Finding our heroes

While we were camping in Jasper National Park, we got to share a site with Shayl, a bike traveller from Oxford. Over sushi, we shared stories of our travels. He crossed Europe and Asia by bike. Just before reaching Dharamshala, he decided, on the urging of several travellers, to send a note to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to request an audience. Shayl wasn’t expecting to hear anything, but he thought it was with a try.

Sure enough, he was granted a 15 minute private audience in just a few days! As you might imagine, the meeting was transformative. Shayl shared the three simple and profound wisdoms he learned with us:

1. Take care of your community.

2. Try to understand each person you meet.

3. Show compassion for everyone.

We were deeply touched by Shayl’s experience. And inspired to reach out to wise and wonderful souls both on this bike trip and in general.

I’ve mentioned how much Derek and I loved watching Finding Farley. After speaking with Shayl I remembered that Leanne Allison and Karsten Huer lived somewhere close to Jasper. Turns out they lived in Canmore, just a short ride from Banff. When I shared this news with Anna Sierra, she decided to send them an email to see if we could meet up. It took her two nights in the tent to write the email. It was so sweet and heartfelt, we are including it here (with Anna’s permission, of course):
Dear Karsten and Leanne,
My name is Anna Sierra and I am 12 years old (almost 13). Last year I read Being Caribou and part of Walking the Big Wild on a long road trip. I was amazed and inspired by your determination to change the world for the better by embarking on epic journeys through some of North America’s most wild places.
My parents first saw Finding Farley when it passed through Ottawa with the Banff Mountain Film Festival. They loved it! Soon Jasper (my younger brother) and I had watched it as well as Being Caribou while snarfing popcorn in our front room in Ottawa. We were entranced! I remember smiling when Zev ate a mosquito for extra protein and beaming as a baby caribou hoisted itself up on shaky legs.
You are my heroes, inspiring me and my family to stand up for the preservation of Mother Nature’s finest – or rather – all of Mother Nature’s children.
Speaking of which, I am writing to you while snuggled in a tent in Jasper National Park, part of the Yellowstone to Yukon wildlife corridor. My family and I have been travelling on our bicycles for the past 10 months. We have ridden over 11,000kilometres. On Sunday (June 19) we will by riding the Icefields Parkway to Banff and beyond. 
We (and especially I) would be ecstatic if you two are available to meet either in Banff or in Canmore. I would love to hear more about the Y to Y and the fates of the caribou.
We should be in Banff/Canmore June 28-31 (depending on how everything goes over the mountain passes). If you are available to meet up we would love to arrange something via this email (it’s my mom’s account).
Keep loving the outdoors!

Anna Sierra Heffernan-Wilker
P.S. I read some of Farley Mowat’s books after watching Finding Farley and absolutely loved them.
P.P.S. Our family’s blog about our biking trip is:

Leanne wrote back right away. After a few logistical emails, she invited us to visit in Canmore. We had the most wonderful time getting to know each other, going out for ice cream, eating delicious homemade pizza, hearing about the overnight hiking trips Zev (now 11) and his friends take at school and checking out Canmore together.

Derek and I tried to lay low so that Anna Sierra, who has a lot to say but who doesn’t always jump into the conversational fray when other people are chatting, could have a chance to really connect with Leanne while they made pizza together.

Karsten was off in the back country of Banff, working on a bison reintroduction project, but we felt his presence through Leanne’s stories.

This gift of time with folks we admire deeply is one we’ll all treasure, each in our own way.

Wishing everyone a fabulous summer,



3 thoughts on “Finding our heroes

  1. Such a beautiful post from beginning to end. Full of wisdom and caring. Anna Sierra’s letter brought tears to my eyes. Thank you 🙂


  2. Yes — all around amazing story and I’m so impressed by Anna Sierra. 🙂
    I too followed Karsten and Leanne dating back to the Being Caribou days so all the more neat to read about this amazing part of your adventure. Super special!
    Emily in Hintonburg


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