Success! Terry Gorley celebrating her arrival in Little Fort on Sept. 28 after a 30 km walk up the Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 5) from Barriere to Little Fort in the North Thompson Valley. The walk was in celebration of her 65th birthday, and the third time she had done this distance on foot; in 2009 to celebrate her 55th birthday, and again in 2014 for her 6oth. Happy birthday Terry! (Kim English photo)

Woman celebrates 65th B-day with 30km walk up Yellowhead Highway

By Terry Gorley

During the spring of 2019, I was reminding myself that in September, I would be 65 and time to celebrate with my walk from Barriere to Little Fort as I had celebrated my 55th in 2009 and 60th in 2014.

My thoughts were left unspoken until July when I began getting more serious about making the journey again. By the end of August, I knew for sure it was what I wanted to do.

I left our home at 7:05 a.m. on Sept. 28, with my husband once again following in the pickup. It was 4° degrees, the sky was clear with no signs of the fog that had been persistent the previous week. I was somewhat disappointed because the sunshine through the fog had the makings of gloriously beautiful photographs, but on any given day, you get what you get and so I started out to greet the day on my adventure.

At the bridge, I stopped to take my first photo and the song, “I Have A Never Ending Love for You” popped into my head. At that moment, I thought how appropriate it was as the greatest expression for my love of this beautiful valley and for the love of my family.

I had gone to great lengths to take better care of my feet before leaving home, but despite that I hadn’t gone much more than a mile before I felt the first burning of a blister and began to feel more dread than a sense of adventure, but I carried on and soon found a golf ball that reminded me of my 2009 walk and what a great adventure it had been.

I chuckled at the noisy, black truck that passed me with a large Happy Face on it’s tailgate. The sun was peaking out behind the clouds with the promise of a warmer day and I was hoping it would be more like my 2014 walk, however much of the day had an Arctic chill that made me feel grateful for the warmth of my vest and jacket.

Arriving at the bottom of the Darfield hill, I stopped for a Nature Valley snack and noticed the snow on the hills across the river and thought no wonder the wind was so cold. With the construction finished on the Darfield Hill, I wasn’t sure what to expect of it this time. Previously, I would munch a Nature Valley bar and take long strides in time with the crunching. This time, no such luck. The hill turned out to be not as steep, but longer and more of a challenge.

By this time, with blisters burning, I had “Sunday Morning Coming Down” going through my head, followed by “Oh Lonesome Me”, and I knew I best change the tunes, so along came “Keep on the Sunny Side!” And so it was back and forth between “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and “Keep On the Sunny Side” until eventually “Sunday Morning Coming Down” won out.

I felt the sympathy of bawling cows as they serenaded me along the way, and was amused at the curiosity of the horses in the barnyard. Shortly after, I felt I had tunnel vision. With just seeing the road ahead, I was failing to notice the beauty of the day and only because I stopped for a short break did I see the three deer in the apple orchard. Like the horses they looked up in curiosity as I snapped a couple of pictures before going along my way.

As some vehicles passed by, horns were honked and I felt encouraged to pick up my pace. Above me a hawk circled overhead and I heard rustling in the trees just before an eagle flew low over the road ahead. Again, I felt encouraged and picked up my pace. I told my feet, “you get me to my destination and when we get home, I will take care of you.”

Just before the Thuya Creek Campground a young couple stopped and asked if I was okay. I assured them I was and was grateful for their concern, while thinking there must be a better way to celebrate being 65 and what an incredibly dumb idea this was! I chastised myself for being foolish. It wasn’t feeling like a leisurely, relaxing walk and the sense of adventure was long gone. So unlike the previous two.

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a couple of small orange butterflies and shortly after, one that appeared to be a velvety dark brown. A young, gray snake slithered across my path into the ditch and a large, ugly spider was spotted nearby. I realized in the scheme of things, in wide open spaces, it really wasn’t that big or ugly.

At 12:50 p.m., my sister and daughter honked and waved as they went past. Despite the burning blisters, I picked up my pace knowing they would be waiting for me at Little Fort. Two eagles flew low over the road and off into the trees to the left following the path of the previous one, leaving me feeling encouraged to continue.

With very sore feet, I’m truly not sure of how I did it, but I not only made it to Little Fort, I arrived at 1:50 p.m., 10 minutes less than the seven hours I expected it to take. My first reaction was similar to my previous one that it was an incredibly dumb idea. However, I am grateful for having achieved my goal and for breaking my record.

It took almost a month before sitting down to write of this experience. In so many ways it felt less of an adventure than the two previous walks. Yet other than my feet, I had no lasting side effects. Muscles weren’t sore, there had been no aching knees or hips, no leg cramps. I felt good, I felt proud being 10 years older than the first time and proud for having done it again and in less time.

Mostly, I wasn’t impressed with the four blackened toenails on the right foot, and the three blackened ones on the left with an infected blister on the heal. Initially, I thought I would never do it again, but that has changed to “if I had a really good pair of shoes…”

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