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
canoe · fitness · swimming

The great cover up of 2021

I’ve been worried about the sun and skin cancer for awhile now and I’ve written on the blog a fair bit about it. See here and here and here, for example. But I’ve also struggled with the push to have women dress more modestly, especially the idea that older women, and larger women, should just cover up our bodies and hide.

I’m a fan of bikinis and bike shorts and here on the blog I’ve worried about swim dresses and running skirts. But this year I hit a turning point. Another friend had a skin cancer scare. It’s also been a hotter than usual summer with blazing sun a lot of the time. There’s only so much sunscreen an active, outdoorsy person can wear.

I’ve decided I don’t care why people think I’m wearing them. I’m not ashamed of my body. I’m not trying to hide it from view. I just would like not die any earlier than I have to. Even aside from death, skin cancer isn’t much fun.

I broke down and bought two super, lightweight (very cool) outdoor active shirts and long pants for paddling. I’m wearing them in the pictures above on our recent family canoe trip. They also helped with the mosquito issue. Bonus!

I also bought a swim skirt and long sleeved rash guard shirt (spf 50) for hanging about in and around the outdoor swimming pool. They’re actually great for swimming in and for hanging around the pool having super soaker battles with a 7 year old.

I’m calling both purchases a success.

I’m also getting a mammogram on my birthday so I’m doing my bit for cancer prevention this month.

Sam and her new swimming duds
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.

canoe · fitness

Decolonizing your canoe trip

Canadian Canoe Museum

Sarah and I have a big canoe trip planned for the end of July, our longest back country canoe camping trip yet. You know that if you read last Monday’s blog post.

Blog readers also know settler Canadians are grappling with the discovery of unmarked graves and unearthing the bodies of Indigenous children who were killed at residential schools across the country. You can read Cate’s post on cancelling Canada Day for more. We didn’t celebrate Canada Day in my house and we’ve been thinking a lot about what’s ethically required of us as settlers on this land.

Since I’ve also been thinking about our canoe trip–that very Canadian activity–I’ve been thinking about the connection between recreational canoeing and camping, and land ownership and decolonization.

I guess I started to think about recreational wilderness, protected lands, parks and what that means when I attended a talk at the University of Waterloo the year before the pandemic–checks calendar–that’s 2019. The speaker was Kyle Whyte and his talk was called “Not Done Critiquing Wilderness Areas, National Parks & Public Lands.” He’s a professor at the University of Michigan and more recently also a member of the Environmental Justice Advisory Council to the White House. Whyte is Potawatomi and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

After listening to Whyte’s talk I began to wonder about the ways I enjoy the land and the water while back country canoe camping. Aside from the very obvious and glaring issues of whose land the parks are on, that talk made me think about the way settler paddlers treat parks as pristine nature museums. We don’t see ourselves as part of nature. Instead we’re visiting it with the ideal of leaving it exactly as we found it. There’s no cutting trees, no fishing, no hunting. Instead we carry in dehydrated meal packages and carry out our garbage.

The take away lessons from Kyle White’s talk were more about policy and models of shared park management, less about individual behavior.

So I was happy to see some personal, rather than policy, advice on how to responsibly enjoy back country canoe camping as a settler Canadian.

Here’s the advice shared on Facebook by the Canadian Canoe Museum.

Learn the Indigenous language of the territory in which you’re paddling. What is the language? Learn some basic phrases. What are the names of the rivers and lakes you’re paddling on in those languages?

Know the treaty territory you’re paddling through. Print the text of the treaty, read it on your trip, and share it with other paddlers.

Build relationships.

Take action.

Learn the history and the stories

“The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.”
― Thomas King

“You have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told.”
― Thomas King, 

Both quotes are from The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative.

So when I report back from our canoe trip, I’m also hoping to report back with some details about history, language, and story.

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?

camping · canoe · charity · covid19 · cycling · fitness · fun

Plans? Do we even get to have plans? Sam nervously makes some anyway

A friend posted asking about 2021 plans and then said, “Joking. It’s 2021. Do we even get to make plans?”

To do list: Nothing

And I agree plans feel a lot more tentative this year. In the third week of January last year and the year before that, I was riding my bike in the Clermont area of Florida. This January there’ll be no travel.

It’s been a long blurry year of cancelled travel plans starting with, for me, the cancelled Pacific APA in San Francisco and attached vacation. Followed by a big trip to Melbourne cancelled. All of my summer bike holidays and charity rides were likewise cancelled. I did four charity rides, all either solo, with Sarah, or on Zwift. Two weddings, cancelled. You get the idea.

And in light of all the illness, unemployment, loneliness, overwhelmed hospitals, and death it feels a bit off to complain about not being able to make 2021 cycling plans.

I’m grateful for Zwift, don’t get me wrong. But still, I’m making some plans. They’re just more local and much more tentative. What makes them plans and not mere hopes? They involve things like registration forms and reservations, time booked off work.

We know there are vaccines, and that’s good, even if the timeline for things like races, group bike rides, and travel are still uncertain.

In January in addition to TFC team time trials and our Monday and Friday races I’ve agreed to take part in series hosted, on Zwift, by Team Vegan. You don’t need to be a vegan to take part. They’re hosting the series in the same way that TFC hosts a series. They’re the organizers.

Team Vegan racing

I’m also committed to Yoga With Adriene’s 30 day yoga journey Breath.

In February, Sarah and I have booked yurts in a provincial park to go cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and fat biking. Some adult kids might come along and winter camp. We’ll see. I’ve committed to taking vacation even if I can’t travel very far away.

In March and April, in early spring, before it gets busy, I’d like to finish the Guelph to Goderich rail trail.

In later spring, we’ll be back out Snipe racing on Guelph Lake. Whee!

Come summer we’ve also committed to spending more time at Sarah’s farm in Prince Edward County. What’s perfect is that there are two houses on the property, loads of lovely biking nearby, and a swimming pool. Even if close up visits with friends are still restricted we can host people in the other house and socialize outside. BBQ time!

We’ll also book some Algonquin canoe camping trips. Again, they’ll likely go ahead even if travel in general isn’t recommended. We do back country camping and there aren’t too many other people around.

I’m really hoping that the Friends for Life bike rally goes ahead in person this year. You can sponsor me here.

Jeff is also heading east on his new boat Escapade to Nova Scotia and there’s some talk of visiting there once he’s settled with the boat. That crosses the line from “plan” to “hope” for me since it relies on not having to self isolate after traveling east, assuming we’re even allowed into Atlantic Canada’s bubble. You can follow his boating adventures here.

Oh and for added uncertainty that’s not pandemic related, all of this is dependent on the date for my knee surgery. I’ll need recovery time after. I was hoping for December 2020 but that didn’t happen. With the hospital it was to take place in cutting back on non-essential surgeries due to covid, it might be awhile.

I’m trying to be flexible and not too nervous.

Wish me luck!

He he he he he

How about you? Are you making any fitness related plans for 2021? Plans in general still on hold?

camping · canoe · fall · family · fitness · paddling

Making room for relaxing and basking on rocks

Canoe filled with stuff in the foreground. Sam and Mallory swimming in the background.

My last time out in my canoe, Sarah and I had a big adventure. YMMV, of course, but it was plenty adventurous for me. Each day we packed up camp and paddled to a new location. We paddled down rivers, over beaver dams, and did some long (muddy, hilly) portages. It was extra challenging because Sarah carried most of the stuff and the canoe and I did it with my knee that’s now just waiting to be replaced. I carried the food for six days and five nights. We slept in a teeny tiny ultralight tent. It was fun but it wasn’t exactly restful.

Next year, now we know we can carry all that food, I’m lobbying for a rest day in the middle!

Luckily our next canoe trip, just two weeks later, was of the more low key variety.

Sarah, Sam, and Mallory

This past weekend Sarah, my daughter Mallory, and I paddled to just one place after a couple of short, reasonable portages. We made camp on Ralph Bice Lake where we paddled some more just because, played cards, read books, ate yummy food including the traditional s’mores for dessert, and because Mallory was along, swam lots. We took the big tent and actual camping dishes. No more using the pot lid as a plate and sharing a titanium spork! We even packed some books and our Kindles.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

It was the kind of trip that had room for basking on rocks and reading whole novels, I really enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Thanks Meg for recommending!

Here’s some more photos of our canoe and our tents.

Here’s the card playing. Mallory won, of course. She almost always does but we enjoy playing anyway.

And there was a lot of swimming!

We’re talking lots these days about various ways of getting ready for the long hard winter we expect is ahead.

Cate wrote recently, “August is made for this kind of elastic time, this kind of intuitive listening, this moving for play and exploration, not repetition and discipline. Looking into the fall and winter we’re expecting, I ponder how to keep this elasticity alive. How to keep nurturing this kind of active emptiness. What about you? What are you finding restorative right now? How are you planning for fall?”

Time outdoors, with loved ones, swimming and reading and playing, is part of my answer. For me this year is a bad combo of empty nest and Covid-19. I had imagined more family dinners and visits but it isn’t always possible.

This weekend felt important. Martha wrote about finding her happy place. Salt Spring Island seems like it’s definitely Cate’s happy place. This is mine. I’m back at my desk today with a bit of sun on my face, some bug bites on my calves, new muscles from paddling, and feeling just a little bit better about what’s ahead this year.

accessibility · boats · camping · canoe · fitness

Sam and Sarah’s Big Canoe Trip Adventure

In most ways, this year, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been for me a year of doing less. I’m riding my bike outside now but no big distances. There’s (obviously) no big summer travel. Normally my summers involve academic conference travel, usually in Europe, with vacation tacked on to the beginning or end. Not this year. In 2020 my holidays have been low-key, close to home.

The year of doing less has had one notable exception: Our big Algonquin canoe tripping adventure. I love Algonquin Park. It’s so beautiful and so close to home for me. Yet, in busier years I’ve only had time to go for long weekends. This year is the opportunity to do more.

Since my canoe came into my life in 2015 (thanks Jeff!) what I’ve done are back country canoe trips where you paddle to a place, make camp, stay there for a few days, and paddle around some minus all the gear. Lots of us here at the blog do this kind of adventuring. You can read all the canoe stories here.

Susan has done some longer trips. Sarah too. They’ve done the kind of trips where you start out a place and keep moving to a new campsite each day, eventually ending back up where you started. That’s a new adventure for me.

But I wasn’t sure I could, physically speaking. I was worried about my knee. I was worried about carrying stuff through long portages.

Two things made it possible. First, Sarah’s careful planning (see below). Second, her acquisition last year, when we were talking about hiking and camping, of ultralight weight camping gear. Thanks Sarah!

Here’s what we did:

Day 1

In our usual fashion where work never seems to end or stop, we worked until the last possible second on Monday, piled everything into the car, zoomed north, and arrived at the park office in a bit of a rush. Friends who know us will laugh at this bit of the story. We even stopped several times on the access road to Lake Magnetawan for the final few bars of cell phone signal.

And then we parked, unloaded the car, and loaded up the canoe.

We paddled through Magnetawan then Hambone, and then made camp on Ralph Bice.

Day 2

We paddled and portaged our way from Ralph Bice to Little Trout and Queer Lake where we stayed for the night.

Day 3

This was the first big day, with long portages. 1330 m isn’t that long but it is when you are carrying a lot of stuff! Also, it feels long when there are big hills, ankle deep mud, and narrow paths. But paddling on the Tim River was fun. I got to learn about steering in a downstream current. Less fun was arriving on Shah, our stopping point just as a storm was brewing. We had a bumpy trip across the lake and rejected the first campsite as too grown over. Luckily we got the tarp up fast and stayed dry through dinner.

Day 4

We paddled from Shah to Misty to Little Misty, where we were the only campsite on the lake.

Day 5

We paddled from Little Misty to Daisy via the Petawawa River with portages to bypass rapids. There was also some scrambling over beaver dams with the canoe.

Day 6

No photos because my phone ran out of charge but we paddled from Daisy to Hambone to Magnetawan. We were very happy to have left clean clothes in the car for the trip home.

What did I learn on this trip? Here’s six things.

  1. That even with my miserable, painful, stiff knee I can do trips like this and enjoy myself. I babied my knee. I took ibuprofen. I stretched. I walked carefully and slowly on the portages. Some mornings I’d wake up and think, “wow, this is it, they’re going to have to air ambulance me out of here” and then I’d stretch and walk around a bit. And then I was fine. Deep breaths, Samantha, you’ve got this. And I did.

2. Paddling on the river–which requires active involvement of the person in the bow–takes skill but it’s fun. I like learning new things. Even when things go wrong–like when we landed in the shrubbery on the side of the river–the worse thing that happened is we got covered in yellow furry caterpillars. Navigating the beaver dams also took skill and effort but in the end it was all pretty low stakes. When I messed up one beaver dam the current just took us back and we tried again.

3. Lightweight camping gear–if you can afford it–is an amazing thing. I was shocked at how little the tent and the sleeping bag etc weighed. We had very lightweight gear even down to the titanium spork!

4. The weather spanned from too hot to brrrr! (at night) and I should have brought a warmer layer and possibly even (no joke) gloves. I always forget that about camping in Algonquin.

5. I was concerned about food and about carrying six days of food but we did well. I learned that a warm meal at night goes a long way and that even mac and cheese over the camp stove tasted pretty good.

6. If I were doing it again, I’d book a day off in the middle, a rest day, where we’d stay on one campsite two nights and maybe even bring a book!

Next up? I’m looking at route maps and planning for next year. Now I know we can do this I’m going to do it again. In light of the great squirrel attack on our food bag on the last night, I’m considering more secure food storage and a good pack for me to carry it all in.

Sarah on planning

This year’s planning was made more challenging by the fact that Algonquin was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. Lots of folks spending summer vacations in a tent instead of a cottage. When selecting a route between the few available sites, I used a few rules of thumb. Wanting to have lots of time to rest and explore, I limited the distance traveled to about 5 km on the map each day, and a maximum of 2,000m of portaging. Of course the actual distance paddled would be more than that – we move through the water at about 4 km/h – but there’s a fair bit of time spent wandering toward pretty rocks or out of the wind, stopping mid-lake to pump water, paddling from site to site looking for one that’s free to camp on, etc. It also takes time to get in and out of the canoe at each portage.

In order to reduce the strain on Sam’s knee, we decided that she would carry only her clothes and the food pack (which is not too heavy and gets lighter as we go) for the portages, along with our water bottles, paddles, and PFDs. This meant being minimalist in our packing to bring down the weight of the “house” pack (including my clothes) to a manageable 32 lbs (14.5 kg). When combined with 48 lbs of canoe, this comes in right at the 80 lbs (36 kg) maximum weight this “weekend warrior” can safely carry in the backcountry. We made choices like : a tiny, lightweight backpacking tent; a down quilt instead of sleeping bags; one set of clothes (plus warm and waterproof layers), using pot lids as plates. We also needed to be minimalist in our food, bringing only enough dry, lightweight calories to keep us going, and enough sweet snacks that it still felt like vacation. And two full Ziploc sandwich bags of coffee, because there are some things that one cannot do without!

What did Sarah learn on this trip?

I’ve done nearly all parts of this year’s trip in previous years, so the things I learned this time were largely around food:

  • Naptha fuel to cook breakfast and supper for 2 people = 200 mL per day
  • One serving of oatmeal or pancake mix = 125 mL (1/2 cup)
  • One serving of maple syrup for oatmeal or pancakes = 50 mL (even if we have more, we don’t actually use it!)
  • Unless it’s a rest day or half day, budget for both lunch (sandwich) and a protein bar.
  • We don’t actually eat salty protein snacks like nuts or trail mix except buried in other meals. Better to bring more protein bars and peanut M&Ms.
  • Double check not only the count of meals but also the meal type. We were somehow short one breakfast but had an extra dinner(?!)

Oh, one more thing we learned, the sleeping quilt is toasty down to 6 C. But it works best if no one steals the covers!

canoe · cycling · fitness · hiking · illness

Riding my bike and moving beyond bargaining

Last week, like many of us, I was bargaining.

Sure, #StayAtHome and #WorkFromHome but I can still ride my bike. I can still take walks with friends. I love the outside. It won’t be that bad. I was imagining canoe camping holidays even. Repeat: It won’t be that bad. I was still thinking about me and my life, not exclusively but my plans revolved around making work at home work for me, the daily work of my leadership role in the university, family responsibilities, and seeing how much of my exercise routine I could keep.

I blogged about that here and here and here.

And then I read this, To tackle coronavirus, walk – and act– this way by André Picard in the Globe and Mail. Who is André Picard? His official bio says, André Picard is the health columnist at The Globe and Mail and one of Canada’s top public policy writers. His latest book is MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH: Public Health Issues in Canada.”

To me, he’s the person whose voice I respect the most on matters of Canadian health policy. We were young journalists working together for Canadian University Press and though our careers have taken us in different directions, I’ve always found his voice to be wise and compassionate. You know you have those people in your life, who if they speak, you listen? André Picard is one of those people for me. His column was my wake up call.

André writes,

“People who are not sick and not recent travellers, can circulate freely. They can go for a walk. But should they? Ethically, is it right to go for a walk when we are being asked to keep our interactions to a bare minimum?

“We also have to start thinking seriously, and preparing ourselves mentally, for how long this could go on, and how long we can tolerate a new normal. Right now, we’re still in the bargaining phase: It’s okay to go for a walk, right? It’s okay to take the kids to the park, isn’t it? Are these attempts to eke out a little bit more normal in these extraordinarily abnormal times just a bargain with the devil?”

“In Canada, we’re on the brink of being too late to prevent those dire outcomes. It’s time to bring the hammer down, to move from polite entreaties to practice social distancing to firm orders to do so. This must be done with absolute clarity and a singular message. It doesn’t feel like time for a casual walk, or casual talk, anymore.”

In the past week, I went from thinking riding solo was okay to watching France, Italy and Spain ban recreational cycling. Why? Because if you get a mechanical failure, who is going to pick you up? Is that trip essential? Because you might have an accident and land in the hospital and you absolutely do not want to be taking medical attention away from a COVID-19 patient.

This week I’ve watched Nova Scotia moved to close all parks and ban recreational hiking. You can hike from your home only now. I just read that the UK is allowing people one bout of outdoor exercise a day. You can’t run in the morning and ride in the afternoon.

We’ve all watched people home from work taking over beautiful remote locations. Wales and Banff were both swamped with tourists. Go home, say the people who make these remote places home. We only have enough food supplies for locals and there isn’t room in the hospitals if you get sick. In my part of Ontario cottage country residents who aren’t year round residents have been asked to leave. The emergency rooms only have a few beds.

The world is getting smaller, fast. It’s time to stop bargaining and face the task at hand head on.

But it has its good moments, my smaller world. We took part in a neighbourhood art scavenger hunt today and drew a turtle to place in our window for local children to find.

I really appreciated these words from friend and award winning author Emma Donoghue about making a life in small places.

So there’s one focus right now and that focus is getting through this pandemic without overly taxing our health care system so it doesn’t collapse. We’re doing this so we won’t have sick people unable to get a respirator because they are all being used. I watched a thing last night about a 72 year old Italian priest who gave up his respirator to save a younger person. I don’t want doctors and patients to face those choices here.

Flattening the curve is a group project that requires our full on effort and attention. Today the Premier of Ontario announced (finally!) that all non-essential businesses are closed for two weeks. I hope that got everyone’s attention though I wish he’d done it two weeks earlier.

We are in this one together. We need to stay home, yes, but we also need to support vulnerable people and our essential workers. That’s nurses and doctors but also transit and grocery store workers.

But what about our mental health? Surely there is some need for exercise.

I think that’s right but what’s the smallest-cost-to-others way you can accomplish that? In places like France, Italy, and Spain you can still ride your bike to the grocery store. It’s recreational cycling that’s banned. You can still walk your dog. You can run within 2 km of your house.

We’re not there yet and if we all work together now maybe we won’t get there. I’m past bargaining but I’m still hoping. And me, I’m riding inside on my trainer in the virtual world of Zwift. When it’s nicer I will ride outside but short distances near my house, I think. Long rides are for later.

boats · camping · canoe · paddling

Sam and Sarah went canoe tripping and weren’t eaten by bears

My Facebook status from Sunday night reads, “Driving home, with a heart full of memories of a special place, canoe strapped to roof of the car, listening to Tragically Hip. #PeakCanadian #Killarney

There’s something special about back country camping in the autumn. Yes, it can be cold. And it’s dark early and that restricts how much you can paddle. But the colours are spectacular. The parks are less crowded. I also find there’s something extra special (and maybe I confess, just a little bit sad) about that last gasp of outdoors holidays. Though I am trying to tell new stories these days, I’m a person who finds the fall just a little bit sad. Paddling helps, so too does sleeping in a tent under the stars.

I went canoe camping thirteen years ago in the fall with my friend Laura: Camp Dragon with Laura 2006 . That was even later in the season, mid October, definitely cold and dark but bright with the orange, yellow, and red leaves.

I got my own canoe for back country exploring and camping four years ago. But lately other boats have been taking up my time. I know “too many boats” isn’t really a thing to complain about but I have been missing my canoe. Last year I didn’t get out canoe camping at all. We had booked a Killarney trip but that fell through for complicated reasons. See Jeff’s series of posts on running aground. We got a day trip in but that was it. I was worried this year was going to be the same. This year we’ve been racing the Snipe on Guelph lake. And I’ve also been visiting the big sailboat some weekends too. But no canoe trips in June, July or August.

All summer I’ve been looking forward to getting out in the canoe and it finally happened this past weekend. It was a quick trip but that’s okay. It was beautiful and restful and I’d go back in a heart beat. I mentioned the fall colours, right? So beautiful. Bright red leaves against the white rocks look extra special.

What else to tell you? I got to try my very first lift-over. That’s when you run into a beaver dam with your canoe, get out, lift the canoe over the dam, and get back in again. I was nervous about it because of my bad knee and was worried about getting out the canoe in those circumstances. This was an ideal time to try since there was an alternative on the map, an extra long portage. But we did it. My knee behaved just fine. Thanks knee!

We also tried out some new lightweight gear which made it possible for us to do the portages in one trip. Sarah took one pack and the canoe. I carried the other, heavier pack that contained our food, as well as the PFDs and the paddles. We declared the new tent and sleeping pad a success and it gave us hope for longer trips even with more food. By the end we were feeling ready for bigger adventures even with my misbehaving left knee.

I was amused at all the bear signage in the park. I’m always surprised that people need reminding that there are bears in Canada. There were even signs warning us that the bears were back for the fall. I didn’t even know they went anywhere for the summer. In the end, we didn’t see any bears–phew!–but we did have a trio of trash pandas (aka, raccoons) hop up on the bench besides us and grab our food bag. They made off with all the food (except snacks) for the weekend. I screamed but Sarah, more sensibly, took off after them and got our food back. My hero!

Our trip involved three lakes–George, Killarney, and OSA–one pond, three portages, and one liftover, lots and lots of paddling. We were lucky with warm days and nights, highs in the low 20s and overnight lows still well in the double digits. The day we paddled out was very rainy and windy but we were just very happy that there was no thunder and lightening and we didn’t have to hunker down and stay put.

Here’s a lot of photos from our trip. Sarah brought a real camera so we took lots of pictures.