84-year-old Ottawa man spends unplanned night in Gatineau Park
OTTAWA -- Being lost in Gatineau Park at nightfall may be a harrowing experience for some, but not for 84-year-old Anthony Friend.
Friend has been hiking these trails for more than half a century, saying spending time in the woods is spiritual experience. He says you commune with nature and you can feel something you cannot in any other context.
In the forest of Gatineau Park, the 84-year-old former professor surrounds himself in tranquility. He says there is not a part of the park where he would ever feel lost. Friend says he always knows where he is.
On Sunday, those skills were tested. Friend says he drove towards Lac Leblanc, where he planned to hike 20 kilometres towards Lac Ben and then onwards to Lac La Pêche.
His journey began around 11 a.m. At 2 p.m., he stopped for lunch. As he continued on, the light began to fade and he decided to turn back and head towards an old forest road to go back to his car.
"I walked and walked and walked and walked," Friend said. "At one point I realized I had to stop because it was pitch dark and it was at that time I had to make a decision what I was going to do. I said 'there's only one solution keep your self awake while the night goes,' because it was quite cold."
Friend had no provisions. He was wearing a light windbreaker and sweater, and his only tool was a small flashlight.
"I couldn't contact my wife and let her know I was staying overnight and the other thing was how do I keep warm."
Friend did not allow himself to fall asleep. He used the flashlight to take brief walks and would lean against trees while standing covering his head with his hood and putting his hands in his jacket pockets.
He says he was cold and was shivering quite a bit but was not scared. He felt a connection.
"The stars are shining," says Friend. "The wind was going through the trees which was a beautiful sound in itself."
As night turned in to day, Friend says he was delighted when he saw the light coming through the trees and realized he could get out. As he began his five kilometre walk back to his car, his wife Henriette had already contacted the authorities.
When he emerged from the forest, police were waiting by his car. He says everyone looked relieved.
After a quick check by paramedics, Friend hopped in his car and drove home to his very relieved and worried wife.
"I try not to worry because I've been with him for so many years," says Henriette, admitting her husband has an adventurous side.
She gave Anthony a big, and even laughed.
Friend has no plans to stop heading out to Gatineau Park for his weekly hike.