Legs cramping, stomach grumbling, sweating out the final few miles along a logging road is how we arrived in the little "town" of Woss. Once again, our maps had been inaccurate, claiming we had 30 less miles in between resupply points than we actually had. Our food was low, our packs light, our stomachs empty. Food was on the mind, and only another day or two until the town of Port McNeil where we could take a break, but how great it would be to have a burger or a meal!
When we arrived at the little corner store, we realized quickly that this was the one and only business within Woss. They used to have a restaurant but it had been another casualty of the current times. Hence the reason that the word "town" is in parenthesis because only along the loosest definitions could it be considered such. Yet, for us this little corner store turned into our oasis.
Sitting underneath the Woss Service sign our little bench of heaven quickly filled with sodas, chips, and Oscar Meyer pre-made sandwiches from the fridge. It was about 6 P.M. and our bellies were filling but our battery packs remained empty. Between mouthfuls and swigs of corner store bliss we scanned the maps for a place where we could charge our gear. It was only another day or two max to the town of Port McNeil, but when in the back country if relying on your phone for maps, GPS, and the occasional Podcast for entertainment, extra juice (portable energy) is a necessity. While we could comfortably get away with the next section by studying the Topo lines (Topographical Maps which show elevation lines) and knowing the majority of it followed an old rail bed, it was not our preferred method.
There was really no place to charge anything within Woss. No restaurant, no laundromat, no library (that was open), no business besides the one we found ourselves gorging on food underneath their sign. Well, maybe the locals would know of a secret establishment, it was at least worth a shot. And hey, while talking to the corner store owner another muffin or two might find its way across the counter as well... win-win. Stiffly moving the muscles that had just started to relax after pushing a quick 28 miles that day and complaining about the break, I shambled into the corner store again to ask.
Picture the scene: A bearded man, that smells of sweat, exertion, and that oh so special smell that can only be acquired from multiple days in the back country. You know the one of dirt, grime, and that pungent smell that you can not only taste but see float off of you as well. A first impression was not a strong suit with this repertoire of accolades. Maintaining a respectable distance so this smell did not assault the nostrils of an innocent by-stander I politely asked if there was anywhere to charge any of our devices.
Sweaty, Muddy, Sleepy, Smelly, all the Yummy Adjectives ending with a Y
The woman behind the counter eyed me as if I had just asked her where I could find the next flight to Mars. She was being about as polite as you would be if a ragged looking man asked a question that I can assume had never been asked before in that town while having just watched him and his partner consume an ungodly amount of junk food, like they were ravenous animals. From the twitch of her nose you could tell the hiker smell had reached her even with all my preemptive measures and it was not what appeared to be a pleasant experience.
She responded with a no that had the meaning implied within, of course not, you see where you are right? Yet, the no also contained a question. She was curious as is natural to what context the question was around as well as who her two new bench residents were. I began to describe to her as best one can about what we were currently doing and why charging back up batteries were a necessity. The information was soaked in, but it appeared she was still perplexed but more so intrigued than cautious now. Still, it was clear that Woss would hold no charge for us, so we would scarf down the rest of the calories and continue on.
Back to the bench of paradise I went, to break the news to my hiking partner and finish that second muffin that somehow found its way through checkout while inside. About 5 more minutes elapsed as we soaked in the rest and gathered our energy to hike another hour or two to find camp. While putting away a crinkled bag of chips for later in my pack, the owner's husband came out of the store. There was a slight language barrier, English not being their first language, but we were able to piece together from his wide smile and infectious energy how thrilled he was that we were there. We were puzzled by this, but also could not help ourselves but smile back with how much swelling goodness radiated out of this man.
After some gestures, a few questions and responses, and another conference with his wife, the man offered for us to stay in town with them. We were blown away by this exchange. You see kindness everyday within this life, but the kindness of complete and total trust and want to be helpful when there is no basis for it will continue to always be so impactful because it is so true to its essence of being human.
No they did not know that we were currently hiking the Vancouver Island Trail. No, they did not know that long-distance hiking was a lifestyle. No, they did not know we had jobs, a home, and responsibilities outside of this journey. No, they did not know that we were not drifters or wanderers. All they saw were two people, who were passionate and happy. Their goodness saw ours, and that is all that mattered. Well there might have been one other small thing that "mattered". While the owner's husband was taking us to where we would stay for the night, the wife came out of the store and told us to grab a shower while we were there. That is also putting it somewhat lightly, if I remember correctly, her exact words were; "you need a shower, you need a shower, you need a shower, go clean." So, while they were able to see past much of our dirty exteriors into who we were, it appears the smell could not be ignored even by two angels of a couple. No one could overlook the power and raw strength of our smell. They did see, taste, and experience the smell for what it was, hiker stench and re-acted accordingly. Understandable.
The husband took us behind their store to a little A-Frame home that appeared in dire need of some renovations. In fact it was in the process of renovations, well if in the process means renovations that would be done within the next decade or two. There was the entire size scale of holes in the sheet rock ranging from pebble size to wrecking ball, cobwebs in the corners, a dusty smell in the air, exposed rafters, and what appeared to be someone who had spent a few days marking the sun rise with marker directly on the wall through a high octagonal window in the living room. Dents on the fridge, dents on the counters, dents everywhere. This place had not seen another person in a long time. Not to mention, the "shower" had mold marks and the oh so scary mystery marks, of I have no idea what that is. Yet, the living room where someone had spent many a day drawing on the walls, was spacious and open. It was enclosed, it had a sliding panel door to the outside, it was big enough for a sleeping pad. The outlets while not having any plates to cover the openings were still active and could be used to charge our gear. It was absolutely perfect!
We spread out our sleeping mat, excitedly chattered away at how amazing this was and how amazing the people were, and let our muscles relax. Well, that is not the full story, around 8 or 9 before they closed for the night, we walked out our adopted front door and became patrons of our favorite establishment one more time, for some late night ice cream. This was truly a beautiful experience.
Kindness because of an event is amazing, but kindness just for the sake of kindness is absolutely astounding. As we have gone on to do lesser known trails, there is not much of a community or knowledge base around what hikers are doing in these towns or areas. We look, smell and eat like vagabonds. Yet, even without any context of what we are doing or why we are there, true kindness will always continue to shine. That is what we found from two owners of a little corner store, in a little remote town. True Kindness.
I wanted to touch on with this article just how kind and generous the hiking community and those around it are. Even without knowing they are a part of the hiking community these two people are the essence of it. While a lot of this article implied how beautiful of a soul these two people were, I want to come out and directly say it, if you are reading this you two are special people.
I also want to come out and directly say thank you to everyone who is apart of this community. We could not be happier to know that the quality of people that revolve and are ingrained within this community always seem to be the most amazing people we know. We hope to continue to always be a positive influence for those that follow, and only wish to uphold what we see in so many others in this community, true kindness.
Lastly and simply, thank you.