How often do you hear people say: “I wish I could do more of x (in my case spend more time outdoors) but life gets in the way”? I am not a big fan of that expression – “life gets in the way.” It’s right there with “time to return to real life.” Both imply that time spent outside is nothing more than a frivolous pursuit or, at best, an escape from our productive and important lives filled with jobs, chores and responsibilities.
There are days when I daydream about ditching the so-called “real life” for a life of outdoor adventures. I know, however, that right now it is not realistic. So instead my goal is to incorporate outdoors into my everyday life as much as possible, whether by making sure I take a walk during my lunch break, skipping the bus and walking part of the way home, growing a container garden on my balcony and filling my apartment with plants, or making weekend getaways and microadventures a priority.
The weather forecast for Thanksgiving weekend didn’t look good. No matter how many times I refreshed the page, there was nothing but clouds and rain over the three days we planned to spend canoeing in Algonquin. The sun peeked in for a bit but then quickly disappeared behind clouds. Rain and clouds it was. Oh, and single digit temperatures. Nonetheless,we kept packing because barring some natural disaster, like a hurricane, we weren’t going to bail out.
Our plans caused all sorts of reactions: from raised eyebrows to horrified high-pitched “you will freeze” warnings. There were also expressions of admiration accompanied by badly concealed “you are nuts” looks. You’d think we were heading on a month-long mission to North Pole in nothing but shorts and t-shirts with a newborn in tow.
But seriously, why subject ourselves to what many may consider misery? Except to prove that we are not fair weather campers, of course. I had a lot of time to think about it as we paddled back through persistent rain, feeling drops forming rivulets down my face and water inevitably soaking through my underwear. Would I prefer a warmer weather? Sure, a bit of sun would be nice. Maybe a glimpse of sky, just a sliver, a bit of a silver lining so to say. Was it an enjoyable trip anyway? Absolutely.
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.
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.