Virtual Valley Run

By Russ Hodgins

I have a friend Colin whose wife Tracey was diagnosed with Scleroderma. They do an awareness walk/run each summer, but this year it’s a virtual event (meaning you video or take photos of your walk/run and send them in). I decided to do the awareness run this year. I did a long run from my place to my wife’s family cabin on Pasqua Lake.
I also recruited my kids  Kellen and Lauren to come along and record it. I am happy to say that on June 5th we pulled it off, and the day was perfect. Pam took one for the team, staying home to look after three dogs (ours plus Kellen’s two large beasts), and the kids spent a long day keeping the old goat fed and watered at intervals along the valley but more importantly, kept the jokes going and the laughter happening.
Vehicle access was limited, so Kellen brought his mountain bike and rode out in parts to get different shots. The kids even detoured to the cabin to grab a kayak to be able to film out on the water, as the old guy slowly ran along the shore. During one long stretch where I wouldn’t arrive at the next access point for three hours, I sent them to go for ice cream at the DQ in Fort Qu’Appelle. It’s important to keep the crew happy!
We started the day with an early breakfast and then we loaded up the truck with Kellen’s bike, a cooler full of food and drink and at 6:45am, I started running down the road with Cola. It was a beautiful 5 degree morning, perfect for running and the wind stayed down as the temperature rose to a pleasant 24 degrees.
One mile in…
Just before the three mile mark, we climbed up the hill on a slight detour to film at the landslide coulee.
Cola came along for the first four miles and she could have ran much farther but that was the best time to get her back to the house as the kids drove to meet me at highway 6.
Kellen had dropped Lauren off at the bottom of the landslide coulee and she went for her run while we filmed up top. I left Cola with Kellen as he waited for Lauren and headed off on the trail that would take me to highway # 6. I met up with Lauren shortly, a quick high five and they returned Cola to the house and headed off to meet me.
Not long after seeing Lauren, I crossed a small creek and some cows were passively standing there. I had to do a double take because two coyotes were just hanging out there beside them. I stopped, pulled out my phone and took a picture as one of the calves happened to notice me but the coyotes still hadn’t caught on that they had company.
A bit of a side story: further along in the run, I would go across reserve land and Harry Frances’s place. I met him on an earlier run, he is on our elders advisory committee. When I mentioned thinking about doing this long run, he simply said “you’ll do it” and I loved his confidence.  I called him to let him know he was right and told him the coyote story. He said they didn’t see me because I belonged there and was part of the country. I took that as a huge compliment but the truth is probably that their eyesight is similar to mine.
This was a different creek I crossed on the way to the highway and not long after, had the big climb to the top of the valley.
It was only a few minutes later that I met Kellen who had biked over to film a few more shots (above photo) and then we went and crossed the highway, arriving at Fairy Hill hiking trail.  This is the hiking trail: 
After Fairy Hill and a few miles on a trail up top, a grid road took us down to the bottom of the valley where we would cross over to the north side.
Mile 13 –ish and crossing the river. Once we got over to the north side of the valley, we took the first break while I sat on the tailgate, refilled my Camelbak with a sports drink and water mix, ate a banana, some cold salted potatoes, a handful of raisons and then I had a couple more miles on a gravel road until I got onto the more enjoyable pasture trails.
This is shortly after the 17 mile mark and it was starting to feel warm.
A few hours later, I was past Loon Creek and the last time I glanced at my watch, it said 26.18 miles. I hadn’t looked at the watch for some time after that but when I did, the battery had died and I had no idea how far back this happened (maybe a half mile?). About a half mile after that, I got to where Kellen and Lauren were waiting on the road and borrowed Lauren’s Garmin watch. I also stopped to fill up the fluid and eat half a bun with cheese and Montreal smoked meat. If you have never had it, it’s delicious but not having tried it while on a run, I really didn’t know if it would stay down. I’m happy to report no issues, probably because I wasn’t moving horribly fast past that point. I had the ultra-shuffle down pat.
After leaving grid # 640, it was going to be three hours until I got to the next place the kids could meet me so that was when I told them to go to Fort Qu’Appelle for ice cream. Luckily for me, the next section was very scenic as I was soon to go past the 30 mile mark and counting. I found this interesting. The lilac bush are usually the result of someone planting them. I didn’t see any sign of an old homestead but it must have been. I snapped a quick photo and you can see the marsh in the background which means I was getting closer to the lake where the kids were going to be waiting. I also sent this to Colin who had texted earlier that Tracey was having a less than fantastic day but said my updates had cheered her up which made this whole crazy idea worthwhile. When I sent him this image, he replied back that Tracey loves lilacs. I didn’t feel as tired after that.
I crossed over some Nature Conservancy land and was just entering back onto someone’s hay field in the photo below. I ran this about four weeks ago and the plants were much shorter. There was really no trail and this was a slog on very tired legs as I was somewhere around the 34-36 miles mark.
When I got to Pasqua Lake and saw a kayak approaching. Lauren was bored waiting for me to show up so she went for a couple mile paddle. We had a short visit.
Probably about 5 miles left at this point.
Once I got back on the road, I knew it was only about 3 and a half miles back to the cabin. After a mile and a half, I would be back on the much hated pavement but at the same time, would be happy to be there. Kellen rode his bike, going ahead to take short video clips while Lauren leap frogged the truck along, also taking photos and video.
The view from Kellen’s point with Lauren standing by the truck, filming from there:
The sun was getting lower, the shadows longer and almost 12 hours exactly after setting off from home, I ran down the driveway at the cabin.
Only one mile to go!
I ran down the driveway at the cabin. I then kept running right off the end of the dock and into the very cold water. It felt awesome. For a lot of reasons.
And so ends another rusty goat adventure. There is no other way to describe it except to say that it was an amazing day. Spending it with the kids in a beautiful place, hearing them say how they had enjoyed the day (as Kellen put it) doing something that not many people would ever do.
We drove back home as the sun was setting, laughing about different points of the day like when Kellen found out the hard way that the electric fence he stepped over was on, how I had used a bunch of grain bins as a reference to find a certain access road (when southern Saskatchewan is literally polluted with grain bins – good job jackass!) and then relived the tales again, updating Pam of the day’s events.  
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