A half-remembered sound bite from the CBC news this morning has been bugging me all day. It was a snippet from David Suzuki's keynote at the Green Party leadership convention in Calgary this past weekend. I wish I could remember his phrasing, but the message was, if you want to be taken seriously, don't present yourslef as too granola. Crude paraphrasing, that. The message, though, is one that resonantes with me. I've always been an advocate of only asking people to step outside their box so far if I want to get anywhere.
However. I've never been all that happy about the over the top idealists that haven't done their homework or turned a critical lens on their own thinking. Now me, I happen to think that organic farming makes sense from every perspective, including the economic one, even though it will take essentially a paradigm shift before we as a mainstream society are prepared to accept that. But there are all these shiny young people who see organics as the saviour of so much evil - but their arguments are too often based on something they read in a magazine picked up at the health food store. Often, the same magazine that tries to sell you all sorts of potent supplements. The reasoning, to my mind, in much of this is about as sound as that behind the colon cleansing crap (pun fully intended) that was floating around (nothing intended there) a few years ago. The idea I believe in, the reasoning behind it, though, discredits the advocate and has the potential to discredit the idea by association. There is nothing I hate quite as much as seeing organic farms that allow the perpetuation of that 70s hippie stereotype: potheads, with lously looking crops sold at exorbitant prices by spaced out long-haired people in tie-dyed garb. Nothing wrong with pot or tie-dyed or long hair or being spaced out or even growing lousy looking crops, but they don't make much of a case for organics except to the "converted".
And yet. The over-the-top idealist element serves such a valuable purpose. First, there's the awareness raising, in the context of "no such thing as bad publicity" category. Though I'm not sure I agree with the statement itself, sometimes, this in-your-face activism gets people talking, and that can get them thinking. Furthermore, I've seen a few of these shiny people age and mellow - and contrary to another stereotype, the hippies didn't all turn into SUV-driving capitalist pigs and there are plenty who are making sound choices and quietly pursuing their own sort of advocacy. And finally, the activists of this ilk do exactly what they should be doing: they challenge complacency. For this, I am grateful.
But David Suzuki's statement rings true to me: there comes a time in every movement where you need to make it more difficult for people to dismiss you. I think the Green Party of Canada is at that stage.
Today, I took my car in for a recall. I'm still not used to driving a vehicle new enough to be under warranty recalls! My regular mechanic is as good as it gets and has on occasion served me cake, but still, I was enthralled with the free coffee at the VW dealership. And surprised at the complimentary car wash. However, when the little red jetta that could goes for its tune-up this week, it will return to its regular mechanic. Yes, it's the week of taking care of my car. I even vacuumed the inside on the weekend!
Ah, the weekend. I have become truly lame. I had plans to go to the McCoys with Sarka, but even at the time the plan was made I issued a proviso: I will cancel if the forecast turns sour. And, this being the "summer" of 2004, of course it did... so I stayed at home. My one thought as I sat inside, puttering away on a project while it poured and poured outside? I have done enough sitting under a tarp for the rest of this year. And, quite incidentally, I managed to get one project that's been hanging over my head for what seems like ever out of the way. It's easy to work on a weekend this year...
In between being all lame and diligent, though, I started plotting a Fred Eaglesmith-filled fall. There will be at least two concerts, if not three, for me! And, best of all, if things work out the way I want them to, I will get to go see Fred with my sister! It's only happened once before, at the Caledonia Fall Fair, but that night will remain in my memory as one of the most fun nights of my life. Here's to hoping for a repeat.
Speaking of my sister - thanks to the generosity of my brothers, she has been paddling Superior again despite the despicable theft of her kayak (as ranted about on this page a few weeks ago). I can't begin to tell you how happy it makes me that I come from the kind of family where siblings will pull together like this and fix such a stupid wrong. When I look at pictures Marlene has taken on Superior since she got the new boat, I get all warm and fuzzy. Plus, I think the CD Squall is a really great boat for her. Now I want to do a trip on Superior with her, but there's no way that can even be considered before next summer. Sigh.
And a few more rainy weekends, and this page may finally get the re-design I've been meaning to give it for months now... I did the farm journal back in May, and then I just ran out of time. One of these days...
(one of these days, I will surprise you all.)
On the way to the Mingan kayak adventure, we had to drive through much that had me pressing my nose to the window, wanting to explore more. Quebec is a whole new world for me: with the exception of some time spent poking around the Gaspe eight years ago, a few Gatineaus explorations on visits to Ottawa, and the occasional work forays to Montreal and Quebec City, I don't know it at all. Now, we were taking a path right through some of the most enticing countryside in Canada. Kid in a candy store applies, definitely.
The only way I could stand sticking to our schedule (here was our schedule: keep well ahead of Sam. Call him every hour or so with updates of where we were, to ensure that we were, in fact, well ahead of him) was to keep coming back to the thought that we will, after all, be coming back. We already had the next adventure planned: after the Mingan Archipelago kayaking trip, we would hike the Traversee de Charlevoix. I loved getting the "what are you doing on your vacation?" question; I would casually toss out "we're going to kayak for 200km, and then we'll hike for 100". It sounded so effortlessly hardcore, like, you know, that's nothing for us, we'll do all of that with smiles on our faces and not realize that we're actually doing stuff that most people never do.
But. Heh. Things never go as planned. The kayak trip turned out to be much, much less difficult than anticipated. But I wasn't upset by that, we were playing it safe, and the measure of a trip is not, after all, its difficulty. Besides, hiking 100 km with packs would be plenty difficult. Heh again.
We left Longue Pointe de Mingan on Sunday after lunch. We had a long way to drive before we could start goofing off again. We drove all the way to Saint Simeon, south of the Saguenay, before crashing in a motel whose ugliness was equaled only by the surliness of its proprietor. Oh, we goofed off a bit, somewhere north of Tadoussac we went out for dinner and wouldn't settle for road food. But there was no wandering on beaches or poking up to roads to Labrador. No, we had a *deadline*. We had to be in St. Urbain on Monday morning. And we needed to buy socks before then! But since this was the trip where Lee and Johanna managed to stay on or ahead of schedule (I'm still weirded out by this. Particularly by Lee: the man was *always* ready before I was. It stressed me out!), we presented ourselves to the Traversee de Charlevoix office at 10:30 a.m.
The weather was great - mix of sun and cloud, and warm. We got our maps, which - though just photocopies of topos with things drawn on them - included elevation profiles and notations on where you could get cell phone reception and drinking water and, for my geo-geek heart, elevation profiles for each day's hiking. The Traversee people were nice, which we particularly appreciated after the surly motel man, and they assured us that we would be the only ones in the shelters, and we would get medals when we finished the hike!
Well, the medals should have tipped me off. If you get a medal for it, it can't be all that great, now, can it, eh? But no, still flushed with getting there on time and it not raining, I faced the trail with unbridled optimism. Our packs were supposed to be light - after all, no tent! - but I took the "I know (my sandals, the rain jacket, long underwear...) is/are heavy, but I *want* it" too far - my pack, though not overly heavy, did not feel "light". We had six days plus a contingency day's worth of food, too. But, whatever, let's go!
The trail started out great. We were doing the first two days in one, since the first official day is only 3 km along a cottage access road. After that, it's 20 km of trail. We began the day hiking along a like, with cliffs across the way. I had visions of jumping off rocks into warm water at some point in the trip, and of course of scenic vistas from the top of said cliffs. So I merrily marched through the boreal forest (Lee also merrily marched, but much faster than I did - he waited for me every now and then. It's a style of hiking "together" that I much prefer to paces that don't match up). After a while of merrily marching, though, it occurred to me that, though I could see glimpses of the cliffs from time to time, I was really just slogging away below the peaks with nary a decent lookout. And the mosquitos were hungry. The citronella had not made the "light pack" cut. Sigh.
And then, Lee (bastard!) hardly ate anything for lunch, so eating didn't make my pack any lighter. And then we slogged some more, stopping only for short breaks to refill the water bottles. I for one was happy to see the 2 km and 1 km markers (they count down the distance to the next shelter for you). Except, just as we get to the 0 km marker (in theory), we hear the telltale bzzz-bzzzz-bzzzzt of a massive hydro corridor. And we're right under it. But no fear, *our* shelter (the "refuge", as opposed to the "chalet" - the Traversee maintains both types of shelter) ws another 1.4 km away! Not only that, but that 1.4 km was mostly swamp, including a beaver dam. The shelter itself was on a higher hump of land in the middle of the swamp. Our water source wasn't, it was a swampy bog. And the mosquitos were having a family reunion.
Ah, but none of this I would have minded if the day's hike had included more views and less hydro corridor. And if I could have walked into the shelter and flopped. As it was, it was occupied when we got there. Traversee snafu as per usual, I gather - the couple inside was also assured that they would be the only ones there. Not a big deal, they were nice, but it made the flopping part somewhat less natural. Turns out, though, that spending the evening talking with these two was the highlight of the trip, since they were so much fun. But...
...Lee had reached similar conclusions as I had about the ratio of slog:view. We concurred that we might as well put packs on and walk in circles through the back 40 of the farm, for all we were seeing. So we pulled out the maps, and really looked at the trail for the rest of the week. Conclusion: one day of views. Five days of boreal forest close-up inspection (Lee: "so, now that you've hiked for 100 km here, what do you think of the boreal forest?" "it's mixed"). Hydro corridor much of the way. Not only that, but the vast majority of "trail" is actually logging road and service road for the hydro corridor. Nice.
So. When you only have so much time off, do you want to spend it slogging without views? I was willing to do so if Lee wanted to, and I would have been in an okay mood about it. However, Lee is sane. He proposed backtracking. I wanted to hike out on the next access road, and get the Traversee people to shuttle the car. We decided to try and find a working cell phone (my Rogers phone gets no reception here, Lee has Bell Mobility but his battery was dead) and check out this option. To this end, we went to the nearby chalet, and got lucky. We left a message at the Traversee office, and off we stomped along more logging roads.
We got out, with perfect timing. We were on the lost side on the network of logging roads, and started down one road which felt *all wrong* to me. Never mind that I couldn't really have an innate sense of where we should be in a place I've never been, it just was. Lee humoured me, and I scored my big point of the day when the first car we encountered on the road that I wanted to take was a red jetta with two kayaks on it! Yippee, the slog was over.
But bailing on a trip you've been looking forward to requires a bit of reflection. We hadn't done our homework, no doubt we could have done a bit of research to find out about the logging road vs. trail, dense canopy vs. view and hydro corridor vs. backcountry feel issues. No doubt we could have continued, and knowing the sort of people we are, we would have enjoyed that too. Likely, the one day of great views that we didn't do would have been worth the weight of the pack and then some.
However. It's supposed to be fun. We would have had to work to make it fun. We've both done enough adventures that we didn't really need the sense of completion of finishing a trail we felt was a bit pointless (if you're hiking it, in August). There was much for us to do outside the woods (Lee's girlfriend has been nagging him about the front yard, I wanted to get to my garden). We'd been outside our lives for 11 days at that point, and we were still speaking to each other. No sense pushing it: we ended the vacation on a good note, and I for one have no regrets. We visited a couple of brew pubs, we ate some great food, we hung out with friends of mine in Kingston for the night, and we got home much earlier than expected. All good.
The Traversee de Charlevoix would be a fantastic cross country ski trail, and a fun mountain bike trail. The chalets and huts are charming log cabins with cute wood stoves and tables and benches and sleeping lofts. I could even see hiking this trail in the fall, when there are no bugs, some colours, and a less dense canopy. But, for us, in August, when we were already tired from our other trip, quitting when we did made sense. It just wasn't what we were looking for.
We didn't get the medals.
In Fall 1993, I went to Simcoe with Doug. On the way back, he popped a tape into the tape deck. It was one of the two volumes of There Ain't No Easy Road, and I got goosebumps. I loved what I heard, and I wanted more. Two nights later, we went to the Things Is Changin' tape release concert. I loved Fred Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels. So much so that I started going to all sorts of festivals, fall fairs, and concerts in churches and schoolhouses, just to hear Fred.
Obsessively following Fred J. Eaglesmith and the Flying Squirrels (the J. has since been dropped, and I no longer have to resort to tapes to hear Fred - there are CDs) for a few years exposed me to all sorts of other music that I ended up loving. I went to a festival to see Fred, and ended up liking the Grievous Angels, and so on. Once, I drove to Parry Sound to see Fred - and the concert happened to be at White Squall, at the end of their Open House. Well, what do you know, I discovered kayaking that day, and that led to a whole other world of obsession...
And then, Fred got to be a bigger name, especially south of the border. Suddenly, you'd hear him on CBC, including on the Vinyl Cafe. There were people who proudly referred to themselves as Fredheads. Obsessively following Fred around became something lots of people did. So, and here's where I start to sound predictable, I stopped. I didn't want to be a Fredhead.
Ah, but guilty pleasures. If Fred happend to be playing close to home, I still went. The charisma that makes people hop into atrociities like motor homes and stalk him across state and provincial borders is still there. I love him just as much as I ever did, and truth be told, I always kept up the CD collection. I have them all, even the out of print ones. Closet Fredhead, I guess.
And this past weekend, I dragged Vanessa to Aylmer to the Fred picnic. I just wanted to see a Fred concert. I didn't want to camp there, I didn't want to interact with other fans, I just wanted to see the music and buy the new CD. Well, as I went to buy the new CD, Fred was standing there. And, good PR guy that he is, he pretended to remember me and gave me a hug, and of course made my groupie-soul-self's day.
I'm already planning for attendance at another Fred concert this fall. Who cares if I'm a cliche, I like it. I had to turn 33 years old before I could admit that: I like Fred.
(At the picnic, they were selling mechandise. You could buy a t-shirt that said "I like Fred". You could also buy "I (heart) Fred". And "I think Fred's ok". I stopped short of buying a t-shirt. Even I have my limits!)
I've got loads of pictures to upload and stories to write, but I'm hideously behind. I'm back from a fabulous vacation, which included kayaking on Quebec's North Shore and an aborted hike in Charlevoix, among other delights. So far, the only web stuff I've managed to do is to update the farm blog. Sigh. Who can expect me to sit inside when it's summer?
So I used to think, if you didn't have an epic adventure on a long weekend, well, it was a waste of a weekend. Part of me still thinks that, but the other part of me needs some down time between adventures.
June and July was the Arctic trip. It was educational, it was beautiful, it was exhausting... I got back on a Thursday, and I spent the whole weekend sleeping, catching up with people I hadn't seen and, most importantly, taking care of my precious garden.
The weekend after that I would have been in the mood to go spend some time on the Bay, but I had missed my birthday with the Arctic trip and, dammit, I wanted my birthday party! So HP and I threw ourselves a party. Mostly, we bought a lot of beer and a lot of food and neglected to really invite people (HP was off on his motorcycle trip to the West Coast and only got back the day before the party) but, lucky for us, people came anyway. But having a party on Saturday night means you spend all of Saturday doing menial tasks like cutting the grass, moving picnic tables and filling tiki torches with citronella oil. And you spend the day after feeling a little slow, and not doing much more than going for an afternoon wander on the Bruce Trail with Lorenz and Vanessa. Or at least that's how I spent my Sunday...
And then there was the long weekend. You'd think, by now, I'd have plans! Big plans! And of course I did, I wanted to go to the camp. Markus and Matthias were going, I haven't been home all summer and... I just couldn't do it. I had too much to do to contemplate battling traffic and getting back late on Monday night only to go to work first thing on Tuesday morning. So I spent a day on the Bruce Peninsula, doing a very easy hike out of Cyprus Lake. I spent a day in and out of the pool. I went gear shopping, and I lusted after some Lawren Harris prints and books. I cut some more grass. And I got my gear organized!
That's right. I'm about to use my gear! I cleaned my stove and lubricted the pump cup, I made sure the water filter is working, I filled the butane lighter, I changed the batteries in the headlamp, I collected a full set of lexan cutlery, I located my dry bags and compression stuff sacks. Obviously, I'm heading out on a trip! And given all the gear maintenance, it's not a weekender... Nope! It's my vacation, starting Thursday night! And I can't frickin' wait!
The plan is to go to the Mingan Archipelago (find Anticosti Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Go due north until you hit land. You're there). It's a Sam Wyss special, meaning that the trip will be well organized and there will be no slacker paddlers on it (except perhaps me!). And because it's so far to drive for paddling, my trip includes part 2: the hiking portion. It will be the self-propelled wilderness travel fortnight of the summer. Hurrah.
There is still a "to do" list (other than the neverending work to do list which, if I were to write it down and print it out, would make the printer run out of paper). Buy batteries for GPS. Waterproof maps. Put food together. Do laundry, select clothing, pack it. Gather road maps. Ensure that I have both paddling and hiking gear. But mostly, I'm ready! The gear is clean and packed in duffel bags. The hotel reservation is made for the trip up there. The excitement level is high.
I hope nothing jinxes it.
It's a different sort of summer this year. Not only am I busier than ever, I have not been as content to stay put in a long time either. Living in paradise has that effect. I have this garden which has turned me into a major plant geek: I lust after perennials. I have hollyhock envy. I gloat over my nasturtiums. I spend time trying to figure out the very best place for impatiens. I can't get enough of my garden project.
Inevitable signs of growing up: excitement over kitchen stores and plant sales. In my early 20s, I discovered that my reaction to kitchen gadgets was no longer an automatic yawn. But there is only so much crap you need, and I've got all the stuff I could possibly want. It's not like I actually spend any time cooking, after all. The last small appliance I bought was the dehydrator (which has been running full tilt given the camping adventure preparation). I need nothing (I aspire to get to the point where even gear stores leave me this blase). But I can't drive past a nursery without lusting after stuff for the garden.
Just imagine what would happen if I had a baby. I would annoy all my friends to tears, because likely I would talk of nothing else. Chances are, I would get over my intolerance of big box stores and haunt Toys-R-Us. Luckily for both my friends and my lifestyle, there is none of that in my near future and I'll stick to obsessing about my plants.
But all this playing in the garden and going on *big* trips means that the little weekenders have fallen by the wayside, and I miss them! I miss paddling on the Bay, I miss feeling like Parry Sound is my backyard, I miss having the kayak cradles permanently on my car.
Summer is just too short.