Searching for stillness in a shifting world: Our first backcountry trip on the year

Time stands still during the last few moments before sunrise; the world holds its breath awaiting the sun’s big entrance. It is my favourite time of the day. I steer my canoe into the middle of the lake and just sit there watching dark silhouettes of the hills framed by the soft glow of the sky above and the lake below. Over the past few months of being homebound and unable to leave the city, I’ve been craving this silence – the absence of that permanent urban hum that even COVID hasn’t been able to extinguish. Here, in the middle of Nellie Lake, everything is quiet, so quiet that I can hear blood rushing through my head. Or is it the heartbeat of the Universe? I listen to its rhythmic beat punctuated by a bird song bouncing between the hills.

sunrise on Nellie Lake

Waiting for a sunrise on Nellie Lake Continue reading

Our romantic getaway in Killarney: 8 days, 90+ kilometres, countless memories

A canoe trip can make or break a relationship, or at least seriously test it. It also makes for an excellent romantic getaway. Sure, all that paddling is tiring, portages are exhausting, and you are drenched in sweat by the end of the day. But then there are awe-inspiring views, sunrise paddles and cuddles by the moon, fine dining by the lake (Backpacker’s Pantry and AlpineAire offer some deliciously fancy meals like Pad Thai and Triple Berry Crumble) and leisurely coffee by the campfire, relaxing swims in the clearest water, loon serenades, and, with no people for miles, as much privacy as you could ever wish for, making you truly feel like you are the only people in the world. I watch romantic comedies. I know what it takes.

eating by the lake at campsite 143 at Nellie lake in Killarney

Canoe trips feature fine dining by the lake

sitting by the campfire at campsite 52 on Three Narrows Lake in Killarney

There are also beautiful evenings by the campfire

selfie from the cliff with Three Narrows Lake in the background

And don’t forget breathtaking views enjoyed together

On top of all this romance 101, canoe trips lend themselves to moments, which, while not often featured in love stories, are arguably even more romantic. For instance, when my husband volunteers to get into knee-deep mud to push the canoe or does all the camp set-up so that I can take advantage of the evening light to take photos. My favourite part, however, is an opportunity to share an experience that is uniquely our own and create an endless supply of “remember when” stories and references that no one but us will understand.

kissing under a canoe

My favourite part is creating special memories and “remember when” stories to bring back

This August, my husband and I set out on our second backcountry trip as a couple and our longest canoe trip yet. After visiting Grace and Nellie Lakes in western Killarney last year, we decided to continue exploring this less travelled and considerably less crowded part of the park. Our route started at Widgawa Lodge on Highway 6, traversed Murray, Howry, Fish, Great and Little Mountain Lakes, Three Narrows, McGregor Bay, Low and Helen, Nellie, and finally Grace Lake, plus endless creeks and swamps, and finished back at Widgawa. Eight days and more than 90 kilometers later, we emerged with 1,645 photos and even more special memories.

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The Best of 2016

It’s hard to believe 2016 is drawing to a close. And it was quite a year when it comes to outdoor adventures, both close and far. With a three-week road trip all the way to Los Angeles, lots of camping with family and friends, my first solo trip and endless microadventures, it is next to impossible to narrow down ten best. But I’ll still try.

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Fall magic in Killarney

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L.M. Montgomery

Last week, I went for a walk in a nearby park during my lunch hour. It was a beautiful day with summer-like temperatures but the first signs of fall were already present: that earthy smell, the crunch of the first fallen leaves, yellows and reds breaking through the shield of green. That’s when it suddenly hit me that it was already October. I did know the date, of course, after all I have a calendar at work but I’d never fully processed it. Ever since we came back from our road trip, I was thrown in the work vortex . Plus with the deadline for a translation project I am working on fast approaching, the month of September flew by. If it wasn’t for a request to record my favourite summer memory for CBC Radio and to write a piece for Parks Blogger Ontario about the best places to see fall colours, I doubt I would have registered the change of seasons.

A lack of nature was beginning to take its toll, so needless to say I was excited about the upcoming long weekend and our trip to Killarney.

view from Silver Peak in Killarney in the fall

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Paddling my own canoe: my first solo trip in Killarney

“Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!”

The Song My Paddle Sings by E. Pauline Johnson

If you read my previous post, you know that for my 40th birthday I decided to go on my first solo canoe trip in Killarney. Or should I say ended up going, because originally I planned backpacking in Algonquin. I even had sites booked on the Highland Trail. Backpacking seemed easier to execute and required less gear – just two feet and whatever fits into a backpack. Then, after our Killarney trip at the beginning of July, it became clear: I love canoeing way more than backpacking, I love Killarney, and hence I should go canoeing in Killarney. So two weeks before the trip I changed my reservation, got in touch with Killarney Kanoes to book my mode of transportation and started watching Bill Mason’s videos on how to paddle a solo canoe. After some deliberation I decided to go with a solo canoe instead of a kayak for a number of reasons: I prefer canoeing to kayaking, a canoe is easier to portage and easier to pack, i.e. you can just throw stuff in. As a bonus, ‘paddling my own canoe’ works as a figure of speech.

canoeing on Carlyle Lake in Killarney

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On turning 40 and travelling alone

“You don’t have to go, you know,” said my husband as I was preparing for my first solo canoe trip in Killarney.

“I know,” I replied, “but I really want to.”

Good thing he didn’t ask why because I am not sure I would be able to explain.

In books and movies, protagonists usually set out on a solo trip because they find themselves at metaphorical crossroads and feel stuck/confused/lost hoping a solution will reveal itself during those solo nature pursuits.

That wasn’t my story. Apart from occasional detours, the road ahead looked clear if not always level or straight. Sure I was turning 40 but I wasn’t losing sleep over it. I made peace with getting older long time ago. Occasionally I would turn around and think, “Where did the time go?” But then I would look at my children, my husband, my friends, think of all the wonderful things I’ve seen and learned, great trips I’ve taken, and beautiful moments I’ve shared with the people I love and knew: that’s where.

Although, I should say, my 40th birthday did have a role to play in my decision. I felt this important milestone required something bigger and more special than the usual sunrise ritual. So a solo canoe trip it was.

canoeing on Terry Lake in Killarney

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Our Canoe Adventures in Killarney: Part I – Off to a great start

As I stand on the corner of Dufferin and Lawrence waiting for a bus, cars whizzing by, people hurrying across the intersection, I find it hard to believe that only a few days ago I was paddling through Killarney’s backcountry. In fact, if it wasn’t for the bruises on my shoulders from schlepping the canoe around, bug bites around my ankles and a slightly darker complexion, I would think I dreamt it all up: Killarney’s signature white cliffs, blue lakes and mournful loons. A beautiful dream, one that keeps me going as I try to elbow my way to the back of 52A bus.

view of Boundary Lake from site 110 in Killarney

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New Year’s Celebration in Killarney Provincial Park

Back in our home country, there is a superstition that the way you ring in the new year determines how you spend it. So for the past six years or so, we have been heading into the woods to spend the first minutes of January 1st around a campfire. And it seems to be working: we have had no shortage of campfires and incredible camping moments for the rest of the year.

2016 written in sparkles

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Canoe Camping in Killarney Provincial Park

Where do I even find the words to describe the beauty that is Killarney Provincial Park? It is often called the crown jewel of Ontario Park system, and deservedly so. Over 600 square kilometres of iconic wilderness, these striking landscapes of pink granite and white quartzite ridges peppered with jack pines and interspersed with clear, sapphire lakes were an inspiration for the Group of Seven artists. In fact, they were so captivated by its beauty that they persuaded the Ontario government to turn the area into a park. The birthplace of Killarney, formerly known as Trout Lake, is now called O.S.A., which stands for the Ontario Society of Artists, to recognize their role in the creation of Killarney Provincial Park. And that’s where we got to camp this past weekend.

hiker enjoying the view from the Crack at Killarney

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