Just what does one do to
keep busy from now till dark at 9:00 PM. I have no place to stay or
place to sit about, not for 6 hours anyway? Never thought about that.
Oh yeah. It's raining.
I end up walking on to Elmsdale and sleeping under the bridge about 1 km
Wednesday - Day Two - 51 kms
Unfortunately???, yesterday's distance puts me in an awkward spot. Camp
10-15 kms outside Truro or push out a 50+ kms day and reach a motel in
Oh yeah. It's raining. Big time
Truro it is. The day starts great. Fresh fruit and veggies at a store,
landmarks that I know, lunch at a Timmies. The day ends badly as I
develop an open cut on my other heel and my quads basically go on
strike. I force them to go on, as I realize another problem.
Once I finish walking for the day, I don't get to 'step out' of my feet.
I need them to get around, get groceries, setup up camp or make a
I'm learning a lot on this trip and it's early yet.
I get a motel in Truro and am in more pain that I have ever been in. I
have been involved in many sports and races and endurance events over
the years. Today's pain re-writes the scale. Makes the run up Mount
Washington last year seems like a bit of bother. I exaggerate. Washington hurt big-time.
Difference was the pain stopped when you did. Not so today.
Thursday - Day Three - 35 kms
Can't answer the call in the morning. Don't get on the road till noon.
Feet are in bad shape, quads are fine, other body parts hurt but energy
is fine after allowing a bit of time off.
The walk to Earltown goes well. I call daughter Sophie for her birthday.
Nuttby is uphill, so they say. Hard to notice. My focus is inward.
Seriously don't notice the grade. I'm into pain management.
Oh yeah. It's raining.
I end up sleeping in the woods just off the road. Rain isn't too bad. My
little stove makes some nice beans, porridge and hot chocolate.
Again, I feel like a hobo. Just not so much rain, if you please.
Friday - Day Four - 21 kms
It's a pretty good day and I've already decided that I'll stop in
Tatamagouche and seek a motel, rather than try and push on to Wallace.
It's a good choice as the motel had just opened and the Wallace one
wasn't open yet. You could argue that I should know this already. Me, I
like serendipity. It cuts both ways:
Sometimes you win
Sometimes you lose
The motel owners (Jim & Sue) have a great place and know my neighbours
and some of my friends. Nova Scotia is a small place. I spend the day
drinking beer and sleeping. I'm using beer as an analgesic. I don't take
any pain medication or ibuprofen. The beer makes you not care about the
pain. Works for me.
Oh yeah. It's raining.
Saturday - Day Five - 45 kms
It is a sunny warm day. I am in heaven. The parts are rested up and
healing a bit. I'm along the coast. The body feels strong. This is what
I was aiming for. Uncomplicated, carefree walking. There is pain, but it
is the background.
I would like to say that I spent a lot of time thinking and mulling over
my lot in life. Actually, my brain worked in 2 distinct ways, both a bit un-expected.
Part of my brain kept track of the aches in my body, the cars
on the road, the camber in the road that just kept me ever so slightly
off-angle. Another part could do connected memory tasks, so I spent a
bunch of time going thru past events in my life, like the first trip to
Israel, the big 6 month trip my wife and I went on and my first walking
trip to Ireland. For the most part, I can break down these trips into
individual days, so this exercise helps me retain the memory and sucks up
big chunks of time.
Thinking about more esoteric things just doesn't happen on such a
trip. The pain is too immediate. The trip is affecting me, but it will
take some time and introspection to have it all filter out.
The walk to Wallace is a breeze. Burger and coke at diner, on to
Pugwash. I get in a very nice chat with some locals and a few car
drivers, who always ask the same question "You're walking? Accepting no
rides?" Causes some consternation, that's for sure. The weather changes.
Oh yeah. It's raining. Big time.
My rain gear is good for a few hours of light
rain of about 1/2 hour of heavy. After that, it falls apart. There is
better rain gear, but if you intend to hike with a pack in heavy rain,
you WILL get wet, from the outside or inside. I am happy with my rain-gear setup.
Dinner is under the Pugwash bridge. I call Duffy and have a nice chat. I
should stay put, but the rain stops and it's only 6:00 PM. I push on to
Port Philip and another bridge. More rain and the bridge has no
underneath to get upon. I end up in the trees again, get in a few hours
sleep and wake up trying to figure out why my legs are cold. It's
because the volume of rain in the storm has soaked my gear, the ground,
my mat and now my sleeping bag. Within 1/2 hour, my shoulders get wet and
I have to abandon the bag, put on my rain gear and pack my stuff. I
check out the road, but it is pitch dark (no streetlights in the country)
and raining hard. Back under the tree.
Gordon Warnica always says that the best tool
in your kit is your brain, so I started working on just how I am going
to stay warm for the next 4 hours.
I put on my last bit of dry clothes
and am now wearing everything I've got. Will worry about that problem
tomorrow. I eat my apple and a chocolate bar to keep up my metabolism.
I wrap my heat shield around my shoulders. I can still feel the rain and
a mild chill coming on. I drag the soaked sleeping bag out of my pack and
wrap it over my head. Ahh, peace and quiet. The rain beats on the bag
instead of my head. I'm sitting on my knapsack, leaned up against a tree
and am mildly aware of water working it's way past my defenses. I doze a
little here and there and pass the time.
Up? at 5:30 AM and just start walking. Figure I'll warm up and dry off
a bit before trying to boil up some brekkie.
Sunday - Day Six - 43 kms
Nice enough day. It's not raining at least, altho it will be. I put in a
quick 3 hours before my brain relaxes and works on how to deal with the
rest of the day. I am warmed up and drying out, but I have a problem.
The forecast is for lots more rain and all my gear is soaked. Sleeping
out again is not looking very promising.
I finally stop for a bite to eat and get some nice, hot porridge and
hot chocolate into me. Life is looking up.
I need some luck or a motel. Luck comes in the form of 1 of the only
2 places to stop in on the road form Port Philip to Tidnish. I get in a
greasy breakfast and find out about a possible open motel in Port Elgin,
a mere 30+ kms away.
Oh yeah. It's raining.
I walk to Tidnish, take a break, stop in the grocery, find out the
name/number of the motel, make a reservation and head out on the road.
The system is getting very beat up, but I have a destination. I have
some focus. The Confederation Bridge is but a 2 day walk away. Things
are looking up.
Oh yeah. It's raining. Big time.
The road to the motel seems to wander in the desert. It's like a mirage
that floats above the horizon. My pace has dropped to 4 kms an hour
which makes this oasis seem even farther away. I may never actually get
The motel is a few kms outside Port Elgin and I have to make a choice.
Do I go into town to fuel up, or just make the motel. I am not in as
much pain as Truro, but I am seriously beat up. I was smart enough to
buy a few beer back in Tidnish. As we all know:
Beer will get you through times of no food
better than food will get you through times of no beer.
No dinner it is, just the bag of chips I have left in the bag. I could
boil up some porridge if need be (don't want to start stove in motel
room). As it turns out, lack of dinner means very little in my current
situation. Happy to be warm, dry and Pittsburgh is playing hockey on the
television. Life is very good indeed. There was a hockey game on in the
motel when I was in Truro, but I fell asleep in the middle of the 1st
period, even if I am a big hockey play-off fan. Syney Crosby plays for
Monday - Day Seven - 28 kms
The walk from Port Elgin was slow and tortuous, but I could see the
finish line. It was a tough day mentally and physically. My original
plan was to walk right to my Mom's house in Summerside. I was really
looking forward to the walk along the coast and a stop at Chelton, where
we used to camp all summer as kids in the military.
Realistically, it would take me 2 more days to get that part done. I was
far too beat up to continue on without another night in a motel,
assuming there was one within walking distance of the Bridge.
I was happy with the basic "Walk to PEI". I got to the Bridge, a hootin'
and a hollerin', scammed free ride over with a patrol vehicle and called
ny step-father who came and picked me up, drove me to Mom's, had a
bunch of cold Heinekin in the fridge and lots of hot water in the tub.
Success. Measured in pain, discomfort, tenacity and stupidity. Hey! I'm
a Gonzo and a hobo.
What did I learn?
- You MUST keep the gear dry. No on the ground sleeps in the rain
- You MUST fill the day. 30 kms is nice on a sunny day, but no so in
- You MUST have completely broken-in footwear. Small problems grow at
- The camber in a road will tick you off. Really!
- A tarp/tent not much help on this trip. Where do you
put one up on the side of the road?
- A poncho/tarp would have made Saturday evening MUCH better. I now have one
- I'm happy with my rain-gear setup. Functional, cheap, replaceable
- Big trees are good rain shelters for about an hour. Then it rains in
- Big walks make you live 'in the moment', and include a lot of
- I STILL carry gear that I will never use
- Covering 50+ kms in a day is a really cool feeling...after the fact
- This trip had a lot of cachet. In my mind at least
- The pain was more than expected. Blisters affect every step
- The discomfort was over-rated. Even cold and wet, it's only so much
- It is a lot of fun watching your brain deal with mild adversity
- It is difficult to day-dream on such a trip. Something about rain and
- The trip did was it was meant to do. Find the physical/mental edges
and push a bit
Oh yeah! What's with all the numbers at the start of this story??? This
is what I was doing sitting under the tree sopping wet in the big
rainstorm...counting to 1000, over and over. Why? I was way too wet and uncomfortable to
daydream, it was damn near impossible to sleep, altho my brain screamed
at me that this was a requirement. No idea what other people do in such
situations. This was a first for me.
I wanted to shake off the warm blankie of civilized life. Damn cold and
wet out there!
Where are my slippers?
Following is a little 2:18 minutes video with 7 little clips embedded. IE seems to ignore the code (I use Firefox, Chrome and Opera)