Spica is the brightest object in the constellation of Virgo located about 260 light years away. This binary star is 2,200 times more powerful than our Sun making it one of the 20 most prominent objects in the night sky. Spica was also the name of our cabin at Parc national du Mont-Mégantic where we spent the last few days of 2018 and greeted the New Year.
Spica is the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo; it was also the name of our cabin at Parc national du Mont-MéganticContinue reading →
2018 had a lot going for it. It started with a magnificent sunrise from a hill-top cabin in Quebec. We travelled to California to spend time with my brother and his family. We visited many new parks, finally making it to Yosemite and Sequoia, and new cities, like San Francisco. We got to explore familiar places and see different sides of them. My essay about gardening appeared in The Globe and Mail connecting me with fellow gardeners and yielding a free bag of compost.
Not too long ago I came across a post in my Facebook feed. I don’t remember the exact wording but it went along the lines of: if you don’t embrace winter, you will still have the same amount of winter and way more misery. Or maybe it was “embrace snow”? Anyway, the point is: rather than complaining about the weather and waiting for winter to go away, it’s way more fun to get outside and enjoy it.
This year, to celebrate fall’s arrival we decided to do something different. Just kidding. We headed to the woods in search of fall colors. Not the reds of maples, but the orange of monarch butterflies. Each year they congregate at Point Pelee in thousands before making their trip south. I’ve seen pictures of this miraculous sight but never actually experienced it. Plus the new oTENTiks now available in the park sounded like an attractive proposition. I love our tent – a lot. Occasionally, however, glamping with no camp to set up can be very alluring, especially for a quick weekend getaway.
A forest on a spring morning is a well-orchestrated polyphony. Robins and red-winged blackbirds pour their joy out trying to outsing each other for the role of a lead soloist. Woodpeckers keep the rhythm with their insistent staccato. Cuckoo birds join this celebratory chorus with a melodic refrain. Nothing is jarring; not a single note out of place. Even the shrill caws of grackles don’t produce dissonance but rather serve as interludes between other parts.
Yes, another trip to Pinery with just as much snow as before, which is none. Well, maybe not exactly none. There was some white dust mixed in with brown leaves along the trails and sand on the beach. But not nearly enough for traditional winter pursuits. Not that it mattered, though. We were looking for an escape from the growing avalanche of quite often depressing news and a trip into the woods away from Facebook feeds and news reports, with or without snow, was all we needed. So when I stumbled across a last minute yurt cancellation at Pinery, I didn’t think twice and booked it.
When I was growing up in the Soviet Union, New Year’s celebration was a big deal. Christmas, like all religious holidays, was if not prohibited then strongly discouraged and was only celebrated quietly, behind closed doors. That put all the spotlight on New Year’s. Christmas tree was known as New Year tree, presents were delivered by Father Frost on New Year’s night, and all big gatherings were on December 31st. Most of the day was spent cooking and preparing for a big feast, which usually featured way more food than anyone could consume, mainly because all the feasts of my childhood were like that, but also because of the belief that New Year’s celebration set the tone for the whole year so lots of food on that night meant abundance throughout the year. Sometime before midnight, we would sit down to a table laden with food waiting for the big Kremlin clock to announce the arrival of a new year, nurturing that deepest wish which had to be whispered at the exact moment the clock struck 12. What followed was a night of eating, drinking and TV watching. Staying up all night was like a badge of honour, and on our first day back to school we would brag about who managed to “survive” the longest.
When we moved to Canada, we kept those traditions going for a few years but without all the hoopla around it got old pretty fast. So we decided to create our own traditions, and headed into the woods, of course. Continue reading →
We love our Saturday microadventures. They are a great way to recharge at the end of the week, explore new places nearby, plus they don’t require a lot of planning. Sometimes, though, the need arises for a more intensive reboot, which means it’s time to plan a camping trip.
A few weeks ago, as I was browsing the Ontario Parks reservation site, I saw a yurt available at Silent Lake Provincial Park. It was a stroke of luck since roofed accommodations for winter usually get booked months in advance. We visited Silent Lake a couple of times before, including for my birthday last summer, but never in the winter, so it was a great opportunity to see it in a different light.
Be careful what you wish for, they say. That’s what I was thinking after spending over an hour stuck in a traffic jam, all courtesy of the lake effect snow storm. All winter, I’ve been complaining about the lack of winter: no snow, no skiing opportunities, no beautiful enchanted forest. And here we were, less than thirty minutes away from our weekend destination, Allegany State Park, with nothing else to do but watch the snow coat our car until all we could see was faint blinking of the police vehicle up ahead. After an hour of willing the cars in front of us to move, I decided to get outside and take a walk. It was definitely magical: large flakes of snow falling softly, blanketing the world around. I walked to the front of the line, chatted with fellow stranded travellers, learned that two trucks had ended up in a ditch earlier that day bringing all the traffic to a standstill. Eventually, the mess was cleared up and we started moving but it felt like dog-sledding or even just walking would have been faster. The world around was completely white, with only rear lights of the truck in front guiding us ahead. I wanted winter, and I got it.