How often do you hear people say: “I wish I could do more of x (in my case spend more time outdoors) but life gets in the way”? I am not a big fan of that expression – “life gets in the way.” It’s right there with “time to return to real life.” Both imply that time spent outside is nothing more than a frivolous pursuit or, at best, an escape from our productive and important lives filled with jobs, chores and responsibilities.
There are days when I daydream about ditching the so-called “real life” for a life of outdoor adventures. I know, however, that right now it is not realistic. So instead my goal is to incorporate outdoors into my everyday life as much as possible, whether by making sure I take a walk during my lunch break, skipping the bus and walking part of the way home, growing a container garden on my balcony and filling my apartment with plants, or making weekend getaways and microadventures a priority.
Some days are harder than the others, especially during a shoulder season: the weather is indecisive, the days are short, and work is never-ending.
I am not the only one. According to the Nature Conservancy of Canada report released in October, over 70 per cent of Canadians don’t spend enough time in nature. The often cited reasons are bugs, bad weather and busyness. Well, bugs I can live with. I just treat them as a necessary sacrifice of being outdoors. Bad weather can be fixed with appropriate clothing. I can identify with busyness, however, and unless I am intentional about spending time outdoors, there is always a risk that to-do lists will consume me.
Luckily for me, my job involves occasional travel throughout Ontario so with a bit of planning I can always squeeze in a good hike at a new location. And with some creative thinking – even an overnight in the woods.
A couple of weeks ago I was visiting some of our members along the Lake Huron coast. As I started to research hotels for an overnight stay, it occurred to me that Pinery Provincial Park was mere minutes away. I considered bringing the tent but I knew I wouldn’t have much time the next morning and instead of packing I preferred going on a hike. So I booked a yurt and voila: I had a mini camping trip in the middle of the week.
It was already dark when I pulled by the yurt. The park was eerily quiet. After the hustle and bustle of the summer, Pinery’s shoulder season calm never ceases to take me by surprise.
I heated my leeks and potato soup and plonked myself in front of the campfire. I could feel my whole body inhale and exhale with the forest.
The next morning I was back by the campfire with my coffee and a cheese sandwich. I didn’t have much time but I was intent on absorbing as much of the smoky scent as possible. Once I was done with all the wood, I grabbed my camera, a bottle of water and set out on a walk.
I walked through an empty campground and crossed the bridge over the Old Ausable Channel. The narrow strip of the river, devoid of paddlers, cut through the trees revealing a rose-tinted patch on the horizon.
I turned onto the Cedar Trail. Our feet pounded this path many times before but as I was walking through the oak savanna that morning, I realized we’d never been there in the fall. Plenty of times we walked through the lush greenery of the summer and a few times through early winter’s fragile bareness but never under the canopy of yellows and bronze. I’ve always associated Pinery with the summer. In one of my posts, I actually said that’s where the summer lives. But on that morning, I saw it in a new light, quite literally, and fell in love with the park all over again.
And, when after numerous sets of stairs and boardwalks, Lake Huron came into view – that familiar yet always new sight – all air left my lungs. Because even after years of coming here, seeing that turquoise strip still takes my breath away.
The lake was calm and smooth. I walked to the edge, tested the water. I felt the pull of the lake as if I could just dissolve into all that calmness.
When I finally peeled myself off a log – after what felt like hours but was no more than 15 minutes – everything around seemed different as if the smoothness of the water seeped inside me. And as I returned to my “real life,” I carried a part of the lake with me.
On a less poetic note, I discovered that Pinery now has four new yurts as does Macgregor Point where we have since stayed. So check back soon for my guide to roofed accommodations.
Read more about our yurt stays at Pinery: