penny in a castle

A digital chapbook.


with 2 comments

Over a decade ago a friend invited me to go downhill skiing with her and her circle of friends.  My friend is one of the most fun people on the planet. She knows a lot of great people. So I agreed even though I had never down-hill skied before in my life.

The whole skiing part of the weekend was as absolutely terrifying as I expected it to be, but I really enjoyed the company of the people who we shared a cottage with.  Over the course of the weekend I met someone who mentioned he was walking the Rideau Trail.  The trail runs between Ottawa and Kingston (very roughly) following the Rideau River and canal system.  This sounded intriguing.  I have always loved walking and have tried for the last two decades to always live within a quick stroll of work, groceries, bars and restaurants (in no particular order).

Several other parties and social events later, I found myself walking the Rideau Trail too.  The trail, being over 300 kilometres long it could hardly be walked in a day. So I joined him for various stages. We would often drive to where we would camp, ride our bikes (or occasionally paddle a canoe) to the start of that particular part of the trail, dump them in a random field and then start our hike. 

There were a couple of sections that were especially memorable to me – in particular the one around Perth.  We started from the Beveridge Locks where we would be camping for the evening. We started out a bit later than I would have liked.  Then, only a short ways in – somewhere between a random gravel road and meadow – my guide lost track of the trail.  In fairness, the trail is maintained by volunteers and it is only marked by small orange triangles on random trees, farmers’ fences and telephone poles.  It also seems to shift and change slightly over time.  My guide looked at his map, then at the compass (this was before Garmins, and GPSs and smart phones), and then whacked a few bushes scaring some deer.  Eventually he found the right path but by that point I had lost confidence in following him in the dark.  We scrabbled over scrubby forest and farmers’ fields as the sun set and the light faded.  Soon, my guide handed me something I had never seen before – a head lamp, more powerful than your average flash light and it allowed you to still use your  hands to keep from falling over. Never mind how silly you looked wearing the thing – it kept you from breaking your neck. And it was cool in a geeky kind of way.

After walking in darkness for some time, we climbed a stile into a farmer’s field and came to a meadow.  The grass was as high as my shoulder.  But it was filled with fireflies.  Their tiny lights mirrored the stars in the bowl of the sky overhead.  It was like walking through a magic curtain into an unexpected fairy land with wild lights above and below. 

Not long after, in this late night walk, we found ourselves travelling a dusty gravel road.  In the distance, a vague glow began to appear in the middle of nowhere.  My companion and I tried to figure out as we walked towards it. We ruled out aliens quickly on but thought it might be a sports field or factory. We were almost right on top of it before we realized it was an old movie drive-in – still functioning and showing films (that night they were showing Under the Tuscan Sun).  We sat on the swings in the playground and watched the commercials and the cartoon.  It was a surprising bit of unexpected nostalgia – a gift to people wandering about in the dark.

A year after we walked the trail, I married my companion.  I have often thought that our lengthy hike was a good way to prepare for marriage.  The wedding is only the first day of a long journey together. Parts of the path are easy going and you enjoy the scenery and each other’s companionship.  You have plenty of time to talk about what you have in common, your goals, your priorities, your values.  But sometimes you lose your direction, and there isn’t much to guide you back to the path. You might argue about which way to go.  Sometimes the load you are carrying gets too heavy and you need a hand up a steep obstacle.  Sometimes you are so tired after a long days’ hike you can’t wait to just fall asleep at night. Yet even in the midst of doubt and exhaustion, you can come across a magical moment that takes your breath away.  And you are so glad to have someone to share it with.   

This weekend my guide and I celebrated ten years of being together.  This time we drove out to Perth, but we stopped along the way and traversed parts of the path.  Just as like the decade before, we swatted mosquitoes and saw the odd rat snake slither or rabbit jump out of our path.  We hunted for the elusive sign posts to show the way.

And as we walked, we talked about the past and what a great ten years it has been – and planned for the future and the journey forward together.


Written by pennyinacastle

July 2, 2013 at 2:28 am

2 Responses

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  1. Just wanted to share my hiliarious adventure with a fellow traveler. Hope you enjoy mine as much as I have enjoyed yours.

    Erin Elizabeth

    July 2, 2013 at 2:40 am

    • Good luck following your dreams and adventure.


      July 3, 2013 at 12:55 am

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