Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Day After

It's official, I'm married! And yes, we were able to pull off the canoe wedding after all! The weather leading up to the day, including the day itself was unpredictable. On our drive up, we drove through a downpour when the skies darkened all around us. My stomach was in knots. Would we be able to pull it off? We had contingency plans, but considering how much time, effort, and money was spent to execute this canoe wedding, we didn't even want to consider it. Maybe positive thinking had something to do with it? Or maybe the fact that so many people were praying for a nice day. Either way, it turned out to be the most beautiful day for a canoe wedding!

It's the day after and I'm sick in bed aching, coughing, and stuffed up. I think the stress of everything has finally taken its toll. Despite the relief and thrill that everything worked out amazing at the wedding, I guess my body finally said enough. So instead of heading off on a honeymoon canoe trip, I am recovering at home. Actually, we both are, as Anita's toe was confirmed broken. So any notion of a honeymoon canoe trip was over awhile ago, sigh. No problem, we are just thrilled and happy everything worked out as planned, so for now, we are just going to stay home to recoup and relax.

I will have more to share in regards to the wedding later on. I don't have any pictures to share, because for once in my life, people were taking pictures of me rather than the other way around! Anyhow, based on feedback and the amazing comments I received, I am looking forward to the pictures with much anticipation as all of you! For now, I'm going to grab another tea and head to bed - with my wife!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Reflections Before The Big Day

10 more days to go before we 'paddle down the aisle'. Beside
 rings, we are planning to exchange paddles too!
Hoping for good weather!

I've been going non-stop with packing, dealing with lawyers (yes, plural), moving multiple times, visiting banks, wedding invitations problems, lack of funds (universal problem?), wedding plans, fees, deposits, lack of sleep, conditional closing dates,....the list goes on. I think you get the idea. I don't want to sound like a whiner, because many of you have experienced similar trying times and situations before a wedding, but those that know about our headaches, agree that ours are certainly more 'unique' and stressful.

I decided to take a break from working on the wedding speech and blog. It's funny how writing can be therapeutic and relaxing when you don't feel pressure and just write what's on your mind - like now. I've been thinking about my upcoming marriage and the parallels to canoe tripping. It's ironic how many similarities there are and the wisdom that can be gleaned from it.

I think it is apparent I love the outdoors. I've participated in many outdoor activities and have narrowed it down through the years to canoeing, why? Some of the answers are obvious, like the fact our country is a network of waterways that is best suited to explore and travel by canoe. But delve a bit deeper and you'll find I also enjoy canoeing because it is an activity that requires 2 people. Something about paddling, portaging, and experiencing the outdoors together gives me an innate and deep sense of satisfaction and appreciation. 

The canoe was conceived with 2 seats in mind and therefore is a vessel that is ideally propelled by 2 individuals. As we all know, each paddlers action or inaction affects the way the canoe behaves and therefore is crucial for both paddlers to work together in sync. To some degree, both paddlers can compensate for the other when things are not going perfectly, but ultimately, there are inefficiencies which can lead to other problems and issues. Doesn't this sound much like marriage?

The more I think about it, canoe tripping is like a life lesson in marriage. Any 2 persons that commit to a canoe trip is putting a lot on the line, especially if it is a long one. You are basically going to be fairly close to the other person for an extended period, and if you don't jive well, the trip is going to be a challenge to enjoy. Ultimately, the whole trip is going to be an exercise in compromise and relationship building. I know I've heard many people say how important it is to be an individual, (and it is) but when you're committing yourself to be close to someone for the long term, you have to compromise. It is a necessary component of a relationship. I can guarantee, if you are bull-headed and individualistic, there is little chance you'll find willing canoe partners, let alone meaningful long term relationships. Sure there are exceptions, but either one person is doing all the compromising or both are tolerating - sounds like a great relationship to me!

Ornaments like these should lend well to
the canoe wedding theme!

Canoe trips, like life has many ups and downs. How often do you have a perfect canoe trip, let alone see couples living perfectly in harmony. The vagaries of a canoe trip parallel those we experience in life, except due to the shorter time frame, things are often amplified, especially if you head out on a whitewater trip! Therefore, there is many similarities and parallels that can be transferred either from a canoe trip to life, or vice versa. Personally, I think canoe tripping is the ideal model for a partnership. I find it immensely satisfying when you work together with your partner to accomplish a goal. Some people may find dependence a weakness, but I certainly don't. It is an true and honest assessment of ourselves. (How often are we brave enough to admit that?) This bit of humility often goes a long way in helping to acknowledge the value of a partner and allow people to bond.

I've paddled with many people in my short lifetime and hope to paddle with many more in the future. But what I'm really looking forward to is this 'ultimate canoe trip' with my friend and partner Anita. All my life's lesson both on and off the water have boiled down to this big day, when I will be paddling the rest of my life with this person. Whether or not we are the perfect paddling partners is irrelevant. More importantly, we are the perfect partners to live the rest of our lives giving, sharing, experiencing and creating a lifetime worth of memories - which include actual canoe trips!

Now, if I can just get away on one!


Just when you think things couldn't get worse, it does. It looks like Anita may have broken her baby toe while we were moving. (I reminded her that door posts are usually stationary.) Yup, it's swelling up nicely and turning a myriad of colours, and of course she is hobbling and in pain. Sigh. At least she isn't walking down the aisle! When we get to land, I guess I could always 'portage' her!
Hoping for the best, considering!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mid-Summer Crisis

Ess Narrows: The familiar public access
 point to Dollars Lake

The summer is whipping by and it is already pass the halfway mark. At this moment, I am writing under a tarp (due to rain) on the shores of Smoky Lake. The normal course of events this summer has been anything but expected for Anita and I. Like most everyone, I assume people make plans and see to it that it pans out. Of course there are always glitches and unexpected events which throw you for a loop, but naturally you just deal with it and move on. Occasionally, things really go haywire and you are at a loss of what to do.

Snug under a tarp on the shores of Smoky Lake -
perfect time to read, write, and relax.

As all of you know, Anita and I are to get married this fall. With that in mind, we had plans in place for things to go rather smoothly. Well, it's been anything but. The wedding is one thing, but we also had to deal with an unplanned move, (actually multiple moves) selling, buying a house, being without a home for a undetermined amount of time, financial headaches, and even dealing with family. Our lives have literally been turned upside down. We were on the verge of scrapping the wedding altogether due to all the uncertainly and stress, but in the end, we decided to persevere and still see the canoe wedding through. Despite it all, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Much like glimpsing a flash of blue through the trees on a long tough portage, we know it will all end soon.

The Stare Down: Ironic that later on in the trip, we did
get to stare down a moose that was alive!

Remains of the moose were everywhere, not just bones.
"Oh, here's some ribs and the lower jaw!"

Of course with all this going on, our original summer plans have unexpectedly been thrown into total disarray. Anita and I had actually set aside time for canoe trips together this summer, but they have been altered considerably. Anita already missed out on one big trip to the Mississagi River due to illness, and our other big trip has been cancelled due to our move. We had one other trip which we were supposed to take at the end of July, which I was going to cancel as well, but Anita kiboshed that idea. She wouldn't be denied missing all her summer canoe trips! (I'm pretty sure I found the right woman!) So, what was supposed to 
be 10 days away, changed to 8, for issues at home, then shorten again to 5 to deal with wedding matters. We thought we'd never make it out, but thankfully we finally did.

Dollar Lake: When you're not in a rush to get to camp, you can
take time to stop and explore nooks and crannies.

Going away with pressing matters back home is hard because your mind is not at ease. However, Anita and I surprisingly didn't even broach the subject once - its as if we both knew. We honestly left all our worries behind. I'm so happy that I agreed to Anita's demand request to still go on a canoe trip, because we both really needed it. It helped to ease not only our minds, but our physical being as well. And really, what's better than a relaxing canoe trip?

Mud Lake: An unfair connotation to a lake we
found stunning and beautiful.

We spent five days paddling through crown land, exploring a chain of lakes in the Noganosh Lakes area. I've been to this area years ago, but only made it down to Smoky Lake since the group I was leading had had enough paddling and wanted to take advantage of the good fishing on that lake. I promised myself then to come back in the future and see the rest of the area. So here I am, back on Smoky Lake on the morning of day two, waiting for the rain to abate so that we can head out. Nonetheless, it was the perfect time to write as I have so little of it back home.

What's a trip without some adventure. Anita trying
to find footing on uneven ground. 

This 400M portage swallowed us up, almost encompassing
 the canoe as well. Not used much?!

We spent time exploring a chain of lakes in the area, - Noganosh, Last, Mud and John Lake. It was pretty relaxing, except for the fact we had to deal with headwind almost everyday. (Anita claims I have something to do with that!?) Other than the odd fishermen, it was surprisingly devoid of paddlers. Although, we did meet a few nice people. Tim, with his dog Goldwater, paddled into Smoky Lake with us. He was coming to fish, and he didn't leave disappointed. (Anita chastised me for not bringing a fishing rod!) We also met a family from Liverpool (now living in Canada) that was day-tripping in the area and paddled with us into 
John Lake. We ended up portaging together through an overgrown and underused trail back to Last Lake, which was amusing as you could barely see the tops of the canoes! It was no epic trip for sure, but it was a great for us - to relax, reconnect, and regroup before heading back home to chaos.

GH + EH engraved their initials at this campsite in
Aug '86. Wow, almost 26 years to the
date. Wonder where they
 are now?

We will soon be without many of our personal things in the next little while, as we are going to temporarily live with a friend. We are going to cope as best as we can, but it is going to be tough. I will do my best to update with plans for the canoe wedding, but no guarantees. My next writing assignment will be the wedding speech. It's about 6 weeks to go and boy do we still have lots to do before then. Hope you are all doing well, enjoying the summer and getting out paddling!

tSPP (S=stressed!)

I, (we) are always rejuvenated and refreshed by our time on
trips. We took inspiration from this one to refocus
and persevere through our
trying time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Queen Elizabeth What?!

Intrigued by this piece of wilderness? Here's a small  
 peek of this southern Ontario park

I don't understand the logic of naming a large tract of Ontario wilderness after a monarch. It was supposed to be some Conservative (political party) promise, but come on, the correlation? In fact, the only part of the name that has any relevance is "Wildlands", but even that is a stretch, as many parts of this unmaintained park is dotted with boats, cabins, and even float planes. In any case, leave it to the politicians to do something that doesn't make sense. Now the rest of us have to rattle off the awkward park name when speaking about it. Queen Elizabeth Two Wildlands Provincial Park, got it? Yeah sure.

The Queen Elizabeth 2 Wildlands is characterized 
 by wide swaths of marshlands,... 

Now that I got that out of my system, I can talk a little bit about what the park is actually like, since I spent six days paddling through there. The park is unmaintained as yet, and therefore still probably not in the condition it will finally be in when it's officially operating. I left the trip with mixed feelings, but despite my reservations, I still plan to head back there again. There isn't close to as many canoe routes as let say Killarney or Algonquin, but the park has real potential. Being the second largest park south of Algonquin, (after the Kawarthas Highlands), and a landscape that is interconnected with ribbons of blue, a topo map and curiosity is all that is needed to make your own adventure there.

...punctuated by sporadic up-thrusts of granite.

I heard about this paddling destination often in passing and by accident, but never took it seriously until this year. While working at the Outdoor Adventure Show, I briefly spoke to park superintendent Tamara Flannigan that oversees the broad area which includes the QE2W. (That's my short form now.) She gave me a little information on the park and some possible routes, which she was able to cram onto a small sticky note that even included a map she drew. When I finally decided to head there, I requested some more info from a follower of my blog who'd been there. (Thanks Adrian) He sent me an email which included a link to a site explorethebackcountry.com that even had a google map with info on portages and campsites! I printed the topos of the area and proceeded to overlay the info from their site to my maps before heading out. (Thanks to Brad and Wayne Jennings of explorethebackcountry.com)

An over abundance of aquatic vegetation and low water levels
often made route finding challenging

All the routes in the QE2W park are pretty much there and back. Although in time, based on the topography, I'm pretty sure someone will loop some of the routes together. Anyhow, the routes themselves are not too long, nor are the portages, so my plan was see every route that had been mapped or marked out in the park so far. But as you may have surmised from the last post, it didn't go as planned. First off, the water levels were very low. Many of the interconnecting routes are through creeks, marshes, bogs and ponds. Let's just say those ribbons of blue were very very thin to almost non-existent. There was a disproportionate amount of hauling, heaving and grunting instead of paddling. Secondly, some of the portages are easy to find, but others, didn't even seem to exist. The low water levels didn't help either as the take-out or put-in's were not normally where they would have been. My experience with locating portages certainly helped and ultimately I did always manage to find a way through, but they weren't always ideal. Although admittedly, sometimes they were actually better.

Survey tape found along the portage
helped to guide the way

 Occasionally we found rock cairns too

Brad and Wayne Jennings from explorethebackcountry.com should be applauded for their efforts to open up routes by marking the portages with survey tape, but they forgot one major thing. They did it in early spring when there was no foliage or new growth. Come summer, most, if not all signs were obscured or covered. Even when you did find a marker, you couldn't find the next one. Secondly, we are all different in our route finding abilities, so naturally my choice of travel which I thought was ideal, was not what Brad and Wayne chose. So as you can see, an inordinate amount of time was spent trying to find a way through, besides clearing the brush as we went. 

Often this was what we had to work with in trying to find a way through
Can you see the survey tape - you can't from further back.
How about a trail? Don't think so!

And let me tell you about the bush. I don't know if it has to do with this particular region, but like I mentioned in the last post, the profusion of vegetation in this park was incredible. I often felt like I was in a rain forest! I don't ever recall seeing so many shades of green. It was all very beautiful and healthy-looking, but the downside was trying to navigate your way through. We were often waist to chest deep in greenery. My saw was most inappropriate for this, other than a few downed trees that we had to clear. We really should have had bypass pruners or clippers instead to deal with all the vegetation!

The combination of heat, humidity and the profusion of
greenery made me believe I was in the tropics!

So dealing with low water levels and route-finding, combine that with brutal heat and humidity, (Did I mention deer flies?) you can see how the the rate of travel slowed right down to a crawl. Anita asked me a couple times about the rationale of pushing ahead, which was certainly valid, however, being one to not easily give up, we still did. One phrase I think I ingrained in her head was, "It will eventually open up", as we pushed on ahead. Thankfully, each and every time, it did. Phew, I didn't want to tarnish my reputation!

 Taking a much needed break to rehydrate and down some
 bars before heading out through another stretch
 of barely-paddleable marsh

An unmaintained park means sometimes you have to provide
the 'maintenance' yourself to get through!

During our trip, at times I felt totally isolated - far from anyone or anything. A lot of the campsites have fire pits with hardly any charred wood to show in it. Unlike Temagami with its known network of portages and First Nations inhabitants, was there similar travellers here? Or were they ambitious fishermen/hunters and I am just romanticizing about historical inhabitants in the area. In any case, it really felt good to be here, like I was in some lost paradise. The only downside is that it is never too far from signs of modern man. Cabins were found in many waterways and along portages. Aluminum boats were frequently found at the start and end of portages. We even witnessed several float planes landing and taking off! I could only fool myself for so long. As much as these things disrupted my sense of wilderness, surprisingly, I still enjoyed being there. 

We weren't the only ones that enjoyed this place. We found
this plaque at the base of a concrete dam.
6-8-25   5-10-90

One of the real charms of this park is that there are numerous bodies of water linked together by some sort of water. If you are adventurous and have a map/GPS, this could be the key to creating your own isolated, out-of-the-way route/campsite. Who knows what may happen or change when the park starts being maintained, but for now, if you don't mind roughing it a bit, or finding your own way, there is much to discover and enjoy in this southern Ontario park. Despite everything that happened on my trip, it certainly captured enough of our hearts, that Anita and I plan to definitely head back there again!

Will we head back to this park - definitely. Was it all worth it -
 you bet. At least you won't forget the name!

Hope you've all been out paddling and enjoying
the incredibly hot weather!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Heat and Deer Flies

The lush dense vegetation of this area had me often wondering
if we were in some tropical paradise. Maybe paradise-
like, although with attitude. 

Anita and I recently got back from a six day canoe trip from an unmaintained park that I've never been to. The weather was amazing, but the heat was incredibly oppressive. It totally sapped our energy, unlike the deer flies which seemed to derive energy from it. Schools of them harassed us persistently, buzzing around our heads and often slamming into us. My long black hair surprisingly was not only a magnet for them, but a godsend as they often got tangled in it and resultingly got crushed by my hand. I can't tell you how many I caught this way. Although, my grossly swollen bites often was their idea of a fair exchange.

Looking for a way out of this unnamed

The heat and deer flies certainly stand out from our trip, as it affected us on a daily basis, but there were other things that made the trip memorable too. Considering that the trip was supposed to be a benign outing to explore this park, it soon became apparent it wasn't so docile. We knew the park was unmaintained, but the information on the route was simple and straight forward, so I didn't expect too much difficulty. Was I ever wrong. My original (more ambitious) plan quickly became shortened to deal with the heat, low water levels, route finding, trail breaking and of course the deer flies. Who would have expected?

Even when we found a way, it 
wasn't  always easy.

On an entirely different note, this trip for me has had notable significance - for firsts. First for having my tent/gear crapped on, first for not taking a gas stove, first for having my bandanna getting caught on fire, but,.....the most egregious of all, I actually forgot a meal!!! In all my years of countless numbers of trips from both canoeing, backpacking, and camping trips, I actually forgot a meal!! Am I losing it?! This is a story to blog about in and of itself!

Anita supplementing for the missing meal!

Unfortunately, I don't have enough time to blog about this trip, since I have to prepare for my next one coming up very soon. We recently had to change it due to extremely low water levels, (Noire River in Quebec) so we are going with our back up plan - 10 days on the Mississagi River. I hope everyone has been getting out on trips or has been paddling as the weather has been fabulous. Life is much more enjoyable out on the water, don't you agree? Even with swollen itching bug bites!


PS. Anita has 'politely' informed me that she is going to look after the food for our up-coming trip, and quite possibly all the ones in the near future. I've been told. 

Did I already mention the lush vegetation? Lost
 in a sea of  ferns - "I'm over here!"

Monday, June 4, 2012

May Long Weekend Tripping

The scenic Gibson River - almost perfect
for a short weekend getaway.

I hate long weekends. Okay, maybe that is a bit harsh. I don't really hate long weekends, but I do hate long weekends for canoe trips. My usual routine has always been to work over the weekend, get paid extra for working the statutory holiday, and then take time off later on. When I go away on a canoe trip, I want to escape all the things that remind me of life in the city - noise, crowds, ringing cell phones, cars, sirens and loud music. I assume many of you feel the same way, but when you have hundreds, if not thousands of people heading out for the long weekend, it's often more difficult to find that piece of solitude. And if you are lucky enough to find it, on the way home, dealing with traffic jams and irritable drivers is enough to make you wonder why you went out in the first place!

Lifting over a small dam near the head of the Gibson River.
 Thankfully there was enough  water to paddle!

So guess what I did this past May long weekend? Yes, I was actually out on a canoe trip! A paddling friend of mine was quite surprised when she found out what I was doing. As she knows how I feel about long weekend trips, she told me to try and relax, drink a bit (as it is a May two-four tradition), and try not to kill anyone. I had a good laugh. So the big question is why? Well, my fiancĂ©e's job requires her to be off every statutory holiday. That means, unless I take it off as well, we will never have a long weekend together. (I quickly surmised that that wasn't a smart idea, seeing that I am about to get married to her.) Since I worked over the Easter long weekend, I decided to compromise. A request was submitted to take Victoria Day off and plans put in place for a canoe trip. With friends also being off from work as well, I was thrilled to have some of them join us for the trip.

 Pretty falls tucked away in a corner of Brothersons Lake.
Photo: Fred Kodjayan

My lack of preparation for the long weekend trip immediately became evident when plans for paddling at Charleston Lake Provincial Park was stymied. I tried to get information on the route and book interior sites a week prior to the departure date. What a big mistake, everything was booked. Considering the weather forecast for the weekend was looking spectacular, I should have known, but as you can see, I'm not an experienced long weekend tripper. Realizing now that other parks sites would probably be all booked, I looked at another alternative - crown land routes. The odds of finding campsites could still be slim, but much better than going to a park where all the sites are booked!

Low water levels meant we often had to drag through bony
rapids that normally could have been run.

The pressure was mounting as I had less than a week to find a route. It had to be relatively close, located on crown land,  moderately easy for our group, and lastly, not too popular. Wait, aren't those the ideal criteria most paddlers look for?! Who was I fooling? If I could pull this off, it would be like having the Midas touch! I was putting myself up to failure in one way or another, but with no choice, I began pouring over books and maps until I found a route - the Gibson River. It was close by, it was on crown land, route not too demanding and I was hoping it wasn't very popular. Mainly because the extremely popular Gibson-McDonald route just west of where we would be paddling would be guaranteed to be a canoeist long weekend nightmare. Besides, since this was a river trip, the shuttle would most likely deter other paddlers. (At least I hoped!) Thinking positively, I informed my group about my route choice.

We had the privilege,...er,....I had the privilege of seeing so many
snakes, including this Massassauga Rattler!
Photo: Ben Albert

One minor (or possibly major) issue that was nagging at me was water levels. The combination of little snow cover over the winter and even less precipitation this spring meant rivers were at record low levels. As you can imagine, I was worried about what we would find, or not find. With no other choice, our party of six paddlers and 2 dogs headed out early Saturday morning. We quickly shuttled the vehicles when we got there, paid for parking, and even had ice cream before we pushed off from the shores of Nine Mile Lake. With moderate traffic to deal with on the way up and only one other group paddling out with us, I hoped this was a good sign. How couldn't I feel optimistic, being that it was a gorgeous day to start a canoe trip.

Bottleneck Rapids - a little tougher to get through, but
 not with teamwork and elbow grease.

Once we paddled to the end of the lake and started down the Gibson river, I was much relieved to find enough water to float us through. The level was down as expected, but other than at rapids which we often had to drag through, I was just happy we could still paddle. The Gibson River surprisingly ended up being a great destination for a canoe trip. The varied terrain that we found ourselves travelling through was thoroughly enjoyable as it was often isolated, intimate and captivating. The river courses its way through marshes, along narrow corridors, down scenic falls, and beside granite outcrops. The wildlife sightings were numerous, especially of the reptilian kind, as we got to see a five-lined skink, a salamander, a big toad, turtles, large tadpoles and lots of snakes, including the infamous Massassauga Rattler. The weather over the course of the weekend continued to be incredible, as we sweltered under the blazing sun. The company was lots of fun, the food plentiful and delicious, and heck, I even drank too! It certainly sounded like the ideal weekend trip, but not everything turned out perfectly.

"Leaves of  three, let them be" - These wonderful foliage graced our
campsite on the second day - which we promptly named
Poison Ivy Point.

Day two was a stark reminder of that. First, paddling the length of Gibson Lake was painful as it was in full celebration mode as people, music and watercraft were evident everywhere. Secondly, the lack of camp sites on the route meant we had a very long haul that day. Luckily we found a campsite just before dark that evening, but being close to highway 69, we unfortunately got to hear all the vehicles whizzing by. Lastly, the unused campsite we found was covered in poison ivy. We even had to burn some around the firepit in order to cook. (We knew the dangers of burning them too, but had little choice.) Despite all this, we managed to end the day in good spirits, especially after filling our bellies with food, rehydrating, and relaxing around the campfire.

High Falls - who would have thought to find such
hidden gems so close to home!

So not everything turned out well, but enough things did go right that I was convinced I would do it again. I probably would do a few things differently next time, but the combination of great weather, scenic route, and good company helped to make the best of a weekend I would normally dread. Canoe trips for me are hard to refuse, but now, the prospect of a long weekend canoe trip seems more feasible with the right planning. Hope you all got out paddling as well!


PS. Surprisingly, none of us got any reaction to the poison ivy, despite the burning and the dogs walking all through them as well. Phew!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Home Coming

The French River - a favourite paddling
 destination of mine

Pure bliss! That's how I felt when I finally got out a few weeks ago. It was not only the first canoe trip, but the first time I actually got into a canoe this year! Its been a frustrating start to the paddling season, but I was finally able to break away and find my calling in a canoe. With extremely warm temperatures in March, it was hard not to day dream of an extra early canoe trip, seeing that ice was going out in lakes in record time. But all I could do was sulk like a spoiled child and hope my suffering would come to an end soon, especially since paddling friends had already headed out. Thank goodness the painful wait culminated at the end of April.

Free Flow Channel - it was flowing alright!

It was four days of euphoria for me. It felt so good to finally get out - to breathe in the fresh air, indulge in the rich earthy scents, listen to the pervading silence, and see life rejuvenating all around me. The time spent on the trip was therapeutic for sure, but it felt more like a home coming. Like I've been away from family and friends for too long. Months stuck inside a house away from a paddle and canoe tend to cloud/numb the mind and spirit. But no sooner than when you portage a canoe to the water's edge, push off and feel the pull of the paddle in the water, it all comes rushing back. Welcoming back!

There is lots to miss when you've been gone so long from
tripping. One of them being a nice warm fire!

I headed out with Anita to one of my favourite haunts, the French River. We decided to explore the northeast section of the river, closer to Lake Nippissing with all its bays, islands and hidden coves. It was going to be a fairly easy trip, to try and break in our dormant tripping muscles, test out a new  tripping/whitewater canoe, and of course savour being back on the water. I knew it was a good omen when minutes after we set off, we were greeted by two welcoming parties of deer on either shore. We would have been more than thrilled to see just one, but six, three on either side! It was a start to a great trip!

Negotiations are typical on canoe trips. For
a pile of firewood (and a fire), I was
promised brownies!

We seemed to experience a bit of everything during the four days we spent there. It was as if we were being re-orientated back to life in the wilderness. The wildlife sightings continued in earnest, even after the initial deer sighting - eagles, beavers, woodpeckers, otters, loons and of course the ubiquitous red squirrel. We paddled hard upstream, floated languidly downstream, played in rapids, and of course cruised along flat stretches. We had cold nights (frost) and hot days, wore tuques and got sun burnt. We portaged a bit as well, which was great to give our legs a work out, but we even managed to bushwhack through a section when the channel we headed down was blocked from aquatic growth. Another highlight was getting the privilege to break in a new thunder box one day, but of course to balance things out, we also had the joy of digging our own cat holes at the other sites! Everything we did we did purposefully, deliberately, and appreciatively, savouring every moment. Our trip may have been long in the coming, but in spite of the delay, our inaugural trip was worth every minute of it.

I promised Anita rest and relaxation. I should have pointed out
that it was only after we got to camp!

On the third day of the trip, it was overcast and intermittently sprinkling rain. Cradling a mug of hot chocolate in my hands, I was sitting underneath a tarp surveying the scenery in front of me. Despite the fact the smoke from the fire was stinging my eyes, or that my arm was aching from sawing/splitting a pile of firewood, it never felt so good to be alive. I was overcome by a sense of contentment as I was genuinely happy to be back in the wilderness on a canoe trip. I knew in less than 24 hrs I would have to leave, but oddly enough, being in the wilderness felt more comforting to me than the 'wilds' back at home. Soon enough, I knew I would be pining not to leave, but for now, it was home sweet home.

We found cranberries in a marshy waterway. I can  definitively
 say, it didn't taste anything like Crasins!
 Talk about bitter! Blah!

Many that follow my blog intrinsically understand the thoughts and emotions that come from my experiences on trips such as this, being canoeist themselves. But I'm sure there are some that are not, who may find it harder to comprehend what exactly I am trying to articulate. In reality, you can only express so much in words to convey one's personal experiences on trips, as most of it is uniquely personal. That is why it is often said, that some things are best left to be experienced on their own. A canoe trip is no exception -

you just have to try it yourself.

It's hard not to be lost 'in the moment' on a canoe trip.
Its just hard to come back home!

Happy paddling!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Canoe Wedding?!

Awenda Provincial Park - a beautiful place where both
Anita and I camped at when we were young.  

Planning for canoe trips is unfortunately going to take somewhat of a back seat to wedding plans this year. It was to be expected for sure, but at the same time, it's an adjustment for me. I don't have free reign over the paddling season any more, maybe even from this year hence forth! Besides dealing with vacation requests/approvals at work or navigating around family functions/important dates, now I have to contend with one more layer of bureaucracy - Anita, my new boss and soon to be wife. (I'm oft reminded of this saying about, "Happy wife makes for a happy life". I'm convinced it's a conspiracy!) Attempting to take off on a canoe trip may now require some deft wrangling. Submission, consultation, negotiation, and then finally approval (or denial). Talk about red tape. Okay, okay, I admit, I'm being a bit facetious, but I think you get the idea. It won't be the same as it use to be.

I love my fiance and really do look forward to a life together, both on the water and off. In reality, I know much of what I stated earlier needs to happen in order to maintain a happy respectful relationship, so really, I am not that far off. Nonetheless, I'm sure I will still pay for those statements in the opening paragraph. (What, I'm getting a 'time-out' from canoeing?!!) She is very much unlike a stern administrator at home. In fact, she is quite reasonable to deal with when it comes to my yearning for canoe trips. She was well aware of my passion for canoeing before we got together, so it's not like she is being blind-sided. Although, she did say that if I head out on a canoe trip without her, her only stipulation was for me to leave my credit card with her. (Why?!,....ok.)

Looking for back-up locations just in case
it rains on the day of our marriage.

So how easy is it to compromise with Anita? Well, how about a canoe wedding! At the beginning of the year, I had to accompany Anita, her sister and her mom to a huge bridal show in Toronto. I honestly felt like a fish out of the water. Glitz and glamour, lights and sounds, and most importantly big promises that had even bigger prices. As I walked behind all three ladies, I was perpetually being passed all the brochures, magazines, and cards that was being handed to them. The multiple bags I carried in both hands immediately swelled to contain these endless handouts I was trying to stuff them in. If you thought portaging was tough, let me tell you otherwise! I have to say, I was quite relieved when the ordeal was all over. Later that evening when Anita and I were resting comfortably at home, I asked her what she wanted for a wedding. Surprisingly, she said she would be more than happy to just go to a JP (Justice of the Peace) and get married. That was unexpected, but I was pleased she saw the folly in the extravagance of what weddings have or can become. I'm not here to judge and criticize what others want for their weddings, but I was glad that Anita and I were both generally on the same page. 

Now, I could have easily obliged her request as it was simple enough. But I, (this is the ironic part) yes, I'll say it again - I wanted a wedding. One that was small, intimate and not over-the-top, especially one that our friends and family could enjoy with us. Anita didn't need any convincing, she was fine with my request on one condition, that I plan it. Okay, so I knew right off the bat that I wanted an outdoor wedding. But when I started thinking, (how novel) I day-dreamed about a canoe wedding on the water. At this point, I wisely thought I should seek her approval. She was naturally humoured by the suggestion, but then she also did state it wasn't surprising coming from me. (Am I that predictable?!) The more we talked about it, the more she liked the idea as it would be unique and merge perfectly into our honeymoon plans. (Which I will blog about later.) Of course she had some concerns, but as we worked through the details in our head and on paper, it actually seemed feasible. She was sold, phew!

We really contemplated getting married on the Bay, but
we found a more suitable location elsewhere.

A traditional wedding would hardly raise an eyebrow. A canoe wedding on the other hand, that's another story. I convinced the most important person, but as you all know, we don't stand on an island all to our own. Let me tell you, it got reactions all right. Let's just say it was all 'positive'. Despite it all, Anita and I decided to stick with the original plan. Deciding on the location was difficult, because it had to be suitable for a myriad of reasons. After searching the web, checking out various venues/locations, we were still unsatisfied and undecided. Time was running out and we were starting to lose hope. We then decided to check out a lake at Awenda Provincial Park on the advice of its park superintendent. So last month, Anita and I trekked to the lake to scout it out. Needless to say, we were totally thrilled by what we found. We knew it would work out great for our plans! What a relief it was to finally find a place. Of course there is still lots more to do and figure out, but we are now one step closer to our dream canoe wedding. Stay tuned!

Once we found the perfect location for the 
canoe wedding, we were all smiles!


PS. I've finally managed to get some time off work. Heading out paddling this weekend - finally!