Getting started

Don't expect words of wisdom or earth shattering revelations, just my thoughts and observations about living in Ottawa, being a public servant and trying to live life every day to its fullest

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The camping trip of errors, a learning opportunity? There is a secret lake, I can't tell you were it is. It is crystal clear and the fish are friendly, there are beautiful camp sites and no booking fees. I can get there in less than three hours and then just dive into the warm waters or watch the sun set and loons play. At least, that was supposed to be what it was like ...

Growing up we didn't camp. I was a bathrobe on the back of the door kinda gal, sometimes we over nighted on our sail boat, which was my definition of hell, and there are always bugs, you are always sticky from sea water and it was a whole 48hours of no privacy with my parents. Now I am in Canada, and while I miss the ocean - I love to camp. Who knew? I am becoming a better and better camper and can tend a fire with the best of them, solo a canoe and prepare hassle-free gourmet meals on a camp-fire.

So this weekend, four of us strapped canoes to the top of two cars and drove to find this secret lake.

The thing with secret lakes is that the road is far less traveled. In fact, it was off-road for 3km, steep nasty climbs full of rocks and pot-holes, washer-board descents, tight and twisty - I felt like a rally driver. And then I missed the turning, probably doing another 1km  on the path even less traveled! Trees hung over the route and there was barely enough space for my little Civic to make it through. When I finally pull the most precarious 3-point turn of my life and found the slip-way, the canoe has slipped off the rack, scratching my roof and one wheel-well is not a very wheel-like shape, making strange sounds whenever the car moved up-and-down too much. Planning on taking the car in on Tuesday anyway - no biggie.

Unload vehicle, try and find a parking spot, and accidentally slip the front end into a sand pit! No biggie, I have dealt with worse in snow ... WRONG. Now the car is stuck. I pulled it up onto some hard-pack where my front wheels have some traction and decide to deal with it on Sunday, after all, it is a pretty good parking spot and there are almost no others. Sunday saw me digging the front wheel out of an even bigger sand trap when our efforts to extract my poor Civic went array. The entire nose ended up buried and there was nothing I could use to gain traction - especially since the nose of the car was pointed down and the "road" was up a steep incline.

Other issues this weekend, apart from my only pair of shoes breaking and having to spend the better part of 24hours barefoot around the camp-site? Well, turns out the secret lake is not so secret and by around 3pm on Saturday afternoon people where circling our little island looking for spots. We had a huge spot for the two tents, and so by 5pm, we had to "invite" one of the way-ward groups to set-up shop: 14 22year-olds with a guitar and enough alcohol to start their own shop. Some negotiating was done and for the most part they left us alone and thanks to a wind on Saturday night, they were "quiet" (apart from repeating renditions of "Zombie" by the Cranberries ... where these kids even alive when that single was released?)

But lots went right! Our site was spectacular. My tent was on a little point so both vestibules overlooked lake, we had great jumping rocks right off our site and a rope-swing off a tree where we spent hours flying through the air out into the lake. We only had bugs one night, and they were not vicious, there was a turtle checking things out yesterday morning and this morning during my morning skinny-dip, fish were nibbling my toes! The company was wonderful, the food plentiful, the loons friendly and the star numerous, and apart from worrying about my car on-and-off all weekend, it was a peaceful and relaxing two nights.

I learned a lot about not worrying about something you have no control over. Ensuring that I left the issues with the vehicle behind me to focus on not focusing was not easy. But I did it, and something told me it would be OK. It was ... after an hour of digging and my three camping buddies standing around watching, a truck finally came by - he happened to have tow-rope and after he unloaded, pulled me out. It took mere seconds. Next time I hit Canadian Tire, I will be purchasing some stuff for the scratches on my roof and a tow-rope! Lesson learned!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A water baby -  I love water. Something about being completely submerged in a large body of H2O rejuvenates me. In summer I try and just be in water and in winter I will take long hot baths, just to disengaged from everything for a while. Apart from the per chemistry of 60% of me actually being water - water gives me life. My parents associated me with water even before I was born - having met scuba diving, when my mother found out she was pregnant, she called me "Ting Hou" or "Goddess of the Ocean", and insisted that my name had the initials "T.H.".

I grew up around the ocean, and when I was small we had a sail boat and would explore the beaches, islands and coves around the South China Sea. At one point we lived less than a three minute walk from one of Hong Kong's largest beaches and I could spend hours dipping in and out of the water. There is a mystic about the ocean that lakes and rivers (no matter how high or fast) can match and nothing is nicer than falling asleep to the sounds of waves lapping a beach, or waking to the sound of storm crashes.

And now I live in land-locked Ontario ....

Late last night, after an evening rowing on the Ottawa river, I was biking home along the Rideau river. Zipping along in the almost darkness with the dampness in the air, brought on by sunset and the proximity to the river and the smell was fresh and sweet. There is something about the wonderful smell around lakes and rivers, the dampness in the air. The river was calm - mirror flat with only small ripples from where fish were coming up to feast on bugs. There was a stillness. I have learned to love fresh-water.

Ottawa is surrounded by lakes and rivers and many of them are swimable. On a hot summer Sunday morning, I can hop on my bike and be at the secret swimming spot in ten minutes. Here I leisurely drift around in the cool water for an hour either alone or with a friend. A short 45 minutes hike leads me to Meech lake, where there is a bench to watch the world go by and a wonderful sandy spot to enter the kale. There is something wonderful and refreshing about a quick dip in the cool and clear water around here and there is something even better about being able to get on a bike or hike home, without the stickiness of salt drying on my skin.

But I still prefer the ocean.