A Word of Encouragement

By Auntie Lisa

Before I start touting my back-country expertise, I have a confession to make: Before I met Dave, I had hardly camped. At all. I had been on one canoe trip as a child that had enough mildly-traumatizing elements to discourage me from wanting to repeat the experience. I had slept in a few tents, but either the tent was in someone's back yard or in a well-furnished campground. The few times that as an adult I joined my friends for a camping trip in a campground I wasn't even involved in planning the food or thinking through any of the logistics of the gear or equipment.

My first back-country canoe trip was the trip on which Dave proposed. It was on the Thanksgiving long-weekend and, to my disbelief, we woke up to snow outside of our tent in the morning! I refused to get out. It was so cold out there! The wind was howling and I really could not conceive of what we would possibly do all day out in that cold. And so my future husband changed his romantic plans (of which I was, of course, unaware) and settled for proposing to me inside the tent. The next day it was cold again with blustery winds as we took down our camp. When the wind started to slow down, all of the other experienced campers agreed that we should get into the boats while the air was calm. The sun came out as we paddled home and I still remember just how gorgeous the colourful fall trees looked when blanketed with a shimmering layer of snow.

My outdoor education continued on our honeymoon on which Dave signed us up for tandem white-water canoeing lessons. None of the skills involved came naturally to me, but one thing about tandem canoeing is that it serves very well as a microcosm for your marriage. Communication is vitally important, as are forgiveness for mistakes and compensating for each others' weaknesses (in this case, mine more than Dave's). In the end I was glad that we had done it. It was something fun that we could do together and I felt that we had truly gained some skills at the course's completion.

Our years in northern Alberta involved mostly river-tripping. We really had a lot of fun together practicing the skills we learned and enjoying the beautiful scenery as well as the company of good friends. The logistics of river-tripping with a baby proved too difficult when our first child came along, and so she was 18 months when we first took her canoeing around a lake. Upon returning to Ontario, though, we went on our first back-country lake trip with a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old and have been canoeing every summer since.

I love my husband; I love his family; and I love the family we have created together. Still, if I am honest, I will admit that my love for back-country camping has not yet been fully established. When we get out there, my husband and children all come to life, but I still feel like I might be dying just a little. Still, I press on because I see what a benefit it is for my children to grow up exploring the world as it truly is. When they are adults they will have the experience of judging weather patterns without checking the Weather Network, the skills of surviving in the wilderness with only the essential tools and the knowledge of how to prepare themselves to do so. Also, every year I acquire new skills and have become increasingly confident out there. I have learned many tricks for packing efficiently, preparing meals and making ourselves comfortable in the outdoors and am looking forward to sharing them with you!

Often when I tell people about our trips they immediately give reasons why they could never do the same. They say things like, "Yeah, but, you're one of those really outdoorsy people!" After which I try to explain that "Nooooooo, I am not one of those really outdoorsy people!" The reality is that if I can do it, anyone can. It is our sincere hope that you find knowledge and encouragement through this web site to equip you to get out with your families to enjoy what nature has to offer!