Hiking the West Coast Trail was a watershed moment in my history and it happened exactly 10 years ago this week. In many ways that seminal week provided the inspiration and catalyst to make many changes in my life - most for the better. As a result, I wrote my first book and more importantly, proved that if we put our mind to it, all of us can accomplish anything. The memories continue to be vivid and I caught myself the other morning, sniffing the early morning August air and being transported back to that incredible week.
That was also the morning that I visited my friend Gord Strandlund. For those of you who have read my book, The West Coast Trail: One Step at a Time, you will remember Gord as my hiking partner, friend and foil on that adventure. Life has been very challenging for him since then as he was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. He is now confined to a lock down care facility and he continues to struggle with memories, speech, eating and several other physical ailments. It is a hell of a disease that I am sure many of you have had some experience with - truly devastating.
The frustration and fear exhibited by its victims, including Gord, is so sad to see. Gord and I still share that week in August, 2003 and while he has great difficulty assembling his thoughts into a full statement, we can still share the memories as he smiles and remembers various incidents. Fortunately, I am still able to fill in his thoughts as he spills out a word or phrase to describe one of the wonderful stories that we spent so many years sharing before the disease took full control.
In the end, that is what we are left with isn't it, the memories of success, the conquering of fears, the goals attained, the challenges met, the laughs shared, the tears spilled, the hurts healed and the loads lifted. There were many moments on the West Coast Trail that one or the other of us was not sure we could make it but when we looked up the trail and saw our partner plodding ahead, one foot in front of the other, we gained strength and resilience and kept on going.
I had a very nice text message from Gord's daughter Christy on Tuesday, celebrating the tenth anniversary and her realization that it still remains one of the highlights of her father's life. It is very high on my list of life's highlights too and a big reason for that is the friendship that was cemented with Gord that week.
Hang in there buddy - may all of your trails be happy.