Friday, October 10, 2003 - Perspective Update: The Crusty Old Guy lives up to his name, literally

- By: Werner Schwar

Hello everyone. Hopefully everyone is having a good summer. The older I get the faster time flies by. I must apologize to all the crusty old guy fans out there, if there are any, for taking so long to write another article. It seems that as I get older, in addition to the time passing quicker, there are more and more responsibilities to undertake. Lots more feeling guilty about not being able to do certain things or spend more time with the family. Those of you out there who are older, know what I am talking about, those younger just wait.

Anyways, I digress from the original intent, which was to tell you how the crusty old guy has lived up to his name a few times this summer.

Instance One:

I have a few pretty interesting work projects on the go this summer. One is to help develop backcountry hiking and Canoe Routes in The Rushing River and Eagle-Dogtooth Provincial Parks, and the other is to develop a trail strategy and implementation plan for the City of Dryden. Both of which are in Northwestern Ontario for those of you outside Ontario. I can hear it now, you are probably saying that does not sound like work, or you are getting paid for that? Yes, some projects are like that, but believe it or not the fun fieldwork is the shortest part of the project. As part of the Rushing River project we had to survey the area by helicopter, a three-hour trip. I know, tough work. I was really looking forward to it, as I have flown a little bit in Canmore in the mountains to the glacier, but they were only 10-minute trips.

It was a beautiful clear hot summers day, and I got up early from the hotel to go for a run on the shore of Lake of the Woods, which I justified as ground context exploration. This of course made me very hungry for the breakfast, which was included at the hotel. Those of you, who know me, know how much I eat at breakfast, especially since I needed to stock up since I probably would not get a chance to have lunch. Here is where the fatal mistake was made, I took what I thought was butter for my toasted bagels, but after opening it was cream cheese, which I rarely eat, let alone for breakfast, but I used it anyways not wanting to waste food.

We go to the helicopter, myself with two work associates who I am working with for the first time. Yes I have been in a helicopter before I tell them. Flew with an ex Vietnam pilot in Canmore whose favourite thing to do was head straight for a col and then dip up and over the other side I boasted. The first two hours were great, clear day good scenery, and productive work wise. Then for some reason I got very hot, and I noticed the smell of fuel more. With about a half hour to go the pilot dropped and circled to get a better view of something and all of a sudden, without warning I let out the most spontaneous, projectile vomit I have ever had in my life. It was so fast I didn't even have time to get my hat to contain it. It hit my map in front of me and then splattered everywhere, including my fellow associate who was with me in the back seat. The absurdity of it all was comical. Here we both were in the back of the helicopter just covered in my vomit and we had to continue to work for the last half hour of the flight. Worst part, the chunks of cream cheese from breakfast spread all over the helicopter, and the fact that after a half hour in the heat the stuff was pretty much dried and crusty. To top it off, those were my field clothes for the next four days in the bush canoeing and hiking. Fortunately when I got out I jumped in the lake with everything on and washed the clothes as best I could which took off most of the smell. It was however the map I could only wipe off and it had all my notes. To this day, nearly two months later when I unfold that map, I can still smell that day. Cream cheese bagel anyone!

Instance Two:

Like Phil, I too have dappled in adventure racing. This summer I teamed up with fellow Thunder Bay skier Jeff Moustguard, his wife Amy and her dad Doug to do the 24-hour Atikokan Adventure race. All I can say is at least we finished, but there was a time or two I was not totally convinced. After starting with a 50km bike mostly on logging roads, we had a +/-3km trek through the northwestern Ontario bush, dense and not much topography. I was navigator so have to take the responsibility for the added effort my team had to endure. I have not had tonnes of experience sighting through the dense bush with the compass. It went okay and my destination was a small lake with an island. In my euphoria of reaching this fairly easily I failed to notice that there were two small lakes with islands about 1km apart. For the life of me I could not figure out why the huge marsh we were in beside the lake was not on the map. After looking for over an hour for a control only a few hundred metres from this lake and being totally puzzled, we came across the last place team who informed us I was on the wrong lake. Boy was I embarrassed. So now instead of trying my luck through the bush I decided to follow the marsh, it was longer but it got to the destination. After about 3 hours of trudging through a lot of muskeg, going wrong a few more times we arrived at the checkpoint. Over 5 hours for 3km, some navigator. So, after being wet and muddy for those 5 hours it was a 20km logging road to walk/run on next before getting to food and new clothes. As you can imagine everything was pretty dried and crusty by the end, except of course the bottom of our feet, which were pretty raw from being wet for so long. The rest of the race was pretty enjoyable. A 30+ km canoe in total darkness from 11pm to 5am followed the run. It was cloudy and new moon, not even a wind to help guide direction. It was pretty interesting just sighting the glow in the dark compass into the pitch black and just trying to keep the needle straight and hoping to arrive at the right place at the other side of the lake. After the canoe, another 25km bike, but at least it was daylight. All in all, 18 hours of continuous work, while the winners were just in over 12 hours. I will have to do this again to redeem myself.

That's it for today; I'll try to keep myself out of crusty situations until the next time.



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