Tuesday, August 29

2006 Summer Institute for Teachers/ORCA Flatwater Instructor's Course


After a long and tedious week of 13-14 hour days, a group of us students completed and successfully passed the ORCA Flatwater Canoe Instructor's Course at Silent Lake, Ontario.

The pre-course began with the usual organization of campsites, equipment, instructors, car-pooling options, payment, menu, and the course intinary/schedule.

Flatwater ABCD skills were honed to near perfection:

Monday: tandem skills, lesson planning, learning styles, theory 1, 2, 3, 4
Tuesday: tandem skills, intro to solo, tandem lessons, theory 4, 5, 6, 7
Wednesday: solo with stopping, windy weather paddling, theory
Thursday: solo with landings, solo lessons
Friday: practice/evaluations, canoe dance, final exam

Each morning we were on the water at 7 am sharp, and with the usual breaks, we were off the water at 9 pm each night. By mid-week we learned about muscles we could never have imagined owning, or rather, pains we could never had imagined, but it was through a sense of camaraderie that we kept one another going and going until each one of us made the grade as certified Flatwater Instructors.

The entire course was held at Silent Lake Provincial Park, a wilderness park located 80 kms north of Peterborough, Ontario. The lake held true to its name, except for a mid-week wind storm that caught us all by surprise, however we all made it back and the event was referred to regularly as a reference to serious problems that come up without warning.

We were fortunate to have three instructors: Phil, Alan, and Jennifer, all of whom came from various backgrounds and worked hard to bring us students up to the level that is required for Instructors. There was ample time for one-on-one instruction, especially when a student was struggling with a certain move or stroke.

At the onset of the course, Phil, the lead instructor, warned us he was going to take us past the "limit" of the course requirements, and settle us back down to the level needed for a pass. He did not waver from this announcement for a minute. Many of us, mid-week, had thoughts we might not make the grade; the going was extremely tough and tiresome, however the end result was paid; we worked hard, studied hard, and as a result, we are all registered and certified: ORCA Flatwater Canoe Instructors.

Far beyond the certification and the acquiring of the specific skills, we also developed a keen sense of team work and friendship during this grueling week-long course. When one of us fell short, others were quickly there to pick us up and get us back on track.

It is a time I shall never forget, the hard work, the team work, the amazing sense of camaraderie, and the ever-present forbearance of the three instructors who have the patience of Job.

A True Sense Of Teamwork
Extra special thanks to Carolyn of the Canadian Canoe Museum

Sunday, August 27


"LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD SOLDIERS"...an ad in the Toronto Star?

As meek and somewhat friendly as the title appears, the subliminal message is very loud and clear: "Uncle Stephen Wants You!"

We can all agree that the American soldier has dominated the press, long since the Vietnam era up to and almost including Afghanistan, however, sadly, Canadian soldiers are coming home in boxes from that same area and are now making headline news on most Canadian television networks at suppertime.

So, what exactly is the "big deal"?

In the past, we have seen some Canadian military exhibits and reviewed them with a "ho-hum" and moved on to the the other exhibits without much thought. Today, the Canadian military is out to attract new recruits in most major cities. The exhibit now is the size of a "football field near the Princess Gates" (Canadian National Exhibition), and as reported in the Star, it "is more than just a public relations pitch".

Let's face ti, the display is a great demonstration of military might, while a Leopard C2 tank has a 12 foot banner draped across the side wherein the public can sign messages to the active Canadian soldiers overseas.

Hey, it would be legal for the new recruits to carry guns, they would also belong to a unit (gang), and they would not take up our valuable resourses of the local police departments here at home.

But why the real push for military might expansion? You're guess is as good as anyone's, although bare in mind that Prime Minister Harper (Uncle Bob) did not visit the troops overseas for a vacation, there was a subliminal message here, just as there is with the title: LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD SOLDIERS.

Editor's Note: This blog was submitted to the Editor of the Toronto Star, August 27, 2006. I wonder if they will reprint?

Monday, August 21

60 = 40

We Are Not Going to AGE

Of course, we are going to fight the aging process with all we have.

The first of the Baby Boomers, the "ole Hippies" of the 60's, are now reaching the ripe old age of sixty, an age once thought to be VERY OLD, but today that concept is changing.

For instance, take a look at your grandparents, the ones who lived through a couple of wars and the Great Depression of the 30's. When they reached age sixty they were old. Why? They simply allowed themselves to become physically and mentally OLD. They allowed themselves to fit the "mold" of an old person, sitting around just waiting for their time to die. "The times, they are a changin." Thank God...

In fact, former US President Clinton just turned sixty on Saturday and says that "sixty was no dream", he added, "I hate it, it's true...For most of my working life, I was the youngest person doing whatever I was doing, then one day I woke up and I was the oldest person in the room." Routers - Friday August 18, 2006

As I turned fifty-five this past spring, I know how Clinton feels, yet instead of "hating it" I love it...I now have a chance to do the things I was never able to do before due to time restrictions. I know this is my time, a time to begin to live my newly created life of freedom of choice.

The global population is aging at an ever increasing rate due to people now living longer. The Canadian Government report on aging demonstrates that in "In 2001, one Canadian in five will have reached the age of 65." The Canadian study finds the life expectancy different that one in the US, wherein the Canadian "Life expectancy is expected to continue to grow, albeit more slowly, reaching 81 years for men and 86 years for women in 2041".

Being fifty-five in 2006, it is unlikely I will live to see if the above comes true, however I plan on giving my survival rate a fight.

According to Dr. Michael Brickley, an APA Fellow and Board Certified Psycholigist with more than 30 years of clinical experience, the secret to living longer is "70% is mental and lifestyle" and the other is "30% of longevity is genetic." Dr. Brickey says that the way to "effect your health" is "Your Anti Aging ABCs (Attitudes, Beliefs, and Coping)".

Of course, living a healthy lifestyle through eating the proper foods and exercising on a regular basis puts you on the right course to living a healthy and long life, so why is it that with all this informaiton people are getting fatter by the minute? For most, that question does not require an answer.

Although, there are many factors that contribute to one living a better life. Quitting work early and doing the things that you never had time for in the past is one way of continuing your health and reducing stress. But remember, if you do quit work and join in the the "Freedom 55" concept of lifestyle YOU MUST HAVE SOMETHING TO FILL IN THE TIME or you will simply wither away and fast.

All-too-often we hear of those who retire and are "bored" within a very short time. They did not do any planning prior to quitting work, and quite possibly did not have much of an outside life in connection with hobbies and special activities such as volunteering. The almighty buck prevailed over their lives.

I have the fortunate experience of planning my retirement for many years and I always looked forward to the day when I did not have to work for a living. There is a time to work and a time to play; my time to play has finally come about, playing one day at a time.

Today, 60 can be 40, but only if you want it to be.

Thank God.

Wednesday, August 2

Canoe the Ausable River, Ontario

Note: Click on all pictures to enlarge...

Driving east from Sarnia, Ontario 56 kilometers, along Lakeshore Road that turns into Hwy 21, you reach the bridge over the Ausable River. Do not go over the bridge. Instead take the first street (Northville Cr.) north and enter the first driveway (less than a stone's throw from Hwy 21). Here you are entering the Ausable River put-in:

There is a portage of 110 metres that takes you to an embankment, made out of tires set into the side for easy stepping). Note there is not very much room at the bank of the river to put-in; you must watch out for a couple of rocks that are in the way. There is just enough room to slide your canoe into the river.

Once in the river you can head east to reach the Old Ausable River that winds its way into the Attawandaron Scout Reserve and continues on into the Pinery Provincial Park.

I put-in at 1305 hours and headed northward towards the Old Aus
able section of the river. If you kept going northward you would eventually end up in Lake Huron, a few miles ahead. The first building you will see is a homemade white lighthouse-looking structure, located on the west bank. I stopped on the east side across from this structure at 1325-1340 hrs. for lunch.

After lunch I he
aded northward again and at 1350 hours I hit the cut of the river that turns eastward into the Scout camp and the Pinery park. The water level in this part of the river is about 1/2 metre to a metre deep and there is heavy vegetation in the water that makes for a slow paddle. But "slow" is the operative word of the day in this passage. Taking your time, keep an eye for hawks, snapping turtles, a beaver dam in the making, and lots of small fish schooling around the canoe. If you are lucky you will encounter some deer along the way. Rare sightings of eagles have been noted.

Going over the beaver dam in the making is a challenge as the water is barely navagatible being inches deep, however if you m
ake a run at it you will easily slide over the obstruction. I did some poling along the way which added to my adventure and gave me some extra time to glide along and watch out for wild life on the banks. This section of the river twists and winds its way through the two parks and allows for magnificent scenery on either side. Hugh sand banks, topped with various trees and vegetation are found first on the trip and soon you are entering a heavily forested area. There are many spots to stop and get out for a hike along the many trails that have been carved out by others who have made this trip.

At 1415, knowing I had to get home soon, I stopped and turned the canoe around, all the while noting that I will be back another time to go further along this route. The point where I turned around there was a large dead tree stump to the right that cannot be missed. I am not sure how far I was along the Old Ausable section that since I did not have a topo with me, however I sense that I was about a mile and a half into the old section of the river.

One negative note that must be stated is the fools who are on power boats and jet skis. I passed four boats and two jet skis. Only one boat went slow, all the others thought it was neat to go full throttle and swamp the canoeist. It is too bad these types of boaters are out there; the
problem goes further when these humans take to the wheel on the highway drive home with the same attitude towards others...Enough said, you know what I am saying.

On the way back towards the put-in spot I spotted a group of hawks sun tanning themselves on the huge sand dunes; the very same dunes that our Beavers hiked up from the river last year.

So, if you are looking to a nice paddle this is the route. I would sugg
est starting out early in the day, take lots of water, sunscreen, and a jug of deet for the trip up the Old Ausable. A topo map is on my list, as I am interested in the history of this river and certainly would like to know where I am going and where I have been.

Getting back to nature is healthy for everyone!

Please email me if you have had any adventures up the Old Ausable: prospector16@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 1

Cyprus Lake - Bruce National Park

Almost Wilderness Camping
Once again we headed up to the Bruce National Park and camped at Cyprus Lake. If you have never camped at a National Park, you should pencil it in for your next adventure. Why?

Peace and quiet is foremost on the list, however naturalization is side-by-side this and it is the closest you will get to nature with having other humans around to contend with and co-inhabit the park. This park lacks the amenities of home, such as: hot water, showers, electricity, all the things that keep humans from realizing the true things in life, such as living with nature. Having said that, traveling with a family, especially younger children, toys must be brought along such as bicycles. For the older kids a couple of canoes cannot hurt. And for the dog, well he just loves his new life jacket and the banana treats.

Canoeing/fishing is best done in the early morning or at dusk due to the westerly winds, however for those who like a medium challenge you can canoe to the west end of the lake. There you will find a channel that winds its way from Cyprus Lake to Cameron Lake, a place where they say the fishing is good and you can find other human habitats such as monstrous cottages and motor boats etc. Warning: channel is very low (less than 1/2 metre) but navagatible. Bug spray is a must and be on the lookout for busy beavers and snapping turtles, as well as the infamous huge dragon flies that simply buzz by checking you out from time to time. Black bears are in this park so it would be an idea to carry bear spray or mace as an extra precaution. Polling your canoe is a good idea in some parts of this channel; it is a nice change from the J-strokes, Canadian stroke, or Indian strokes, all of which are almost impossible to do in this channel.

The water in Cyprus Lake is nicely warm and great for swimming, unlike over at the east side of the park at the Grottos, Georgian Bay is VERY cold to swim in this year. In Cyprus Lake you must beware of the crayfish, bloodsuckers (leaches are about 3 to 4 inches long, nice and fat this year), and unfortunately, there are broken bear bottles from the human inhabitants that could care less about other humans and nature. Therefore, watershoes are a must while walking in the lake. Of course, even in Algonquin's interior I found the same problem...Maybe we should look to restricting some of the human species? Just a thought...

There is a walkway that goes around Cyprus Lake and makes for an excellent hike. Hiking boots are recommended due the various ground covers such as tree roots popping out from the rocky ground cover, rocky pathways (especially at the Grottos on the Georgian Bay side), and wet mud that has yet to dry due to the rains and the thick forest areas. An excellent way to pass a morning or afternoon.

Of course, the infamous attraction of this park is the Grottos (rock caves) on the eastern side of the park. Huge rock formations leftover from the glacial movements are the feature attraction. Again, humans ignore the warning signs about diving off the very steep cliffs, but still it sure looks like fun. The underwater caves are only for the very good swimmers, as once you dive down about 12 feet you then have to swim quite a fair distance under the huge rock to get from the cave to Georgian Bay. The visibility is amazing, yet it is still quite a feat to accomplish...So, beware of this swim. I did it last year, without fins, and just barely made it out to the other side. This year I decided not to do the dive, even though I had my dive gear; the water was just tooooo cold.

For added entertainment, the park provides "Program of Activities" each night at the amphitheatre. There is a different show for each night of the week, including demonstrations on: bears, rattlesnakes, shipwrecks & shorelines, and much more. This is worth the walk to the west end of the park along the Cyprus Lake pathway, especially for children and adults who are not hooked on TV commercials, the 8 second clip attention keepers, and various other techniques that keep those minds glued to the tube...Another blog for another time..."The Small Attention of the Attention Span"...haha.

It is nice to see youth of all ages having fun without the technological conveniences tagging along. Although, some adults seemed to enjoy themselves as well, without the amenities of home. I for one, could easily spend a few weeks in this park and not miss the amenities, however I must admit I would wonder from time-to-time how many emails have come in on my system and would yearn a tad for a peek at my RSS reader...Just a peek! Although, there is nothing like netting a frog, or a water snake, or crayfish and after studying them you simple let them go back into their habitat, especially watching children playing at the shoreline with simple gadget such as a net.

But then there is some wood to chop for tonight's fire, some water to collect for the supper dishes, and a huddle to see what trail we will check out for tomorrow's hike. But wait, do we have enough worms for the morning canoe/fishing trip?

There is nothing like getting back into nature, far away from the hustle and bustle of the infamous "ratrace".