Pictured is Terry Gorley’s grandmother Ada Mackenzie. (S/J file photo)

Pictured is Terry Gorley’s grandmother Ada Mackenzie. (S/J file photo)

Valley Voices From The Past:Walk to Little Fort dedicated to grandmother

By Terry Gorley

On Sept. 24, 2009, after walking from Barriere to Little Fort, I wrote that I had hoped to do it again one day.

However, the time never seemed to be right, until five years later when I decided it was time. I planned to retrace my steps on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, the day after my 60th birthday. It’s different this time, I’m five years older and I look at it more as a test of endurance than an adventure.

I would be walking with memories of my grandmother, who lived to be 99 years with a myriad of health issues, partially, if not all due to being diabetic. She always said, “You take care of it, it won’t take care of you” and “you gotta keep movin’.” Just like the last walk, I had no idea what to expect, I decided to take it one step at a time and go as far as my legs would take me.

So, on Sept. 27, I got up at 4:45 a.m. and did my usual morning routine, leaving the house in Barriere at 7 a.m.

The morning was a warm 10 C with mist on the hills as I set out on my journey. A much easier start than last time with the much warmer temperature. “Good Morning Starshine” was playing in my head. Don’t know where it came from, but I liked it.

I stopped on the Barriere side of the bridge to take my first photographs.

Nearing Peterson-Betts Road, one of my toes that gives me ongoing problems began to burn and the scent of skunk was in the air. It dissipated only to greet me with a stronger scent a little further on. It too dissipated, then much to my chagrin, my bladder was asking for attention. I kept going…toe burning…bladder calling.

As I passed where the old Chinook Cove Hall had once stood I was grateful for the reminder that 42 years ago we had our wedding reception there. In that moment, I was once again grateful for my husband who has shared his life with me and who was following in the truck behind me.

Toe burning…bladder calling, then toe burning…bladder bursting…toe burning…bladder bursting.

So much for “Good Morning Starshine!” Like a broken record…toe burning…bladder bursting…toe burning…bladder bursting, as I wondered what to do. Finally, I came to an old driveway long since abandoned. Making my way down the beaten path I found a discreet place to relieve myself. With a feeling of gratitude and great relief, I was on my way once again.

I stopped to take a couple of photos of a dead bat that was lying in the gravel. Not far ahead, a young white tailed buck stopped, looked at me, then crossed the highway in front of an oncoming car. Thankfully, the buck made it to the ditch and up the embankment without incident. In that moment of stillness and serenity I took several pictures of him.

At 9 a.m. the sun peeked out from behind the clouds heralding the glorious, golden autumn day. I made it to the turn-out at the bottom of the Darfield hill almost an hour and a half after starting out. I took a photograph and said hello to a couple from Wadman, Alta.

Then to my great surprise and admiration our daughter, Kim, joined me with camera in hand ready to take on the journey with me. We munched on Nature Valley granola bars and made our way up the hill. I found the hill more difficult to do this time. My left knee had shooting pains going through a scar from a fall I took when I was about 12 years old and my hips had joined in the protest.

We trudged along, took photos and felt disappointment that the bear who had been eating apples on my previous walk wasn’t there again. Eagles and hawks soared above us and a bald headed eagle across the field caught our attention. Stopping for a time to take pictures gave us a break and for a time so muscles and feet didn’t complain as much.

There was cooing coming from down by the river that we assumed came from doves. The sound was almost a whisper and added a calmness to the walk. To our delight at 11:30 a.m. my three nephews honked and waved on their way to Kamloops.

The sun was so warm in places that it felt like we walked in front of a heater. We laughed and joked about “another heat wave.” Falling leaves reminded us that it really was autumn despite the heat. We took notice of the number of dead and alive black and orange caterpillars and snakes. As I write this, curiosity had been sparked. Interestingly enough, when I did a search for symbolism of the caterpillar, snake and bat, they all represented transformation and change.

We laughed at the antics of the two lively white tailed deer in the bushes. Following the same curiosity, I found, “By inspiration from the deer’s qualities, you can achieve ambitious goals and tackle difficult situations smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.” The quote seemed fitting for our day.

The crowing roosters, barking dogs and those who came to greet us, the cows, horses and the baby goat who cried until his mother was found were all reminders of my grandmother and how much she loved her animals and this beautiful valley.

I found a “lucky” loonie lying in the dirt and was reminded that luck is what we make it. It will be a precious souvenir that will always remind me of this day, of love, of support, of family, of gratitude for the little things that may seem insignifcant.

Kim ended her walk at Webb Road, four-and-a-half hours after starting with me.

I continued on and completed my journey to Jim’s Market in Little Fort at 2:30 p.m., seven-and-a-half hours after leaving home in Barriere.

So the question remains: how did I fare walking the same distance five years later?

As previously mentioned, I found the Darfield hill a little more challenging. There seemed to be more times when my joints and muscles protested and yet, my legs didn’t feel like lead weights and I wasn’t dragging my butt on the final stretch. I wasn’t tired and could have kept walking had my feet been doing better.

When I finished the first walk, I had no stiffness and only three small blisters. This time, for three days whenever I sat for any length of time my muscles protested. My toes are still complaining and likely will for a few more days. It took me approximately 15 more minutes this time than last. Overall, my stamina was greater on this walk.

Our walk was dedicated to my grandmother, Ada Mackenzie, who loved life and was active throughout her 99 years. It was about physical, emotional and spiritual health. It was about memories, healing and wellness. It was about testing ourselves and our abilities.

I believe that sometimes as we age, we underestimate ourselves and our abilities. When my grandmother came to live with us in 2006, just before her 91st birthday she would say, “The doctors tell me to exercise and I tell them I can’t.”

When she moved into the Yellowhead Pioneer Residence in the fall of that year, she became more physically active. She began by walking from her #12 suite to the gate, then she would go to the gate and down the side of the building, and finally she was able to go around the building.

In January, 2008, she moved to the assisted living side. She told me she didn’t like “sit and fit,” so she started throwing a small ball. Before long she had a group of her own who played wallyball three times a week. This was throwing, kicking or hitting a beach ball around the group for an hour.

She was proud of herself and her group. She would tell me how much easier it was to move and bend, and of others who were more flexible after playing. Granny had given up wallyball a few months ago, but still loved playing carpet bowling on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Despite having poor eyesight due to macular degeneration, she would tell her “horse” where to go and I gather often hit her target.

My grandmother was an inspiration to me and those who knew her. Take care of yourself and keep movin’.

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District of BarriereNorth Thompson Valley