The Trails and Tamaracks Spots
WOO HOO Time To Canoe!
By David Richardson
Spring in Canada means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some it's time to open up the cottage, get the fire pit ready to go or get out and walk off those winter pounds. For others it means the return of summer song birds, lawns and trees getting green again or plants and flowers starting to poke through the soil. For me it means one very important thing, open water, and lots of it.
Of all the outdoor activities I get involved in my absolute favorite has to be canoeing. I've done my share of kayaking and enjoy a change once in awhile but I'm really a canoeist at heart. There's nothing like the feeling of travelling down the big heritage rivers like the fur traders did so long ago or exploring the local creeks to see where they lead and there is perhaps nothing quite more Canadian. Canoes are brilliant works of art that have earned them their own museum yet they have been a part of this country seemingly forever. The First Nations used the canoe as their primary mode of transportation long before Europeans even knew North America existed. Early exploration on this continent couldn't have taken place without a boat that would take you to the end of a river and then be picked up and carried to the next body of water so the creation of our country can be credited to the canoe.
This watercraft is so practical you can strap it to the top of any car, drive to any body of water that is deeper than just a few inches and paddle to anywhere you want to go. Sure the journey may involve a portage or two but the simple fact that you can just pick up your boat and carry on is part of the canoe's beauty. I wouldn't want to try that with a big bass boat and motor. The canoe can get the fishermen to lakes they couldn't dream of fishing with any other boat. Sails can be purchased or made to take a break from paddling and the canoe will cut through the water as gracefully as any sailboat. When on the river near my home the water is flat and calm so I've built a transom to hold a trolling motor that gets me where I want to go with hardly any effort. I've even been known to just float into town to grab a coffee and then leave again just to disappear around the bend in the river. Canoes are affordable, great exercise and pay back their investment with limitless hours of enjoyment. They can also be rented at almost any popular spot. The act of canoeing can be such a finely honed skill that it has become an Olympic sport yet a couple of kids at the cottage can naturally figure out how to get it moving. There are countless designs and materials for every activity imaginable but in the end if it floats, it works. If you're the kind of person that worries about the future, I'm quite certain that zombies can't paddle and when the gas runs out your canoe will keep going.
Being on the water is a privilege and needs to be respected. Lakes and rivers are the greatest examples of the moods of Mother Nature. I've paddled some rivers when the water was so low that I had to get and drag the canoe over sand bars and mud but I've seen the same rivers so full that you could canoe right down the closest town's main streets. A secluded lake can look like a postcard when the water is dead calm and the mirrored surface is reflecting the trees along the shoreline but the same lake can leave you stranded at a campsite or even capsize a canoe when the wind whips the waves up on a stormy day. Necessary safety gear and boating laws still apply to canoeing and, above all, a little common sense will go a long way.
If you don't have much experience with canoes but want to see the wilderness from the water's edge the best thing to do is read books or watch videos made by the greats. There have been many popular canoeists over the years like Hap Wilson, Calvin Rutstrum or Sigurd Olson and several others that are completely inspiring. My favorites would have to include Becky Mason who can move a canoe so gracefully it looks like a ballet, her brother Paul Mason who has helped redefined what white water canoeing is all about and their father, legend of all that is canoeing, the late Bill Mason who created numerous classic films like Paddle to the Sea, Waterwalker and the Path of the Paddle Series. At the top of my list would be The Happy Camper, Kevin Callan. Kevin's videos and presentations are always educational and highly entertaining and his information is current. It seems like he has paddled every creek and river in Ontario and his books get thumbed through before planning any of my canoe trips. After doing some research it'll be hard not to catch the paddle bug yourself. I know from experience, I even have pictures of my canoes framed on my walls.
Canoeing can open up a whole new world of experience for anyone willing to use a little bit of their own power and we're blessed in this country to have so many wild places that can still be explored to satisfy the adventurous heart. Borrow, rent or buy yourself a canoe and be sure to give a wave when you see me out there doing what I love so much. The only thing left for me to deal with is deciding which canoe to paddle today.
The Hunting Camp
By David Richardson
Although it goes against what Trails and Tamaracks is all about I can't tell the public where The Hunting Camp is located because it is a private camp and the owners would like to keep it that way. Instead I would like to take this opportunity to describe my experiences at this beautiful place and talk a bit about the controversial subject of hunting.
The Hunting Camp is a place where I spent a lot of time as a child. Some of my first wilderness experiences happened there and it was the area that my father taught me many of the skills I now use frequently when traveling in the outdoors. The property is owned by close friends of the family who had children close to mine and my sister's ages so when we were all there at the same time the forest became a huge playground. In the earliest days of my memory we would gather at the several hundred acre property everyone now refers to as "the camp". Construction of the camp is very vague in my mind because of my young age at the time but I do remember one of the earliest buildings was a sauna built with a long fireplace that reached from the change room into the sweat room and running water that came from a pipe run up the hill to a creek. Eventually the addition of ATVs and new trails that opened up the almost endless crown land bordering the property made the chance for adventure greater and greater.
Once I reached my teen years my rebellious nature and need for independence lead to a long hiatus from visiting the camp. Twenty-three years passed until I returned. During this time I thought of the camp often but told myself I didn't miss it because I was now visiting wilderness areas all over the country. Finally I was invited to spend the last weekend of hunting season with my father up at the camp and as soon as I entered the property my mind was flooded with memories from my youth and I missed it all very much. The sauna was still there and functional, the cabin had gotten bigger but still held that certain rustic feel and the out buildings had changed and multiplied but it was still "the camp".
During this visit I had the opportunity to stand on a watch with my father while the hunt was taking place. Since I had never gotten my hunting license this seemed like a fantastic opportunity which was made even better when he actually shot a deer right in front of me. Hunting isn't for everyone but I must admit I was completely enthralled by the entire process. The next year I had my license and a rifle so I could prove myself the heir of my father's considerable hunting skills. With a week that any hunter could be proud of my goals were accomplished and I had a ten point trophy to hang on my wall. I must admit that I felt that it was one of my most glorious moments and it is an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
Once I got home I posted a picture of my grand buck and hunting partners on the internet because I was over flowing with pride but some people took offense. Comments by one person were made about how hunters were trying to be manly by shooting at unarmed animals and that the whole practice was needless cruelty to animals. Some of the comments were just plain belligerent. In order to calm the storm my posting had started my response was as follows:
Apparently my posting of a dead deer on the Trails and Tamaracks pages offended one particular individual. I'm not here to stress my opinions on anyone but would like to share a few things.
Trails and Tamaracks is not designed to "save" anything although that is often a happy benefit of education. I do many things in my personal life for whatever causes I feel are deserving and don't feel the need to force these causes on anyone else. Trails and Tamaracks is a showcase of outdoor adventures and I believe hunting qualifies as such.
Without naming anyone, some of the individuals in that picture with me are more deeply involved in various conservation and education organizations than anyone one else I know. Those same people are also the most skilled and most responsible hunters I know.
Many people comment that hunting is acceptable if it is a survival situation but if you have no experience with hunting then your chance of surviving by hunting is terribly slim. Even if you were successful at cleanly killing an animal, then what? You need to have the proper skills and experience to be able to process that animal.
I'm not concerned about other people's opinions on hunting because I was raised and taught by extremely responsible hunters. One thing I will say is that the deer I shot stood a much better chance than the cow, chicken or pig you may have had for dinner last night. At least I stared my dinner in the eye first.
Finally, I found it quite funny that the person who made the original comment has a profile picture of him fishing! Guess he only cares about the furry animals, to hell with the fish.
I was later reminded by a friend that many species that are on the brink of extinction benefit greatly from the revenue generated by the sales of hunting tags and licenses. He stated that the Eastern Wild Turkey was the perfect example of this. Many people wrote that it was much nicer to the animals to go out and hunt for your food than to rely on some unseen people to kill animals by the hundreds and package them up for the supermarket so society doesn't have to face up to any cruelty. I honestly hadn't put much thought into the opinions of others on the subject and didn't mean any offense with my pictures. I am aware that there are probably many people out there who give hunting a bad name but I had been raised around hunting so many years ago at the camp, was taught the responsibility that accompanies hunting and I am completely proud of the skills and experiences that hunting has provided me with. I feel hunting deserves to be a part of Trails and Tamaracks and hope that I can teach people to be responsible about such things instead of making them feel like they need to pick sides of a needless argument.
The bottom line after all the fighting about morality is over is that hunting isn't an activity that everyone needs to learn. Anyone who does learn to hunt should always treat the activity with the utmost respect and exercise the highest safety precautions. I have always just assumed that using and eating what you kill is just part of hunting and would never condone hunting just for the thrill of it. Stay within the law and don't harvest more than you are allowed. Don't ever mix alcohol or drugs with firearms and always be respectful of the public and they're views. If these simple rules are followed maybe hunters can be respected by the general public and instead of feelings being hurt, imaginations can be inspired.
By David Richardson
Once the warm days of summer have ended and winter draws ever nearer my thoughts usually turn to ski hills and snowshoe trails but sometimes it's a long wait for that nice layer of snow. That's when a love of nature and adventure combined with a little technology leads me to the ever more popular pastime of geocaching. For anyone who isn't sure what geocaching is the best description I've heard is "a worldwide, high-tech scavenger hunt". There are over 5 million geocachers and almost 2 million caches hidden all over the world for anyone with a GPS to find. There are even caches hidden under the water for scuba divers to find. You probably pass by several caches just going to work or taking the dog for a walk without even knowing they exist. Anyone looking for a year round hobby that will get them outside and visiting new areas while having a bit of fun should definitely try out geocaching.
Caches can vary a great deal but the simplest form is a small watertight container that has a logbook for others to sign once it has been found. Some caches contain trade goods such as small toys or souvenirs. The rule with these caches is if you take something you must leave something. Other caches can start with one set of coordinates that lead to another set of coordinates and so on, and so on, or ask you trivia questions until the final cache is found. There are even trackables which are objects that get transported from geocache to geocache by the people who find them and then can be followed by entering a serial number on the appropriate geocaching website. Some cache coordinates are not hidden objects but are meant to take you to a particular spot where you can experience a spectacular view, learn about the forces of nature and our planet or learn a bit about history. With such a huge variety of things to find out there it would be hard to run out of things to do.
Some could argue that having so many geocaches hidden all over the world is just another form of litter but if the people who hide them take responsibility for maintaining them and removing them when they no longer want to maintain them then littering will never be a factor. Some geocachers have adopted a "cache in, trash out" policy and clean up the areas they visit so they can be enjoyed by others. This idea of cleaning up should be followed by everyone who visits our natural areas. Geocachers are very careful not to let non-geocachers see where caches are hidden so you have to have a little respect for the activity before being able to find them. An archeologist friend of mine told me that they frequently find geocaches while working and there is usually a note inside explaining what it is and why it's hidden there so the archeologists sign the log book and put it back as if they were just another geocacher. I actually had a woman find a Trails and Tamaracks cache by accident and email me to say she was going to become a geocacher because it seemed like such a fun idea.
Geocaching is free and simple. All that is necessary is a GPS device or a GPS enabled mobile phone and access to websites like www.geocaching.com or www.opencaching.com to get the proper coordinates. It's the perfect pastime while you're waiting for the seasons to change or just to add a new element to your weekend stroll. Always remember to respect the game, respect the environment and have fun filled adventures.
Holidays in Canada
By David Richardson
The holidays are here and the stores are busy with people buying last minute gifts for everyone close to them. When some people think of Christmas they think of the masses of people pushing their way through the checkout lines and fighting their way through traffic trying to get to their families to finally relax for a day or two.
In this country there are other feelings that surround the holidays. Canada has got to be the best country in the world to spend Christmas and New Years in. We are a wintery country and we have learned to make the best of our winter weather no matter what. The holidays mark the beginning of our winter adventures. There is a magical feeling when you head to the cottage or to another family members home and wake to see the snow floating down in the morning while you enjoy your coffee or hot chocolate. The land carpeted in white and the birds and animals frolicking in this new landscape. Of course family and loved ones are always a big part of the holidays and visiting for drinks and big turkey dinners fills our emotions with bliss.
Even if you stay in the city for Christmas inspiration for winter can be found in the new pair of skis, skates or snowshoes you unwrap on Christmas morning or even just turning on the television to watch the Canada Juniors try to conquer hockey across the world. The joy of winter can also be found in the chores of getting the snowmobiles ready for that long ride through the wilderness or across one of the lakes that are all around us. The thought of our vast lakes also brings ice fishing to mind. Even if the weather hasn't been cold enough to get out after New Year's Eve we know it won't be long before we can go after the big one once more. Being Canadian means knowing how to deal with the unpredictable weather and several people will keep their aluminum boat near the dock just in case there isn't any ice for their hut on New Year's Day.
The ski hills get ready to accept the masses looking for that boost of adrenalin while rushing down a snowy hill on their skis or snowboards. Conservation areas and parks come alive with people trying out their cross country skis or snowshoes. Children seem impervious to the cold as they spend hours outside building snowmen or snow forts to throw their snowballs from. People all across the country can be seen shoveling off rinks on lakes and ponds for the many heated hockey games that will take place this winter. Tobogganers take to the outdoors looking for that perfect big and fast hill. It is undeniable that Canadians love their winters and go to great lengths to find adventure in a cold and snowy world. The holidays signify the beginning of another year of wonders and outdoor experiences and it all starts with our winter.
Adventure is all around us in this magnificent country and we will go out and find it simply because this is Canada, and we are Canadian. From all of us at Trails and Tamaracks, Happy Holidays Canada!