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Canoe Cuture

Well, it’s finally happened.  Winter is here, and my thoughts now begin to shift from rivers and giant pine trees to cross country skiing and hot chocolate.  I live in Toronto where winter really never completely sets in.  While there are people running around in minus 40 celsius rated down jackets and there is talk of storms of the century, its really not much compared with the rest of the county.  Even though here in Toronto we don’t really “do” winter, the same sentiments arise once the weather turns colder.  People slow down a little bit, nest a little and eat a little more.

One of my winter traditions is to thumb through my pictures of the past summer.  I look at them fondly and think about the long days and warm nights in Temagami.  This picture in particular brings back memories of this past summer. In June 2009 I stepped into a new role as Program Director at our Northwaters Basecamp.  Along with this amazing new challenge I was also planning a wedding, my wedding for the end of August.  Now, in honesty when I told my plans to my friends, family and fiancé I was faced with a healthy amount of disbelief.  How would I mange to plan a wedding from an island in the middle of lake Temagami while my husband to be worked in Toronto? What better place to plan a wedding and be inspired than in the Canadian wilderness… think of all the decorating ideas I’ll get!   And for my fiancé I added that distance makes the heart grow fonder, so our separation would actually be an advantage.  My optimism however, proved to be a little naïve as I began to realize the demands of wedding and program planning.

Luckily for me, a supportive community who readily offered their ideas and help whenever I needed it surrounded me at basecamp.  From asking for colour scheme advice, to the use of the Hobart industrial mixer for my wedding favours, Northwaters was always there to help.  NWL creates a community where each individual is celebrated for their unique gifts, allowing everyone to feel safe and valued.  I felt that about the community on my very first trip on the Makobe River and it is a feeling that is cultivated and nurtured every summer.

The shift from a trip leader to a program director has been an exciting one.  I was thrilled to be able to meet and know many participants instead of just a small group.  I was also blessed to be able to see participants before their adventure, and have a chance to speak with them when they returned.  The change has also been a nice dovetail into my work outside the summer season; I am set to complete my Masters in Teaching from the University of Toronto this coming April.   I have included my passion for experiential and outdoor education into my studies, and I will carry it on as a teacher when I graduate.

Even though this past summer was probably the busiest time of my life, I wouldn’t have changed a thing about it.  I thought about my wedding when I was in Temagami, and I thought of Temagami when I was at my wedding.  The pull that you feel from canoe tripping with Northwaters doesn’t end when you leave the island, but sometimes it ebbs during the cold winter months; so I hope that my attached picture brings a little bit of the summer to you wherever you are.

I can’t wait to see what next summer has in store for me, but it’s going to be hard to top portaging while wearing a wedding dress.

Thanks to everyone who helped

Teeth to the wind,

Christine McKenna