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There is a little patch of wilderness I like to call my own. Covering about 200 square miles along the southern edge of the Canadian shield, it is rugged terrain, where pristine lakes and rocky barrens were formed by the retreat of glaciers about 10,000 years ago. Here there are no interior roads, and after a day of canoeing, my companions and I can find a lake that we will have all to ourselves for the week.
These lakes have been a second home to me for 45 years now. My dad took me on my first adventure into the interior when I was three, and since then I have taken another twenty trips into the area.
My favourite times to visit are late August and mid-July. Most of my recent trips have been in late August, the bugs are gone, but the water is still swimmable. As the lakes were gouged out by glaciers, there are many places where we can jump from cliffs directly into the water. This is by far the activity most enjoyed by our children.
In mid-July, the water is wonderfully warm, the blueberries are at their peak, and we can always count on blueberries mixed with out favourite pudding for desert. Mid-July is also the peak of mosquito season, and when they swarm at dusk we had better be in our tents. The drone we hear is not an airplane overhead, but mosquitoes massing around our tent. After nightfall, the mosquitoes settle back down, and we can emerge to enjoy a campfire. Along with marshmallows, we enjoy spider-dogs, and bread on a stick.
The fishing is almost always amazing no matter what time of the year we go!
In my early years, several of my trips into this wilderness were with organized groups, either with the Boy Scouts (my Dad was the Scout Leader), church youth groups, or with the Canadian Armed Forces. And not all my trips have been in warm weather. I remember the weekend of January 10th-11th of 1981 like it was yesterday. We snowshoed ten miles into the interior on a winter survival exercise with the Hastings Prince Edward Regiment. We took turns breaking trail, or pushing and pulling a 200 pound sled loaded with all our supplies and equipment. The temperature plummeted to minus 28C, while the wind was gusting up to 32 Kilometers an hour. With the windchill, it felt like minus 42C (-43.6 F). Oh, did I mention that we slept in a tent?
The wilderness can be a harsh place. In the middle of Canadian deep freeze, deathly so. With good preparation, your experience can be not just about surviving but about thriving. The more preparation we put into our wilderness experiences, the more we get out of it. In the winter it means making sure that you have a good shelter, a good heat source, and arctic sleeping bags. In the summer we make life-jackets mandatory for everyone both in and on the water. We double check all our gear, and carry an extra paddle, and a canoe repair kit – just in case.
As I interact with nature in my wilderness experiences, I am often filled with wonder at God’s creation. Whether lying on my back and seeing the brilliance of the Milky Way spreading out like a canopy above me, or rising early and watching the morning mist rising from the lake, I am reminded our God is indeed awesome. As we celebrate Easter this year we are again reminded of God’s goodness to us. We can approach Easter week with little preparation, and still benefit from it, or like camping, we can greatly enrich our experience, by putting some energy into a time of preparation. This is why as Christians we celebrate Advent and Lent. Taking time to prepare for Christmas and Easter can make the experiences of Christmas and Easter that much richer, deeper, and full of wonder. Like camping… but better.
Postscript: They recently turned this wilderness area into a provincial park to help preserve it for future generations. If you are interested in visiting, google Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. The top and bottom pictures were taken from our favourite campsite.