The great lakes are behind me. That thin blue line that marks a distant, invisible horizon is now absent, replaced by the enclosed feeling of Eastern Ontario’s rivers. Gone are the large swells and caribou and endless, uninhabited shorelines. I am now in the land of cottages, 3g service, seadoos and motorboats.
It was an interesting phenomenon at first; being closer to people yet travelling alone makes one feel more lonely than when no one is around. The fact that I could get cell service almost everywhere left me in a wierd state of quasi-connectedness. I spent my days passing couples and families at their cottages, enjoying each other’s company as I paddled by and have had many an opportunity to perfect the boater wave, as boats seem to whiz by me on a regular basis.
Approaching Little Current, I saw two people sitting on a dock attempting to touch up an old model lighthouse with what appeared to be white rust paint and a can of red spraypaint. Two dogs sat beside them and from the looks of the red and white in their fur, they were actively participating.
It is always tough to intrude but I decided to say hello, tell them about my trip and ask if they knew anywhere in the area where there was a place to camp. Their reply was “I’m not sure, but would you like a beer?” Well, after a long day on the water, how could I refuse? I ended up staying for a beer or four which soon turned into an invitation for dinner, the hottest sauna I have ever experienced, a fireworks display and a bonfire. All of this from people who, only hours before, I had never met. It filled part of the trip for me that was missing, and that is what I want to try and clumsily express-how this trip has been fueled by the beautiful hospitality of strangers.
The next morning I felt like I wanted to give back in some way, so I decided to do the only thing I could think of- try and catch breakfast. Luck was with me, and within twenty minutes I was waking people up excited waving around what probably will be the fish of this trip-a steelhead that must have been pushing ten pounds. Kyle scrounged up some cedar shingles and we had a brunch of champions-planked steelhead on the barbeque with bacon eggs and rum.
It was hard to leave, as they were staying another night and extended the opportunity for me to do the same. At three o’clock, my hangover had finally started to wane so I packed up and paddled away, laughing at the never ending stream of goodbyes that carried out over the water and bolstered by the past 24 hours of cottage life. Soon enough they zoomed past me in their boat, doing donuts around my kayak, laughing and taking pictures.
Since then I have been more prone to stop in and say hello to people along the way. I have learned that I sometimes create negative scenarios in my head that keeps me from approaching people I don’t know. With that realization, I have challenged myself to do it anyways and it has been rewarding. It has become fun to share my story with people. The most common reaction I get is “Wow, I wish I could do a trip like that.” To that I respond that you can. Anyone can. This trip arose out of an idea that I forced into reality by vocalizing it. Your adventure can and will happen the same way. Tell someone you are going to do something you really want to do. Then tell someone else. Eventually a support system builds around you to the point where it become impossible NOT to do it. You will be amazed by the support that you will receive from those around you and as I have found out, from people along the way.
One of this journey’s biggest goals was to remove that barrier of glass and metal that can isolate us much of the time travelling. The removal of that barrier has help foster connections that I did not even see coming and I believe makes traveling more rewarding.
I am also starting to notice the lack of detail planning I have done for this trip, as little hiccups arise along the way. Fortunately these hiccups have turned into the highlights of my trip. Whether it was dragging a fully laden sea kayak up what I should have known was a dry channel on the French River or realizing that at seven o’clock at night in North Bay I had no idea where I was going to stay, sometimes not knowing is better than knowing. Maybe it is in those moments of not knowing, that the true spirit of adventure is hiding, waiting to be found.
To those who have been there along the way with showers, beds, beer and food, thank you.
Yours in adventure,