For the past 5 days I have found myself immersed into the rarest of occasions where I am truly disconnected and completely ‘off the grid’, a feat that can feel rather difficult to achieve in today’s age, and a opportunity that I do not take for granted.
Every year for the past, let’s call it 7-years, we have looked forward to a backcountry camping trip with some of our closest friends who happen to have kids around the same age as our own. I can’t actually recall how the tradition came to be, but to whatever universal event that transpired so that we could form this annual adventure, well, for that I am grateful. Our excursions have taken us to various lakes, rivers, and countless sites across Ontario, and each time we venture out I manage to come home with a handful of memories to keep in my back pocket, carefully stowed away for those times when I’m particularly overwhelmed at work, or feeling anxious in life. Reaching the places necessary to achieve the serenity of no technology, or unnatural sound takes a great deal of work and some resolve, but if you can tap into the joy that comes at the end of a long, rough trail, and can bring yourself to let go of those creature comforts, then there’s perhaps no other experience I can recommend more as part of your grander life experience.
The path trodden this year took us across Mink and Cauchon Lakes, via Kiosk, along the northern shore of Kioshkokwi Lake, immersed in the beauty of Algonquin Park, a magical place where gummy frogs and worms mysteriously appear in the overnight hours, ready to be discovered by excited little bodies first thing in the morning. It’s quite humbling to look at a map and think of how much effort it takes to travel what you think is a great distance – an exercise that helps to remind me of our place in the universe. This was our first year attempting a trip that kept us moving each day, rather than finding a site and settling down for the duration of our adventure. I was admittedly a bit concerned on how this would go, not so much for my own sake, but for the kids involved.* After a long day of canoeing, hiking and portages, to set up camp, prep meals, and find some time to just take it all in, only to repeat the whole affair the following day, is not easy for their little legs, never mind what it can do to any sense of routine. Though I can’t deny we had a few meltdowns along the way, the whole lot of them were exceptional explorers and I’m so incredibly proud of them for sticking it out, good job team!
*upon reading this sentence back for editing purposes, I admit this is a complete and total lie. Of course my concerns were for my own sake – sleepless, grumpy, upset kids trekking through buggy woods, ‘leechy’ waters, and with very few opportunities to stop and play is absolutely going to effect my well-being and tolerance levels. Serenity now!
Watching these kids grow up, in all their day to day activity, is a true wonder to witness, but when I think very specifically to the times we’ve spent out in the woods and on the water, I find myself appreciating just how much they have grown over the years. From camping in a Baby Bjorn, to casting their rods off the side of a canoe into the stillest of still waters, they are growing up with a chance to really appreciate everything that nature has to offer. Sure, they don’t like that it comes with mosquito bites or that the weather doesn’t always do what we hope it will do, but every year the trip has ended with them talking about what they want to either do again or experience new the next year, and I have to assume that can only be a good sign. They’ve seen and done things 7-years into their lives that have taken me 42 to achieve, and that fact alone keeps me wanting to push each year into new corners of the land to see what else is out there. I want to continue encouraging them to learn new skills as they relate to the outdoors, and, with any luck, I hope to install in them a sense of realizing that, especially as they grow older in today’s age, it’s ok to disconnect; to appreciate that life does not start and stop with work, and that slowing down every now and again is not only important for the body, but crucial for the mind. It’s pretty cool how I didn’t consciously realize when we were out there that I didn’t think about work, or responsibilities outside of what we were doing in that particular moment, not even for a minute. It wasn’t until we hit cell reception back in the van that my mind started racing again. I think that says a lot about what trips like this can do for one’s well-being.
Of all the things one can experience throughout the woods, perhaps the most breath-taking is one that the kids have yet to witness, simply because of time in which it occurs. If you can manage to find get yourself out far enough into a place of complete isolation, away from all light pollution, and on a day where the clouds keep them selves away, then I promise you will experience something no one could ever begin to explain or capture in a picture. As the stars begin to poke holes in the sky, taking over the night one by one, you find yourself a spot near the water where you can simply lay back and allow yourself to be consumed by something inexplicably infinite. Yes, seeing the stars anywhere can give you a sense of place, but giving yourself over to this type of experience, as they reflect off of a perfectly still lake, does something that your brain can not easily understand but can completely appreciate. Every year we’ve been, Audrey has expressed one interest over any other, which is to witness the stars in Algonquin, and she has to stay awake long enough to achieve her goal. I am confident that next year is the year and, just as I hope to forge infinite memories of her and I together in the hope that she’ll hold onto them forever, it’s one of those things that I can’t wait to experience with her tucked tightly into my arms. Next year, my love, we’ve got this.
As the weekly maintenance of this blog suggests, I love to write, challenging myself to get thoughts on paper with purpose and creative expression. No words I can come up with, however, could ever fully capture the feeling I get when we make these annual excursions. There are infinite moments crafted throughout the trip that were placed there for only an instant and only for those who happened to be in a very precise spot on a very grand map; I lose myself in the thought that some of these moments are ones that I, and only I, will ever get to appreciate, and so I intentionally avoid writing about them altogether. So, to those that rely on my weekly Sunday publication, with all that you just read in mind, this is why I am unapologetically one day late.