Armed with bear spray and a slingshot, Sarah Eggleton trekked into the woods one morning with little more than a canoe, fishing rod, tarp and her dog. Her hike turned into a two-month adventure that had her fishing for her dinner and stalking moose. That was almost 3 years ago. Now, she is vying to become Miss Universe Canada.
The 23-year-old says she is “a bit of a mountain woman,” and has always loved being outside. “I’ve been a bush girl since I was a kid. As an adult, it’s my true passion.”
Eggleton describes herself as an extremist, so on a spur of the moment soul-cleansing adventure into the bush, Eggleton totally lived off the land — a terrifying idea for many, let alone a woman of her age. But she does a lot of things her peers don’t. She hunts bear and moose, and fishes for anything that will take her bait (although she prefers bass for “the fight they put up”) and only eats meat she harvests.
“I ate a lot of fish,” she said, laughing, thinking back to her months in the bush. “Thank God I’m a good fisherman.” Berries, lily root and other plants rounded out her menu; she even experimented with the buds on Sumac trees. “If you add them to cold water, it’s more like Kool-Aid. If you boil them though, they can be poisonous,” she said.
Although she says she didn’t have any dangerous encounters, she recalls the spine-chilling sensation that came over her at night as the bush came to life. “When I set up my tarp to sleep at night, I could hear the howling of wolves. They were, at times, about 20 feet away. It was ear shattering, my bones rattled, but they didn’t come near me.”
And although she scared a few people by taking off for two months, it’s an experience she doesn’t regret. “I would do it again,” she said. “It was incredible, how much you learn about yourself.”
Eggleton has recently become interested in trapping, and her dream is to open a hunting and fishing retreat. “This is a huge passion, and if I can incorporate it into a career it would be ideal.”
She never imagined she would be a pageant queen.
She was approached by the president of Miss Ontario North while serving her table when she was waitressing at a restaurant on Highway 24 in Northern Ontario. “She asked me if I had ever considered pageants and I said, “You mean with dresses?”’
“People who know me were totally floored,” she said.
Eggleton participated in the Miss North Ontario Canada Regional Pageant 2013 and was selected to go to Miss Universe Canada.
Eggleton has had to ditch her camouflage and rubber boots for dresses and high heels as she moved through the final stages of the pageant this week, which is being held in Toronto. The preliminary rounds happened on Thursday, May 23 and the finals are slated for Saturday, May 24.
She’s up against 65 other women, most of whom have much more pageant experience than her but, like all else, she’s game. “I’m very new to this whole thing. They’ve taught me how to network and organize charity events, and pushed me to get more involved with my area,” she said about her pageant experience so far.
“Miss Universe Canada is such an amazing opportunity,” she added. “I will use this opportunity to show that even a small town tom-boy can achieve enormous goals with hard work and perseverance.”
But this country mouse has only temporarily been transplanted into the city.
“I would rather be face-to-face with a bear than be in Toronto,” she laughed. “Saturday, after the pageant is done, I’m just going home to camp. I need my rubber boots!”
Eggleton said she’s learned a lot from the entire pageant experience, even things she can apply to hunting. “I’ve learned how to walk better. Deer won’t hear me now,” she joked.