We scramble up a hill, through a thick forest, in search of a rock. In a sea of boulders, stones and pebbles of various sizes and forms, the mission may seem strange, not to mention futile. This, however, is no regular rock. Known as Carmichael’s Rock, of Franklin Carmichael fame, this particular chunk of Killarney’s signature quartzite was immortalized in a 1934 photo featuring the Group of Seven artist perched on a rocky cube against a magnificent backdrop of Grace Lake framed by La Cloche Mountains. Even though numerous Group of Seven aficionados have made this trip before us, there is no actual trail leading to it. With no directions, apart from a starting point the host at Widgawa Lodge showed us on the map and some stacked rocks along the way, we stumble along determined to find this piece of Canadian art history. Lots of sweat later, some blood, but luckily no tears, we finally arrive. The rock in front of us definitely looks like the one in the picture. But what’s even more telling is the view that opens up behind it. I can see what Carmichael meant by “a landscape … rich in inspiration … and full of inherent possibilities…”
Carmichael’s Rock overlooking Grace Lake in Killarney Provincial Park Continue reading
For me, the forest has always been a magical place. Not a scary locale of many fairy-tales and horror films, but rather a trove of endless wonders. As a child I spent many summer days wandering through the woods behind my grandparents’ house, listening to the trees whisper to each other, their branches touching tenderly up above, their roots in a tight embrace breaking through the ground under my feet. What thoughts ran through their trunks, I wondered. What dreams nestled in their canopies?
The May long weekend is often the time of many firsts. The first paddling adventure of the season. The first backcountry trip. The first call of the loon. The first mosquito bite, or a dozen. The first sunburn.
Recently, I’ve been guilty of allowing myself to fall into the same home-work cycle, at times feeling like an android host in Westworld, going through the same narrative loop and desperately wishing for the writers to introduce a new twist to my story. Weekend microadventures slowly gave way to other engagements and fickle spring weather. The month of April got compressed into a blur, and no matter how much I tried to grab at its edges to stretch it out just a little bit, it kept slipping away leaving me craving greenery and silence. So when a work event came up in Hamilton, I used the opportunity to stay behind and do some hiking.
A forest on a spring morning is a well-orchestrated polyphony. Robins and red-winged blackbirds pour their joy out trying to outsing each other for the role of a lead soloist. Woodpeckers keep the rhythm with their insistent staccato. Cuckoo birds join this celebratory chorus with a melodic refrain. Nothing is jarring; not a single note out of place. Even the shrill caws of grackles don’t produce dissonance but rather serve as interludes between other parts.
I grip the handles of my seat as the plane leaves the tarmac of Thunder Bay International Airport. Not that I am afraid of flying; just prefer to remain on the ground. That little niggle at the pit of my stomach is forgotten as soon as the frozen expanse of Lake Superior comes into view. The white is interrupted by the dark blue waters, smooth and serene from up here. Glued to the window, I glimpse the head and chest of Sleeping Giant, just as majestic from the air as he is from the ground. The plane dives into the cloud before I manage to say good-bye.
Lake Superior and Sleeping Giant disappear under the cloud Continue reading
There is often a moment at the end of a trip when the packing is done, I get whatever firewood we have left and start the fire. That’s my small attempt to soak up the last of the camping magic along with some smoke and to postpone the moment of returning to the world of glass and concrete. Don’t get me wrong: city life has its charms. Occasionally, though, the traffic, the noise, and, most importantly, constant presence of people becomes too much. That’s why moments like these are a necessity. An escape into solitude. An opportunity to recharge.