Elora Gorge-ous

I had never heard of it before, but in late June a group of food-lovers got together to eat a delicious meal of ribs, mashed potatoes and coleslaw. We ate, drank and merrily conversed about all sorts of things. Eventually one person brought up that we should plan some day trips out of the city, and we quickly compared calendars and penciled in a bunch of dates.

And so in early July, I met up with four lads to go tubing at the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. I had no idea what to expect, but it involved water, sunshine and nature. How could it be anything but good? I didn’t bring a GoPro, nor did I bring the waterproof case for my phone so I wasn’t able to take pictures and even better? It was like going camping all over again: being disconnected. I was grateful for the opportunity to be offline for the day.

We got there just in time too; just before noon. The line-up was enormous. By the time we were renting our gear, they had to put a call out that there were only 20 tubes left1. We took the big yellow school bus shuttle bus up to the top of the hill, and carried our tubes the rest of the way to the launch pad. The website had warned us not to wear flip-flops, and I didn’t want to wear shoes so I went barefoot – a decision I would not make again. Rocks are sharp, and they get really hot in the sun. The more you know.

I didn’t think about it until it was too late, but I could have strapped my flipflops onto the life vest I was required to wear. We walked along the gravel roads two more times after the first time. Yes, the ride down the river is absolutely worth it.

The first time we went down, once we had gotten through the roughest water, we formed a 9-person-circle; a community whereby we kept each other safe, from bum surprises or drifting into the side and getting stuck. We speculated as to who we would sacrifice should we encounter more rough water. We managed to stay together for quite some time. The second and third times down, there were only five of us and we tried to recreate the community but it just wasn’t the same. So we would alternate between trios. I was also part of a trio… or a couple. I guess I didn’t like going down the river alone2.

We eventually got hungry, so we dried ourselves, changed and drove into town for some pizza and ice cream. The pizza was planned, the ice cream was purely my bad3 influence. After that, we drove over to the Quarry to go swimming and jump off cliffs. I had never jump off cliffs when I was a kid. They didn’t have such things in Dubai. If they did, I didn’t know about it and so I never got to go.

It was exhilarating. I’m not even a strong swimmer, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying the adrenaline rush and the satisfaction of knowing you said fuck you to your fears. I actually surprised myself; not only did I manage to jump 3 or 4 times but I swam every single time and only started to feel like I was too tired to swim on the 4th go around4.

As the sun continued to descend, it only began to get colder and colder… and soon there were only two of us playing in the water so we called it. The drive home was a little more mellow than the drive out, but the silences were satisfying.

I am so grateful I got to experience another mini-get-away in nature so soon after coming back from my 5 day camping adventure or I might have gone into withdrawals. There’s talk of doing another day trip with the same group in August and I honestly can’t wait to see what kind of trouble we get ourselves into next.

If you’ve never been to Elora Gorge, you really should consider taking a trip out. Remember though, go with no expectations and you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

Footnotes:
  1. and there were at least 30 people in line behind us[]
  2. I would have happily gone down alone but I often ended up with someone[]
  3. or good[]
  4. trust me, it’s an accomplishment[]

Back to Life, Back to Reality

There was zero cell reception in Algonquin. It was delicious. I swear I didn’t want to come back. Our last night there, we got some pretty heavy rainfall and I can likely attribute my inability to sleep that night to the rain and the humidity but I think another culprit was simply the fact that I simply didn’t want our camping trip to end. I had been doing well at managing my stress levels before I went away, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I was forced to really disconnect that I realized just how badly I was failing at it. The night I returned, and the morning after were the most productive I have been in a very long time. I am also surprised to learn that I had made a decision about something really important without actively thinking about it too much. [vagueness] Of course I’m terrified at the thought of informing the person this decision pertains to, but it’s something I need and I know that they would be the first to encourage me to take care of numero uno1. [/end vagueness]

This guy; he loves that water, and we love him. So much.

My family and I are getting really good at this camping thing too. It has been five years so I guess we’ve learned a thing or two. Mind you, the night it rained I don’t know why we thought we would be okay leaving our coolers in the food tent, stacked and seemingly-secure. We were wrong. As I was lying in bed, unable to sleep2 I heard a noise that sounded like something trying to get into either the middle or the bottom cooler. I grabbed my flash-light and shone it into the food tent through a meshed window in our tent. I couldn’t see very well, but I definitely saw eyes. I put on my pants, sweater, socks and shoes, grabbed my flashlight and angrily stomped towards them. I finally saw that they were raccoons when I stepped out of the tent, which was a few metres away from our tent. I yelled, ‘get out!’ but only once. I didn’t want to yell more than that as it was almost 1am. By the time I reached the food tent, they were gone. I tried to wake up my snoring father but was unsuccessful, so I put everything into the car myself. It wasn’t difficult, I was merely thinking it would be faster with two people.

You would think I’d be able to sleep after coming down from that adrenaline rush, but I didn’t actually fall asleep for another hour. Waking up 6 hours later wasn’t as difficult as you might think either. It was needed though, we were only packed and driving out of the campsite right on time3.

Loading the canoe on our car so we can go to the bigger lake, and get more exercise.

Stargazing, smelling like campfire, playing with fire, canoeing, swimming in clear4 lake water, walking/running/playing with Drogo5, playing badminton with my Dad, cooking our dinners, making bbq sauce from random sauce packets/and other ingredients we had instead of buying some, and enjoying yummy coffee every morning6 were some of the highlights of this camping trip7. The one that I imagine will be unique to this year’s trip was that we got to hang out with so much wildlife – all of the chipmunks8, blue jays, brewer’s blackbirds, and fireflies9.

I wasn’t able to catch as many sunsets nor sunrises10 at this campsite, and since we decided against renting or bringing bikes this year and it was difficult for me to drive either car11, but it was still one of the most wonderful trips I could have ever asked to go on this year. I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to go on at least two more trips this year. Another thing I would definitely have changed was how close we were to Highway 60 (which goes through Algonquin), as the sound of cars whizzing by was a mild distraction. Not enough of a distraction to make a huge difference but the absence of that sound would have been made exponential improvement on the quality of our trip. Next time.

Silent Lake Provincial Park (SLPP) may just have some competition as far as the Sy Family’s favourite park12. I’d be curious to stay at some of the other campgrounds to canoe and swim in those lakes, so we might just have to put our original plan of alternating between a new campsite and SLPP until we’ve completely explored Algonquin. We’ll see.

I’ve only been back for 3 days13, and I’ve already lost a little of the zen I found. It’s related to something I don’t have complete control over14, and is something I simply have to deal with but I do enjoy that it’s easier to let things go, breathe and focus on the parts of my life that do bring me joy.

Including being able to go away on a day trip to Elora Gorge with some awesome people. I’ll have to save that story for next time though.

We ate so well...
We ate so well…
And so did the chipmunks #allthepeanuts
And so did the chipmunks #allthepeanuts15
That zapper that my brother is holding saved us from so many deer flies
That zapper that my brother is holding saved us from so many deer flies
Epic walks with the best dog ever
Epic walks with the best dog ever
Can you spot his cute butt?
Can you spot his cute butt?16
Footnotes:
  1. ME![]
  2. but not stressing about it – thankfully[]
  3. before 2pm[]
  4. -ish[]
  5. my brother’s dog, a black lab/german shepherd/akita mix[]
  6. thanks to a friend who loaned me his aeropress[]
  7. and most camping trips[]
  8. just kidding, there only were 5 or 6[]
  9. my favourite![]
  10. even though I was certainly up early enough some days[]
  11. one had a trailer stuck to it, and the other has standard transmission – which I don’t know how to drive yet[]
  12. but Silent Lake will always have a special place in my heart[]
  13. 4 if you count today[]
  14. because it involves someone else[]
  15. just look at Drogo (our dog) being a good boy and leaving the chipmunk alone[]
  16. still talking about the dog[]

A mini-getaway

Vicky and I got out of the city a little later than I had planned, but I made the decision not to let it bother me. As soon as we were on the road, nothing else mattered; how long the journey took1, and what we encountered along the way were all part of the vacation now. There was quite a bit of traffic heading up, but we remained in good spirits the whole way through. We hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks so had lots to catch up on.

Once we arrived we relaxed with a cocktail2 on the dock; just basking in the fresh air, the sound of the birds, their neighbour’s kids going up and down their water-slide, the warmth of the sun and the ever-so-calm water in front of us. We enjoyed a lovely dinner, then spent some quality time in front of the fire3.

The woods beside the cottage

We are women, we make fire ;)

Geese and goslings swimming along during sunset

When we got up the next morning, it was gloomy and cold; I started out by reading my book. I sketched. I listened to my new audio-book. I grilled my lunch. Her parents joined us later in the afternoon, and we started a crossword together4. Before dinner, we went for a short-hike and got back just before the rain started up again. After dinner, we played card games. They taught me bridge, I taught them how to play asshole.

Salmon cakes made by the ever-talented Victoria Murdoch

I got up fairly early the next morning in an attempt to get back into the city at a decent time5, though I didn’t get to do everything that I had wanted to do before I arrived at my parents’ house to prepare for our camping trip.

I left my cellphone on airplane mode most of the time while I was at the cottage; for a few reasons: I didn’t want to be tempted to continually check all-of-the-things, and I didn’t want our serenity to be interrupted by messages. I would check once before bed for any urgent messages, but thankfully there was no fires that needed dousing.

More wildlife sightings: Bambi!

Thus marks the end of the relaxing part of my vacation. I hope to make the next five days more grueling than the days that I go to the gym. I have some serious making up to do6! I seriously need to let off some steam.

I had some weird dreams at the cottage, and I am generally feeling all sorts of emotional numbness despite being in some very confusing situations lately. I do have a lot of things to think about, and perhaps even a very important decision to make so maybe I really just need some one-on-one time with nature.

I’ve been tempted to document my adventures on social media like everyone else does, but you know what? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

See you on the other side7.

Footnotes:
  1. it took us under 4 hours[]
  2. white wine spritzer please![]
  3. gosh i love smelling like campfire[]
  4. her Mom started it, we joined in[]
  5. I succeeded[]
  6. I haven’t been to the gym in 11 days at this point![]
  7. of this week – hehe[]

A week away from the city

For the last five years my family and I have been camping in various Ontario Parks. We’ve been to Awenda, Silent Lake, Quinte, Sibbald Point and this year we’re checking out Algonquin. I can’t speak for my family, but I look forward to it every year. We book our campsite in February just to make sure we get a good site. Our favourite park is Silent Lake, but we’ve agreed to try a different park every other year. What’s even better is that we have the luxury of checking in on a Sunday, and checking out on a Thursday so we can avoid the crowds.

I feel so blessed though because not only am I getting a chance to go camping for 5 days/4 nights, I’m also going to a friend’s cottage for a couple of nights. A cottage that is honestly just so good for my soul. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time on my balcony, and it’s bee lovely but getting out of the city is incomparable.

I have a few books that I hope to bring with me. I’ll also be bringing my notebook, and I hope to be able to get back into sketching. I really need to get working on finalizing the sketch of my second tattoo after all. Maybe I’ll finally have it this summer.

No matter what happens while I’m away from the city, I am extremely grateful for my upcoming week being able to be one with nature for almost 7 straight days.