|The journey begins...:-) (Photo credit my Mom)|
Bilbo Baggins: I'm already late.
Hobbit: Late for what?
Bilbo Baggins: I'm going on an adventure.
-The Hobbit -An Unexpected Journey by J.R.R. Tolkien
OK, it was just me being overly dramatic when the above lines from, "The Hobbit", came to mind as I headed out on my journey to hike the length of The Cataraqui Trail , "and I hope I don't meet any Orcs either", I laughed to myself. There was after all a 99.99% chance that no Orks or Goblins were lurking under the next bridge waiting to add me to their soup pot for dinner, but then again...I hadn't walked all 104 kms of the trail before so I couldn't know for sure and for that matter, I had never even heard of anyone who had walked the entire trail...and lived to tell about it anyhow.
|A map of The Cataraqui Trail|
The trail has 48 main and secondary road access points along its length. Travelling from south-west to north-east, the trail route follows the Napanee River from north of Napanee to Yarker, then passes over a slight height of land to Harrowsmith, descends to Sydenham, passes through the Canadian Shield to Chaffeys Lock, and then parallels the Rideau Lakes to Smiths Falls."
|Behind The Strathcona Paper Mill|
Day 1 Strathcona to Sydenham - 32 km, 8 hours, 248 pictures
It was my first day on the trail, I was so excited to have begun a hike which I had been planning for 3 months since I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my right tibia. I have been a dedicated runner for 5 years now and when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture I had to put all of my running training and goals on hold until I healed. My doctor said I could do any exercise that didn't hurt my leg during or after and I found I could walk pain free. Stress fractures need time to heal however they may heal quicker in some cases if the patient is able to continue with weight bearing activities which stimulate bone growth, "as long as it doesn't hurt", that is. In most cases depending on the severity of the fracture one can heal in 3 to 8 weeks. As it turns out I may not have even had a fracture at all. A bone scan done a month after diagnosis showed no sign of one but I didn't know that at the time I began planning this hike and whatever was causing me pain when I ran needed to heal anyhow so taking time off from running and turning my goals towards hiking was a good way for me to heal and to keep myself active. Even as I slowly got back to running I remained totally focused on finishing my goal of hiking the entire trail, and now here I was, doing it.
The air was still chilled but I could see warm wisps of fog hanging over the farmer's fields. Crystallized ice covered the remains of summer's wild flowers and frost nipped evergreens twinkled in the morning sun. The straight corridor that lay before me seemed endless, a tunnel made of trees, cutting behind the backyards of family homes, past the back fences of working farms. Like being on the back lot of a movie set I felt like I was seeing the behind the scene workings of the lives of the people who live in the villages I was passing through. Instead of a wreath on a front door I saw playsets and barbeques. Instead of a swing on the front porch I saw the farm animals and tractor parts. Every now and again the straight corridor would become a gentle curve and then a new corridor would present itself to me, beckoning me towards it's end.
I spent my day keeping care of myself, eating, drinking and managing my layers of clothing as the temperatures began to rise above freezing so as not to sweat. Sweating outside in the winter is one of the worst things you can do. If you let your under layers become wet then when the temperatures begin to cool again later in the day that moisture can freeze and you can get very cold very quickly and perhaps even hypothermic. It is better to try to avoid sweating however I was carrying extras of everything and a towel just incase I needed to make a change into dry clothes. As I kept moving determined to keep pace and at the same time try to enjoy just being in the moment I realized I was passing over roads who's names I recognized and I was in my mind almost home. Well if I had been driving I would have been almost home, like 15-20 minutes away. But I was hiking on a winding trail so I did the math and realized I was still 4 hours from home, which was only half way. OMG, I never realized how far away Yarker and Harrowsmith really were from Sydenham. Then I began to think about the people long ago who lived here, before there were cars, would they take the train say from Strathcona to Yarker? It almost seems absurd to think about taking a train such a short distance these days but perhaps they did and then sometimes they'd take it all the way to Smith Falls. So really the train was the connection between these small towns, a connection that is no longer there...except for the trail it once followed, the one I was now walking on. Suffice it to say I made it home to Sydenham just under my 8 hour pace. I ran the last stretch as much as I could even though my left foot felt like a blown flat tire. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. "How do people do it", I thought to myself. "Hike for days, weeks, months. Run ultramarathons through the night when all I can do is hike 8 hrs. and I am ready for a hot bath and a good nights sleep". And oh did I sleep...zzzzzzzzzzzz
To be continued...
|Kilometre marker 96...the first marker I spotted some 8 kms from Strathcona|
|95 kilometres to go|
|This tree appeared to be welcoming me to trail|
|One of many gentle curves on the trail|
|A shy owl.|
|Two paths to Sydenham|
|What do you see? I see an old frozen man.|
|Where the Rideau Trail and the Cataraqui Trail cross in Sydenham|