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!