Monday, August 11, 2014

Victory (We Fight to Win) -- Saskatoon City Walk 2014

  • Departure 4:34am
  • Return 11:31pm (18h 57m)
  • link to the online map. You can download a kml or gpx file, if you like. Until I get the issues resolved, the timestamps on the map are all 6hrs early.
It was an interesting start to the day. We had a record 6 people depart at a pretty unusual hour for a stroll. I was impressed with everyone who even showed up.
The "Glow" Phase
  1. Me. I've done this a few times before. This is my 4th completion and longest time to date. Perhaps old age calls...
  2. My brother James. Can't remember, but I think it is his 4th serious effort, although on this occasion he only planned to be with me until noonish
  3. Nephew David Groot. 2nd attempt.
  4. Bri Groot. 1st attempt.
  5. Tim Nickel. 1st outing. Had a busy day planned but managed to visit with us for about 3 1/2 hrs.
  6. Ryan Bradshaw. 1st outing. His successful plan was for a few hours of early morning birding. He at least got the early part.

In addition there were several other (physical) participants:
  1. Wendy is my rock. She started dropping off coffee, swimming, manufacturing picnics and providing van rides to my companions (injured or otherwise) at 7am and didn't stop until she had an end-of-journey bath ready for me at 11:30pm.
  2. Anwyn, Jodi, Leora and Dillon. Each of these met me on the road to provide some companionship once the Fellowship had failed.
The journey has certain natural "zones" that seem to be the same year to year:

The Morning Glow (4:15am-7:30am)

Smiling, yawning faces greet Mike at the door
Pleasant chattering introductions and reconnections
Everyone departs with gusto.

Before we leave my house, I gently suggest that everyone put vaseline on their feet to prevent blisters. My usual suggestion (as it was said to me many years earlier) is to "put on more than you think you need."  David's cocky reply, "well, since I think I don't need any..." Famous last words ;)

"I know this is a long walk, but if you would only feel the strength of these legs, you would understand my confidence that I will finish today."  -- internal monologue of unnamed walker --

Every Sewer Pipe ;)
We all spray and respray mosquito repellant, adjust lacing on shoes and straps on packs, and wonder why Mike asked us 3 times if we had gone to the bathroom. Heading South toward the railway tracks, the brisk pace and cool morning air doing their work to snap us out of our desire to slip back into a dreamy slumber. Heavy dew on grass and thistle cools toes. Combined with coarse, sharp rocks on the rail bed, everyone begins to wonder about their choice of footwear and Mike's orienteering skills.

This is a very pleasant time. As the sun rises (very red), we bounce around solo or in groups of two and three, swapping stories and snapping pictures of sun, birds and friends. James occasionally played "Lollipop" and other travel inspired tunes for us while we walked along the tracks and dusty back roads talking about Stand By Me. I have boundless energy at this point and it is hard for me to resist climbing each dirt pile and exploring every sewer pipe.

Ryan and Tim didn't have time to manage the whole trip with us and both leave toward the end of the "glow" phase, just as everyone has their first serious stretch and Wendy brings us coffee. About 3 hours (7:30am). #spoiledquesters

The Surprise (7:30am-10:30am)

Everyone is still in great spirits, but James seems worried about the effect of too much more rough terrain on his feet and ankles. David and Bri begin to develop blisters and apply bandaids. Spirits are still high as we drink our coffee and lattés, but we being to choose our steps more carefully.

Just after Tim left us, we found a cache of garter snakes. James captured one twice (slippery sucker) so that I could get a picture.

We followed a ditch along the highway 5 for 2.5km. Signs made a pretty big deal about the mosquito control methods employed therein... there were some questions as to the efficacy of these measures.
mosquito control
Yes, his whole back looked like this for 45 minutes.

Around 10:30am we were compelled to make a stop for a Booster Juice and more importantly, their bathroom :) David's blisters were getting more serious. He applied a second layer of socks and band-aids, hoping for the best. After a brief break, James determined that no amount of stretching was going to allow his leg to proceed.

"Those who fall behind are left behind." Following the pirates code, we walked on without him. Legend has it that he managed fly away on an airship constructed from mosquitoes stripped from his own back. Either that or Wendy came to pick him up in the van as David, Bri and I continued on foot, at an ever reduced pace.

Anticipation (10:30am-2pm)

A.K.A. Picnic and a River Crossing. This is a new phase. Introduced after several years of failure to finish my city quest alone. I have found that it provides an incentive to push through some of the doubt that sets in near the halfway point.

David is limping pretty badly, but we manage to get to the Psych Center (near Silverspring). Wendy, Anwyn and James arrive with life jackets and lunch.

The river swim was fantastic again this year. Bri, David and Wendy joined me for this portion. The water was cold and refreshing after some 9hrs of walking. I tested out my waterproof case and made my first phone call and texts while swimming. I was roundly mocked by my companions.

The Grind (2pm-6:30pm)

After lunch, only Bri and I remained to continue the gauntlet. David had numerous blisters, including a pretty huge blood blister on his heel. He managed almost half of the journey and only a couple km shy of his 14-year-old personal best. Well done!

This portion, along the river, bypassing Silverwood Golf Course, is some of the most beautiful of the day. On the other hand, it abuts the least attractive part, which is the 71st St industrial and North of the airport.

Bri and I had marvelous conversations about children, no children, marriage, our parents and the benefits and hazards of learning karate. As things were getting particularly dreary (landscape and spirits), I told Bri a traditional First Nation's story, The Woman and the Flying Head. I choose to think that it is unrelated, but shortly after that, she decided she couldn't go any further. 50km is no small achievement (more than a marathon) and she now can boast the farthest journey of any of my companions.

That Which We Are... (6:30pm-11:30pm)

Every time I have failed has been in this phase. It is exhausting and every time I stop to stretch, I feel like having a nap right on the boulevard. Having people with me at this point is pretty critical, both as a distraction and for encouragement.

Anwyn was my first helper. She started when Bri was picked up. We discussed the fantasy novel she is writing. She is obsessed with the maps she is drawing and the societies she is crafting. Our walk was dominated by the desolation that precedes construction of a new neighborhood. Inspiring if you like lunar landscapes or Tonka Trucks. Jodi met us when we stopped for coffee at a Tim Horton's and together the three of us made it to the far end of Montgomery

Spitting Light
Leora walked with me for the last 15km. It was just getting dark and the most dangerous time (for ankles as well as spirit). We enjoyed the headlights that Wendy dropped off for us--pretending that we were trains and giant monsters. Together we managed to run most of a kilometer without me twisting an ankle.

Many times I wanted to lay down and never get up. Fortunately, we were inspired as we passed South of Prairie Land Park and got to see the lights of the exhibition and later the fireworks. For more than an hour lightening flashed on all sides of us and the wind howled, scouring us with fine pellets of rain. The deluge finally hit almost precisely 1 minute after we crossed the threshold into the comforts of home. Leora was a great sport and lots of fun. Certainly the end of this day could have seemed dreary and miserable. The bubble bath waiting for me was pretty wonderful, too.

Thanks to everyone who participated and helped me out.

My photos from the day are on G+, as usual.