Sault Saint Marie to Algonquin Park, ON
Inside of my tent - Compact and waterproof
The next week the terrain passed in monotonous beauty and my mind started to wander. Would winter catch me before I was finished? Was it a good day or a bad day for Dunk (He was still in the hospital with alternating days due to electrolyte imbalances caused by the damage) Should I keep my car in storage or have someone pick it up? Had I forgotten any bills last time I was online? These thoughts were soon completed or abandoned each day, and I turned to dreaming about a house for entertainment. Not purchasing a house, but designing one. Each time I thought of a design I would watch the houses I passed to find an example and see if the idea was architecturally pleasing. Often it wasn't, and I'd change the "plans" again. Buy the end of the trip I had an entire "dream" house plan designed and several challenging variations to play with... Can a house be built without a single triangle? What would be the design for the perfect cabin, beach house, apartment building, hostel, small business building, and etc. This was perhaps the best mental game I had created, as most others were easily solved or could be thoroughly thought through in only one block of time, whereas this one required one to find various examples from the scenery prior to completion.
A Sudbury Nickel Plant
8-28-01 It had rained the during the night, which was nothing new, so it hadn't really crossed my mind until coming out of the tent that morning. The odd thing about this rain was that it had coated everything with a red coloring. I knew I was getting closer to Sudbury, but I thought the environmental damage had been reversed twenty years prior. My Dad had related the story and was interested to hear my reactions to the area. Apparently, the main industry in Sudbury is Nickel mining and processing. However, part of the purification process involves the release of a large amount of hydrochloric acid. Usually this was buffered in some way prior to release into the atmosphere, but one time in particular, the release was direct.
Birch groves on my first evening hike
The wind carried the toxic plume across the countryside, killing all the trees and wildlife as it passed, leaving a moonscape of bare rock. The government, infuriated at the factory's lack of care, forced the factories to mount a project to reverse the disaster. However even after twenty years of recovery, only scraggly birch trees and patches of bracken fern were starting to cover the black rock of the area, and everything was covered in a red coating that was washed out of the air by the rains.
I marveled at the level of destruction that was still apparent after two decades. Even fire fighters in the area are flown out after two days though they wear full chemical suits while working. It is simply too dangerous. One side benefit of the clearing is that walking from one boulder sized rock patch to another was easy and quite fun. That evening while looking for a place to set up my tent I took a long wandering hike among the birch trees and rock domes. After this day, evening "tent" hikes became a routine and a favorite activity of each day.
Maple seedling shadows on side of tent
8-29-01 Though it had been more than two weeks since Dunk's brain hemorrhage, phone conversations had been a little bizarre with him before this day. It would seem that he was coherent, but then he would tangent off to plan a trip that was impossible in his current status, or relate the details about a trip that had only happened in his mind. (Now that he's back to his normal self, he is often teased that perhaps everyone in the area is only a figment of his imagination and he is actually still in the hospital.) But this day he was able to recount what had happened that fateful day he was struck with what he thought was a regular migraine. He also discussed the trend line of his salt concentrations, and the results looked favorable. The road would be long and difficult before they would balance out (though this wasn't his optimistic view) but regardless, the bad days looked like they should end in a week or two. The inevitability of a full recovery was evident and he was telling those of his friends who hadn't already flown in to see him to wait until he could go on trips again - his estimate... less than one month. I didn't know if this was merely Dunk optimism, but the numbers did seem to show a return to "normal" in the upcoming weeks. His final comment that day was to complete my trip and not worry about him, he wanted to think of me out there biking in the open country, as an inspiration to recover quickly and return to the wilderness himself.
8-30-01 When choosing a spot to camp at night, I was always careful to choose a spot where humans rarely went, especially in bear country. One morning while setting up to eat breakfast, I was beckoned over to an RV to hear a story that reinforced this habit. Three English visitors had rented an RV to travel around Canada for the summer and had stayed at that rest stop for the night. I could see evidence of bears at the stop as the trash cans were all destroyed, shredded as if by a wild chain saw. The friends said they had been asleep in their RV when they were awoken by the noise of a very large bear tearing apart the trash can. Scared, they peered out of their windows, only to become more scared by the proximity of a very large bear and turned to hide along the floor of the RV to avoid drawing attention to themselves. As they lay there listening to the bear thrash around outside, the bear did find the RV of interest and started to play with it, pushing it back and forth. It decided to leave it intact, and disappeared into the forest. They were showing me the size of the prints in the dirt all around their RV and on the RV's sides. Indeed it was a very large bear that had visited them that night!
"You look tired" stated a tree planter sitting on a bench outside of the local food store. I wheeled my bike over to where he was sitting and started to make a list in my journal. "I am tired, this was a very hectic morning." He smiled at the potential of a juicy story and I began. "I put my little waterproof bag in a different spot on my bike this morning and it fell off. I backtracked to find it, but I had covered a long distance and it was no where to be found." "Did you try a taxi company?" I nodded, in fact I had called a taxi company, who didn't want to help me as I didn't know how far back the bag was. I had also contacted the highway patrol in case they had seen a bag on the road. But the story continued. "Then there was a guy at a tire store with better connections to the taxi companies, as he did a lot of business with them. He called each company and one of them said they had seen my bag that morning and turned it in to this food store here." I motioned toward the store. "But they don't have it?" He seemed interested in this silly story so I continued. "Nope, and they even described the counter to which it was turned in with great detail. Why would they give such a story unless it was true?" He didn't know either. As I was sitting there, listing everything that could have been in the bag, the tire store guy and the taxi driver pulled up to check for themselves, convinced I had the wrong place. However, the bag had disappeared. I learned another lesson, put my name and number on EVERYTHING. Figuring that if the bag ever turned up there were people that would call and send the bag to me, I continued on. The consistent head winds for the first time in a long time turned tail and I covered a whopping 80 km in only three hours!