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Days 10 and 11

I believe I may have special mystical weather powers. I am not trying to use them for evil, honest; I think I may just be a sort of climactic Frankenstein, blundering around with good intentions, knowing not what I do.

It goes like this. I passed through Golden in the mountains of BC, and the next day they had to close the highway for mudslides. I stayed with Vanessa in Taber, and the day I left, they had a tornado that flattened their hay shed and threw the heavy wooden furniture around (horses and people all OK). And now I am in Murillo, just outside Thunder Bay, and they have a severe weather warning for tonight, including a tornado warning. My young host Amanda at Royal Denver Farms has kindly urged me not to hesitate to come into the house should things get scary.

We also had hella wild weather this morning in Dryden. I was enjoying my morning coffee in the sun, preparing to load up the horse and go, when my host Val at Artimowich Quarter Horses came over to pour me some more joe and have a chat. As we talked, the sky darkened in the southwest and thunder began to roll, and then the whole world darkened, and then the wind came up, and then it began to hose down rain. Lightening forked and the trees went sideways.

Artimowich wasn’t on my original travel agenda. I had planned to camp at Merkel’s Camp, which belongs to cousins of the fellow who owns the farm where Pai boards in Cedar. The moist experience in Fleming had, however, dampened my enthusiasm for camping in the rain, and the weather forecasts had indeed called for rain and storms. I decided that a facility designed for horses might be a better bet, and Val was happy to put me up – she offers layover boarding for folks passing through.

Barn and indoor at Artimowich

Just as well Pai was indoors in a bug-free barn – my poor sad horse was covered in hives when I unloaded her. (Blast Saskatchewan and its bugs. They laugh – nay, cackle – at my insecticide spray). I loaded her up with antihistamines, and, happily, her lumps are gradually resolving. She doesn’t seem bothered by them, but I am.

It’s been a long time since I’ve cantered across an Ontario hayfield – almost twenty years. The countryside here smells different than the forests of Vancouver Island Riding out in the fields and woods yesterday afternoon was like a nostalgia trip back to Girl Guide camp and school trips and riding on farm I boarded at near Guelph. We tripped along past columbine and buttercups and wild roses, spruce trees and poplar trees.

It was 32 degrees C in Thunder Bay this afternoon when we arrived.  Rather than ride in that heat, I went into town and picked up some fresh pickerel – a fish that seems ubiquitous in Manitoba and Northern Ontario, but which I have never seen in a Vancouver Island supermarket – and cooked that up for dinner, letting things cool down to a manageable twenty-something degrees before heading out for a late evening ride.

My driving schedule has gone pear-shaped. I had planned a Richer – Dryden – Nipigon – Hearst – New Liskeard route, but the Hearst accommodation fell through and I’m not enough of a gypsy to wing it. What I should have done was to have made a longer day of it yesterday, and skipped Dryden entirely, landing in Thunder Bay for the night, but I didn’t – I wanted to stop in and see the Merkels, and I had some supplies to stock up on. So my new route is Richer – Dryden – Thunder Bay – Geraldton – Kapuskasing – New Liskeard. The driving days are relatively short, and it adds an extra day of travel time, but on the bright side I will have more time for some decent trail riding.

That is, if my weather super-powers don’t completely wipe out everything in my path first.

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