Thoughts From The Wilderness – “Advice From A Trail”

Well, the “old vacation week” seems to be clicking along nicely. Great weather and not having to set the alarm clock for work appears to be doing the trick.

We spent the first Sunday afternoon hiking along the shores of Georgian Bay in the Town of Parry Sound north of us. Arriving back at the “old homestead” in the early evening, I felt a grand wave of satisfaction and thankfulness for those moments spent in nature.

Generally, I’m not a huge fan of the posters “Advice from a ……”, but in this case, it seems entirely appropriate.

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Of all the great universities and halls of higher thought and education, nature surely as a place of learning, discovery and enlightenment has to be ranked right up there with the Oxford’s, Yale’s and Dalhousie’s of the world.

We all desperately believe in my heart that when our children head off to college or university, their eyes and minds will be wide open to all the possibilities set before them. Heading down those hallowed hallways of the world’s most distinguished institutions of higher learning, ready, willing and eager to change not only themselves but the world as well.

Similarly, if our eyes, ears, and minds are open when we head on out into nature, the same endless possibilities of change and growth are present along a trail, as they would be at Cambridge University in England or McGill University in Montreal.

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A closed mind is a terrible thing.

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On the other hand, a mind that is open, fertile and ready to learn, experience, change and growth based on the experiences within the environment it finds itself is a great thing.

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So, with this in mind.

Advice From A Trail

Walk into beauty

Beauty is simply all around us.

All we need to do open our eyes and more importantly, our minds to look for it. Beauty is more often than not found in the simplest of objects. Sun shines through the branches of a tree; a small babbling brook that tumbles gently down through a forest; the sun setting over the horizon.

In your life, beauty is right in front of you.

Simply open your eyes and mind to observe the beauty that surrounds you.

A mind that is closed and narrow fails to see the wonder and value that envelopes them.

Stay on your path

Straying off the path or trail in the wilderness can have dire consequences. All of us have a path set before us to follow throughout our lives. Find your path, whatever that path may be and start the step by step hike down it.

Our journey through life, much like hiking all 1,200km of “The Great Divide Trail” through the Rocky Mountains in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada is a marathon, not a sprint.

You have a purpose, reason or passion that is ignited in your soul that defines your particular path in life.

Find out the reasons for your path and journey. Start by taking that first step; then another; and then another.

Find inspiration around every turn

The tag line, we use with “justabitfurther” for quite a while now is:

“get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself.”

The inspiration that we may find or seek for ourselves throughout our lives often shows up in the most unexpected places – like around every turn.

And it is often the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things, usually taken for granted, that we can find the greatest inspiration in.

The sun setting below the horizon and reflecting off the still waters of a northern lake on a warm summer evening. An unexpected bird, like a red cardinal sitting and singing in the branches of a tree located close to your living room window.

In life, as in nature, when our mind is open and ready, inspiration will be around every corner just waiting for us to grab hold of it and charge headlong into a future of endless possibilities.

An open mind provides fertile soil and environment for inspiration to take root, grow and flourish.

As we round that next corner, be ready for something extraordinary to inspire us into something wonderful.

Tread lightly

One critical element when spending time in nature in any realm, whether your local park or a wilderness or semi-wilderness location, is to leave it just as you found.

This is encompassed in the principles of LNT(Leave No Trace).

When hiking out on a trail, one goal of many out there would be at the end of the day, to have left behind, as little of an impact as possible.

Tread lightly.

The same concept or principle can be applied in our daily life.

More often than not, two distinct and completely opposite personality types end up in the same place with the same results.

One type might get there through being a bully, leaving a wake of destruction, broken promises and lives along the way.

The other personality type gets there by treading lightly through life, building relationships with others; holds no grudges and that by helping and standing with others they are helping themselves.

Simply ask yourself, “who would you like to work for”. The bully who practices a “scorched earth approach” or the “tread lightly person?”

To me the answer is obvious.

Pack life with good memories

When you’re hiking on a trail, whether it be a day hike or a multi-day backcountry trip, you need the correct equipment. You need to pack the “right stuff” for the type of trip you’re doing.

Having the correct equipment with you in a way helps to add to the overall enjoyment and memories created on the adventure.

Notice that the advice was “good memories”, not just simply memories.

At some basic level, the interpretation of our memories of events, life, people and such, is either good or bad. I suspect, however, that many of those memories might be considered neutral.

But, today we’re looking at packing life with “good memories” and those “good memories” being the ones we intentionally created.

Can’t “good memories” just happen?

Sure they can. In fact, they can happen quite often. Unfortunately, more often than not they don’t happen like that.

Why?

Days roll into each other; months rush by quicker than we think and before we realize it, yet another year or years have vanished from our life.

Good memories” are the ones that have an emotional impact on us. They enrich our lives; they bond us with other people.

How then? – Three Steps

Create – be intentional(think the weekend away as an example)

Celebrate – “party up” milestones when they occur(graduations, birthdays, anything!!)

Connect – do the above with those you love

You only have one hike along the trail we call life. Make sure at the end of it all, it was packed with the right equipment – good memories.

Every day has its ups and downs

When Lynn and I are out hiking, it seems that 99.9% of the trails we hike at some juncture along the way, go uphill for reasons that continue to baffle us. Often that “baffling uphill” is a steep and heart-pumping challenge.

After cresting the top, I always hope with any amount of luck, that shortly the heart-pumping uphill will be followed by a nice “not so heart-pumping” downhill.

Like hiking, life throws us ups and downs.

Some challenges will be relatively minor in nature, not heart-pumping at all. Other times, the ups and downs that get thrust across our path, will make “heart-pumping” seem like a walk in the park.

It goes without saying, the ups and downs that each of us experience in life are nothing new. This isn’t something the universe burped up two weeks ago to toss in your way.

So, expect them to happen.

Every morning when you roll out of bed and get pouring that first coffee, know that at some point during your following waking hours, life will toss a few ups and downs your way.

You can handle it.

You have to this point. Haven’t you?

Watch your step!

One of the cardinal rules in hiking is this.

If you don’t watch where your feet are going, sooner or later and usually sooner you’ll find yourself flat on your face. Something will catch one foot and then it’s a trip and stumble, followed by scraped knees and elbows and a hugely bruised ego.

When hiking on a trail in the bush, you need to pick your feet up and not shuffle and scuff along.

Generally speaking, life is exactly the same.

If your tendency is to tromp along through life, not watching where you step; not paying attention to either the direction you’re headed or where your “feet” are, there is a darn good chance at some you’ll trip and stumble.

Not just once, but perhaps on a frequency that is far more often than you might like.

How might we minimize then, our chances of the “proverbial trip and stumble” in life?

  • have a focus on the direction you’re headed
  • watch your step
  • plan your next foot placement(what happens next week; next year)

So, there you go.

A bit of advice on getting through life from nature.

There is plenty that we can learn about our “self” by simply spending time in nature.

When we go and approach the time we spend there with our minds wide open to what nature and has for us, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

Remember…

 

—  get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself  —

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Obey The Signs

Although from last October, the message is still a timeless one. Simply…….slow down and enjoy life.

You only have one life to live. From my understanding you only get chance at it.

Take time to slow down and relish those moments. There may not be a “yield sign” suggesting you slow down. It may be something much more subtle or perhaps a major events dealing with your health.

Regardless, carve out time for yourself; for your family; slow down with no clock or agenda and love those moments; cherish them.

From October 2018……

Last Sunday, Lynn and I spent five glorious hours hiking a rail-trail through a beautiful forest area close to where we live. As well, it was also the start of my week of holidays. Not that I’m bragging or anything.

To be honest I really wasn’t overjoyed in going. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to go, but we had been on the trail many times in the past and I find it really isn’t challenging in terms of effort.

But, what we thought or more of what I thought might be an hour or so out there, turned out be five hours and 10 kilometres later, a soul refreshing afternoon. Scrambling down ravines to check out small tiny waterfalls and rapids; a side trip down a snowmobile trail and a slow and leisurely pace, for the most part, created and added up to an afternoon that was just needed when needed.

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Although the sign is meant as a reminder for snowmobiler’s in the winter, there is much wisdom in the advice and direction the sign provides.

However, and a big, however, is…..only if we apply it in our lives.

For most of us, our days can be a whirlwind of work, home, family, and all the responsibilities that go along with each of them. It all leaves little time during the course of the week for anything other than the above.

We need often, if not weekly or even daily to carve time out for ourselves. To get away from responsibility if only for an afternoon; a few hours; a few minutes.

A hike in the woods; a paddle on the still waters of a northern lake. It doesn’t matter. Reading a book while sipping away on a hot cup of tea on a wintery Sunday afternoon sounds good as well.

The key is slow down and enjoy it. Don’t make “your time”; that time in the woods, paddling on that pond or reading that book just something else to “clock watch” and another activity to check off your already long list of things to finish by Sunday night.

Doing that sort of defeats the purpose of ……..

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Try..

  • relish the time on the hike or whatever you’re doing
  • breathe in the air
  • close your eyes
  • be taken away
  • become one with where you are
  • put your watch away
  • be ready to go home when you’re ready
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Source: Google Images

We all know that life already careens along at lightspeed.

No reason for you to add to it.

slowdown
Source: Google Images

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Obey The Signs

Last Sunday, Lynn and I spent five glorious hours hiking a rail trail through a beautiful forest area close to where we live. As well, it was also the start to my week of holidays. Not that I’m bragging or anything.

To be honest I really wasn’t overjoyed in going. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to go, but we had been on the trail many times in the past and I find it really isn’t challenging in terms of effort.

But, what we thought or more of what I thought might be an hour or so out there, turned out be five hours and 10 kilometres later, a soul refreshing afternoon. Scrambling down ravines to check out small tiny waterfalls and rapids; a side trip down a snowmobile trail and a slow and leisurely pace, for the most part, created and added up to an afternoon that was just needed when needed.

2

Although the sign is meant as a reminder for snowmobiler’s in the winter, there is much wisdom in the advice and direction the sign provides.

However, and a big, however, is…..only if we apply it in our lives.

For most of us, our days can be a whirlwind of work, home, family, and all the responsibilities that go along with each of them. It all leaves little time during the course of the week for anything other than the above.

We need often, if not weekly or even daily to carve time out for ourselves. To get away from responsibility if only for an afternoon; a few hours; a few minutes.

A hike in the woods; a paddle on the still waters of a northern lake. It doesn’t matter. Reading a book while sipping away on a hot cup of tea on a wintery Sunday afternoon sounds good as well.

The key is slow down and enjoy it. Don’t make “your time”; that time in the woods, paddling on that pond or reading that book just something else to “clock watch” and another activity to check off your already long list of things to finish by Sunday night.

Doing that sort of defeats the purpose of ……..

2

Try..

  • relish the time on the hike or whatever you’re doing
  • breathe in the air
  • close your eyes
  • be taken away
  • become one with where you are
  • put your watch away
  • be ready to go home when you’re ready
slow
Source: Google Images

We all know that life already careens along at lightspeed.

No reason for you to add to it.

slowdown
Source: Google Images

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

Indian Head Lighthouse – Summerside

The Indian Head Lighthouse located at the entrance to the harbour in Summerside, PEI was one of the two main items on our agenda when we visited during our second, albeit whirlwind visit in October 2017. However, stormy seas and some misinformation regarding tides made it impossible or exceedingly difficult to adventure out to either of these spots.

As such, we vowed to make getting to these two Island landmarks a priority when we visited this June.

Indian Head Lighthouse – Wednesday, June 20

As these following two pictures illustrate, the ocean was a bit of a nasty temptress on our October attempt.

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Indian Head Lighthouse was built in 1881. What makes this lighthouse design unique is the lighthouse keepers residence was actually built into and part of the lighthouse structure itself. Not a separate dwelling as we see in most cases. The octangular base of the structure was the keepers’ home. Above the octagonal keeper’s residence is a two-storey tower topped by a red iron lantern. A railing encloses the lantern on the observation deck.

Although not normally found today, this unique style of the lighthouse, with the octagonal keeper’s dwelling on the ground floor, and a tower above, was once a common practice in areas where it was difficult to construct a separate dwelling house, such as on rocks.

Indian Head Lighthouse can be reached more or less three ways. Walking along the ocean floor at low tide on the harbourside of the breakwater or by scrambling across the one-kilometre rocky pier. Or thirdly, by kayaking out across from Summerside.

This picture I had found when doing research on reaching the lighthouse that suggested going at low tide was a suitable and achievable objective.

lighthouseSo, from the tide table below for Wednesday, June 20, the first low tide would occur at 11:12 am. We planned to start out towards the lighthouse around 10:45 am, noting the ocean should be mostly out by that point making an easy 1-kilometre trek to the lighthouse itself. Or so we thought.

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Now, there are a number of factors however that affect tides heights including the time of year and the relative location of the earth to the moon. When we arrived on Wednesday morning, we found although it was just about low tide, the ocean wasn’t as low on the harbourside as the picture portrayed above.

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Low tide on the harbour-side to the right of the break-wall

Seeing as defeat isn’t part of our vocabulary, we made the decision to scramble across the one-kilometre length of the rocky break-wall.

Getting started and as you can see, Lynn was having a challenging time getting excited and motivated!

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Hopefully, Lynn’s pictures captured the overall magnitude of the boulder sizes. These weren’t small chunks, although they existed. Most of them were a metre or more in height which at times resulted in an easy walk for 20 seconds, usually followed by a hands and knees approach, perhaps then with a 10-metre stroll along the ocean floor and then usually back to the hands and knees approach.

The one-kilometre trek out to the lighthouse took us over an hour to make. Lynn suggested that much of the time issue was due to her having to be extra careful due to her camera slung around her neck.

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Me starting out across

About half-way. The last few hundred metres seemed to take forever to complete. It was like the lighthouse kept moving further away from us, just to make the rock scrambling just slightly more “enjoyable” than it already was.

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And finally, Indian Head Lighthouse. The octangular portion sitting on the concrete base was the keeper’s residence, while the light proper sits on top of the two-story tower. Although the lighthouse is still functional, it is fully automated. It is however in a slight state of disrepair. From looking at the outside of the structure, it is in dire need of some upkeep.

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If ya gotta rest, ya gotta rest!

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As we were approaching the lighthouse, the rocky point it is situated on is apparently the top sunning spot for the local cormorant sea-bird population. As we got closer, they decided to “fly the coop” and settled just off in the water.

A few more shots of the lighthouse.

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A slightly stylized one

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After 30 minutes or so, we decided to start the trek back. The tide had started to come back and the wind was starting to pick up a bit as it usually does in this area as the day progresses. We weren’t terribly enthusiastic about the possibility of strong winds blowing most of the Northumberland Strait up and over the rocks on our return trek. That exact thing did happen later in the afternoon we observed while eating ice cream along the Summerside harbour waterfront.

In order to pick up our time heading back, Lynn decided to pack her camera in my knapsack, thus freeing her hands and not having to worry about her camera jostling around.

The tide has mostly moved back in along the left side of the break-wall.

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When we trekked out across the break-wall earlier, we knew there was one spot in about 20-metres in length that was considerably lower as compared to the rest of it. Going out, it didn’t pose any real concerns other then gingerly hopping across the stones.

Kind of had a feeling this might be an issue on the return though. On the way out, you could walk across this section by just being careful and you wouldn’t get your boots wet. Not so much on the return trip.

So, up to our knees in water, we went. And let me say, it wasn’t exactly warm water.

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And you think your feet are wet now?

With wet feet and great memories made, we arrived back at our car around 1:00pm. A round trip of about two-half to three hours more or less.

17Was it worth it you ask?

You bet it was!

Lynn and I would head back out to scramble across those rocks again in a heartbeat. Upon getting back to the shore, we kind of did a mental “high-five” towards each other. When we first arrived, we had two options. We could have wimped out given the tide wasn’t low enough or “pull up our socks” and head out across the rocks.

We pulled up our socks and chose the spirit of adventure and the rocks.

It was a good choice.

I would encourage you, that if you’re in the Summerside area, get a map or ask someone and take a trip out to have a look at the lighthouse. You might not be able to physically walk up to it, but on the other hand, if the Spirit of Adventure shines in you…well you just never know.

Thanks for reading and look soon for the rest of that day’s adventure as we headed north to the Darnley area of the Island to hit up Thunder Cove Beach and the “Tea Cup.”

 

 

 

Hatchery Falls – Short and Sweet

Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River located a kilometre or so north of Highway 141, has been on our “return -to” list since we visited Fish Hatchery Park at New Year’s.

You can read about that afternoon here.

DSC_0076-EditIronically, we hadn’t planned to get to Hatchery Falls on the Friday we were out. In fact, we really hadn’t planned much. Lynn had been to the Optometrist in the morning and was having some blurriness challenges after leaving the office. So, I suggested heading to Orillia to visit the bakery in the Mariposa Market. Research suggests rich calorie filled baked goods aids in sight and blury vision issues. Okay, so it doesn’t help, but it doesn’t hurt either. After getting $13 worth of massive donuts and muffins, I birthed a plan to head north to Bracebridge to check out a set of falls on the Muskoka River.

After consuming the biggest donut I’ve run across in some time, we headed north on Highway 11 from Orillia. When we arrived at the particular park in Bracebridge where the waterfall is located, we found it closed and the entrance locked.

Undaunted, I suggested to Lynn we should head further north to Fish Hatchery Park and hike along the trail to see if we could make it to the location of the falls. I was hoping it would be a relatively easy time, due to the fact we had our dog Katie who as a senior finds it challenging to hike any substantial distance or a hike with a lot of terrain changes. In addition, neither Lynn or I were really dressed properly to be hiking through the bush of north Muskoka.

But with a bright blue sky and temperatures hovering around or slightly above zero, we left Bracebridge and headed north again on Highway 11 exiting to Highway 141 near Utterson.

Some pictures from the afternoon.

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Fish Hatchery Park looking towards the trail.
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Non-dog tracks on the snow

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Skeleton River
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Skeleton River

DSC_0087Lynn had a hard time making sure her pictures were properly composed and in focus due to the fact she was still having issues with blurriness from the Optometrists visit a few hours before.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get many pictures of the falls themselves.

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A few more from along the trail.

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Lynn at the top of the falls.

From a destination we weren’t planning on getting to, but then actually visiting, turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. The trail was well packed even with the snow the area had received the day before.

Often, I find having no specific plans or plans that change mid-adventure can turn out to be a great day after all. I was really taken with this area when we hiked and checked it out at New Years. North Muskoka has a certain ruggedness and beauty to it that I find entrancing. Often we’ll head out in the car after I’m done work in the afternoon in order to unwind a bit and nine times out of ten we’re heading north on Highway 400 as it passes through the western edge of the Muskoka along into the District of Parry Sound.

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The exposed Canadian Shield; the lakes; the rivers and trees seen from the Highway have a magical way of erasing all the trouble, stress and cares of the moment.

Hatchery Falls are certainly impressive, and the plan now is to head back in the near future with more camera equipment and hike to the base of the falls to capture their beauty and majesty as they cascade down the Skeleton River.

If you’re in the area and want to check the falls out, Fish Hatchery Park is located on Fish Hatchery Road off Highway 141, just east of the hamlet of Bent River. From where we live in north Simcoe County its an easy drive of slightly more than an hour.

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There are another set of smaller falls/rapids about 1.5 kilometres from Fish Hatchery Park. Although accessible about 100 metres north of Highway 141, I’m thinking following the Skeleton River downstream the 1.5 kilometres sounds much more fun!

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Be sure to get out and check the sights and scenery in North Muskoka, including Fish Hatchery Park and Hatchery Falls.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Good Friday Afternoon at Six Mile Lake Provincial Park

Confession time. You drive by a location a hundred times since at least 1990. In 2014, we move and this place is less than 30 minutes from our house. I’ve uttered to Lynn more than once, “Gee, one day we’ll have to check out Six Mile Lake Provincial Park.”

Well, we finally did and we’re glad we took the time and checked it out for a couple of hours on the afternoon of Good Friday.

Six Mile Lake Provincial Park is located less than 2 hours north of Toronto with convenient access to and from Highway 400 via the White Fall’s Road exit.

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 5.35.20 AMIt’s a very popular car camping destination offering six campground locations through the park in a variety of settings.

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This link will take you to the Ontario Parks website for Six Mile Lake.

The afternoon of Good Friday arrived sunny and cool. With a turkey cooking away in the oven filling the house with a delicious holiday aroma, we grabbed Katie and headed off to hike around the park for the afternoon.

We’ve been out on a number of adventures since New Years and with the mild temperatures we’ve experienced at times over the past three months, many of the backcountry trails we’ve hiked have been icy. I mean VERY ICY. In fact, ice covered.

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A day of freezing rain in Algonquin. Everything in the picture was covered in ice including the trail, the trees and the rocky slope.

Like most outdoor enthusiasts, we prefer being in the backcountry away from the hustle and bustle so to speak. Not that this is a huge issue for the most part, but we’ve had to kind of pick and choose the trails we think might not have been well used, hence not as packed down and slippery.

I guess the point is, although we all love and strive for the ultimate backcountry expedition each time out, in essence, it does it really matter in the big scheme of things? Just getting out, whether it be in the backcountry of North Muskoka or a hike through a local Provincial Park really shouldn’t really be a concern. Being outside, soaking up the sun, watching the squirrels race around and listening to the wind as it gently blows through the forest and not having to worry about life and its challenges for just a brief few hours was and is perfect. In fact, it’s always perfect. It’s a good day when you’re main thought and concern is, “Did I remember to buy cranberry sauce to go with the turkey in the oven?”

At this time of the year, the Park is closed, but you can leave your car on the edge of the road that runs adjacent to the park entrance and simply walk around the entrance gate. When we visited there were three or four other vehicles parked as well.

I assume that some Ontario Parks staff work there during the winter months as many of the roads within the park and the parking areas surrounding the park office, store and maintenance buildings were plowed.

Six Mile Lake and the Park itself is exceedingly picturesque and it certainly delivers that Muskoka feeling and setting. But, a couple of things if you’re considering visiting and camping.

First, the Park is adjacent to Highway 400. Considering it was a holiday afternoon with not much traffic and certainly not much transport truck traffic, it was still loud on occasion when transports were roaring up “The 400.” It might be somewhat more tolerable in the “Maples” section which is located farthest from the highway. So, traffic noise might be a concern if you’re wanting more of a quiet setting. But having said that, I did find that after a bit, I tended to “tune out” the noise from the highway in that it just became part of the background sound. It was like that for me, but it might not be the same for you. So, beware.

Secondly, Six Mile Lake is a big lake and dotted with hundreds of cottages. In fact, when you look out from the beach areas in the park, you’re looking at cottages. If you come with a canoe, or a small boat thinking you’ll have the lake to yourself, you might be in for a surprise.

Nevertheless, as I mentioned it is a strikingly beautiful spot with two well-maintained beach areas including one with a children’s playground.

There is a very extensive boat launching area with what appears to be reservable dockage slips on a first-come, first-served basis. A quick call to the park when they open in May would confirm how the dockage system works.

There is also a dog play/beach area, canoe; kayak and SUP rentals, as well as a fully equipped Parks Store. In addition, there is also a small Interpretive Centre and three small hiking trails.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

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Beach area looking out towards Six Mile Lake
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“Buoy oh buoy” – waiting for summer
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Patiently waiting for spring to come and for family and friends to enjoy an evening campfire. How something so simple can hold and create so many memories.
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Alien landing site? Perhaps not. Hope nothing or nobody went through.

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Katie checking out potential campsites.
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A great site(large and very level) with super access to the water. The area might be busy next to boat slips and is also on the main park road. But, I bet the site is booked all summer though.

Part of the reservable boat dockage slips.

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With a little help and encouragement, hopefully, we’ll be ice-free soon in this area. But, considering when I’m writing this(April 5), winter came back with a vengeance(April 4) in the Central Ontario area.

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Would look much better full of canoes and kayaks waiting to be rented on a warm summer afternoon.

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Six Mile Lake also has a number of “walk-in” sites. Although not located too far from the main park road, these sites do provide an additional measure of privacy or remoteness as compared to the sites in the remainder of the Park. Numbering about six or seven in total they are more or less situated together on a level area half-way up a short incline. In this picture, you can see the main roadway below. I’m about 30 feet or so from the tent pad area on Site 17 in the “Lakeview Heights” section. You park your car down just off the roadway below.

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This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this. Located near one of the beach areas, what a great idea if you came for a day visit and used a charcoal bbq.

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All in all, we really enjoyed the afternoon we spent hiking and walking around Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. Despite its location close to the Highway and having to share the lake with cottages, the park is nonetheless located in a very quaint and scenic setting of South Muskoka.

Granite outcroppings of the Canadian Shield combined with a variety of pine and deciduous trees are about a nice as one can get. Having both non-electrical and electrical/serviced sites, Six Mile Lake Provincial would be a great spot to either pitch your tent or park the trailer for a weekend or longer.

Assuming you’re not stuck in traffic on Highway 400 coming out of the GTA on a Friday afternoon, a 2 hour or less trip is really a great feature. Take a half day off on a Friday; leave by noon and you’re set up on your site with a cool drink in your hand by 3 or 4pm.

Not bad.

So, now is the time friends to get planning for the summer camping trips whether they be a front-country excursion in a car to an organized campground or a backcountry canoe adventure with family and friends. Why not take some time and look at the Ontario Parks website for some great ideas on where to head out for a night, weekend or longer camping.

While you’re at it, make sure to check out all the information for Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. It has a lot to offer and would make for a great destination I’m sure.

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts From The Wilderness – It’s Just Water – Get Over It.

Water, the building block of life. Two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Complex yet simple all in the same breath.

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Something so simple; so clear and colourless can cause such a distortion of viewing the world around us when it lands as tiny raindrops on our glasses. Or if you’re taking a picture through the windshield of your car on a recent rainy late winter day-trip to Algonquin Park. A little distorted; a bit out of focus, but you still know where you are.

On our recent day-trip to Algonquin Park, I spent a considerable amount of time outside trekking along hiking trails with a somewhat distorted view of the landscape around me. Not due to some unresolved emotional issues, but entirely due to raindrops on my glasses.

Being clear and colourless, the raindrop covered glasses really didn’t stop me or cause me to not know where I was, it just simply distorted the imagines I was seeing. Just enough not to see clearly.
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Barring the use of some crazy eyeglass wiping system, the simple solution was to stop every once in a while and dry the moisture off the glasses. Pretty obvious, at least to me that if you wear glasses and plan to spend any time outside and it’s raining or snowing, your glasses are going to get wet.

So, why get exceedingly bent out of shape over it? It’s just water! Deal with it. Stop for a minute; collect yourself; pull out something to dry your glasses off and keep moving on. A simple solution to a simple problem. Not a complex problem requiring a Ph.D. level solution.

Isn’t it ironic that life can be at times like wearing glasses that have raindrops on the lenses. We can still see where we are or what the situation is, but it’s not a clear as it should be. Our view of life can be distorted by something so simple, that many times we may not recognize it as simple.

So, what do we do? Or what “should” we do?

There might be three trails that we could head down.

The first one would be to search for a complex solution to a very simple problem. “I know the problem is insignificant and not a big deal, but I’ll spend four days worth of time, focus and energy to get to a solution.”

The second one is to assume the issue is complex and serious(it isn’t) and spend days or weeks dealing with it. This is while all those around you watch in amazement thinking, “why not just dry your glasses off?”

The third trail to hike down might be the best one. Stop for a moment; pull out a tissue and simply dry your glasses off in order to see better. That being, stop and simply assess the situation. See the situation or issue for what it is.

I’ve been around for a fair amount of time or have made “a few laps around the track” might be another analogy. But, after all those laps I’ve found out this. Much of life, living and how we cope with it at times involves simply “stopping, wiping the raindrops from our glasses” to see just a bit better.

Of course, there will be those big issues that come up. The ones we never want to deal with. But, most will be the ones the “dry off your glasses type.” Nothing to get bent out of shape over. Just dry them off and move on.

If you’re going to spend any significant amount time in nature, it’s going to rain at some point. Perhaps just for a few brief moments, or maybe for a couple of days in a row. In fact, some of the best times and most memorable adventures Lynn and I have had involved rain and stormy weather. Real stormy weather. Now, we could have hidden in our tent until the rain stopped; not gone out at all. But, what fun is that? Just put on some rain gear; dry off your glasses and keep moving on.

Geez, it’s just water!

Life is the same way. If you’re going to live life, it’s going to rain on you somewhere and at some point. Don’t let a little drizzle get you all freaked out. Life is far too short to get freaked out about, especially if it is just a little drizzle.

Simply wipe off your glasses; have a look around and move on.

Geez, it’s only water!

Save the big freak-out for that big rain storm; the torrential downpour. That’s the time when that complex problem is going to require that complex solution.

Just a thought.

McCrae Lake Rapids- There and Back Again(A Late Winter Hike)

Backyards can be a magical spot. Just ask any six-year-old who spends a morning rummaging around through the grass, dirt and leaves exploring and looking for insects and whatever else might capture the imagination of such young explorers and scientists.

The same is true for those of us who spend any significant amount of time in the outdoors. Much like a six-year-old explorer or scientist, sometimes you don’t know what’s in your backyard until you get out and have a good look.

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McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve

I’d heard of McCrae Lake and the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve for I don’t know how long. The ironic part of this is, for the last twenty-plus years or more we’ve lived less than an hour away from it. I bet we’ve driven by the Crooked Bay Road exit on Highway 400 dozens of times since we’ve put down roots in this area. We’d drive three hours to hit up an adventure north of us but never bothered to check this area out. Go figure!

Last fall Lynn and her photography club planned a Saturday outing to this area and specifically the McCrae Lake Rapids. Since then, Lynn and I have been talking about getting back so we could hike the trails and photograph the area and the rapids.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve is a 2,039-hectare area of Crown land in the District of Muskoka. It is a very popular destination with a wide variety of outdoor pursuits available including, camping, canoeing, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, and photography to name a few. The area is defined as McDonald Lake(next to Highway 400) in the east, westward to Georgian Bay and north to the Gibson River.

So, last Friday we figured it was time to head on out. From where we live it’s about a 30-minute drive to the McCrae Lake Parking area just off Crooked Bay Road and the southbound Highway 400 on-ramp.

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The day dawned with temperatures hovering just around 1 to 2 degrees Celsius and cloudy, but with the sun peeking through from time to time. Leaving our home and arriving at the parking area around 10:45am, we collected ourselves and head off down the marked McCrae Lake Hiking Trail.

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The start of the McCrae Lake Hiking Trail is on the “west side” of the parking area. If you take the trail which commences at the most northern end of the parking lot, it is the start of the portage to the put-in on McDonald Lake.

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Once you head out the McCrae Lake Trail in order to reach the rapids you make a right turn when the hiking trail interests with a local snowmobile trail. However, before reaching that point, we thought that the area off-trail looked pretty interesting and worth exploring a bit more. We left the trail at a top of a ravine close to the snowmobile trail intersection and bushwacked through the forest, ultimately connecting with the snowmobile trail near its southern end.

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The yellow line indicates where we bushwhacked south from the hiking trail connecting with the snowmobile trunk route.

With all of the mild weather and rain we’ve experienced in recent weeks, it was very interesting to discover much snow was still in the bush and how deep it was. Even more interesting was how densely packed and crusty it was. For the most part, I was able to walk on top of the snow without post-holing through. Lynn had no issues at all. However, on those occasions I did sink in, it was at times up to my waist.

Once on the snowmobile trail, it was an easy hike up to the rapids separating McDonald and McCrae Lakes.

A few pictures from the afternoon.

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A bit more of an edited or stylized shot of the above picture.

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A rough day around the campfire making dinner.

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What a super place to get out to. Relatively mild temperatures, good trails and although a bit icy in sections, it still was an excellent day out. The McCrae Lake area to my understanding can get exceptionally busy during the summer with backcountry canoe camping due to it’s relatively close proximity to the GTA and with it being Crown Land, the camping is free.

I know there have been issues in the past with excessive noise, partying and garbage being left at the campsites. I’m not sure if that is still an issue or not. I suspect it could be. Certainly going in the shoulder seasons, or perhaps during the week, there wouldn’t be as many people. Again, not sure.

If you want to learn more about the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve, this link takes you to the Province’s policy statement for the direction, protection, development and management of the McCrae Lake Conservation Reserve.

Our short time spent there provided an excellent overview of the area, and we are already planning to hike the rest of the McCrae Lake Trail to the “Eagle’s Nest” area to investigate to cliffs and the views to the west across McCrae Lake.

It’s also my understanding the trail continues on from this point going around the south end of McCrae Lake and crosses the waterfall between McCrae Lake and Georgian Bay. Various reports suggest the distance from the parking lot to this point is between 6 and 7 kilometres one-way. We’ll be checking that out as well.

All in all, it was one of those afternoons that was desperately needed. Sunshine, fresh air, nature at its finest, refuelling of the batteries. All of this I got to share with Lynn.

You know, it doesn’t get any better.

Kind of glad we decided to check out what we could find in our “backyard.” Maybe this weekend you should do the same. You’d be surprised what you might find.

Thanks for reading.

 

Algonquin Park – A February Day Adventure

This adventure has been in the planning since Christmas.

Note, I’m using the word “planning” here in the broadest possible definition. The idea of “planning” only consisted of me mentioning to Lynn that I wanted to hit up Algonquin in and around the Christmas holidays.

But, as we all know work, life and other important or perhaps not so important things pop up from time to time. But, with decent weather in the forecast(or so we thought) and someone to come in during the day to look after Katie, the plan was set in motion.

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All this was sounding and looking extremely good on paper. However, given all this planning or lack of planning, the one thing we couldn’t control was Mother Nature.

We woke up to a forecast in Algonquin Park of freezing rain in the morning and changing to rain in the afternoon. The whole weather issue and specifically the freezing rain part is going to play a major role in the narrative so to speak. But, not in too bad of a way. Let’s just say, rain gear and a positive attitude over-comes much hardship and wet weather!

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But, putting the rather poor forecast aside, any time spent in Algonquin is always a time that is well invested. In fact, most experts if they’re any type of expert at all, will tell you it’s one of the best, safest and most secure investments one can make. It’s entirely an investment made in oneself.

Given poor weather; good weather; or weather that falls somewhere in between; any time be it a day, week or longer spent in Algonquin is usually just what the “Doctor prescribed.” On that note, I should check to see if fees associated with Algonquin are covered under my drug and benefits plan at work.

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Leaving home and after an uneventful 2.5-hour drive, we arrived at the West Gate to get our Day Pass around 10:45am.

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Our plan for the day was to hit up a couple of the interpretive hiking trails, then head over to the Visitors Centre, plus whatever else piqued our interest during our time in the park.

With the rain now slowing changing to freezing rain, we decided to check out the Two Rivers Trail.

Although we didn’t take a picture, the parking lot would have been easier to get across with skates versus trail boots. Nevertheless, there is an old saying Lynn and I go by, “enjoyment of an outdoor adventure is only limited by clothing choices.” Undaunted by the weather conditions we gathered our gear together, locked the car and headed down the rather hard packed, but even icier trail to tackle the adventure before us.

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Almost immediately, I spotted a Ruffed Grouse in the bush just ahead of us, who seemed for the most part unphased by us intruding in their part of Algonquin and was quite happy strutting along through the bush oblivious to our presence.

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The trail winds its way through a mixed forest slowly climbing towards a cliff edge with views of the North Madawaska River and hills to the west.

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A view of the hills in the west.

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A slick and icy cliff edge. Not the spot for a miss-step or “next stop – bottom of the cliff.”

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A view looking west and the North Madawaska River.

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An icy and somewhat precarious location. All the rocks were coated with a thin, but a slick coating of ice.

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The trail leading back to the parking area from the cliff edge.

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Link to a short video clip of the icy and crunchy approach along the trail to the cliff edge.

Descending the trail, we made it back to the car to find the parking lot now a virtual skating rink. The “rather slick underfoot” conditions were to be the norm for the rest of our day in Algonquin. Ignoring the odd stone that might be peeking through the ice, it would have made a grand spot for a spur of the moment pick-up hockey game.

I think you get the idea!

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Since we were just a few metres away from Mew Lake Campground, we decided to take a drive through to see if many people were winter camping. The short answer to that was No. A big resounding NO. Each campsite we came across was either fully or partially submerged in water; a complete ice sheet or a non-campable combination of both.

In addition, the roads throughout the campground were a virtual ice trail. Let’s just say, turning the car around was an exercise of sliding, stop, reverse, sliding, stop, forward, sliding and so on.

We did see one late-model camping van with a sawdust trail for traction leading from the van to the fire pit and one poor cold tenter with their tent perched rather lopsidedly on their site, trying to find that one high point that hadn’t been assaulted by water or ice.

After leaving Mew Lake, we headed over to the Visitors Centre to check things out there. Having been countless times, including back in the summer of 1993 when it first opened, it’s always fun and educational to take a walk through the exhibits and dioramas. During the week in the winter, the kitchen isn’t open, although the seating area is. However, the restaurant provides coffee, tea, soft drinks, juices, snack foods and some limited choices of microwaveable items on the “honour system.”

Yup, the honour system. All the items have a price listed. Pick what you want and there is a container to drop your money into. You can also go to the bookstore and pay there as well I believe. A pretty neat and innovative way of providing a level of service to those visiting during the week.

The bookstore is my “go-to stop” in the Visitors Centre. Always something interesting to pique my interest and lighten the load in my wallet. Again, during the week in the winter the Bookstore may or may not be open. There is a buzzer you can ring and staff will come out and open it up if you want to in and have a look at things in the store.

A quick walk through the exhibits and a couple of pics.

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View from the Observation Deck

 

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We also took the time to visit the Algonquin Room that has on display until the end of April the works of artist Gene Canning. This is from the Friends of Algonquin Park website:

On the Trail of Tom Thomson, 100 Years Later by Gene Canning

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of Tom Thomson’s time in Algonquin Park, artist Gene Canning paddled and painted the same rivers and lakes as Thomson, completing 150 paintings along the way. This exhibit shares with us Gene’s adventures and experiences in art and travel in Algonquin Park.

This link will take you to the artist’s website and the specific page describing in detail his three-year odyssey in completing “On The Trail of Tom Thomson.”

We spent some time on the observation deck taking pictures of the activity around the bird feeders on the ground below. Unfortunately, mist and drizzle kept Lynn’s time and focus to a minimum on the deck shooting pics of the birds below.

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Lastly, we decided to head over to the Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail across the road from the entrance to the Visitors Centre. By this time in the afternoon, the freezing drizzle and rain had done its damage so to speak. After sliding the car completely through the parking lot, we gingerly stepped along the edge at the bottom of the plowed banks and onto the trail.

Similar to the Two Rivers Trail, the Spruce Bog Boardwalk was a mixture of hardpacked snow and icy sections. Mostly icy sections for those wondering.

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This little red squirrel decided he wanted to be part of the adventure as well. He would follow us for a bit, then dart out from the trees, sort of look at us wondering where his “snack was” and then scamper back into the trees. A minute or two later he would re-appear and perform the same routine again. He did this three or four times until I guess he figured out we didn’t have anything for him.

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Having gone the whole time in the Park without having a “falling or slipping mishap”, I made it within 10 feet of our car when the inevitable happened.

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Need I say more?

Once Lynn finished laughing hysterically at my tumbling routine, we collected ourselves, skidded and spun the tires to get out of the parking lot and headed back home around 4:30pm or so.

All in all, and despite the rain and icy conditions, it was a perfect day. We’ve learned over the years that most of the time our adventures and outings tend to be “mind over matter.”

If your attitude is positive and weather conditions don’t matter, then a good day will be had. This was no different. Like I mentioned, “enjoyment of an outdoor adventure is only limited by clothing choices.” 

Don’t let rain, cold, or not so favourable weather conditions or forecasts keep you from getting out and enjoying all that nature and specifically Algonquin Park has to offer. Rain just presents yet another side to the beauty that is out there.

Back in the summer of 2015 on the Free Ontario Parks Admission Day, for those who remember it was pouring rain in Algonquin. Rain teeming down in sheets at times might be an appropriate way to describe it.

No one wanted to venture far from their campsite and no one wanted to come up to visit the park for the day it seemed. With rain gear in hand, Lynn and I had the Track and Tower Trail to ourselves for the entire afternoon. No cars in the parking lot when we arrived; no one on the trail and no cars in the parking lot when we finished. It was one of the best days of hiking we’ve had. A moody environment; mist and low cloud covered vistas from the lookout areas. Would have missed all of that if we let the poor weather keep us in a tent.

Get out there. Nature and the outdoors are waiting.

Thanks for reading!

Thoughts From The Wilderness – The Fence

Sometimes fences are big deals; other times not so much. Most fences are physical like the fences around a school yard or like this one shown here. Lynn took a picture of this farm fence back in the early spring of 2017 when we were hiking the Bruce Trail on the west side of the Beaver Valley. A simple page-wire fence separating two fields.

The worst types of fences are those artificial ones we create, or others erect for us that keep us emotional or mentally penned in from living and being all we can be.

Those types of fences are better saved to talk about another day.

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Other fences tend to be a little more stable that you can sit on ………………

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Source: Google Images

Regardless of where you might sit on the “old mental health break fence”, or any fence for that matter, we all need to take time out of our ever increasingly insane lives and re-charge our soul.

It doesn’t have to be a big re-charging ……….. you just need to re-charge enough.

I think that there can never be enough re-charging.

Do we really expect or even believe that our lives or society at large as we know it, will ever become “less insanely busy and hectic” as time marches on. The things that grasp at us trying to steal a chunk of our time; our focus; our attention; our health(both physical and mental) each day; will they stop or at least diminish at some point in the future?

Perhaps. Maybe when we retire; if people are ever able to really retire. Problem is we’re living and alive now; today; this upcoming weekend.

A simple walk at lunchtime on a trail in a local park; a Sunday afternoon hike with the family through a local county forest; an all-day adventure along the Bruce Trail; a snowshoeing weekend in Algonquin Park. I think you get the idea.

Deliberate

Focused

Determined

Three words to describe a ton of different life scenarios. Why not use those three words in plans to re-charge yourself with getting outdoors and back into nature.

Five days a week we bend over backwards being: Deliberate; Focussed and Determined for our bosses and places of employment.

This weekend be Deliberate; Focused and Determined to get back into nature; the great outdoors and re-charge those mental health batteries.

Because, I can almost guarantee the “less insanely busy and hectic” ain’t happening anytime soon.

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Get out there today; this weekend…………I think we all deserve it.