Nearly 44 years ago, Dan Goodale set out to find the answer to a controversial question: how many miles around is Shuswap Lake?
In 1979, Goodale picked up an issue of the Observer, and inside the Visitor’s Guide contained within, found an article challenging somebody to walk around Shuswap Lake to settle the question of how many miles long the full shoreline of the lake was. It had been long accepted the distance was 1,000 miles, said Goodale, and back then there was no technology to easily find an exact measurement.
Goodale was game to take on the challenge, documenting his journey along the way, and he has now turned his personal diary into a book, 27 Days Around Shuswap Lake.
Goodale and a friend from his home in Ontario waited to apply for the challenge to see if someone local wanted to do it first, he said, and then they came to Salmon Arm to train for the long walk. They studied topographical maps, conditioned their bodies for hiking and went around town collecting sponsorships for themselves.
“We went to almost every store in Salmon Arm at the time to see if they would sponsor anything, like boots, backpacks, a canoe, and the whole town was very supportive,” said Goodale.
The pair were going to begin the journey on July 1, but some studies suggested the water level would be high at that time of year, so they decided to start on May 19, 1979.
Starting at the Salmon Arm Marina and heading towards Sicamous, Goodale and his friend teamed up with a canoeist who would take their heavier supplies in a boat and meet them along the way. As well, a local stamp collector originally from Poland joined the effort, advising the walkers of established checkpoints along their route with post offices where they could mail letters with outlines of the lake as they’d walked it so far. The stamp collector would keep these records and later have a full map of the lake from nine checkpoints.
The canoeist would drop notes in bottles that had the date, time and place where it was left, said Goodale, with instructions to contact the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce if found. He said one of the bottles was found 10 years after the walk was completed.
On top of being a long, challenging walk to begin with, Goodale said the journey was not without memorable challenges.
“We had bears attack our campsite one night; that’s something that still stays on my mind,” he said. “We met a hermit, a real hermit living alone, and one time I was trapped up high on a mountain overhang, and having the buddy system, my partner was able to reach down and grab me. Still don’t know how he did that to this day.”
Each night when the pair was done walking for the day, Goodale wrote down how many miles they’d walked and generally what had happened that day. The diary waited on a shelf for years while he got married, started a family and continued with life, he said, and once his kids were older he turned the pages into a manuscript.
Encouraged to turn the draft into a book, Goodale enlisted his daughters Sarah and Tina to help, with Sarah doing much of the editing and Tina designing the cover.
“It’s really homemade, we all had a hand in it,” said Sarah.
Goodale said writing the book has been his dream for years and he has sold more than 100 copies so far. The book is available on Amazon.
Goodale and his friend were recognized with plaques and letters from the then-mayor and chamber of commerce members, the provincial Recreation and Parks Association and the Minister of Tourism at the time. News clippings and photographs are included in the book, and it is organized in chronological order as it happened to the adventurers.
“I wanted it to be just like they are walking with me.”