Featured in

Featured in: Tiny Buddha, Halifax Media Coop, Fine Fit Day, Simplify the Season, La Presse, Filles, Le Canada-Français

Saturday, July 5, 2014

What nature has taught me

Cabot Trail, 2014


Back from a wonderful camping trip to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, land of the beautiful Cabot Trail. Came back just in time for tropical storm Arthur to hit the shores of Nova Scotia; wouldn't have enjoyed being in a tent while ''The wind may be strong enough to blow the tattoo off your arm'' (dixit one radio announcer).

I have been camping since I was a baby, and apart from a few ungrateful years (between the ages of 13 and 16 approx.), I have always enjoyed it. Usually, the most basic the better: a tent, some minimal sleeping gear, just enough food and clothes. Which raises an important question: why on earth do we voluntarily make ourselves miserable sleeping in the woods with no modern facilities when we would be so comfortable at home?

That is because wilderness camping can teach one a few invaluable lessons, all the while being - against all odds - highly enjoyable! Here's why.

While camping I have learned...

... well, to begin with, I have learned a whole lot about fauna and flora, about survival skills and, depending on the specific spot, about historical facts pertaining to the the region. That is always fascinating to me. From the cultural point of view, in Nova Scotia I particularly enjoy Mi'kmaq legends. This time I have also learned about the Acadian culture.

... that wilderness sojourns are the best test on relationships. As my mother has always said, ''If you want to know whether you are compatible with someone or not, put up a tent together''. It is true that everyone's profound dispositions emerge in such situations. In our case I discovered that an enthusiastic 8 year-old can get a lot more done than an eye-rolling preteen.

... that a stroll in the woods with said preteen might be the most effective way to keep the communication lines open and to enjoy each other's presence.

... that the weak link in a group isn't necessarily the youngest. Both D and I currently have battle injuries that impede our hiking abilities (ankle and knee respectively), whereas the girls are top shape.

... that one is never too old to suffer from motion sickness on serpentine roads (luckily, stopping just long enough for your stomach's contents to settle, and having a black coffee, quickly solves the problem).


Cabot Trail, 2014


... that true campers are afraid of nothing, not even of changing clothes or even peeing between 2 open car doors on the side of the road.

... that there will inevitably be one member of the group who will insist on either a) wearing flip flops on a hike; b) not showering for a week; or c) any other mind boggling decision.

... that one group member will be annoying at any one point in time, and that it's okay as long as ''the annoying one'' isn't the same from one day to the next.

... that I'm less brave than I thought. A combination of D showing up unexpectedly in the dark and a neighboring camper snoring loudly scared the sh*** out of me this week. (This was bear country after all.)


Cape Breton Highlands National Park, 2014


... that the smallest specimens of wildlife will most likely make you the most miserable. Read: black flies, horse flies and mosquitoes galore.

... that the slightest change in weather can make a whole lot of a difference. For example, the wind picking up just enough to keep insects at bay!

... that small mammals can make a hell of a noise at night, leading you to think they are much bigger than they actually are.

... that all birds don't necessarily know that 3:30 am is no time to wake up noisily.

... that the beauty of nature is sufficient to keep one entertained and fill one's heart (except for road kill - I cannot count how many dead porcupines we saw, which led me to ask myself out loud ''With so many dead porcupines on the road, you wonder how many are in the woods'', to which D replied ''Well, probably none now!'')

... that unexpected surprises await you at the end of a long road. Examples include a beautiful waterfall at the end of a hike, and a National Park hidden at the end of a side road that nobody ever takes - in which case you have to be prepared for a detailed personal guided tour, for you are the first human being that poor park employee sees in days, and you are not to deny him the pleasure of finally explaining it all!

... that a story told by a kid is way more interesting that what actually happened. A alarmed a newly met friend by saying  ''We were hiking and there was a big waterfall and I fell down'', when in fact she fell from a height of about 1 meter on our way to the waterfall (and was more scared than hurt).


Cape Breton Highlands National Park, 2014


... that children are LESS bored when left to their own devices in the woods than at home with tons of toys. Even when driving for hours on end we never heard a complaint, and we hadn't brought any electronic device whatsoever. Here's what happens when kids experience boredom: they become creative! They invented games, composed songs, and enjoyed the scenery.

... that being sufficiently hydrated and fed, and kept at the right temperature and humidity level, is enough to keep one perfectly content.

... (following from previous) that one cannot underestimate the amount of water that will be needed on a scorching hot day, neither the amount of warm layers that will be needed on a cold night (that's where technical clothes and sleeping bags come in handy).

... that freezing Canadian ocean water is the perfect antidote to overheating on a hike by 35+ degrees Celsius.

... that chopping wood and carrying water might be the best antidote to modern life's downsides (such as superficiality, egocentricity, depression and anxiety).

... that I look perfectly fine without any cosmetics or jewelry or hair products. I even learned that I smell fine without deodorant - I had forgotten to take it but there was no consequence apparently. Food for thought.

... that if you get fir resin on your arm on the first day, it will not come off and will stick to everything no matter how much you try to clean it (on the bright side, it smells wonderful).

... that owning less and doing less does not make life uncomfortable and boring: it actually reduces stress and enables you to fully enjoy the simplest things, like looking at a campfire while thinking of... nothing at all.

... that a quiet campfire is an excellent prompt for spontaneous meditation... that is, until the neighbours' lascivious moans kind of distract you slightly.

... (nothing to do with with previous point, ahem) that doing things 50% slower makes them at least 50% better.

... that there is so much we don't need.

... that less is more.

... that traveling can take you much farther than distant places. Traveling can take you within yourself.


Cape Breton, 2014


What have you learned while in the wilderness?

I will go camping again soon... and I am looking for simple yet delicious camping recipes. Any suggestions?



34 comments:

  1. While I can appreciate all the lessons you learned camping, I have zero desire to ever go camping!! I can spend days in nature as long as I have electricity and running water at night:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahah, at least you're honest about it! :-) And I know you do get out of your comfort zone in ways that I would not be willing to!

      Delete
  2. Camping recipes were always minimal. Camping was to relax and take it easy. We ate very simple foods such as sandwiches and fresh fruit and veggies. I needed a break from cooking. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always need a break from cooking, camping or not. ;-p

      Delete
  3. I've learned that being in the wilderness is excellent medicine for the soul! It demands a level of mindfulness and presence that's almost like meditation - definitely an antidote to modern life. It's hard to think about the BS of life when you're hiking through a jungle, stepping carefully and watching out for snakes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree completely! And we did see a snake, although Canadian ones are rarely dangerous. :-)

      Delete
  4. Oh camping, such a love/hate relationship! I used to love it, however as I have gotten older and acclimated myself with modern technology and society, I have closed that chapter of my life. It's sad though - I do miss the wilderness every so often, however, when I get out there, I miss my bed in the comfort of my own home, LOL!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting, I find sleeping on the ground in a tent extremely comfortable. :-)

      Delete
  5. Excellent suggestions.

    Like Kim said though--I applaud you and your family for having the courage and toughness to camp, but we are just whimps. We would rather hike, swim, and play outside all day, and then return to a nice cool or warm bed.

    And I agree at the smallest pests being the most troublesome. We were very glad that during our annual beach trip to the Outer Banks of NC, the biting flies were not as bad. Have no idea why, but certainly were glad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hike, swim and play all day then return to a warm bed sounds great to me! :-)

      My camping bed was pretty warm last week. ;-)

      Delete
  6. Thanks for sharing these great photos and what you've learned along the way. You're way braver than me. I tried it just once as an adult and was woefully unprepared. My husband kids, however, go from time to time and get more out of it than I did.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a great point there: being well prepared makes the difference. :-)

      Delete
  7. Although camping sounds adventurous I've never been. The thought of no hot shower or hair dryer puts the kibosh on it for me. :) I did enjoy all the wonderful benefits you wrote about. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those modern facilities and appliances seem like a need until you realize you can live really well without them! :-) Thanks for coming by.

      Delete
  8. It is gorgeous there. We haven't made it camping yet this year, but hopefully we will.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you do, and enjoy it! :-) Thanks for commenting Lisa.

      Delete
  9. We love hiking but are not campers. My husband thinks roughing it is the Red Roof Inn! I was a Girl Scout camper and leader, so am a little more adventurous. I remember thinking corn on the grill was best corn ever. And ice cream made in a coffee can was awesome too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahah, there seems to be a consensus that the great outdoors are great as long as you sleep in a real bed at night! :-)

      I am also a Girl Scout and leader.

      Delete
  10. We went camping every summer while I was growing up, and my siblings and I never got tired of it. I do require access to flush toilets and showers though. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a reasonable request, me thinks! :-)

      Delete
  11. You have posted lovely pictures of Cabot Trail and fun camping photos.
    We had a two week tour of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia!!! My ONLY disappointment was that we saw moose tracks, moose dong, but no real live moose!!
    I am a "retired" Girl Scout leader after being a GS myself for 10 years!! Loved the camping out,but now enjoy the tiled bathrooms for over nighters!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Cabot Trail is one of my favorite places on Earth. :-)
      That 2 week tour sounds great! I hear moose are more visible in certain seasons. I have seen some in Quebec, but never here.

      Delete
  12. That sure is beautiful country! Reminds me of the more desolate spots on US 1 near Big Sur.

    I camped with two German friends in Denmark and Sweden for over a week. My little pup tent was my best friend, lol! They had a very complicated "East German designed" tent, and they told a funny story about the first time they had to put it together with the help of all the other campers at another site! Your mom was right!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love your story Dr. J! Thanks for sharing!

      Delete
  13. Hi, nice to meet you. Thanks for the comment on my blog. Love the pictures you have shared. I have always wanted to go camping. I am just wondering if I can sleep in a tent ( as I am too scared of snakes and insects that bite and sting) . Looks like you had a great time camping :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can... just make sure you zip the tent properly! :-)

      Delete
  14. I absolutely love nature, but I've never been camping in a tent. I one day hope to buy an RV and travel to all the beautiful places there is to see around the country. I just have to convince my husband! Please watch out for Big Foot while camping.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, now I have something else to be afraid of! LOL

      Delete
  15. Thank you for sharing your lovely pictures and your clear love of nature.

    I just love being out and about enjoying fresh air and great scenery ...uplifting and revitalising.

    All the best Jan

    ReplyDelete
  16. That tent looks cool! I've never been much of an outdoorsy person, especially when it comes to camping. But I completely admire anyone who is into that. It's a great way to learn new things and bond as a family...plus lots of stress relief!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You got it! Now all you need is to try it. ;-)

      Delete
  17. Oh, I love camping too, and getting my kids away from gadgets, gadgets, GADGETS!! haha Great post - I love the "things I've learned" angle. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree! And I don't even use that many gadgets in "real life". :-)

      Delete