Into the woods for March Break

As a teacher, I’m lucky to get a week off every March. Well, really, as a supply teacher I can (and do) take time off pretty much whenever I want…but this is a forced week off where I don’t have to consider the lost income!

We spent the week in a not unusual manner – camping. It was still very much winter here in northern Ontario, so it was a full on winter trip – snowshoes, toboggans, and tent with a wood stove.

Conor drags the longer, heavier toboggan. I drag the shorter, uglier, orange one. I will also point out that, although lighter, it does not glide nearly as well! Obviously this is the sole reason that I’m slower. Obviously.

Jack carried his food in his Jack Pack. He was always really excited to put it on…

We were out from Saturday to Saturday, so 7 nights spent in the tent. I love this tent. Get the fire going and it is incredibly warm and cozy. Yes, the set up is quite involved, but there’s no way I could do winter trips of any length without this haven of warmth.

Cooking happens on the wood stove.

I might like the tent, but Jack adores the tent, and gets inside as soon as possible every afternoon.

He has his own spot, but he likes to encroach in the human zone sometimes for a cuddle. As the trip progresses he gets increasingly tired, and starts to crawl into our laps a bit more to collapse. He’s adorable.

Morning cuddles were a thing too.

We were hoping to do a loop, but got stymied by some non existent portage trails. We took one layover day, on which we went for an unencumbered, exploratory snowshoe wander.

We had great weather for tripping. Temperatures were pretty much perfect. Travel on the lakes wasn’t effortless, but was pretty good. Travel through the woods was actually really tough – the snow was deep, rotting, and baseless. Fortunately we spent most of our time on lakes and waterways, not traveling between them.

My kindle is essential tripping equipment for me. I may not have any impressive physical abilities, but my reading speed and stamina are top notch, and an ereader is the only way I can carry adequate reading material.

I also did at least a few minutes of Spanish review every day!

All in all, it was another great trip. For me, for now at least, it was a nice length. Conor aspires to longer and more challenging winter trips, but I find traveling in the winter a lot more intimidating and challenging than summer expeditions. Jack sides with Conor though.

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#Clearthelist March 2018 Language Goals

Having recently picked up Spanish studies again (not that I have gotten very far before), I decided it’s time to join the #clearthelist monthly language goals link up hosted by Eurolinguiste and Lindsay Does Languages. This month will be short and sweet!


Apart from working my way independently through a couple of book lessons last summer and doing some Duolingo now and then, I’m pretty much a rank beginner. Goals for this month are:

1. Squeeze in 8 Skype lessons before heading to Costa Rica (!) on March 30, including reviewing the material before and after

2. Complete enough Duolingo to keep up my streak on days I have internet access

3. Bring study and vocab notes on our March Break 9 day camping trip and study a bit each day

4. Listen to at least 4 Spanish podcasts


I am a much more advanced French speaker (better be, seeing as I teach it), but there’s always room for improvement. Focusing on Spanish though, so setting the bar low here.

1. Listen to CBC radio en Français

2. Read something

Et c’est tout!

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Weekend in the Woods

This past weekend we celebrated the beginning of March with a 2 night winter camping trip. The conditions were awesome – warm, sunny days, and a skiff of snow on crusty lakes.

It was the perfect weekend for our friend Jerry’s introduction to winter camping. We went north of town to Lake Superior Park, where we hauled our stuff about an hour into a small lake.

We set up the hot tent, as per usual.

This time, however, we also set up Jerry’s teepee, or guest house, as it were. We all hung out in the hot tent, but Jerry slept in there while Conor and I took the teepee.

Saturday was mostly spent setting up, with a quick snowshoe and ski tour in the afternoon. We took a pretty relaxed approach to life on Sunday, starting things off with a Pancake Fiesta.

Full of pancakes, we headed off for a tour de lakes. It was a gorgeous day, to the point that we sit in the sun jacket-less and mitt-less, while taking a break for some tea and a snack.

Back in camp, I hung out in the tent while Conor and Jerry played around with ice fishing and paddle carving. Not too shabby!

Monday morning we packed up and retraced our steps back to the car, ready for 4 days of work before heading off again for March Break :).

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Wabakimi Part II

When we got back from our trip I had grand plans for posting trip reports in short order. But life has a way of changing quickly, and that fell apart when I ended up teaching full time for a month and a half (surprise!). So, this will be a primarily visual recap of our trip. Because my writing efforts are going towards progress reports.

Our planned route was shortened due to impassable portages. We were concerned for awhile that nearby forest fires would necessitate further changes, but we were able to sneak by.

One of the twisty river sections

The water was so low here that we had to portage through the creek to get to the portage.

Misty morning

Jack didn’t have his best trip. He was stung by a hornet early on, so while he was happy on the trail the instant he heard a buzzing fly in camp he’d have a meltdown and go hide in the woods.

He was an expert finder-of-beds from the get-go

Snoozing in a Labrador Tea bed

He looks peaceful here, but was actually hiding from the (very minimal) flies and it was hard to get him off the point.

As usual, portaging played a prominent role.

Because the original plan got shortened, we were able to do some shorter days and had lots of time to relax in camp.


Trip soundtrack

Northwestern Ontario is known for sudden, violent storms blowing in (we’ve experienced some interesting ones). Fortunately, we were mostly spared this trip, although we had a few afternoon thunderstorms roll in.

This one came in as we rushed to set up camp.

Angry clouds

Post storm colours

Only once did we have to sprint off the water and throw up the tarp.

Near the end of the trip we spent a layover day on a beautiful lake with amazing pictographs.

Aptly named Cliff Lake

And a few more scenic shots to round things off.

My favourite carnivorous plants.

Always a portage highlight.


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Why the focus on active transportation?

Those of you who follow my Instagram and (new!) Twitter account may have noticed a sudden slant towards the promotion of active transportation (primarily biking and walking, but hey, if you want to ride a horse, that’s cool too). I thought I’d do a quick post to explain why you’ll be seeing a lot of this topic for the next few weeks.

The simple answer is that I’m taking an online course through Duke University, and developing an environmentally-related social media campaign is an integral part of this course. Weekly assignments revolve around your ongoing campaign.

I decided to take the course because I’m interested in the topic and am looking to develop more skills for online work. However, since I’m not currently working in a directly related job, I was free to choose whatever environmental topic my little heart desired for the social media campaign. I opted for active transportation because I’m interested in both health and fitness and the environment, and I like pondering how we can design our cities and lives to maximize both. In fact, my favourite university course was urban geography, and my favourite paper within that course was how city design impacts human health. I liked the course so much that I actually read the textbook (almost unheard of), and still have that paper somewhere. It was fascinating, and I seriously considered a Masters degree in urban planning.

So there you go. An explanation of the sudden subject shift in my online presence for the next few weeks. Enjoy. Or don’t enjoy. Whatever. But if you do enjoy, please share, so that my final report looks more impressive 😉

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I blame the hornets on the bears

We finished off the summer with a few weeks canoeing in Wabakimi. It was a good trip, worthy of its own post eventually. But today it’s time to share one specific incident that occurred – my very first hornet sting. It’s kind of embarrassing but also, in hindsight, kind of hilarious. I try to teach my students that they should be able to chuckle at themselves, so why not share this story with the internet?

We have to back up a couple of days though because, frankly, I blame the hornet incident on the bears. You see, two days prior we had been stymied by a non-existent portage so had turned around and pitched camp early in the afternoon. Our afternoon reading session was interrupted by some crashing on the shore a few hundred metres away.

This was bear number 1. Jack deep-growled and woofed, we waved our arms and hollered, and the bear did as it should and bolted back into the woods. Given that it had acted appropriately, that it was nearing dinner time, and that we were all set up we decided there was no reason to move camp. All was fine until just shy of midnight when we woke to Jack on high alert in the tent, doing the same woofing and growling. Crap. Conor got out and blew a whistle… nothing. Jack continues in guard dog mode. Conor gets out again, this time to shoot off a bear banger. These are LOUD and BRIGHT. Still nothing. This is probably really good – most likely the bear wandered by but is long gone. However, there’s a tiny chance that it’s very, very bad if the banger didn’t scare the bear away. Jack is totally freaked at this point, and there’s no way we’re going to roll over and go back to sleep, so we decide to load ourselves and our food packs into the canoe, and spend an hour floating around in front of the campsite. It was actually quite neat – it was a beautiful, calm, clear night, with shooting stars and beavers swimming all around us. After an hour we hadn’t heard anything so came ashore again and went to sleep.

The next day we decided to camp on an island. Yes, I know, bears can swim, but if there are no bears when you land they’re less likely to come wandering through. We landed on the low end of the island, unloaded the canoe, wandered around, and then started heading uphill to the campsite. I was grabbing a pack so was a bit behind when all chaos breaks lose with Conor hollering and Jack barking and a bear clambering up a tree. Oooookay guess we’re not staying on this island after all! Quickly load up the canoe while making sure a very agitated Jack stays close and we’re back on the water. As we launch we hear our pal come down from the tree and figure he’s about to make a hasty retreat back to the mainland. We start to paddle around to get a look at him swimming, but then he turns around and comes back to where he was…and he is NOT interested in giving up this island. He’s a big boy, staring at us, huffing, stomping his feet… no worries bud, you can keep this island!


Off we go again. This time we’re looking for not only an island, but an island that’s small enough for us to paddle around and confirm it as ursine-free before we land. A few km later we find a small island that is mostly bedrock with a sparse covering of trees. It had been burned a few years ago, so the trees were young and there was quite a bit of dead wood. We circle-toured it in the canoe, hollering the whole time, and confirmed a lack of large mammals. Also not much shade, but beggars can’t be choosers. Landed, had an uneventful evening, and a solid night’s sleep.

The next morning I trotted off to take care of business…. managed to find a nice patch of soil with some luscious moss alongside. Got myself a sturdy stick and started digging a hole. As I dug I yelled out to Conor that the soil was very interesting because it was full of woody debris. We hypothesized that it was because of all the burned trees, and this was one of the first stages in soil development. Logical, right?

Dropped the drawers, popped a squat…and then SUDDEN UNFATHOMABLE PAIN IN THE WORST POSSIBLE PLACE.

It was not an interesting stage in soil development. It was a freakin’ ground hornet nest. My saving grace was that it was a cool morning so they were still dopey, which is why they didn’t come out immediately, and only one actually stung me. But trust me, that one knew where to hit for maximum effect.

Needless to say I shall never forget my first hornet sting. And you see, I blame the bears because without them we wouldn’t have been on that rock to begin with.

Two days later another one got me on the ankle on a portage. It was swollen for about 3 days.

A day or two after that it was Conor’s turn when he was rinsing dishes in the lake and a pike torpedoed out of the depths and chomped his finger. Not deep wounds but 3 slices and he was bleeding like a stuck pig. I can’t make this stuff up.

Then the wildlife decided to back off and we felt much less targeted for the second half of the trip.

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Return to the Lake Part 2: Michipicoten Island – Terrace Bay

After crossing back to the mainland from Michipicoten Island, we carried on westwards, travelling though Pukaskwa National Park, into Neys Provincial Park, and finally finishing near Terrace Bay. On our second last day we crossed paths with Dianne Whelan, a filmmaker who is currently travelling the entire Trans Canada Trail, and spent our last night with her at a friend’s camp. A fun way to end the trip.

And now for the rest of the pics.

Lunch at the Wheatbin.Camping at Pukaskwa River.
We played hopscotch with the voyageur canoe along the Pukaskwa Coast.
Cultural site.
Foggy caribou campsite.

Cascade Falls
Swallow River – great swimming upriver from the cold lake!
A favourite spot.
Lunch at Fish Harbour.
Foster Island
We paddled around Pic Island and darted out to Alouez Island, a little island alongside Pic. It has a neat inner harbour of sorts where we took a break.
A cliff-y lunch spot.
Cool rock camping.
Encrusted saxifrage.
Overall another great trip. The only thing I would change is to go a bit later in the season so the water is warmer – it would be nice to do more than run in and run out of the lake!


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