Sunday, March 31, 2013

Year in Review - 2012

2012 may not have been the ideal tripping year, but it certainly
 was important. Time to get married!
Photo: Anice Wong

Two thousand and twelve was an off year for me. It was an anomaly when compared to previous years, in regards to the number of trips, and the amount of days spent out in the bush. In all respects, I did not expect some banner or record year, considering what was going on in my life, but based on plans I had in place, it would still have been a great year. Unfortunately, unexpected circumstances changed our plans significantly and altered how the year played out. Regrets? I would have to say no for the most part. But because I had to reflect back for this review, it's too bad it didn't go as planned. The ideal circumstances would have had me not only getting the cake, but eating it too! But alas, life is unpredictable and sometimes that's what makes it interesting - well sometimes. Ultimately, I am thankful for many things that did happen last year, and considering, lucky for the many opportunities I did get to head out on canoe trips!

Island site on Noganosh Lake - Who doesn't love tenting
under towering red pines?

Tallying the numbers, I headed out on 5 trips totalling 29 days. It's certainly nothing to be disappointed about, but it is less than half of the time I usually spend on canoe trips. Twenty-twelve may not be remembered as a tripping year, but it certainly will stand out for the many other significant things that did happen. Looking back, I am happy it is all over. There are memories from the past year that I will cherish for a lifetime, but it's also nice to look forward to a normal one. Sure, it will be another regular year of more canoe trips and tromping around in the bush, but call me crazy. I wouldn't have it any other way!

The towering peaks and cliffs along the Mississagi river had
us craning our necks, admiring the scenery.

The tripping season started later than I hoped. After the extremely mild winter and the jump start to an early spring, I should have been out on a trip at the beginning of April. Unfortunately, things didn't pan out that way. I was especially envious when friends asked me to join them on an Easter weekend trip, but regretfully, I had to decline. Despite the missed opportunity, I was finally able to head out at the end of the month with Anita to the French River to open the season. Nothing like the thrill of the first canoe trip after a long dormant winter!

The next trip during the May long weekend was a hit and miss route along the Gibson river, when I couldn't book sites at a provincial park. It was a trip that surprised our group with some great scenery, including the numerous falls along the way. The part we could have skipped, was the large lakes we had to cross where cottages and weekend party'ers populated the shoreline. It's unfortunate that a great route located close to the city couldn't totally be isolated. But maybe that is why the non-canoeist are there too! My advice, paddle the route in the off season.

The French River is one of my favourite paddling destinations.
Go early and you will have the place to yourselves!

Come June, Anita and I headed off to visit a new unmaintained park that I had very little information about. With some bits and pieces of information from various sources, we put together what seemed to be a fairly easy trip. Little did we know, that the 'easy trip' was far from the truth. It wasn't that I expected an easy route, rather, it was because I didn't expect a challenging one. Despite the extra effort, it was well worth it. It may have been hard not to notice the hunt camps and cabins along the way, but we couldn't deny the sense of seclusion and tranquillity in the pockets of wilderness we found. The experience was positive enough that we are definitely going back.

Wanting our ring bearer to participate in the themed wedding,
this paddle set up worked out great!
Photo: Anny Chiu

Before the month of June ended, I was off again with a group of friends to paddle the Mississagi River. The logistics of this river trip make it challenging for many canoeist due to the long shuttle. Despite being a set back for some, we decided that enduring the long shuttle was worth experiencing this river. The rewards were plentiful with the varied scenery and terrain that we found captivating. Not surprisingly, this was also the trip that Tom Thomson took exactly 100 years ago that really inspired his painting of landscapes, not Algonquin as everyone is led to believe. Tom Thomson claimed it to be the "finest canoe trip in the world", while a another notable canoeist, Grey Owl, claimed it as "the King among rivers". Who can argue with them? The landscape has changed since then, by humans of course, but it is easy to see how it was, and still is a great route for a canoe trip.

Parts of the Gibson River were surprisingly isolated and scenic.
As long as you know which parts to avoid!

Once summer had started, it was obvious things were falling apart, at least in terms of our tripping plans. Our carefully crafted schedule and plan to both trip and prepare for the wedding wasn't going to be feasible any more. There was more pressing issues to deal with, so unfortunately, canoe trips had to take a back seat. Surprisingly, Anita wouldn't hear of it, at least to a point. She really wanted to head out for one more trip before we tied the knot, especially since she missed out on the previous one. So off we went on a short trip to explore a crown land route. It was a great reprieve from the stress, but a chance to reaffirm why we wanted to be together for the rest of our lives. What better place than on a canoe trip!

After the last trip, our focus immediately turned to our upcoming move and wedding. Things definitely got crazy, but thankfully, all the planning and preparation paid off come wedding day. It had its challenges and headaches, but it was totally worth it. I mean, how many times do you hear about an actual canoe wedding? Unfortunately, this was the last time Anita and I shared a paddle in a canoe for the rest of the year. Originally, there was plans for us to head off on our honeymoon right after, and yes, it was on a canoe trip. Unfortunately, because we had just moved into our home before the wedding, the house was a disaster, and on top of all that, I got sick the day after. So much for that plan!

The Queen Elizabeth 2 Wildlands, a great paddling destination
in southern Ontario. Although, probably better
 when there's water!

Speaking of which, I still do owe my wife a honeymoon. Months have passed since our marriage, but I haven't forgotten this special time and very important 'rite of passage'. All is not lost. I may have been dormant the last several months, but my head has not been idling away. There is a novel idea that has been brewing in my head for a paddling honeymoon, which I plan to share with you in a future post. It's also an opportunity for my readers to provide some input and suggestions too!

All in all, it may have been one crazy year, but it all turned out for the best. Looking ahead, you can bet I want to make up for last year. There are already a few trips in place for this year, such as a whitewater trip on the Noire River in Quebec, a couple weeks in Wabakimi Provincial Park, as well as revisiting Queen Elizabeth 2 Wildlands to explore the east side of the park. I have to say, it's been the longest stretch of time between canoe trips I've had to endure in a long time, but it hasn't in the least tempered my passion. In fact, it has only increased my longing to head out. I have to totally agree with the oft quoted saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder". Although, who knew it could also refer to canoe trips! 

Appropriate footwear for an outdoor wedding. Just try
and ignore my butt shot - thanks Anny!
Photo: Anny Chiu

Looking forward to an amazing paddling year in 2013!
Hope to see some of you out there!


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