Joseph Rupolo: Another type of cross-country adventure

Joseph Rupolo: Another type of cross-country adventure

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PHOTO: Joseph Rupolo in Nipigon on December 18

“When the sun comes up, and I get out and walk. When it starts to go down, I stop.”

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That’s been life in a nutshell for Joe Rupolo for the past eight months, as he walks his way across Canada on a personal adventure.

He graduated from high school in Burlington last June, and hit the road soon after. “I got on the train to Nova Scotia, then hitchhiked as far as I could. I ended up in Neil’s Harbour.”

He has always felt most comfortable in the bush, and the time he got to spend there was never enough. Actually, Rupolo considered several different options, including biking across the country. “But that would be like eight weeks, and then I’d be done. I wanted to slow it down.”

Not surprisingly, his plan to walk cross-country didn’t go down well with his father (“He felt I was procrastinating on adulthood”), and was mostly met with incredulity from friends and family.

“Most people did not think I would get past Nova Scotia… They actually made bets on how far I’d get. That surprised me. But I’ve been independent now for eight months, and they are starting to see what this is about for me.”

He’s flexible about the route he takes, mostly working to stay away from the main highways. By talking to people – something walking encourages – he finds the local routes people favour. The TransCanada Trail is ideal, but of course is little help in this part of the country in winter, what with it being a water route and all.

He has done some significant stretches by bike, most notably from Muskoka to Nipigon, and even did some kayaking. (He was thinking of early winter kayaking on Lake Superior, but was dissuaded by locals.)

In summer he travelled “crazy light” with a twelve-pound pack; once the cold weather arrived, he picked up a pulk sled and added more gear, including a thermal sleeping bag. When in urban areas, he often sets his tent in Wal-Mart lots.

People have been, for the most part, absolutely wonderful. H noticed this right off the bat in the Maritimes, where nearly everyone wanted to stop and chat about what he was doing.

“I rely a lot on the kindness of random strangers, and have been super fortunate. There are a lot of good people out there.”

It hasn’t been without its challenges. Rain, of course.

“I had three straight days of rain when I was kayaking, and the bulkhead wasn’t waterproof, so everything I had was just soaking wet. I can deal with being wet. I can deal with being cold. But both at the same time…”

“I remember standing under the shadow of my tent for four solid hours, just soaking wet…”

Then there have been injuries – a dislocated shoulder he managed to slip back into place himself, and a couple of more serious ones. He broke his wrist snowboarding in Thunder Bay in December, and then earlier this month realized a small cut on his leg sustained while chopping wood at Carp Lake (in Quetico Park near the US border) was more serious than he realized. He had to be helicoptered out.

“They didn’t have room for my gear – I had to leave it all down there – and now I’ll have to figure out a way to get back,” he said during a visit at the Progress Monday. Park Ranger Janice Matichuk was helping him out here – his February walk along the Grand Portage and Gunflint Trail drew some attention among regular Quetico visitors. (He got back without incident, and was in Ely Wednesday.)

And while there has been a lot of questioning about why he is doing this, in all his talks with people Rupolo has detected something else: a wistfulness, or as he sees it, a vicarious pleasure.

To be young. To be on the road, taking what comes one step at a time.

“You know, basically I live like a homeless person, but everyone thinks it’s awesome!”

March 6: So yea the heli came in picked me up and brought me north to Atikokan General. I felt like an absolute drama queen for getting airlifted out of the bush for a cut barely 2 inches wide. It took 7 stitches and Doc actually said I had sliced a muscle connecting to my quad and some other Doc speak I didn’t understand, but basically regardless of bandaging it well I would have bled out because of what I had cut. The bigger problem at hand is the fact that none of my gear could fit in the heli so it all got left behind in the middle of the bush… I have honestly never felt more naked, all I have right now is the clothes on my back and my axe ironically enough…


UPDATE: Our intrepid adventurer was able to make enough connections to find his way back to his gear in Quetico park and resume his journey westward. (Park ranger of 33 years Janice Matichuk who took me in and has been helping me formulate a plan to get back to my home and continue my trek. It involved hitchhiking a six hour drive to Moose Lake and then walking 30 km.) On March 24, he crossed into Manitoba, after six months in Ontario. (He wrote: Between working @algonquinoutfitters the kayak debacle, biking, staying in Tbay with a fractured wrist and @emilia19bella and then chopping up my knee… [Ontario took much] longer than it should have…)

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