In Hope, as hoped, my spirit started to catch up with my self.
The months leading up to departure were a flurry of activity — packing up my Vancouver life, wrapping up work I really enjoyed with SFU’s incredible Lifelong Learning team, chipping away at my passion project, and planning details for The Great Trail. It’s a wonder (and the work of a small army to whom I’m immensely grateful!) that I set out only a few days later than planned.
I had it in my mind that Hope would be a good test run for the rest of the trail — a good stretch at 220kms through cities and towns I was somewhat familiar with and still in reach of friends and family. I had a good sense of the distances between towns and had set myself a daily kilometer plan, but I was otherwise winging it — hoping that a combination of signage, several map apps, and a willingness to get lost would help me find my way, but not entirely sure how the rest — food, sleep, spirit, gear, strength — would land. I figured if I made it to Hope in good spirits it would be a good sign that the rest would fall in place.
In fact, the stretch from Vancouver to Hope was such a dream that it felt like I floated there, carried along each day by familiar and new faces. I met hundreds of people who offered me conversation, well-wishes, handshakes, prayers, a patch of grass to pitch my tent, a lift, a hand, directions, a meal, a shower, snacks to go, water, a nod, a cheer, good vibes, a bed, a beer, safety, and incredible kindness.
I’ve been watered, fed, taken in, taken care of, and sent off with a heavier pack and more heart, love, and gratitude than I could have imagined.
That first stretch weaves through suburbs and small towns, with not much wilderness to pitch a tent. I was buoyed along from stop-ins with friendly faces and the unimaginable kindness of strangers, my days full with getting my legs beneath me, assessing, packing, and repacking gear, and good conversation well into the evening wherever I ended my days.
How rarely we get to drop in on people’s unstaged lives, to sit with another without preparation or pretence. One of the reasons I walk is to fall back in love with this country; to have a good look at this land and our people, to see the things that string us all together and the unique things that set us apart.
Every day between Vancouver and Hope I had the great pleasure of tagging along or dropping in on the daily routines of Canadians living their Canadian lives, to be invited in to the activities and interests of so many different people each day: ice cream on the boardwalk with Rob and three energetic kids; a movie date with Jennifer and a school-run in the morning; a stroll with Ron and pup Melbourne on the Dyke, Ron recounting his daughter’s choral performance that brought him to tears; a prayer offered on a bench at the edge of the long-drained Sumas Lake bed by Ken and Sue, who walk the dyke to pray and think about the world, who think this province and this country are on the cusp of a positive shift; a traditional Dutch plate offered by Gail, a beaming new grandmother to not one but two new grand babes born five weeks apart and a quad ride with her husband Tom, whose mother was five months pregnant with him when she and his father bought the house and farm he now tends. Two-spirit Cherron who I met while stopped for a snack under a bridge, which just happened to be her favourite fishing hole and her partner Sue who took me in for a night just as I was coming to terms with the strangeness and fear I had around being a queer on the go, outside the safety of my known community. Dion from Barbados walking to stay fit; probably just legal age to work Raymond, bored on shift at Tim Horton’s, who lit up when I told him what I was doing; Colleen and Mom Shirley, in between moving houses who hosted me not once but twice in their new home further down the line; Darcy, husband Scott, and mom Linda who showed me their ceramics business and gave me a piece of Chiliwack corn; Stan and Grace, an early chance encounter that affirmed the spiritual parts of my ‘reasons for walking’ and is deserving of a stand-alone post (to come! 🙂 …
These are only a handful of the people whose kindness made the early days magic.
I walk every day in deep gratitude to be on this path, and every day the universe surprises me with some chance encounter that seems to confirm the conviction I had that this was the right thing to do.
East of Hope, my days have been much quieter — rather rainy with few people on the trail and fewer houses further apart along the way — but I’ve been appreciating the time for reflection, stretching, meditating, and rest, and the challenge of challenging my fears being out in the world more alone.
At three weeks in, I’m finding my pace and my peace, perfecting the rhythm, and starting to write. My days start and end with gratitude and fleeting thoughts that I might never want to leave the trail, curious if the shine will fade or the magic will continue…
Till next time! 😺🤗💓