The following is a guest post from one of the healthiest, hippest chicks I know….Oh, and she also happens to be my mother! A few years back Mama Hipster moved from urban/suburban Ontario to middle-of-nowhere Northern Ontario to be with her love (a happy-go-lucky backcountry ranger) and pursue her dreams of becoming an educator. These are her reflections on some recent experiences camping and canoeing in the Canadian wilderness.
A dry bag, a compression bag, a Gerber tool, quick dry clothing, water purification; these were just a few of the things I needed to learn about when I decided to canoe and camp out to the middle of God’s country nowhere.
Glorious does not express what it was like on the River. The weather from the moment I left home until I returned was blue skies, hot summer sun in the day and fresh autumn air at night. The sounds were of paddles moving through water, wind rustling trees, loons, and Canadian geese flying 20 feet overhead in V’s, whippoorwills and chickadees waking me in the morning with their chirping. The smells were of earth, fire, food, coffee and fresh air. I only learned enough this summer about ‘tripping’ to go out for short periods at a time and it took a lot for this urban princess to get that far; but it was something I have dreamed about doing my whole life. The sensation of being alone in the wilderness, prepared to handle the elements is, I believe, not meant to be described. It is meant to be lived, cherished and let go of.
Some tips from my experiences:
1) PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
I became aware that planning the route to your destination is crucial. One or two short portages are manageable, but if your packs are too heavy or not packed properly they can make a trip miserable and potentially unsafe for those not physically able to manage. Paddling in places where there are no portages is called a ‘floater’ trip; I highly recommend this when challenging yourself against the elements is not one of your goals.
TIP: ‘floater’ means no need to carry your packs and canoe over land because in this 50km section of the Spanish River there is no water that can’t be traversed (assuming you have at least one experienced paddler). Bottom line, easier and more fresh food can be taken along for your dining pleasure.
I pre-cooked chicken and beef, packed the first day’s lunch in its own ‘clear dry sack’ separate from the other food, I placed food into plastic ‘lock-n-locks’ to take up as little space as possible and it all went into a barrel that seals and floats if your canoe dumps. Our dinner menus included Chicken stir fry for day one, Beef Fajitas for day two, veggie enhanced KD for day three with lots of salad fixings on the side.
We took eggs, ham, yogurt, cheese, crackers, pepperoni sticks, smoked almonds, ‘GORP’ – Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (and don’t forget to throw in some M&M’s) tuna, pickles and cracker thins to.
And to drink:
I (like my daughter) can’t survive anywhere without a good cup of coffee. So I took along pre-ground beans to brew in the camp percolator. I also brought along some tea which was a delight when we pulled off the river for the day and some exquisite Red and White cartons of Ontario wine that made our dinner time meals very civilized.
When I said to my partner Mike, “I wish I didn’t have to leave,” he says “the wilderness is not a place to go to escape from civilization.” The back country gave me a chance this summer to find solace in the simplicity of just existing; each day was unique and long like those I remember from childhood. I think we all live in two interconnected ‘wild worlds’ – a bustling urban landscape and an untouched wilderness.
Surviving the crash of these two worlds is not always comfy but it is thrilling.