The Algonquin Crossing

Shortly after confirming that I would be working in Algonquin for the summer, the idea to run clear across the park, from gate to gate on Highway 60, was at the front of my mind.  It was a rather ambitious goal, considering my time off from running, but I felt like I had to conquer it. 

During my time at Tanamakoon, I must have driven that highway a couple dozen times, and I just wanted to have that experience of taking it all in at a slower, running speed. 

I tried to coordinate plans to do the run with a couple friends from Ottawa, but when things didn’t line up, I knew if I was going to do it, it would be a solo effort.  After toughing it out at the Limberlost Challenge, midway through July, I thought my best chance would be to make the crossing during our time off work, at the end of July. 

My plans for the run were changing up until just a day or two before, when I decided I would head out from the East Gate on Saturday morning, and run to the West Gate.  My mother was driving up that afternoon, and would be able to pick me up at the West Gate on her way through to the cottage we were staying at in Whitney, on the east side of the park. 

Steph and her dad drove me out to the East Gate, early that morning, before heading down the highway in search of some moose.  Steph had yet to see one and was determined to spot one before she left the park.  I started on my run, which I expected would take me around five or so hours. 

About an hour later, I saw John’s truck coming back towards me.  They pulled over to tell me that they had found a big bull moose just a few kilometers up the road and wanted to know if I wanted a lift to go see it before it left.  As tempting as it was, I decided to stick to my run, since I was getting into a bit of a groove.  I definitely found the roads to be much better for my hips than the trails at Limberlost.  The big hills were not even that bad, taking them on one step at a time. 

An hour or so later, they drove past again.  This time they had a big bottle of water for me to fill my CamelBak with.  I was feeling good and just wanted to keep going.  The scenery was amazing, but one thing I didn’t count on while running, was seeing the amount of litter on the side of the highway. 

After a few hours, my memory started to get a little fuzzy.  I remember somebody parked on the other side of the road, seemingly lost.  I walked over to see if I could help, and sure enough I got them pointed in the right direction.  Before they took off, I asked them if they had any water I could drink, since I was close to running out.  They didn’t have any water, but they offered me a ginger ale, since they didn’t want to share their beer.   The ginger ale helped to pick me back up a bit, and I continued running, with less than 20k to go. 

Around the 11k (to go) marker, I saw my mom’s car coming towards me.  She pulled over to see how I was.  I filled up my water and told my mom that I was a little behind schedule.  I suggested she drive up to the Portage Store to grab some lunch and then meet me back at the West Gate in just over an hour. 

I struggled over the last few kilometers with the dehydration getting worse and the effects of running all those hills starting to add up.  Once I saw the visitor’s centre, I knew I was there and finished the last few hundred meters with a bit of a kick. 

I only had to wait about five or ten minutes before my mom arrived.  She had even got me a take-out order of lunch!  She got my favourite item from their menu, a Ham and Cheese Toastie with Sweet Potato Fries!!!  I have to say though, after a few bites, I had a hard time getting my stomach settled.  I picked away at the food as we drove back across the park towards Whitney. 

After arriving at the cottage, I got all cleaned up, and spent most of what was left of the day just relaxing and enjoying the time all together with family. 

What my mom didn’t know, was that my brother had hidden the engagement ring I had bought in Strathroy, in the glove box of her car.  I had planned on proposing to Stephanie that evening, as the sun was setting over the water.

Since we were having a good time visiting with our parents, I didn’t try and force anything to happen.  Steph and I ended up paddling a canoe during the sunset as her dad sat in the middle of the boat, attempting to catch a fish longer than four inches in length (unsuccessfully).  I wasn’t sure if I would get my chance or not. 

Once it was got late and we were all planning on heading to bed, I told Steph that I really needed to do a bit of yoga to stretch out after the run and I would love for her to join me.  After a short practice in our room, we did a guided meditation together. 

I had the ring all set.  Steph’s eyes were closed, focusing on her meditation.  This is when I sprang the big question!  Stephanie couldn’t have been more surprised and excited.  Surprisingly, I was not even that nervous; I was more excited than anything. 

Of course, once that happened, we had to go downstairs to tell my mother.  She was just about to go to bed, and was thrilled when she heard the news.  Then we walked across the road, to the cottage to tell Steph’s family.  They had been waiting up, because I had mentioned to John earlier that weekend that I was planning on proposing once I had the ring.  He just didn’t know when. 

After a couple important phone calls, we all returned to bed.  We had all had a long day, and I was ready for sleep.  Stephanie had a hard time containing her excitement and was awake most of the night, waiting to be able to call all of her friends first thing in the morning.   

© Brian Groot 2020