Disaster in High River AB

by bart on July 30, 2013

20130730-090059.jpgThe distance from Nanton to High River is about 27 km. It was the longest and most painful 27 km I had walked so far. Usually this distance would take me less than six hours. This time it took me about eight.

I left Nanton with a limp. It’s a good thing I had my backpack cart to lean on because otherwise it would have taken me longer to walk.

I had developed a sharp pain in my right ankle and lower shin area, and couldn’t bend my foot up or down.

Stomping on concrete, not taking days off, and walking 30-40 km every day for the last few weeks had finally taken its toll. But I was so close to my final destination I could smell it.

High River is the area where the severe floods took place about five weeks ago. Even though the roads were now open, and the river has receded, the place was still a disaster area.

When I got into town I discovered that the campground, by the river, was just a wet muddy area, and of course closed.

The two motels in town were full. One of them under government management full of displaced flood victims. I had really hoped to stay in a motel to rest my foot properly, but that wasn’t going to happen.

I could smell the mud, moisture, and occasionally other things in the air. All kinds of construction crews were in town with their industrial pumps, fans, generators, and excavating and other equipment.

In most areas, anywhere there was unpaved ground it was moist or wet. As you can probably imagine, the place was a haven for mosquitos, and I felt it.

It was evening and I didn’t know where I would sleep that night. And I wasn’t even in the town center, where the severe damage happened.

I bought some groceries at the grocery store and went to think at the Tim Horton’s across the parking lot. I’m glad I did because a couple of people and businesses decided to do a ‘pay it forward’ thing and prepaid for coffees for the next few hundred customers, and as luck would have it I happened to be one of them. It brought a smile to my face, and I have to admit that it made me feel a little better about my situation. After all, I didn’t lose my house or belongings, like many people here.

I went back to the grocery store and asked the manager if I could sleep in my tent behind it, on the strip of grass between the store’s alley and the residential area behind that. She said it would be ok.

I was protected from the wind by the store and some shrubs, and the ground was a bit elevated, so it was not soggy. Quickly and quietly I set up my tent and went to sleep.

The next morning I was awaken at a quarter to five by the wind, which had changed directions at night and was so strong that it started toppling my tent on top of me.

I hurriedly packed my things, and barely managed to keep my tent from flying away with the wind. My tent fly was completely wet from the moisture in the air. The upside was that the mosquitos could’t bite me in wind like this.

Since it was too windy to make breakfast on my propane burner I went to a fast food place to eat and cleaned up a bit in the washroom. At least I had an early start to my walking day.

I needed the extra time as my ankle and shin still hurt, and I could see that it was beginning to swell a bit.

It was only 25 km to Okotoks AB, the last town before Calgary, the final destination of my 1100 km walk.

Photo above: Many houses and businesses in High River are in a similar condition.

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