Here we are again: another year, another “best of” post. 2019 didn’t feature any big road trips but it doesn’t mean there were no memorable adventures – they were just shorter and close to home. The only exception was our trip to Ukraine with my younger son. The trip didn’t involve any camping so didn’t make it into this blog but it did bring some interesting insights. It was a disconcerting experience at first – I felt like a tourist in my home country. Everything looked familiar, yet unrecognizable, as if I lost the key and could no longer decipher the code.
My trip to Ukraine was a little disorienting at first – I felt like a tourist in my home country
One afternoon we took a break from sightseeing and decided to hike down to the River Prut that runs through my home town of Chernivtsi. I’d walked that path so many times before with my older son, back then still a baby, but it was as if I landed in a new place. What used to be open fields was now a tightly woven jungle of trees and grasses. Yet, in this disorienting landscape, I felt less lost and confused than when I was twenty or so years ago when the surroundings were open and clear. That twenty-year-old person didn’t feel like me; she was more of a faint memory, someone I once knew. We all change as we grow up but usually that transformation is slow and gradual and not immediately apparent. It is only when we return to the places that knew us when we were younger, that we are confronted with those distant versions of ourselves.
The trail I often walked with my older son when he was still a baby looked completely different this time around
It wasn’t until we reached the river that I started to feel at home again. And I thought that home for me doesn’t have exact geographical coordinates. It’s wherever there is water and hills and trees – be it the river of my childhood, the lakes of Algonquin, the forest behind my grandparents’ house, Killarney’s white cliffs or the Carpathian Mountains where I hiked with my classmates. Every camping trip for me is not just an adventure or escape from the city. It is about coming home.
Once I got to the river of my childhood, I finally started to feel at home
And with that preamble, here is a list of the best “coming home” experiences of 2019.
Some trails sneak into your life effortlessly, quietly, without much fanfare. One day you turn around and there it is, lying on the ground behind you like an unspooled thread. Other trails take years to complete. Not because they are so long but because every time you attempt to hike them, something comes up between you and the trail: lack of time, bad weather, non-hiking mood, other laziness-inspired excuses. Lakeshore Trail in Silent Lake Provincial Park is one of the latter.
This is a story of a cabin. To be more specific, the Black Bear’s Den cabin at Silent Lake Provincial Park. But it doesn’t start with the cabin. It begins with a video course at Humber College, which I decided to take this January. Or maybe its origins are rooted in much earlier times marked with restlessness that led me to the Humber website in the first place in search of a distraction, something to get me out of the rut.
A cozy cabin at Silent Lake Provincial Park Continue reading
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.
A little cabin in the woods is your gateway to enjoying winter Continue reading
Winter finally showed up in Toronto late on a Monday afternoon. Its arrival was heralded by snow blobs the size of cotton balls tearing through the December twilight. As I watched their graceful dance outside my office window, I could feel familiar longing.
“Let’s go camping this weekend,” I greeted my husband later that night.
“Where to?” he replied without missing a bit.
“Wherever there’s a yurt or cabin available.”
We didn’t hold our breaths since roofed accommodations get booked far in advance. To our surprise, we had several options to choose from. We ruled out Quetico (too far), MacGregor Point (too flat), Algonquin (we camped there a couple of weeks ago), which left Silent Lake. The next question was: a cabin or a yurt? And while we have the best memories of staying in a camp cabin in Killarney, we decided to go with a more rustic yurt, the same yurt # 5 we stayed at a few years ago. It had a wood stove, no electricity and was a walk-in – just the way we like it. That last one didn’t exactly pen out –the park roads had been cleared so we were able to drive right up to our yurt. But the rest was just as we remembered it, except for a new wood shed outside.
Recently, I read an article about a newly published study that suggests not all people find escape into nature soothing and restorative. On the contrary, they crave a bustling city scene when they need to relax. The idea that traffic and crowds can be anything but stress-inducing is foreign to me, but who am I to judge. One thing I know for sure is that I am not one of those people. I definitely need nature to de-stress and unwind.
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.