Author Archives: reddrgn056

All Who Wander Are Not Lost in #MywildCanada

I am not Canadian.  I am not from Canada, nor do I have any family (by blood) from or in Canada.  I am an American, born and raised, and I currently live in the State of West Virginia.  So what am I doing in #MywildCanada?  Well, Canada holds a special place in my heart, and whether it’s a long story or short as to why depends on you.

I have always been an outdoors girl.  Chasing bugs, catching frogs, rolling in the mud, and wading in the creeks was how I grew up.  As I got older, those antics formalized into hiking, biking, fishing, and skiing because they immersed me in the natural world.  My outdoor activities resulted in a serious interest in general biology/ecology and a more focused passion for zoology and botany, because it allowed me to better understand the things I saw while doing the things I did.  Photography joined my mix of interests because I not only wanted non-destructive keepsakes for myself, but to share what I saw and learned with others.

Of course, along the way the “real world” kicked in.  I was on my own with my fiancé right out of college and we had education debts to deal with and bills to pay.  We moved away from our home towns to a brand new area to find employment.  We had so much to learn, and while it was exciting and we have no regrets, our mutual passion for the outdoors had to take a back seat.  That back seat was meant to be a temporary position, of course, but you know what they say about good intentions.  Over the next few years, that back seat moved deeper and deeper into the rear until it fell right off of the back burner.  Work, bills, overtime, making ends meet, fixing the car, the daily grind, on and on and on.  You know the routine, because you have probably either been there, are there, or have heard it all before.  We got into a rut so deep that we would lose entire seasons; “It’s December already?  Didn’t autumn just start?!”  We didn’t even realize how miserable we were in that situation until we were out of it, hindsight being 20/20.  So, how did we get out of it?  Well, one thing that I did not mention is that on the day my fiancé became my husband, we met a Canadian.

He showed up at our wedding.  He was the first one to arrive (my fiancé and I were second and third!) at the woodland Pennsylvania State Park we had chosen for the occasion, and it was the first time that we met him in person.  This was not quite out-of-the-blue, as I had exchange some messages with him on an Internet art forum before then, ironically about fishing, and had told him he was invited to the wedding at some point.  I honestly didn’t actually expect him to show up, though.  I had told my husband I had invited him, but he had thought the same as me; “So far away, barely know him, won’t see him.”  Our families certainly had no idea there was even a potential for any presence that they would not already know.  Remembering the introductions and explanations that went on that day were priceless (in a good way), and still make me smile to recall!  The last of the ice breaking between him and all of our other guests was when he locked his keys in his vehicle and it became a team effort with a coat hangar to get the door open.  That Canadian deciding to take the 10.5 hour drive to the wedding of people he had little contact with and never met was one of the most unique gifts we received that day, and it came with a bonus, an invite for a fishing adventure north of the border.

We had not fished in years at this point, so of course!  It was arranged (muskie hunting and camping along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers for a week).  We didn’t catch a dozen fish between us throughout the whole trip, but the amount of fun we had was priceless!  And so once a year or so, he’d pull us out of our rut and we’d spend a few days to a week in the woods and wilds of Canada, rarely staying in or near the more populous areas any longer than the speed limit of a road required, and remaining in the middle of a lake when circumstances differed.  Each trip was like a piece of heaven, but we always returned home and promptly climbed back into our rut.  Then there was a long weekend that he came and spent on our home turf.

We didn’t go fishing with him then.  We had lost all of our fishing equipment in a home break in that occurred right after we bought our house.  We did, however, spend every one of those days outdoors.  We hiked, we took a motorcycle trip, we cooked out, we had a blast!  We did it all at locations within 1-2 hours of our home.  I think that was the turning point in our thought processes about “life” and “living” and how we did it, because we started to realize that we could do all of that “fun stuff” that we did in Canada at home, too.  We also came to fully comprehend just how miserable our jobs and current lifestyle were making us.  We started taking steps to change it.

The next time we took a fishing trip to Canada, our friend gave us a set of fishing combos (that we still have and still use).  The trip after that we got on a good muskie bite in the Kawarthas (I even caught my first 50-incher), and then our pace down the road of change really started to pick up speed.  We geared up for muskie fishing at home, got a canoe, and spent just about every drop of free time we had learning our own waterways and our fish.  If the winds were too strong or the water was frozen over, we would hike instead, but unless we were sick, injured, or the weather absolutely prevented it, we were outside, and we were happy.

You might think this was just a re-emergence of an old passion for the outdoors, but it went beyond that.  We got more serious, and more educated about more than just fishing and paddling.  It was like a snowball rolling downhill, getting bigger and more expansive, and the effect had us pursuing our hunger for self-sufficiency and outdoor survival skills beyond the talk and speculation we had always stopped at before.  We are still continuing down that path, to improve, to learn, to grow, to understand our natural surroundings, and to be outdoors as much as possible.  We also still take our trips north to see our friend (and he comes south to see us), too.  And no matter which side of the border our rendezvous takes place, we still have a blast, always end up with a story or two to tell and laugh over, and we never forget that that snowball started rolling in #MywildCanada.