Polished finger nails, patent pumps and an obvious fixation with clothing and style may not be indications of a girl who enjoys the great outdoors, but didn’t your mother ever tell you not to judge a book by its cover? Just like any man who can throw a football just as well as he can pair a gingham shirt with khakis, my love affair with fashion is only a portion of that which I adore.
As a fresh-faced 16-year-old, I attended the summer camp in Algonquin Park where my father’s name stood etched in wood in the dining hall, and where each of my aunts learnt to canoe, swim and explore. I had spent several summers at this place before, but this one in particular was to be profound. Months before, with friends of summers past listed as “preferred cabin mates”, I applied to embark on a FIFTY day canoe trip. Having done a thirty-six day adventure the summer before, I yearned for more of what the wilderness and the feeling of survival offered.
As Day 1 of 50 neared, food preparation, purging of unnecessary items and map navigating were underway, as the anticipation of it all began to build. The ultimate test of my contrasting qualities? Fifty days in one outfit for daytime (bathing suit, shorts, t-shirt, hiking boots) and one outfit for nighttime (long sleeve, sweatpants, sandals). Quite the comparison to our modern world where consumerism reigns and wearing the same outfit two days in a row can only mean a walk of shame is in order.
One important rule of the trip was a strict no-watch policy. Time had no place here. Lunch was not devoured at the strike of noon, but rather when we felt hungry, or when the sun began centering between the tree-flanked lakes. We became experts at deciphering just how much daylight remained, allowing enough time to set up camp, stow away food and devour our meals before wiggling into our sleeping bags, scribbling the day’s activities in our journals, and falling asleep to tent chatter, bird songs, and the gentle nearby lake (or, in some cases, the sound of hail or lightning). No modern conventions controlled our everyday activities, just the simplicities of navigating through forests, lakes, rivers and rapids.
Of course, a trip of this grandeur was not spared of drama, and as one can imagine, the moments of pure anguish were the most memorable in the long-term. Cracking a canoe in half (with me in it) tops that list, and watching our packs filled with tools for survival float down the river thereafter, does too. Not to mention, the consequent aquatic race that occurred as we noticed the waterproof bag containing our maps join that pack down the river. Peering down at my scarred toes offers a daily reminder of the trip, marked from boiling water that fell from a grill wedged atop the fire pit (hence my nick-names “boo” and “bubble toes”).
Why reminisce now, you ask? Well, each summer as the weather turns hot and we all migrate to nearby parks and patios, I’m reminded of these moments, and their meaning to me now, eight years later. If nothing else, I would urge all city folk to disappear for at least one weekend this summer. Rid yourself of the tweets, texts and notifications, listen to the breeze, the lake or the birds without the interruption of one siren or honk, and ease your mind from the worry, the deadlines and the speculation. Take notice of how often you check the time, and how much it controls your life. Think of all the gadgets that dictate you, and live more simply for just one day. Sleep under the stars, appreciate the nature around you and most of all, find your very own version of an escape.