For my last week of summer, I decided to do something a little out of my comfort zone. I had the amazing opportunity of portaging in Algonquin Provincial Park for nine days AND get a university credit for it! I wanted to share about my camping trip in the woods and how you can apply what I learned to your own life!
As a child, I wasn’t much of an outdoorsy person and grew up staying in hotels (I know … shocker!) The most camping I ever did was on an air mattress in a tent, with a kitchen and shower close nearby.
However, I have evolved into a nature and dirt enthusiast and felt that the challenge of completing a camping gear checklist, learning to paddle and portage a canoe and cook my meals over a fire would be fun and exciting! I went with 33 other students and leaders with a full Duluth (a huge backpack that I could fit in!) and an open mind.
The first couple of days were spent solidifying our paddling strokes, compass skills [with our Algonquin park map!], our basic knowledge of how to set up camp, including our tents, tarp and camping food hang (to keep our goodies away from the bears!) and getting comfortable sleeping under the stars and adjusting to the circadian rhythm of the earth.
We began on Crotch Lake (someone with a dirty mind came up with that name … ) then portaged (hiking with a canoe on your head or shoulders) to Booth Lake and Shirley Lake for the remainder of the trip, scouting out camping spots along the way.
We stayed there a few nights and spent most of our time with our core groups as well as went on a day trip to another lake nearby (I went to Robin Lake, which was quite the portage – basically a vertical hike up a mountain in the mud … and mud filled with leeches)! That’s when we were immersed into the Algonquin lifestyle and applied the skills we learned [like how to properly remove leeches] … crash canoeing course 101.
We also had a four-hour solo (chilling in the woods, doing some yoga and writing!) and shared our insights during the council for all beings. The council was meant for us to share the perspective of something living around us. I was in awe of the pine trees surrounding me during my time alone, and wrote a poem from its perspective.
One of our last days, we spent the afternoon constructing our creative projects that showcased our connection to nature and our experience during the trip. I made a wind chime out of calm shells that were all over our campsites, twine, sticks (plenty to choose from) and pinecones [all Algonquin symbols!]!
It represented to me all that I am learning to do this next year – to go with the flow (the wind) and let go of control about my future plans, leaving them up to God because I know His plans are SO much better than I could ever hope for!
We spent lots of time together laughing, swimming and dancing! I also spent a lot of time reflecting in nature and wanted to share my ‘camping tips’ and how they can apply to YOUR life … so HERE it is:
I absolutely loved living in community as we shared meals, tents, cooking responsibilities, equipment, stories and laughs! Everything is better together (even if you are an introvert and need space from time to time … I get it) and experiencing Algonquin together made the trip so much more enjoyable and exciting! So spend a little extra time this week with the people that lift you up and bring a smile to your face!
Learning how to start a fire was such a rewarding experience. It was so heart warming to be able to cook our meals and s’mores over the fire while we shared life experiences and passed the talking stick to express our feelings about the trip and the day we all had. Campfires are the perfect way to get deep with the perfect ambience! If you need to have a crucial conversation with someone … Maybe it’s best to have it around a campfire.
Without a radio, TV, or a phone, we were very present and learned to truly listen to our surroundings. I did love to sit still and listen to nature at its best – the waves by the beach, the wind in the trees, and the flapping of bird wings and the loon calls.
Although, we did still miss our music at times, and would make up for it by singing our camp songs while paddling and sitting around the bonfire; we always remembered to engage in our sense of play and fun! So, enjoy music but still remember that nature has its own tune that we can sometimes miss if we aren’t listening.
We went back to basics and learned such a simplistic way of living. Learning basic skills like how to start a fire and paddle properly gave me an appreciation for our interaction with nature and how priorities can change so fast. Everything was a process in the woods, but was so rewarding when that meal was finally made, the lake water was filtered, when we finally felt clean and when we reached the end of the lake to our next destination.
Remember to be grateful for a stove that lights itself, clean water to drink, a hot shower, and a car as a source of transportation. We are sometimes so caught up with relationship, work and school problems … all issues that somehow seemed so much less important in the woods with survival as our main priority.
No clocks, no mirrors, no worries.
My favourite part about our trip was that we did not have a sense of time (only the leaders), allowing us to truly get in tune with the circadian rhythm of the earth, as well as our bodies as we listened and ate when we were truly hungry. We didn’t worry about getting somewhere at a specific time, and could pace ourselves and enjoy each moment in the journey.
We also had no mirrors, which was a refreshing change. We went by how we felt, not by how we looked. We felt less self-conscious so we could be our authentic, real selves with each other, no masks [or makeup] allowed.
Just keep paddling.
Sometimes, we didn’t feel like paddling, or hiking to the end of the portage. We learned to persevere through the rain and sore muscles and finish strong. Remember that this too shall pass … and that once you reach your goal you feel so satisfied and accomplished! And if there isn’t a specific goal in mind, remember that things can get better and that pain and suffering can make you stronger and teach you a lesson along the way. There is always a sun after the storm.
So I challenge you to take some time in nature and get back to basics … find the inner child in you and spend some time just playing! Revel in the beauty that is all around us … be still and look up. I am always in awe of the moon and the stars… Especially in a canoe and on a clear night [The Milky Way!]
I encourage you to be your vulnerable and authentic self, because those who truly accept you are those that will help and support you to be your best self! Be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey!
Remember … Nature does not rush … yet everything is accomplished.
Peace & Love,
Jill – your veggie villager xx