Monday, June 5th, 2023
A weekend with Henry, Shiloh and Ubah
I crossed into Canada over the Seaway International Bridge to Cornwall Island early on Saturday afternoon. As border crossings go, it was as uneventful as could be expected given that I was driving a big black van loaded with everything a human being could need, sans food, to spend three and a half months in the near arctic. After answering the necessary questions, doing a very thorough search of my van, and confiscating a knife that I had no idea was a restricted weapon in Canada they sent me on my way. Apparently, I had convinced the very professional Canadian border security agents that I was not, in fact, running from the law (or maybe an angry husband) on the US side of the border. The agent attached a Visitor Record that he assured me would make the passage back into Canada from Alaska significantly easier on my return trip. I immediately pulled into a grocery store and purchased a weeks worth of food since I had eaten nothing but a bowl of oatmeal smothered orange slices since I’d crawled out of bed six hours earlier.
I opened the iOverlander app on my phone and found a Crown Land camping spot about two and a half hours roughly west of the border crossing and hopped on 401 heading in that direction. I spent the next hour or so chatting on the phone with my best friend as I put the miles behind me and only ended the conversation as I left the highway and began the back road trip toward Camerons Lake. I took a left in Salem, ON and headed south on Devil Lake road which soon turned to dirt as I entered the lake country just north of the Frontenac Provincial Park. It turned out that all the camping spots in the area were full which wasn’t much of a surprise since it was Saturday afternoon. I continued down the road and soon had a red Ford van on my tail so I pulled over to let it pass. As the van pulled up I rolled the window down. There was a young lady in the passenger seat and an older gentleman behind the wheel. He seemed friendly and asked what I was looking for, assuming, since I was obviously in some sort of camper van that maybe I needed a place to sleep. When I told him, he gave me a street number and told me to follow him and that he had all sorts of room to park my van. I had that quick image of being lured to my doom flash through my mind but I quickly disregarded it as the fantasy product of a lifetime of watching American film. In truth, I was immediately taken with the friendliness of these Canadians. I’d been in Canada for all of about four hours and it seemed I was already being treated as a member of the family.
As I pulled into the circular driveway and opened the passenger window the driver yelled out “Park wherever you like!” so I pulled around and touched the button on my Garmin GPS to see just how level the van was. It was almost spot on and I was out of the way so I just parked right there next to the pear tree behind the greenhouse. I stepped out of the van and walked up to the man who was already out of his van and extended my hand while introducing myself. And that’s how I met Henry and his daughter Shiloh. Henry’s wife Ubah arrived about half an hour later and greeted me with a warm smile and the familiarity of someone who has finally returned home after a long journey. Even the dogs (and there are a bunch of them) greeted me as if they had been wondering where I’d gone and when I’d return.
The afternoon, evening and the rest of the weekend has been filled with relaxation, warm conversation and the kind of ease amongst strangers that I’ve never experienced before in my life. Truly, it’s as if known these people as family for my whole life. And yet, I’d never met any of them before. At least not in this lifetime.
Serendipity – The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. It’s been the theme of the last three days. And indeed, much of my life when I stop for a moment to feel the gratitude of all that’s been gifted to me.
Until next time…