A journey that started in Alberta nearly three months ago came to an end on the tip of northern Vancouver Island this weekend with a leap into the cold depths of the ocean.
Dwayne Buckle is a firefighter who walked from Red Deer, across the Rockies, through the Kootenays, into the Lower Mainland, and all the way up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy to raise funds for cancer.
Buckle set out from Red Deer on Oct. 21, stating the reason behind the hike was that he had three family members who had passed away from cancer: “my grandfather, my auntie, and my cousin.”
After coming up with the idea that he was going to ‘hike for the cure,’ it only took him five days to actually hit the road after making up his mind.
“I’d been sitting back thinking about how my family pushed me and never gave up and made me fight for everything I wanted,” he said, noting it was actually his aunt who was really instrumental in helping him achieve his goals in life, and this was how he wanted to honour his family.
The hike from Red Deer to B.C.’s Lower Mainland featured one of the toughest parts of the journey, Rogers Pass — a dangerous crossing in the Selkirk Mountains east of Revelstoke. This was the only part of the journey he had a support vehicle with him, Buckle said that was due to his friends not wanting him “to get stuck in the snow tunnels or the crazy weather conditions at the top.”
After catching the ferry to Vancouver Island, Buckle started the final part of his 1,500 km trek. He said it was “eventful, very physical, with lots of beautiful scenery along the way, and of course there were some big challenges like weather, traffic, and road conditions.”
“As I started coming up-Island, I met so many amazing people who were very kind and helped me get to the end.”
Buckle even had a run-in with a cougar during the hike. He reached for his phone instead of his knife, “but by the time I got my phone out it was already in the bush again,” he laughed.
After travelling with fire crews following him through Sayward, Woss, and Port McNeill, he woke up on the morning of Jan. 10 ready to finish his journey.
“It was like every other morning, but I was stoked, I knew this was the end and I was ready to push,” he said.
Due to extremely rainy weather conditions, his gear bag, which normally weighs 45 pounds, swelled to about 50 pounds, but that didn’t stop Buckle as he kept moving through the storm.
Port Hardy Fire Rescue met him at the ‘Welcome to Port Hardy’ sign, and from there they walked with him into town.
As he came around the bend at the top of the hill overlooking Carrot Park, he saw the ocean waiting for him at the bottom of the hill.
The only thing going through Buckle’s head at that moment was “I came this far, let’s get it done.”
He walked down the hill right into Carrot Park, and then kept going straight to the ocean and dove in. He then dove in a second time.
Why the second dive, you might be wondering?
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with people dealing with cancer and they said in the cancer unit they have a bell for the last treatment of chemo, and a few followers asked me to jump in the ocean for a second time, so that’s what the second leap was for,” he explained.
Above all else he wanted to acknowledge his aunt Sharon Ancelet, his cousin Lyle Ancelet, his grandfather Victor Carpenado, “and anybody else out there who’s dealing with cancer or suffering from it, this was all in support of them as well.”
After 82 days on the road, he added he’s feeling sore, and that it will take “about a month to get my feet adjusted and my bones back to normal.”
With only a few rest days in Port Hardy, he will heal up and then head back to Red Deer.
“I’ve got a lot of people asking, ‘oh are you hiking it’ and I’m like ‘no no, I’m busing it this time,’” he laughed.
Buckle’s fundraising goal is $2,500, which he estimates he will definitely be hitting before he leaves Port Hardy to go back home.