Leg 2 had a total different tone. We were more comfortable and focused, more into a rhythm. After unsuccessfully seeking out a clear/ unforested path to cut across--which would have given us a chance to break out the snowshoes and make better time--we instead settled on following a country road that was running north.
It turned out to be a great decision, as we were no longer troubled by semi’s barreling past, throwing blow-back snow and dirt in our faces. Also, it was quieter. I think we both did a fair bit of thinking, trudging along in silence, contemplating our lot, with the steady crunch-crunch of our boots on the snow the only sound.
I realized it’s been a long, long time since I experienced true silence, and longer still since I experienced the refreshing bite of a winter cold. I quite liked it, actually. I definitely felt like a true Canadian there and then.
The country road was also more open than the highway, and we could really take in the wide and white expanse of the frozen scenery. It was quite beautiful actually, with the snow and snowcapped trees stretching in every direction.
At one point Will stopped suddenly and said “Wow that’s pretty rare.” Looking up I saw a white bird flapping in our direction. Upon closer inspection it was a Snow Owl, my first.
We both took a couple minutes to stand and watch as it flew into the distance.
By this time we had been walking for a number of hours, and sunset was approaching. Luckily we were approaching a small hamlet- so the time was ripe for me to spring my ingenious plan for securing us a nice spot to spend the night. As Will (opposed to my scheme), made offhand disapproving remarks and stayed back standoffish; I approached the 1st house and knocked on the door.
After a minute, a middle aged French lady cautiously approached the door and opened it half-way.
I backed away from the door, and smiling broadly tried to sell myself.
“Good evening Ma’am--Me and my friend and engaged in an adventure. We’re hiking from Cornwall to Ottawa. We have a tent, but seeing as it’s going to drop to -25 tonight, we were wondering if you might be kind enough to let us use that shed in back so we have a bit of shelter.”
Cue winning smile part 2.
After looking towards the shed uncertainly she took a few seconds to reply
“No. I don’t. No. My husband wouldn’t like it.”
Although I was slightly disappointed, I warmly thanked her for her time, and busting out smile number 3 (this one kinda phoney though, as I was a bit bummed) told her it wasn’t a problem, sorry to bother her, we would be ok, and walked away waving jauntily.
After getting in an animated discussion with Wills about what direction to go next (he wanted to go away from the center of town, so as to avoid a confrontation with someone there with which he had some bad blood) We flipped a pack of cigarettes (we didn’t have a coin) to decide our directional destiny. .
I shouldn’t have let him call it.
We started away from civilization.
I tried my ‘can we use your shed’ routine again at the next house with a shed in back (nobody home) and the one after that (no again. And the former cop who actually owned the place turned up to grill us as we were leaving….nice)
My vision of staying in a protected area, and maybe later on hearing a knock on the shed door that was the farmer inviting us in for supper, and the supper turned into shared beers and laughs, and we end up sleeping in the guest bedroom, and the farmer actually has a hot daughter, and the daughter knocks softly on the door, and I leave the room to meet her, and she’s biting her lip, and not saying anything and I slowly go in for a kiss and….
Well you get the idea. None of that was going to happen.
To the bush then.
We found a nice enough area, slightly wooded so as to provide a bit of wind protection and worked our way through the (at times) hip-deep snow. It was a bit slower a passage then it should have been, as our legs were both sore enough from the days walking that trail breaking through snow, caused a bit of discomfort.
The tent popped up without incident, and after spending what seemed like a very long time in the snow, changing into my warmest clothes with numb fingers , I jumped into the tent (Will was way ahead of me) and into my cold-weather sleeping bag. It was 5:30pm and the sun was down.
After some quick trail mix for supper in the dark, I was out like a light. It had been a long day.
I was jostled from my sleep by Will cursing. My day wasn’t over yet, apparently. . It turns out his zipper was broken. Leaving his sleeping bag unable to seal. AND it had gotten much colder. It was now-30 degrees Celsius. After taking a minute to have my own mini ’Sophie’s choice’ moment (Stay in my bag that it took quite some doing to get delightfully toasty in and position myself in JUST right for maximal comfort or…... get out and help my friend dicker around with his bag) I made the right choice, and tried to help Will with his problem.
Seeing as his zipper was past all help though, I helped position the sleeping bag around him as best as possible, and went back to sleep---only to be woken by Wills’ shivering, and his first (of many) cell phone calls to his wife to talk about how cold he was. I wormed my way out again, and this time insisted a mentally sluggish Will (Cold slows mental acuity) get out of his broken bag and put on EVERY piece of spare clothing we had---a record breaking 8+ layers (including 3 coats). The deed being done, I re-tucked him in, and went back to my cocoon, which was made more difficult by the fact that now ALSO had a zipper malfunction. But mine wasn’t code red, as it was just jammed, as opposed to totally separated, so I could still worm my way in. I was woken again by what I thought was Will rustling about. It wasn’t.