I’ve been drafting this post almost since we started the blog, waiting for conclusions to form. In the way that people like me do I’ve been trying out arguments in my head and then responding to them, hoping to settle on an answer. I’m not there yet. So this is part one of a three part meandering blog post. Please chime in and help!
So I began this series of thoughts with my very first trip to Algonquin, more than 10 years ago now.
On our way out Laura and I remarked on how few women there were out there, especially once you got past the first couple of portages. It was October (not warm) and by the time we got to “our lake” the only other people we saw were young men, clad in Gortex, draped in bear bells, running the portages. They seemed like another kind of being entirely!
Laura and I laughed about it and then we talked about carrying canoes and strength and how lucky we felt being able to do this trip. The back country of Algonquin is so beautiful, so rugged, and I wanted to share. But most people can’t do trips of this sort. You need skills (thanks Laura, and Susan, and Mallory, and Sarah for teaching me) but you also need a certain level of physical ability. In addition, you need to be comfortable sleeping in a tent, on the ground, and in some cases bad weather.
It felt like a reward for our fitness, something our physical fitness allowed us to do. But there’s also a lot of luck involved.
Laura learned canoe tripping from her father but on his last trip into the park, it was Laura’s turn to lead. Her dad has MS and I was moved by Laura’s story of paying her father back for the gift he’d given her by taking him in the canoe and doing all the work.
It’s a sign of something being special that those of who love a place and an activity really want to share it. Susan took me on a canoe trip the very first time we spent any amount of time together. Susan’s blogged here too about her trip with her teenagers and her mum. Recently Sarah and I took Jeff on his first canoe camping trip.
So we want to spread the word and share this beauty. It calls to you that way. But you can only share it with some people. So part of me wants the back country to be more accessible. My last trip had steep portages and ankle deep mud. You needed a certain kind of strength and balance to pull it off.
But if it were easier, more accessible. it wouldn’t be the same. We wouldn’t be there alone, on our lake.
A friend’s wife said she’d love to come with, if there were a four star hotel in the middle of the lake, that you could helicopter in to. We laughed. But she was serious. Why isn’t that a thing, she asked. I wasn’t sympathetic.
So on the one hand, why is this a treat reserved for the fit and the non-disabled and the rugged? Should there be some easy ways in and out for those who can’t canoe and portage in? Why couldn’t it be something we all get to experience? On the other hand, there’s the quiet and the solitude, and the care and concern for the environment that’s part of back country canoe camping. How to strike a balance between those values and the value of accessibility?