A Perilous Trek
His mother was suffering from a stroke and he was going for help.
The long walk would take a week or more.
This Cree family of 5 were trappers. The mother did not want the father, Fred, to go so the son offered to get help.
Wearing his backpack filled with a knife, rope, moccasins, winter boots, heavy socks, flour, tea, kettle, sugar, lard, matches, small ax, blanket, sleeping bag and an extra set of clothes, he set out on his snow shoes.
With no compass and only a roughly sketched map of northern Ontario wilderness, Doug Rickard, age 19, embarked on a trek to the nearest major road north of Kapuskasing.
The twists and turns he’d have to take would nearly double the direct distance of 75 km. Neither the -20 degree weather nor the lack of a trail through the deep snow was going to stop him.
Each night he had to find a sheltered grove, make a bed of pine boughs, build a small lean-to shelter, gather wood for a fire, try to dry out perspiration soaked clothes and then get some sleep. Each morning he arose to a very cold campsite. Then he faced the insecurity of a crude map, detours around gullies or thick underbrush, energy draining away and the worries about becoming lost. But then a clearing opened up. He had found a road. It must lead to the Smoky Falls road that he needed, but three more days of walking yielded no sight of any civilization. He came upon a small Ontario Hydro generating station but nobody there.
An hour and a half later a truck came around the bend.
Randy Orr and Gerald Bernard, hydro workers, spotted Doug and picked him up. They couldn’t believe he had been walking through the wilderness for 7 days. An hour later a Spruce Falls helicopter picked Doug up. It took only 30 minutes to reach the Rickard cottage. It was an unbelievably excited reunion.
The mother had not only survived but regained a fair bit of her health. According to a November 1984 Readers’ Digest article, she was flown to Moose Factory General Hospital.
Doug was awarded the OPP bravery award for his incredible achievement of endurance and courage.
This story had special meaning for me, having lived the first 9 years of my life about 50 km out of Kapuskasing.