I grew up surrounded by nature, but it was through the Out Trip Club at Parry Sound High School (PSHS) that I discovered I loved being away from the urban environment and immersed in nature. The Out Trip Club arranged annual early-spring backpacking trips in Killarney Provincial Park and annual late-fall canoe trips in Algonquin Provincial Park. I started with backpacking in Grade 9 and I joined for the canoe trips a couple of years later. I thank the PSHS teachers (Mr. Poole, Mr. Marsh and Mr. Mintz) who volunteered weeks of their personal time getting us kids ready for and cleaning up from the backpacking and canoe trips, and three weeks of their personal time (including weekends!) to patiently lead the sizeable groups of us into, through and out of through Killarney and Algonquin Parks.

I learned so much from being part of the Out Trip Club, but I also learned quite a bit from books on backpacking, canoeing and bushcraft. One of my favourite books was the Camper’s Digest: First Edition (1970) by Cecil Coffery (author) and Bill Wallace (editor). It’s quite out of date now, but even so, it still contains a wealth of information on camping, campcraft and backpacking. The following quote is from that book. I love this quote, and I need to be reminded often these days:

“… look out from a mountain top and know once more that the world is good and there is meaning to life.”

Nature is fragile and on the verge of destruction. We need to respect and protect it, and to foster its recovery. Consider the mission and seven principles of Leave No Trace Canada when you camp, canoe and hike. 

Nature. Respect and protect it. Foster its recovery.

Camping, canoeing and backpacking

Canada’s national parks and the provincial and territorial parks provide a great way to access and enjoy nature. I provide links below to a few of my favourite parks.

The 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay

The 30,000 Islands of Georgian Bay are Canadian shield granite, eroded and polished by glaciers in the last ice age. The white pine growing from cracks in the bare granite are sculpted by the wind. Water, rock, pine and wind; they are the 30,000 Islands. I grew up in Parry Sound, Ontario, in the shelter of Parry Island, and it was my gateway to the 30,000 Islands. Much later, I spent many years north of Parry Sound, at Killbear Provincial Park, and at a cottage in Sand Bay, which was in the shelter of Franklin Island.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Late fall (September 21-30) in 1983, the PSHS Out Trip Club spent 10 days canoeing and portaging through Algonquin Park. Misty Lake. Petawawa River. Rain. Big Crow Lake. Trout Lake. Wind and high waves. Happy Isle Lake. Merchant Lake. Canoe Lake. Sunshine. It was an amazing experience; we paddled and portaged and camped our way through the park, and what a park! I took these photos when we were there. Note that I climbed the Trout Lake fire tower for the photo of Trout Lake (to the right of the photo of the Trout Lake fire tower), and I climbed the Big Crow Lake fire tower for the two photos of Big Crow Lake (on the row below the photo of the Trout Lake fire tower). The snippet of the topographic map shows the location of the Crow Lake fire tower; the right most photo of Big Crow Lake is of the south east segment of the lake.

Sleeping Giant (formerly Sibley) Provincial Park

Backpacking around, up and over the Sleeping Giant in the summer of 1983 was an adventure that I will never forget: the sheltered bays; the outside tip of the Giant, exposed to the full strength of the wind off of Lake Superior; the sound of the waves crashing on to shore; scrambling over the talus and up the chimney to the top of the Giant; the peace and solitude. I was 17. I took the train to Thunder Bay, and my cousin Bob drove me out to Sibley park. I took these photos when I was there.

Killarney Provincial Park

The PSHS Out Trip Club backpacked through Killarney from April 28th to May 1st, 1984. Blue Ridge. Quartzite Lake. Proulx Lake. The Silver Peak trail. Killarney Lake. Little Superior Lake. Norway Ridge. Views of pine trees and crystal blue lakes against the backdrop of the white quartzite ridges were stunning; symphonic; otherworldly. They would wait until you were back in your house, clean and dry, and then they would command you: “Come back!” I took these photos when I was there.

Pukaskwa National Park

I took these photos of Lake Superior from Pukaskwa National Park when I was backpacking on the Coastal Hiking Trail in 1984. I was 18. What an experience! The sound of Lake Superior waves crashing on the shore; the wind; the blueberries; the ancient boulder beaches from glacial Lake Agassiz; the thrill of being so far from civilization and embedded in nature on the edge of this massive inland freshwater sea.