A couple of weeks ago, when I returned home from New Brunswick… home from home, you might say… Hubby and I packed the truck and headed for the hills, and the valleys, of the Bonnechere River. We have been making this fall camping trip for many years. Getting away from the city… or near city… where we live. Getting out in the bush, or as close as we can get to the bush with our truck and tent trailer. Soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. And sometimes the rain. But let’s not go there.
On the road to Bonnechere
Fall camping is the very best of the best of wilderness experiences, as far as I’m concerned. Crisp mornings and warm sunshine-y afternoons. Dusk coming early. Sitting around the campfire after supper, cradling a glass of wine, and watching sparks disappear up into the night sky. Makes me all calm just thinking about it.
This year we went in search of new places to hike and walk. We drove up Turner’s Road so I could take my requisite shot of the old bridge pilings on the Little Bonnechere River.
Little Bonnechere River
Then we hiked the trail up to beautiful Whispering Winds Lookout on the edge of Algonquin Park. Lovely views from here. And surprisingly none of the fall colour we saw everywhere else.
View from Whispering Winds Lookout
Well, except for a few bushes. And us. Fall is hunting season in these parts. Smart walkers and paddlers want to be easily seen. You can’t miss that shirt I’m wearing. Visible from a half kilometre away I’d say, wouldn’t you?
Make sure you can see and be seen during hunting season
The next day we tossed the canoe on the truck. Ha. Hubby tossed. I stood by and offered moral support. Then we drove up into Algonquin Park, to catch the last day of the fishing season. No pun intended.
The dirt road into Algonquin Park
Not too many people seem to fish this part of the Bonnechere River. Probably because once you put the canoe in the water and paddle for five minutes you reach a boggy area something like this. And it can be tricky to find, and then to follow, the main channel of the river.
View of a bog from the highway
This year we encountered evidence that beavers have been very busy since we were last here. Quite often the dams are small enough that we can pull the canoe over them. But this time we had to make a sluiceway to be able to get through. Hubby loves this. A little adversity makes the fishing all the more satisfactory.
Me. I’m just taking the pictures. And the video. And pulling off my socks in preparation for getting into the water. Unsurprisingly, I have no pictures of me balancing on the top of the dam, ankle deep in water, as Hubby pulls the canoe up and over the top. Ah. Ah. Ahhhh. I will say that it was a pinch chilly on the bare ankles.
But the reward for our hard work was that there were brook trout to be had. We caught just enough fish for our evening meal, and after that we just paddled, and enjoyed the day. Two of these babies were caught by moi. As you can see, I like to catch ’em, and eat ’em… but I’m not fond of holding them close. They are a bit smelly.
Brook trout for supper tonight
On one of our camping days the sky was overcast, and it rained off and on all day. So we ventured into nearby Barry’s Bay and were pleased to find that this was the weekend for the local Madawaska Valley Artist’s Studio Tour. We picked up a map at the Visitor’s Centre in the old railway station and plotted our route, wending our way along the back roads.
We visited several studios, but by far my favourite was Joyce Burkholders’ studio, in the village of Wilno. I love Joyce’s work. She’s a “wilderness artist,” and certainly the bold colours of her paintings brilliantly depict the Canadian bush, in particular Algonquin Park. You can check out her website here. Joyce is a lovely person to chat to, and I found out that she also gives painting workshops. Ah, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But, as I explained to Joyce, I’m just re-learning to draw at the moment, a long ways from trying to paint. Still… maybe one day.
Looking at Joyce’s work makes me feel like I’m in Algonquin Park. I’m sure I’ve driven down that dusty road, or paddled up that stream in the mist under those skeletal jack pines.
There’s just something so restorative about being in the wilderness. Even if only for a few hours. And apparently science is just catching on to that fact. It’s no surprise that being out in nature helps us emotionally. And physically. Lowers blood pressure, decreases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and even helps lower resting heart rates. But in the past few years studies have shown that being out in nature, among the trees, also helps increase the number of cells in our bodies which kill bacteria and viruses etc. “Forest bathing” they’re calling it now in Japan.
We call it wandering in the wilderness. Being able to breath deeply. And talk to each other without interruptions. We think of it as getting back bits of ourselves that we lose in the hustle and bustle of everyday urban living. Good for the body and for the soul.
This is my view from the bow of our canoe as we make our way through the bog on the Bonnechere River. You can hear the splash of Hubby’s paddle in the water and the sound of it knocking gently on the gunnel of the canoe.
And nothing else.
Now… tell me that you didn’t find that relaxing.
So what about you, friends? Do you like to get out in the wilderness? How do you recapture the balance in your life when urban living takes it toll?
High Heels in the Wilderness is for women like me. Women who love clothes. And books. Who dream of travelling to amazing places. Who want to explore their own lives, and their own potential, now that they aren't twenty (or even forty) anymore.