Paul Hayes is back in the classroom teaching his French immersion class at École Cedar Hill Middle School, after an epic summer journey.
“Going up Island it was just amazing, just people stopping on the road and encouraging us,” Paul recounts.
The Victoria teacher decided to bike all the way to the Arctic with his beloved dog, Cinder, to raise money for Broken Promises Rescue.
“Everywhere we went we were greeted with positive energy and people were helping us out and always asking us if we needed anything,” he says.
Paul set off in mid-July — towing Cinder behind him and carrying all their supplies — cycling a staggering 3,385 kilometres to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic Ocean.
“Day by day, you get put in situations that really test you and I think keeping a positive mindset and just keeping to push forward, through what’s uncomfortable, is what I took from this journey,” Paul says.
Travelling isolated roads and biking 12 to 14 hours a day, they encountered bears and other wildlife.
But the scariest part of the trip was cycling the remote Dempster Highway — a 740-kilometre stretch of gravel road — where they encountered an aggressive grizzly bear and her cubs in the open Tundra.
“Going past the mother and two cubs we flagged down a motorcyclist and we were able to just go together and I communicated, listen if for some reason we have a situation where the bear will charge you can leave,” Paul laughs.
After 34 gruelling days, Paul and Cinder arrived in Tuktoyaktuk and were they were greeted by the local community at the Arctic Ocean sign.
“It was pretty emotional, absolutely,” says Paul, choking up. “It’s hard to talk about a little bit just because of how kind so many people were to us.”
In the end, Paul raised more than $23,000 for Broken Promises — the largest donation the volunteer-run rescue has ever received.
“The courage and commitment it took for him to do that is utterly amazing and I’m forever grateful to him for that and the outpouring of support from the public and all the donations,” says Broken Promises founder Pamela Saddler. “It’s going to be huge and help so many animals.”
For Paul, the life-changing journey has an amazing twist — he found love at the end of it and was offered an amazing job that starts next month.
“Everything led us to Tuktoyaktuk and at the end, I met a beautiful woman,” he says. “It looks like we might be going back to the Arctic!”
And this time, Paul and Cinder plan to drive.