camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

49 Nights in a Hammock: 17 Lessons (Guest post, #bikepacking)

Sorry to leave you all hanging for so long! When I wasn’t hanging in my hammock, I was catching up on school and much needed rest! As fun as adventuring is, it’s also tiring. I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a while to dig into exciting research projects, focus on my course work, and start drafting ideas for a book. My posts will be sporadic until I have a lighter course load in the spring. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @JoyBringingHope.

Image Description: In the top right corner of the photo is a background with grey and white clouds with a tiny bit of blue peaking through, below it but still in the background are brightly coloured trees in red, orange, and yellow. In the foreground, surrounded by first tall grass and then a neatly manicured clearing of grass, is another group of trees that are yellow-green and in the centre of those is a forest green hammock covered by a rain fly.
  1. Give yourself time to adjust to a hammock and ask for comfort tips. Initially I found my comfort was inconsistent, so Hennessy suggested positioning my head at the (slightly) lower end of the hammock. It worked! Now beds annoy me. 😂 A quick pre-purchase web search revealed that many North Americans are surprised that they prefer the comfort of a hammock over the comfort of a mattress. (Don’t tell Sleep Country or hammocks will start costing thousands of dollars!)
  2. Pillows are unnecessary (and uncomfortable) while on your back, but useful when sleeping on your side – a sweatshirt works too. 
  3. Practice setting up before you actually need it — or at least leave plenty of time to set up before dark.
  4. Falling asleep staring up at the stars is epic… I will never tire of that.
  5. Be prepared for sudden rain even if it isn’t in the forecast.
  6. As the nights start cooling down dew makes the rain fly necessary even when rain isn’t forecast.
  7. Waking up to chirping birds or chittering squirrels can be fun… and rain flies provide poop protection!

Image Description: the background fills the left half of the photo with green grass, it is lush towards the top of the photo, but sparse and interspersed with dirt towards the bottom. The right half of the photo shows a close up of part of a tree trunk in the foreground. In the centre of the photo peaking around the tree and looking directly at the camera is a brown squirrel with a cluster of seeds from a cedar tree in it’s mouth.

  1. Apple trees smell nice, but you’d better have a strong rain fly! 😆Hennessy’s held up well. 🙃
  2. Position your hammock so that the zippered side of the bug net opens towards the easiest exit… which conveniently also allows easy sunrise photos from your cozy sleeping bag.
  3. If you’re hammocking between posts be aware of joints where your rope can get jammed. Always use tree straps since they are easier to get out of a jam or replace if necessary.

Transcript: “I definitely just used my bicycle as a stool so I could get up here [onto the top of a pavilion beam] because my hammock rope was wedged into there [between the joints] and it required hacking with a tent peg in order to get it free. So this was an adventure for the morning. Problem solving while hammock camping.”
Image description: A caucasian woman with rosy cheeks wearing glasses, a red rain coat, black gloves, and a blue helmet over a thin grey hat. I am perched atop a wooden beam at the edge of a pavilion, holding my hammock rope and a tent peg in one hand while videotaping myself with the other.
  1. Water bottles in plastic bags are great for keeping the fly taught by weighing it down. 
  2. Watch the forecast and find covered shelter if it’s likely to be rainy *and* windy. Pavilions, bridges, and Kingdom Hall overhangs are prime possibilities. School entrances could work in a pinch, but would definitely be a privileged mea culpa option which likely has a relatively high risk of police being called. Huge thanks to my friend Eric Todd for brainstorming with me when buckets of rain were expected and the only pavilion in Espanola was unavailable!
Image Description: In the background is a grey sky, with a forest of trees. In the mid-ground is highway 6 leading out of Espanola. In the foreground is the distinct architectural design of a Kingdom Hall: a red brick building with a wide and long overhang that is big enough to fit a large SUV underneath, the ground beneath is red cobblestone. Underneath the overhang is a blue winter shovel, beside a yellow bin (presumably holding sand), beside my bicycle which is covered in a camoflage bike parka. Beside all that, just in front of the main doors to the building the edge of a blue tarp can be seen on the ground blowing slightly in the wind. On top of this is my hammock with bug net (to protect against the few remaining mosquitoes), then inside that is my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and an emergency blanket.
  1. Better yet, buy a big rain fly. The one mine came with was perfect most nights… but nowhere near sufficient during windy storms. 
  2. If lightning is expected look for a shelter with electricity (eg. fancy picnic pavilions and Kingdom Halls). At the very least avoid tying to the tallest trees… maybe also avoid close proximity to large bodies of water. Stay off the ground though… it’s a conduit. Shoes don’t have enough rubber for lightning protection. (Don’t ask me why. I read this somewhere online while freaking out at my nightmare stealth site.)
  3. Bring a sleeping mat for insulation; it’s also useful if you need to wait out a storm on the ground of a pavilion or simply can’t find suitable trees.
  4. Bring a balaclava to keep your nose and ears warm.
  5. Bring a spare dry bag to store your dirty shoes beside your hammock. 

camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Nightmare Stealth Spot (Guest Post)

In the space of a few days, I had both the worst and the best campsites. 

I was in Thessalon on September 14th, when I had an utterly nightmarish campsite. Hopefully this gives you a laugh without giving my mom nightmares! It began with an electric storm that kept me up terrified I’d be struck and with no idea what to do to protect myself… something I didn’t research before leaving home! I tried googling this info, but my internet connection was the speed of dial up… so while I waited, I continued freaking out about the possibility of being struck by lightning. Eventually I managed to read a few articles that were only marginally helpful and then climbed out of my hammock to begin looking for a safer space to wait out the storm. Since I found nothing within close proximity, I figured curling up in my hammock on a thermarest was probably safer than being a tall thing seeking shelter in a fairly open area. 

As I returned to my hammock, I noticed a small plant in the middle of my “campsite.” Not knowing how to identify poison ivy, I freaked out… another thing I didn’t research before leaving home! After yet another extensive and painstakingly slow Google search, I concluded that it was in fact poison ivy. If I’d stepped in it while setting up camp, I’d long since spread it all over my clothes. In the morning I would need to figure out a place to wash my clothes and shower carefully just in case I’d stepped in it… something fraught with other risks since I don’t do well with many types of laundry detergents and artificial fragrances… both of which laundromats are full of.

Finally the lightning ceased and I fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep. I woke up to my 7am alarm, but I desperately needed more sleep so decided it was worth the risk of someone finding me there. By this time I’d been discovered stealth camping a few times and it had always ended in a great convo and laughter, so I wasn’t concerned. I figured the worst that would happen is they would tell me to leave… and I would leave… no big deal. 

Around 8am, I awoke to trucks sawing down trees on the next lot and approaching my “campsite” …which was also a construction site.* I have never scrambled out of my hammock and packed up camp as quickly as I did that day! Don’t worry though, I paused to snap a photo before tearing down and did a quick vlog before racing out of there. I did not look back. Really wish I’d left behind a note for the unsuspecting construction workers: “Thanks for the campsite… and not felling a tree on me! My day would have been soooo much worse if you weren’t skillful at guiding the trees as they fell!” (Note to those absolutely horrified by this story: I would not have stopped to video or even packed up if I didn’t think it was safe to do so.)

Idyllic spot on the beach? Maybe not…

Even with anxiety a trip like this can be fun… and vlogging my mishaps has been a great way to gain perspective and find humour in the challenging aspects of my adventure. Don’t worry… most sites are nowhere near as dramatic as this one!

Down the street, I paused to pick up my bear bag from the portapotty at the nearby park and to rearrange my load which was very higgilty piggilty. For some time I stood in the wind beside the playground alternating between feeling amused at the absurdity of the story and anxious about poison ivy. I was grateful that the rain held off until I could assemble myself and plan my next steps. 

It took a few hours, but eventually my day began to turn around, thanks in large part to another visitor to Thessalon who asked if I was biking across Canada, was empathetic when I immediately burst into tears, looked at the “poison ivy” photos I had taken and confidently told me it was not poison ivy. Thank you environmental guide turned musician visiting from the states for the first time in two years! We ran into each other a few times during the next few days and both appreciated the company of a new friend in the midst of our solo travels.

What I thought was poison ivy…
My second night in Thessalon I slept peacefully at the city run campground across from this beach.

Delightfully, a few days later I was gifted with the best campsite imaginable… a much needed reprieve! More on that another time!

*Yes, it was a bold stealth spot that likely only felt like a reasonable risk because of my social location as a white thin female. I can get away with things many others could not.

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Bike Tour Voting Challenges

Over the course of about ten days, I spent several hours on the phone with Elections Canada being transferred to one person after another as I tried to get correct information about my voting options, figured out how to vote by mail, and how to resolve complications with the process. I could have voted at any Returning Office before the 14th, but by the time I learned that I was in Espanola and was under the impression that I still had plenty of time to vote by mail since September 14th was listed as the deadline to apply.

Unfortunately, this is misleading since in reality it wouldn’t allow for enough time to receive the special ballot via Canada Post and then get it back to Ottawa by 6pm on September 20th. That’s right, post mark dates aren’t what count here; it has to physically arrive in Ottawa by the 20th. That sort of turn around *might* be possible, but only for those who can afford $85+ to courier it there.

Why is the government not footing this expense for all mail in ballots given the impossibility of the deadline they have listed? Disabled folx and those in remote communities (like Northern Ontario) will be disproportionately excluded by this process. How many ballots will arrive late and thereby be excluded? During the last election “11.1 percent of national ballots and 11.8 percent of international ballots were returned late” (Elections Canada Vote by Mail FAQ). Clearly this is a significant issue even outside of a pandemic.

I applied on September 9th, but even this wasn’t enough time by regular post and maybe not even by express post. My ballot finally arrived to Iron Bridge on September 15th. At that point I was in Thessalon and had been told by Canada Post that the mail left at 5pm. Express post should get it there in three days – just enough time. I packed up as quickly as possible and rode hard and fast to get there in time. 

On the way I made a quick stop at Little Rapids General Store for food. I’d heard they had lots of delicious smoked meat and cheese and I needed food anyway to get through the next stretch without grocery stores. Little Rapids did not disappoint. The smoked rainbow trout and taco flavoured cheese curds were delicious. Beyond that though, the town is a beautiful hole in the wall spot that most drivers would likely miss. I was disappointed that there wasn’t time to hike out to see the salmon spawning or take in the heritage museum. It also had lots of spots that looked great for stealth camping.

Standing outside Little Rapids General Store with dinner and on the go protein (taco flavoured cheese curds, smoked rainbow trout, dried turkey, and dried elk!)

About half way to Iron Bridge I realized that without taking the highway I’d never make it. Pro tip: avoid this stretch of highway 17 at all costs. There’s no paved shoulder and drivers will risk your life here. If I hadn’t been so emotional about the messed up system I likely would have bailed and hoped it would get there anyway. As it was, I plowed on.

My cousin didn’t have time to drop my ballot off and I knew there was no way I’d get to the their place and then the post office in time. A random kind gentleman in his driveway picked up the ballot from my cousin’s (only a few blocks away) and dropped it off at the post office across the road. I made it to the Iron Bridge post office just before 5pm! 

But I got misinformation for the bajillionth time: mail left at 3pm, not 5pm. Couldn’t have gotten there earlier anyway. I cried… not for the first time about the likelihood of my ballot not being counted. I jumped through so many hoops trying to get this ballot in – including changing my route multiple times. Right now it’s not looking hopeful – as of now it’s showing a Tuesday arrival and has no updates since it left Iron Bridge on Thursday. 

Giselle (Canada Post staff) and I crossing our fingers in hopes that the ballot arrives in time to count.

As someone who has lived in poverty since my teens, the right to vote is a huge deal. It’s how we raise our voice, call for change, and hold our government accountable. If you weren’t planning to vote today, please get moving and go vote. My vote probably won’t be counted, but yours still can (if you have the privilege of accessibility). If transportation is a barrier phone the office of anyone who is running and a volunteer will help you get there!

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

Rest and Spoons


By the time I reached Whitefish Falls on September 7th, I was tired. More tired than I realized at the time. 

An incredible view of the escarpment as I left Whitefish Falls en route to Espanola.

I called my cousins who recently moved to Iron Bridge to let them know that I was heading their way. They asked if it would be cheating for them to pick me up. I was *relieved* at the offer. My body needed a break. I told them I wanted to bike one direction, but didn’t need to bike both ways. Miles are fun to celebrate, but for me it’s about the adventure far more than kilometres ridden.

The next day I biked to Espanola, had a delightful visit with Ben & Hector (en route to Victoria), bought a few necessities for the cooler weather, and then loaded my bike into my cousin’s car. In the next couple days, I was surprised at how frequently I conked out on the couch in the middle of an admin task, too tired to even bother moving to my hammock. 

Inside my cousin’s car trunk with my bike and bags loaded for a lift to their farm.

People who have chronic health conditions marked by fatigue often call ourselves “spoonies” or make comments like “I’m low on spoons today.” I’m a spoonie, so in contrast to the average person with a full set of spoons it’s easier to overdo it (even when I’m *not* on a bike tour!) and more challenging to return to my baseline after overdoing it. On the Patients Rising blog, John provides a great overview of what Christine Miserandino‘s Spoon Theory means to so many of us with invisible chronic health conditions.

I’d always planned to prioritize pacing and sufficient rest, but this is easier said than done. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing tug of war with myself… trying to find the ever elusive line between challenging myself *just enough*, but not so much that I push into a crash. 

Ableism makes this more challenging as well. People who have never done bike camping generally think that 30-60km in a day (my original goal) is an astonishing amount to aim for, while many (most?) people who have done bike camping think it’s a really slow pace. These opposing perspectives on what constitutes a great accomplishment mean I must pay close attention to my own goals and not allow my sense of success to be swayed by how others view me or my abilities. As far as spoonie life goes, paying attention to my physical and mental health needs are key, which subsequently means that flexibility is key… so focusing on numeric based goals feels like asking for disappointment. 

Freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a spectacular sunset from the dock at Roe Park.

After four days of rest, on Sunday evening I rolled onward with strategies for a slower pace including: scheduling rest days, scouring Google Maps in advance for mid-ride rest spots (which could double as an early overnight spot), and ordering freeze dried meals so that running out of food doesn’t force me to ride further than I have energy for. Sunday evening I employed many of these tactics after leaving later than I’d planned. I rode 10km before enjoying a freeze dried chicken stir-fry while watching a beautiful sunset at Roe Park (aka Sunset Beach). It was perfect. 

For those of you who are wondering, I’m writing this from the cute city of Thessalon after a very eventful night… but that’s a story for another time!

I couldn’t resist adding one more photo from Sunset Beach (Roe Park)… this one looking out at the dock and lake was taken during sunrise.
blog · camping · canoe · cycling · family · fashion · fitness · illness · nature · season transitions · Seasonal sadness · traveling

Blogging in September: My birthday, the blog’s birthday, back to school, and other themes

There are lots of things I could write about today. I’ve spent a fair bit of time pondering my choice of topics.

I was going to write about my annual thyroid cancer check up. It’s today. And if all goes well it’s my last annual check up. (Fingers crossed.) After today they’re every five years. My birthday last week was also mammogram day. It’s as if September weren’t a busy enough month for an academic. It’s also cancer screening season for me.

I thought about writing whether Tracy and I want to write a turning 60 book, to follow up our turning 50 project, Fit at Midlife: A Feminist Fitness Journey. We’re having dinner together tonight and no doubt the subject will come up

Let’s see. It’s also blog birthday season. As Tracy posted, happy 9th birthday blog! We’re nearly at 5000 posts too. That’s hard to believe. This post is 4990!

And the blog’s birthday and my birthday, not surprisingly given how the blog got started, are pretty close together. Another possible topic, what does 57 mean anyway?

Here’s a photo from my birthday bike ride!

Jeff, Dhurin, me, Kim, Ellen and Sarah on the birthday bike ride

At this time of year I often write about back to school and trying to stay physically active as work gets busier and busier. This year, unlike last, I’m back in my office. I’m not yet back at the gym.

I’m having big busy days filled with work and people. So many people! I gave a lecture to O-Week students (photo on the right) and hung out with incoming College of Arts students at our Food Truck lunch meet and greet (photo on the left.)

I also biked around meeting parents and students on move-in day. (Round photo at the bottom.)

Sam’s pink Bromption outside Zavitz Hall at the University of Guelph

I’m back in the office now, wearing (mostly) real clothes. I looked at my clothes the other day and wondered why there were so many pairs of yoga pants. Who needs five pairs of yoga pants? Oh right, work from home and the pandemic. I could write about wearing clothes again. I’m working my way back to real shoes but I am not there yet.

In recent years I’ve been suffering a bit from seasonal sadness and trying to tell myself new stories about fall and winter, leaning into the time of cold and dark. I’ve been trying to extend outdoor activities into the fall. We’re going canoe camping again one more time this fall. And we are also looking at more fall gravel riding plans. So there’s that.

I’m a bit nervous that the no travel thing is continuing and it looks like this will be another year in which I don’t get to go somewhere warm with my bike for the winter. I miss the southern US! I miss Florida and Arizona for winter cycling.

In the end, I just want to let you know how much we’ve been enjoying our time in Prince Edward County and likely will continue that into the autumn too.

How’s your September starting out as we move into the fall?

Here’s a farm frog and a some pumpkins.

Frog and pumpkins
camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

A Milestone & Kind Strangers (Guest Post)

On September 5th, my trip tracking odometer rolled over to 501km as I reached the boarding dock for the Chi Cheemaun. Such a great feeling… and a very cool spot to reach that milestone too!

Celebrating 500km into my trip while waiting to board the Chi Cheemaun!

Throughout this trip there has been no shortage of challenging situations where the kindness of strangers made my day far easier. Here are a few of those highlights:

  • Emergency phone charge at Seaforth Mini Storage when I made a wrong turn on my way from Exeter to Bayfield. I now have two robust charging blocks!
  • Frozen water bottles from beach goers at Port Albert when I asked about a place to buy water.
  • Help lifting my fully loaded bike up when it fell over. This has happened a few times, but was especially notable when I arrived in Kincardine feeling exhausted, ravenous after running out of protein bars, and maybe a bit dehydrated too… it was a hot day with temperatures in the 30s. I missed my aim when I went to prop my bike against something and it went down. All I wanted was food and *cold* water. I sighed, then sat down to drink water before unloading my bike, lifting it up, and reloading it. But before I’d even moved it to the sidewalk it fell over again! I was sooo tired! So I went to the road and flagged down a driver to help me pick my bike up without needing to unload again. The driver also topped up my water bottle and pointed me toward an excellent restaurant.
  • Free produce from Earth Bound Gardens in the midst of a food desert near Red Bay. Surprisingly this was my first roadside produce stop in all my travels! There haven’t been a lot along my path. Their gardens were also a hidden gem and I felt like I’d stumbled into gardens from a fairytale. More on that another time though.
Some of the produce Earth Bound Gardens gave me.
  • A tampon. Everyone who menstruates can relate to needing feminine hygiene products when out and about!!
  • Help getting my stove lit when all I had was a cigarette lighter. Maybe ten minutes earlier I had watched a group of Muslim women figuring out how to set up a privacy shelter for the first time. They worked together and seeing their collaboration made me smile. I struggled for a few minutes on my own, before asking the group if they had a BBQ lighter or matches. It was easier to ask them for help since I’d seen them struggling earlier. They didn’t have an alternative, but came over to help when they realized I had a cigarette lighter. One of them suggested we try lighting paper first, a couple of us blocked the wind, and together we managed to light the stove. That night I cooked my first (very basic) camp stove meal. A couple days later I bought a pack of 3 BBQ lighters, so I’ll be set for a while yet! This is key, because stores are further apart now, so I have to be able to cook my own food.
Dinner at Black Creek Provincial Park
  • Creative problem solving regarding where to put my food bag when it was tricky to find a decent tree to hang the bear bag in. We ended up putting it in a locked outhouse with rocks blocking it. Yes… I know it probably wouldn’t have worked if a bear came along and wasn’t satisfied with the nearby garbage, but it was a good team effort. Don’t worry, I camped waaaay down the beach from it so I was safe either way!
Food bag in the outhouse! Creative problem solving at it’s finest! LOL
  • Directions plus loads of useful local info when I had no cell service to check my map. Yay friendly and resourceful librarians who are eager to help even when they aren’t at work!
  • Just before I caught the Chi Cheemaun to Manitoulin there was a power outage and everything shut down. I had intended to restock food and water supplies before catching the ferry and since I hadn’t had access to the internet for a few days I wasn’t sure what would be available on Manitoulin. As I made inquiries about where to get supplies one person offered me a bottle of water, another a granola bar, and another 4 bottles of water! This helped me realize that even if there wasn’t a grocery store, I could likely knock on a few people’s doors and ask to buy a few eggs from their fridge to get me through.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way perceptions and stereotypes impact interactions between strangers. How much more readily have strangers helped me because I’m white, thin, and female in a society that views those attributes as safe, non-threatening, worthy of care, and even of needing protection? What role do my academic background and social skills have? What about the fact that I can often present as middle class, even though in reality I live under the poverty line?

Today I am absolutely loving this journey, but how might I feel if strangers weren’t as kind to me? What if I were experiencing microaggressions rather than support and kindness? It’s difficult to imagine what some days would have looked like without kind strangers. Even more so if I was experiencing microaggressions.

accessibility · camping · cycling · fitness · Guest Post

Beyond Comfort Zones: What if you fly? (Guest Post)

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
“Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”

This quote by Erin Hanson has strengthened me in an enduring way that only a couple other quotes can lay claim to. The start of it is engraved on my iPad as a form of resistance to the impact of perfectionistic ideals that often hold me back. But since my collision in 2013, these words have encouraged me to push beyond my comfort zone in countless ways. 

As recently as last summer, I was super anxious about everything that might go wrong on a hypothesized weekend canoe trip with a friend. But interestingly, internalized ableism was a significant contributor to my camping trip fears. Because of this, solo camping (even bike touring) actually feels less daunting: I can go at my own pace without fear of slowing anyone down.

Even so, it’s plenty daunting! I’ve never biked on country roads, never ridden more than 40km in a day, and I pitched my first tent this July… I’m a newb in every possible way and I’m diving in anyway! 

I finally made it out of London on Saturday evening and was shocked that I made it to Lucan without needing more than brief water breaks on the side of the road. Not sure if that’s thanks to electrolytes or adrenaline, but I’ll take it!

Even before I made it out of London there were plenty of hiccups! I figure that’s par for the course given the steep learning curve! But I’m fumbling my way through, figuring it out, and pushing back against gender stereotypes and ableist views that say I shouldn’t do this… especially as a solo female. I’ve heard “you’re so brave” way too many times already in response to these plans. Do people also say that to men embarking on solo bike tours? I’m guessing not.

Adventure was not the initial driver of this trip, but despite the complicated backstory it appears to be shaping into a delightful adventure. I’m doing all the things that excite and also terrify me… but I’m more excited than anything… which is a major shift even in the past few weeks! I’ve no doubt this adventure will significantly change me and the decisions I make through life… I think it already has in many ways. Because how could showing myself all that I am capable of not change me?

After a second draft of packing, I called London Bicycle Cafe and declared, “This is not going to be a thing. Something has to change. It’s way too wobbly and I don’t know how to fix it.” So Ben and Andrew helped me rearrange things and taught me key principles for balancing my bike. It’s only a few days into my trip and I’m already starting to feel like a pro!
Bubbles (my dear bicycle) is fully loaded and ready to go after adjustments at London Bicycle Cafe!
camping · cycling · disability · fitness

Planning a Bike Tour as a Disabled Cyclist (Guest Post)

As a disabled cyclist, I used to think bike touring was impossible. Most of the time when I hear/read about people bike touring, they’re riding 80-100km/day and make it seem like no big deal. That’s not currently something I’m capable of, but a few years ago – even with e-assist – riding 25km was a shocking accomplishment for me.

Last summer I rode 40km round trip to visit my Grandpa. Yes, I took a rest for lunch. Yes, I was exhausted before I got home. BUT it also encouraged me to dream bigger. 

Soon after that a close friend went on a weekend bike tour… and I was super jealous. This spring a bunch of us in the local WTF (Women Trans Femme) Bike group chatted about the idea of stealth camping to make bike touring accessible with shorter distances… and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

So I’ve quietly been planning my first solo bike tour… scouring the map to estimate manageable distances & factor in spots to charge batteries (mine & my bike’s). I leave one week today… and I can’t wait! Shorter distances & e-assist are gonna make this an amazing adventure! 

My first few nights are planned, but I’ve got no plans after Iverhuron Provincial Park until I reach Little Current. So hit me up with your ideas! I’m aiming for 40-60km/day. With a full load at max assistance I’m guessing my battery charge will only go for 40km, so longer days will require a mid-day charge somewhere. In order of affordability + security I’m aiming for: friend’s backyards/Warm Showers, stealth camping/Crown Land, Hip Camp, and lastly traditional camp sites.

Oh yeah… I’ve also never gone camping on my own… or really at all since I was a teenager… so it’s going to be a HUGE learning curve! Apparently when I do something I go all in…

Here’s to trying new things, troubleshooting mishaps (because that’s going to happen many times on this adventure), and being a kick-ass woman who can solo camp & figure it out… even though I hate most bugs.

Since I won’t be on my bike more than 2-3 hours a day, I’m bringing along a few extras for fun & a low-tech mental health break. I’ve recently discovered that watercolour paints & markers give me freedom to express myself artistically without worrying so much about perfection, so I’m bringing bare minimum art supplies, plus writing materials, and a book. 

Interestingly I’m equally as excited about being schedule-free, as I am about developing routines through the natural rhythms of being more immersed in nature. 

Image: The correct Ortlieb hooks are on back order until October so my friend Emily helped build this rack attachment, roughly based off of a design from my friend Jack.











boats · camping · canoe · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

When plans go awry, or a vacation in three parts!

My word of the year is flow. It’s a good thing. My July vacation was very planned, down to the last detail, in the way that long canoe trips need to be. Thanks Sarah, trip planner extraordinaire. It was going to be our longest canoe trip yet, 8 days in the woods, moving and traveling every day, but the world had other plans.

In the end our 8 day canoe trip turned into three mini vacations not one long canoe trip, but it all felt suitably vacation-like and restful once we got creative and went with the flow.

Part 1: Algonquin

Our trip began with a massive thunder and lightning storm so bad that we spent the first night sleeping on our inflatable mattress pad in the back of Sarah’s Subaru. We had a site on the first lake so it would be easy to get to but I hated the idea of starting with everything soaking wet.

So we were heading out on day 1–putting in at Magnetewan and paddling and portaging our way through Hambone, Ralph Bice, and staying the night on Little Trout. But en route we broke one of the canoe’s thwarts that provide stability to the boat. Given the rain and how wet everything was, our duct tape fix wasn’t going to hold. We talked about options but there was no good one other than coming out of the park and repairing the canoe. We couldn’t rely on meeting up with other paddlers with duct tape. Leaving the park was sad but it really felt there weren’t good options. Leaving was the adult, responsible thing to do.

It actually was strangely liberating to know we could sleep in the Subaru in a pinch. But in the course of doing that we punctured the mattress pad and so we ended up heading out with only a single sleeping pad purchased at the last minute from Algonquin Base Camp outfitters in Kearney. It was all they had.

We tried to rebook the trip so we could fix the canoe and the pad and go back in but there weren’t any available reservations. The good news was that we were heading back in with a tail wind. Sarah said it was a sign we were going the right way. We made it down the length of Ralph Bice Lake in a record 45 minutes. That’s a trip that can take hours going into the wind.

We had a lovely couple of days of paddling. And we learned that we can pack and carry enough food for an eight day trip. Next year, friends, next year.

Part 2: Massassauga Provincial Park

So once we knew we couldn’t get back into Algonquin, we headed home to Guelph to execute canoe repairs. But we were also still fully packed for canoe camping and viewed more canoe camping as the best possible Plan B. We bought a replacement inflatable lightweight mattress pad. This time we went high end and got the one that matches our Big Agnes Fly Creek tent.

Enter The Massassauga Provincial Park which had a couple of free nights available, on two different locations. There’s very little portaging at Massassauga. Our trip had none. It did have a very active beaver, excellent yoga rocks, terrific swimming, and a great spot for the hammock.

Part 3 Biking to Port Dover

We arrived home on Saturday with some holidays still to spare. I’ve always wanted to bike from Brantford to Port Dover on the trail and so we did, staying over at the Erie Beach Hotel in the middle of the 100 km round trip. Great trails, some paved sections, some chip and some packed gravel. All easily ridable on the gravel bikes. Sarah got to try out her new large under-the-seat bag and I put panniers on my bike. We left the Bob trailer behind this time. Next time I do it though, I hope there isn’t a heat wave.

camping · canoe · fitness · holiday fitness · holidays

How long is the ideal vacation? Or, Sam heads into the woods again

I shared this to my Facebook page the other day, mostly because I noticed that my upcoming canoe camping trip is the exact length of the ideal vacation!

I was amused at the heated debate that ensued among friends. You never know what’s going to bring out competing views and strong opinions!

There were the stereotypical American friends who claimed never to have taken a vacation that long. There were the Europeans who spoke up in favour of their two months off.

To be clear, I do take a month’s vacation each year. Eight days isn’t my only vacation. But I like to take time off throughout the year rather than in one big chunk.

For me, the ideal length of any one chunk of vacation really varies. If I am flying somewhere, especially somewhere with a time difference, I like to allow some time as part of the trip to recover when I get there and when I get home so it’s usually two weeks all told but not all of that is the vacation itself. I schedule time to decompress, do laundry, and get caught up on sleep when I get back. Getting sensible in my middle age!

My biking trips south are usually a week off work but bookended by weekends for travel.

My best bang for buck vacation time wise are my canoe camping trips. Even my four day back country canoe camping trips feel like real vacation. There are no phones, no email , lots of natural beauty, and lots of movement. I sleep very well! I come back rested and sometimes feel like I’ve been off for weeks.

This is my longest back country canoe camping trip yet. Sarah is carefully planning all the things so that we have food but not too much food and we’re being very weight conscious because of portages. A couple of years ago we invested in ultralight weight camping gear so we could keep doing this even with my knees in the state they’re in.

I’ll report back on how eight days feels.

Here’s our report on the 2020 six day trip.

Sam paddling on a blue lake with clouds reflecting on the water

What your ideal length vacation? Also have you ever done a long back country trip? What did you eat? What are your favourite dehydrated meals?