Short and Sweet – Contemplating The Day

Every so often, one wakes up and comes across an image that captures the essence of the human condition.

A beautiful sunrise that heralds the beginning and start to a new day. A day with seemingly unlimited potential for anyone willing to seize the moment.

A day that closes the chapter on the turmoil of the past and allows us to turn the page of our story to today. A day unblemished by the events of yesterday. A new opportunity to be the author of our own destiny.

Our mind becomes blank; empty of the worry and concerns of the past and the worry and concerns of the future which or may not be of any consequence.

Those times, when we sit high on the shores of some remote northern lake and watch the sun as it slowly and confidently rises over the morning horizon, we are still.

Perhaps the moral here is to be more like Frank. His mind is blank; he is at peace…… because he is a cat.

Be like Frank.

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Three Ways To Being Aware

For those tuning in thinking, this is yet another, albeit important post on being safe when you’re out about by yourself…..well sorry to disappoint.

Instead of safety and protection out in the big-bad world or precaution when outdoors and as important as those subjects are, this more focused on being “aware” or perhaps a wiser phrase might be “engaged” when spending time in nature.

However, before delving into the subject matter before us with any gusto, one question to ponder is, “why do I/we head out into the wilderness or even local parks for that matter?”

Even if only thinking about it for a second, there will be a multitude of weighty answers to that question, and all of them, if the question was answered truthfully, will be correct.

engageNevertheless, if one of the answers is to disengage from the stresses of life, then the other side of the equation suggests you’re disengaging from one thing in order to engage in and with this “new environment.”

Engagement runs parallel to being aware of your surroundings.

Not lost or unaware, but aware or engaged.

And as well, engagement with nature is not being in some zen-like trance wandering aimlessly around in the nether reaches of the northern Ontario boreal forest.

Although, if this is how you approach your time spent in the wilderness, well then more power to you. And good luck with that.get-lost-in-nature-and-you-will-find-yourself-quite-13154824

On a recent hiking adventure in Algonquin Park, while hiking along through a low lying bog area, I looked down off the path into the murky water and spied this snapping turtle as captured in this picture by Lynn.

Although, if talking precautions in the outdoors was the subject of today, an entirely appropriate safety message based on the picture might be “don’t dangle your fingers in the water to catch Mr./Mrs. Snapping Turtle’s attention. You may pull your hand out of the water with one less digit.”

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Looking at it, he/she is well camouflaged and just parked on the bottom of the stream. In fact, the snapping turtle looks like a flat rock on the stream bed, covered in algae and silt.

When I pointed the turtle out to Lynn, she immediately inquired, “how did you see that?”

For the life of me, I can’t remember what my response was, even if I had one. This all happened in early July, making more than three months ago. There is even the off-chance I may have made up some wild and glorious verbal diarrhea of an answer, which isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. When in doubt, make something up and mix some truth in with it. A strategy many politicians of all political stripes follow with great enthusiasm.

The reason why Mr./Mrs. Snapping Turtle and yours truly connected on at least a visual level was, “I was engaged” while out there. Engaged, even when slogging along with my main squeeze through a swampy and boggy area of Algonquin Park at the height of the blood-sucking and the “mind questioning – why am I out here? and mental wellness squashing”……northern Ontario bug season.

Engaged…what?

Remember, we all head out into nature for reasons that only one can truly answer for themself.

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My reasons can’t necessarily be your reasons for getting out. Nor can the reasons posted on a weekly basis from YouTuber “Buddy The Outdoors Person”, be your reasons or passion as well.

Your reasons will be your truth.

Now, before I explode on the reality, mission or “brand” perpetuated by “Buddy The Outdoors Person”(I just made the name up), here are three tips I follow to help be engaged with nature, either solo or with Lynn. As a side note, the outdoors is always better and I mean always a better time and experience when shared with someone.

Fair warning – these tips are in no way “the end all to be all “- but, nevertheless.

Being Engaged In Nature – Three Tips

Anticipate

Any time I head out, I always step out the door; fire up the car and leave the “old homestead” with a great level of anticipation.

Even before arriving at the destination and in fact during the planning or thinking about where we might be going, I have a grand level of anticipation.

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Source: Google Images

Anticipation for what?

Anticipate – that there will be something magnificent to be seen or experienced.

That the universe or “old Mother Nature” or even a power greater than us will lift up the wilderness stage curtain and reveal what we consider to be “what a great find” moment.

Right now, you may be thinking the same thing as me “what the fu@k” does that mean… and I even wrote it!! How messed up is that?

Alrighty then, before heading down some philosophical rabbit hole and spending way too much time, energy, brain cells and early morning coffee trying to answer the aforementioned “what the fu@k” does that mean.

Let’s try this.

How many of us when we’re out in the wilderness and miles from anywhere or even if we’re strolling through a local conservation area, like to see wildlife?

Of course, we all do!

I follow several “Algonquin Park” related groups on Facebook. Having followed these groups for some time now, one consistent question that gets asked is, “where are the best places in Algonquin to see…moose, bear, large animals etc.”

One can assume, these people are heading to Algonquin with the grand anticipation of seeing, for example, a moose along the side of Highway 60 in the springtime, grazing happily without a care in the world.

The anticipation of seeing a moose.

However, what happens if all the moose in Algonquin have a scheduled day off when you go?

You spend all day and not one friggin moose made an appearance. It seems like an outing like that could be considered and often is considered by many to have been a waste of a day in Algonquin.

It’s because the anticipation is wrongly focused.

The anticipation, in the “moose example”, is so narrowly centred, that only an Algonquin moose trying to hitch a ride with you and then regaling you with “tales and stories” from the bush all the while drinking a “double-double from Tim Hortons and chewing away at a Nutella smothered Beaver Tail” would be considered a “what a great find.”

Leaving the “old homestead” with the anticipation of “there will be something magnificent to be seen or experienced” provides a pretty wide canvas for the universe to surprise us. It might be a moose along Highway 60(that is always a bonus) or in our case a snapping turtle wallowing in the mud at the bottom of a stream as you trudge through some bug-infested low boggy area.

The idea here is it could be anything.

Think of this as waiting to unwrap a Christmas present from a very special person in your life. You know the present it will be great….you just don’t know how big, small or great it will be.

To anticipate “there will be something magnificent to be seen or experienced” is one catalyst or a great tip to help ensure you are engaged when out in nature.

Be in the moment

I’m not sure I know “what the fu@k” it even means.

Although, it is a well-used and perhaps now a worn-out phrase that gets tossed around without a whole lot of thought behind it’s meaning.

Which is perfect for this post.

With complete and utter disregard for any true meaning, the phrase may have, refer back to near the beginning of the post.

The assumption was that, if you’re heading out the door into nature to disengage from the stresses of life, then by default you’re disengaging from that in order to engage in this “new environment.”

Therefore, you’re being in the moment.

You can’t engage with the natural environment(be in the moment) without trying to consciously disengage from the stresses of life.

“Being in the moment or be in the moment” is a decision.

And “being there” is achieved and goes hand in hand with “anticipation.”

And I get it.

I get that “being in the moment”; that phrase has almost no meaning attached to it or is more of a “self-help” elixir that is mixed in large doses; prescribed feverishly by the “self-helper” establishment and consumed by the masses who are searching for some nebulous level of self-awareness enlightenment.

I get that.

Nevertheless,” being in the moment or be in the moment” is a decision.

And it’s hard to “be in the moment” and forget the cancer treatments a loved one is going through.; it’s hard to “be in the moment” when the world as you know and experience it seems to be crashing down around your ears.

But, if you close the door to your house that day, with the anticipation “there will be something magnificent to be seen or experienced” you’re well on your way to disengage from the stresses of life and to “be in the moment” with nature.

“Being in the moment or be in the moment” is a decision.

Unplug

Need I say more??

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Source: Google Images

Yes, we are a society sadly addicted to our little electronic devices.

And yes, I’ve heard every reason in the world why we MUST have those said electronic devices with us when in nature.

After 40 plus years or canoe tripping; hiking and other adventures, unfortunately, I’ve heard it all.

All 18,452 reasons why “I must have my cell phone; Ipad or other devices with me.”

So… take a picture…sure why not….capture the memory.

But, in order to engage with nature, unplug.

I wonder how Lynn and I survived in nature? In that time so long ago of …….pre-devices?

Addiction is bad………unplug.

 

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There you go.

It took some time to get here, but we somehow managed.

Three tips to help engage and be aware when you’re in nature.

  • anticipate – that something magnificent will be seen or experienced
  • be in the moment – make the decision
  • unplug – addiction is bad

 

Remember..

—  get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself  —

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Advice From a Sunset

As many of you may or perhaps may not have noticed, I haven’t been posting much to our blog lately.

Since coming back from Halifax in mid-July, it seems my anxiety and general mental-wellness or lack thereof has popped up more to the forefront of my existence. It was hard for me this time to leave Halifax, where our daughter Sara lives.

In addition, life, in general, has been challenging and looking ahead to the future at times at least from my perspective appears somewhat bleak.

We had planned a trip out east in October, but due to car repairs and just a general sense that the universe isn’t on our side at the moment(at least to head back out east), we’ve put that trip off until 2020. What was supposed to be a trip to see our daughter again and a quick visit to Prince Edward Island has left yet another hole of some undeterminable size in my mental-wellness psyche.

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Sunset at Meaford harbour.

However, with a new work crew starting today and now with weekends off, Lynn and I went to Meaford, ON last night to catch the sunset down at the wonderful waterfront and harbour located there.

After a grand evening watching the sun dip behind to horizon, the golden hour afterglow and the gentle hum of motorboats from people out salmon fishing just off-shore, I feel this might be appropriate and perhaps be the catalyst or at least be a tiny spark that gets the creative mojo flowing again.

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So, today I hope to….

  • close the day with beauty(we’ll see)
  • be amazing(perhaps)
  • have a glow about you(not sure I’ve ever had a “glow about” me)
  • make a dramatic exit(I’m more likely to make a dramatic splash during the day)
  • show your true colours(I hope people see them)

Thanks for reading.

 

Road Tripping – Owen Sound and Meaford

Although we love to visit communities of all sizes when we’re out on an adventure, we don’t often make the community the adventure so to speak.

What I mean by that is, we might be hiking or adventuring close by and may stop in an adjacent community for a bite to eat or to put a bit of fuel in the car.

The one thing we rarely do but have done from time to time in the past is “urban hiking.”

One definition of urban hiking I happened to stumble across is this, “Urban hiking might  be defined as, an active walk taken in an urban environment that goes through parks, uses stairwells, crosses intersections, and meanders through the city’s obstacles of life.”

In addition, Lynn likes to shoot every so often, pictures that aren’t normally nature or hiking related. To keep the creative and technical things sharp, she likes to shoot areas or subjects she might not normally spend much time photographing.

Such was the confluence of these two elements in the past few days. An urban hike to photograph something different.

Having a purpose in mind, we simply needed a place.

And what better place, than Owen Sound and Meaford for the day. Just a relatively short hop from the “old homestead” and both being just down the road from the other.

This looks like it was going to work.

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Of the many things we adore about Owen Sound, is its architecture in and around the downtown.

Some shots from here.

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An outstanding feature of the many things that make Meaford a great spot, is the waterfront and harbour area.

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The spookiest tree we’ve ever seen. It was across the road from the harbour and waterfront.

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Urban hiking/walking – is it worth it?

Absolutely it is.

If this type of hike is something that you don’t normally undertake, especially if your exploring time is normally spent out on a trail, having an open mind to what you might discover in my opinion is the best first step. Often larger municipalities have urban walking routes with maps that you might be able to get a local tourist information site.

There are plenty of outdoors types who would never be caught hiking through an urban environment, and I get that. As much as being in nature is to “get away from the noise and busyness of built-up areas”, discovering and seeing new and exciting sights is also part of the mix as well.

So, having an open mind to what might fall across your path, I think, sets a good course for the day. Urban hiking has it’s drawbacks and issues as well. Nevertheless, the same approaches one would apply on a wilderness trail can be applied here. Be aware of your surroundings; don’t head into spots if you’re unsure of. You get the idea.

One of the best aspects of this is, you just might be able to head out in your own backyard for an enjoyable day spent exploring the city you live in. We often live in communities, but never get out and explore what is simply around “the corner.”

Thanks for visiting and hope that you can take an opportunity and explore “the nooks and crannies” in our neighbourhood.

Remember…

 

—  get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself  —

 

 

 

Algonquin Park – A February Day Adventure – 2018

One thing we’ve learned over the years when spending significant time in the outdoors is when given lemons you often just simply need to make lemonade. Adding a splash of vodka doesn’t hurt either. In that, the weather will do what it is going to do, so you can either belly-ache about it and stay home or get out there and make the best of it.

This post is from just about one year ago when we made a day trip to Algonquin in late February of 2018.

A wet and icy day trip.

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. I 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 – Making Memories

Making memories is so much more than the word “memories.”

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The phrase “making memories” has a definitive sense of action associated with it. It’s simply not memories, but “making memories.” Not sitting idly around waiting for some random event to happen or evolve out of the vapours of living, but to actively create and “make memories.”

“Life is about moments. Create them. Don’t wait for them.”

— unknown —

Why Making Memories

Over the past week, I’ve had the idea of making memories rattling around in my head. In the past, I have written a few posts on “being in the moment” and “not taking people for granted” which kind of have the thought of making memories implied in the post. Thoughts From The Wilderness – Hiding In Plain Sight Valuing Those We Love

But, not sure why the fixation with making memories at this time.

Perhaps it’s because our daughter has flown in from eastern Canada for a few days that lit the spark. I’m sure that has a major role in the catalyst of it, but it seems as I get older the realization that TIME DOES NOT STAND STILL often rears its head.

The “old clock” keeps ticking along, each second and minute getting us closer to some point in the future, and hopefully, the far distant future where time as we know it will stop for us. Life is far too short to be sitting around and it’s far too easy to idly waste precious time fixated on phone apps and computer screens all the while assuming some event will magically occur and the result is that everlasting memory the family brings up at each holiday gathering.

“Your most valuable family possessions are the shared experiences and memories that link your hearts together.”

— unknown —

‘Making memories” involves people and hopefully those closest and dearest to us. Our families, spouses, children, friend or some combination of all of them.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories. We just knew we were having fun.”

— unknown —

And the wonderful aspect is that nearly any event or outing has the potential to become a treasured memory. While making memories is important, making ones that are positive is essential. Generally speaking, positive experiences and memories tend to remain with us longer, while negative memories slip off and are forgotten. It’s the new, different, discovering or curious events that happen, which grasp hold of a tiny part of our mind and take root there. This is what we look back at as adults to times gone by with fondness and longing.

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Making Memories

Memories are best made with loved ones – Marriage is a ready-made vehicle for the making of and cultivating of rich memories. The memory in itself helps to enhance marriage by providing a common language of the shared experience. Along the same line, loved ones, obviously include family, friends and people we care about. When we are with those we love, memories coming out of wonderful events and happenings are sure to follow.

Memories take time – Our best memories have been born out of spending a lot of time together.

Memories are made of varied adventures – Creating memories can occur anywhere and at any time. Don’t get into a rut assuming memories are only created in 5-star resorts. There is literally a universe full of wonderful ways to share our lives together and thus create an ocean full of everlasting and wondrous memories.

Memories are both planned and unplanned – Although memories can be made in those “planned events” such as vacation times, seasonal holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, don’t forget times that are seemingly spontaneous and unplanned.

Memories are celebrated – The last and perhaps the most important is that a memory really isn’t a memory if it isn’t celebrated. We need to talk about them, look at pictures of it and above all laugh about them. The phrase, “Do you remember the time…..” is a great way to kick-off time spent together.

In hindsight, the title for the post and the post should have been something along the line of “Spending Time Together.” Spending time with loved ones, our families and friends. Cultivating, enriching and building into those we love. Loving each other and celebrating our differences and commonalities.

At the end of the day, all that matters is love and memories so make sure you give it and make sure you make them.

— Trent Shelton —

Finally, one question to ponder and to ask your spouse, children and loved ones is simply this, ” If you could keep only one memory of all our years together, what would it be? Why?”

Make sure it’s a great one!

Thanks for reading.

 

— get outdoors; find inspiration; discover yourself —

 

 

Thoughts From The Wilderness – Hiding In Plain Sight

What I’ve unearthed over the years is it doesn’t matter the situation or even if you’re trying to explain the “meaning of life” there will always be some sort of cliché or cute saying that can be found to help explain or add a measured amount of clarity to the situation.

Old adage’s like, “hiding in plain sight” or “can’t see the forest for the trees” come to mind. All of which is exceedingly ironic because the definition of a cliché is “a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought

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There you go, “overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”  Kind of funny because Lynn took this picture of me “hiding in plain sight” while returning during the winter from an adventure on the Bruce Trail in the Beaver Valley area of Grey County. But, leaving the “lack of original thought ” aside for the moment, when Lynn posted this picture on a photography Facebook group she administrates on, many people commented they thought the “red” might be a male cardinal.

But, there I am “hiding in plain sight” and sorry for the cliché which is “overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”

But, “hiding in plain sight” or “can’t see the forest for the trees” can in one sense apply to our lives. How many times have we missed or continually fail to see the beauty that is right in front of our face? It could be something in nature or more importantly, it could be someone you know and love.

In these instances, often times we use the phrase “taking something or someone for granted”

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We all take things for granted at some point. Our health, our jobs, our family and loved ones and often life in general. We take for granted things in our lives that seem stable, reliable and loyal. Convincing ourselves that these people, things or situations will always be there in the future. Why? Because they’ve always been there in the past.

Having made this assumption or having convinced ourselves of their permanence, they tend to blend into the scenery of our daily lives. They become “hidden in plain sight.”

And this is the deception of permanence.

Nothing lasts forever. Everything that surrounds us at some point changes. Relationships, life situations, jobs, the circumstances we find ourselves in. It all eventually changes. However, when we believe that all of it lasts forever or will never change, disappointment and pain aren’t usually too far away.

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Source: Google Images

It’s ironic, and most of us know this. At least I think on some level, we do. If we know something doesn’t last forever, why do we treat it or people as if they do? So, if we know that, why would we ever take anything for granted?

Examining it in terms of relationships, when we meet someone new and exciting, we tend to pay lots of attention to them. We acknowledge them, heap love and praise all over them till they can’t stand it anymore. Every moment with them is exciting. A new adventure around the next corner. That new person really stands out from the usual background of life we’re used to. But, after time we unconsciously assume or have convinced ourselves of their permanence, they tend to start to blend into the scenery of our daily lives. They become “hidden in plain sight.”

The deception of permanence.

Does it mean we stopped loving or caring for these things or people? I don’t think so. Many times, we just simply don’t stop or pause often enough to appreciate them or pay attention to their being in our lives.

We take for granted what we value most, such as our livelihoods and loved ones. We fool ourselves into thinking they will always be there when we need them, so we get blindsided when we lose them.

But, there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

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Source: Google Images

Working at being aware of those around us and getting grounded in the present makes us more likely to see the value in everything. When we see value in a situation and more importantly people, aren’t we less likely to take things for granted?

We need to remind ourselves that along with paying taxes, change is the only constant in life.

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Pretty easy to lose focus on things when they’re “hiding in plain sight.” Staying in the moment can be tough especially when the autopilot button is handy. Just click it on and it’s super easy to cruise and let our attention wander, oblivious to much that is going on around us.

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Here are four ways to help us value those people in our lives. To focus on those that may be “hiding in plain sight.” These are just thoughts and ideas of my own and by no means an exhaustive list.

Obviously, there is a multitude of ways to help us value those around us.

Live in the moment

We need to learn to live in the present. Not to think about living in the moment, but just to “live in the moment.”

We need to quit dwelling in the past about the things that could have been or should have been. We wallow in a sea in regrets and missed opportunities.

When dreaming of the future, we get absorbed in what should and shouldn’t happen. Forgetting that much of the future and the things that we will experience may not be in our control.

We need to work each day to “live in the present.” Only then can we truly start noticing and appreciating those around us.

Slow down

Right now, we live in a world that is always in a rush driving us towards whatever is next on the list vying for our time.

More often than not, the best time-spender may be the person sitting across from us. The spouse or child sitting next to you on the couch.

To value the people in our lives, the ones closest and dearest to us, we must slow down long enough to hear and understand their needs and then respond appropriately.   

Recognize the good in people

Compliments go a long way in valuing someone and building positive relationships.

The key is this. When you’re with the ones you love, always be searching for the good. Our mind at times will default to see someone’s faults, even those closest to us. But, remember we’re looking and trying to value those around us.

Complimenting someone always leaves them a little taller; a feeling a little better than a few minutes prior. When we seek and acknowledge what’s good in a person means we value them.

I think we’ve de-evolved as a species taking us a point where it becomes much easier and simpler to see someone’s faults. Perhaps, because we can be so surrounded by negative all the time.

So, fight to see and acknowledge the best and the good about others.  

Be vulnerable

When we’re willing to admit our own faults and imperfections to those we cherish, aren’t we telling them that we’re human too? Kind of makes the playing field a bit more level.

How does this show we/you value a person? It’s by showing them, you care more about them than you do about “saving face.” Being vulnerable also communicates honesty, trust, and boldness.

If you think about it for just a second, it would be exceedingly difficult for us to lay our weaknesses and faults on the table, without first truly valuing the person sitting across from us.

Right now, this very minute we can start getting better at focusing our attention on the things that really matter right here and now.

Even if they might be “hiding in plain sight.”

How do you value and even more us show the people around you; the ones closest to your heart that they have value and you value them?

What are the things you do?

Remember, because if you think you have forever, you don’t.

Just some thoughts.

Love to hear back from you.

A Day of No Agenda – Prince Edward Island

I’m sure all of us when on vacation, need those days where there is no real agenda to keep. The times when there is no schedule to worry about, no place you need to be in particular. Just kind of “a go with the flow” type of day that is set in front of you.

One thing I wanted to do on this trip, was to have a day set aside just for us. A day where there was no real agenda; a day when we could do whatever we wanted. On our trip in June 2017, we both found that given the exceedingly long days, including one that stretched into twenty hours, two provinces and with two crossings of the Northumberland Strait, a kind of “down day” might be in order.

Saturday, June 23 was to be that day.

Seemed like a good idea, given the previous day started with commercial lobster fishing at 3:30am and finished somewhere near 11:30pm after an afternoon and evening spent strolling through downtown Charlottetown and attending a performance of “Anne of Green Gables –  The Musical” at the Confederation Centre.

Our only commitment on Saturday was to meet our friend Ian in Charlottetown for breakfast and to take a stroll along the boardwalk of Victoria Park with him.

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After leaving Montague where we were staying, we arrived in Charlottetown around 9:15am or so.

As you can see, traffic was “heavy” causing great concern on our part heading into Charlottetown.

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Meeting Ian at his apartment, we made our way downtown to have breakfast at Linda’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant.

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After finishing up we headed down to the boardwalk that follows the waterfront at Victoria Park.

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Ian and I trying to solve many of the world’s issues. We still have a troubling few to work on.

A walk through downtown Charlottetown.

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After most of the morning spent with Ian, we said our goodbyes and promising to keep in touch regularity through FB and the chance to hopefully meet again next year. The bonus for me was, Ian had set aside for me a couple of jars of a tomato pickle garnish that he had canned himself back in the fall. It is exceedingly yummy.

One thing I wanted to do again, was to drive through the Cavendish and Brackley section of PEI National Park to stop as gaze out at the views of the red cliffs and the ocean. As well, just the opportunity to stop when we wanted, walk along the white beaches seemed like a soothing and much needed afternoon.

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A 40 minute trip from Charlottetown put us at the entrance to the Cavendish section of PEI National Park.

1411DSC_0115-Pano103631A short from one of the many roadside pull-off viewing locations along the Gulf Shore Parkway in the National Park.

Another short clip showing magnificent views out across the ocean from the Park.

3432A few of our Cormorant feathered friends nesting on the red sandstone cliffs.131429A small part of the Brackley Beach complex in PEI National Park.305Our final stop along the way was Covehead Harbour.981921720

Lynn’s favourite PEI flower – the lupin.1528

We finished up our north shore PEI National Park tour with a quick trip through the grounds of Dalvay By The Sea, the historic hotel that Lynn and I were fortunate to be staying when we vacationed here last June. Driving through the grounds brought back wonderful memories of the grandeur of the hotel and our stay there, while at the same time starting the bittersweet countdown to the end of our time on the Island.

And with that, our day re-visiting old haunts and discovering new ones was over. We finished up taking a quick drive back through the downtown of Charlottetown, headed back over the Hillsborough Bridge for the 30-minute drive back to our place in Montague. The rest of our evening, we spent packing and organizing to leave the Island and head on over to Nova Scotia and Halifax to spend three or four days with our daughter.

Although I marvelled in the beauty and awe-inspiring images of our Saturday road trip, this day was also the most emotional for me in terms of living life at the moment. Having just turned 60 only a few days prior, this trip forced me to take a long and hard look back to see where I’ve ended up and more importantly where I’m headed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to reconcile those emotions yet. Hopefully, I’ll be able to.

What things or events have caused you to take that long and hard reflection back on your days on the earth?

Anyhow, thanks for taking a look.

Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia – A Mixture of Emotions

We’ve all been there at some point. You’ve arrived back home from vacation; a vacation that was wonderful in all aspects, but there is this lingering, nagging inner conflict or turmoil you just can’t put a finger to.

We’ve just returned from 5800-kilometre adventure spent driving to, around and from the Maritimes. Next to lugging back a mound of dirty laundry and exquisite memories, seems I’ve also conjured up the ingredients necessary to create somewhat of a medium sized kettle of emotions that have been swirling around inside me pretty much during our vacation and most assuredly since we’ve returned last week. Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 6.00.29 AMNot that I’m complaining or at least I’m not trying to complain, but for some reason that perhaps only elements of the universe can explain, this trip was very reflective and somewhat of an emotional roller coaster at times for me.

2Much of this trip has been planned since we went out to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia last summer and again in October. In fact, since that time we’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Prince Edward Island is where we plan to retire to in the next few years.

If you read our trip reports from last year, each day was pretty much of a “peddle to the metal” trip comprised of long days, many adventures but little sleep. This trip east was supposed to much more relaxing and it was now that I’ve reflected back a bit.

But, back to this trip, it seems I’m struggling with “unpacking” what the time away meant.3

1Perhaps it’s the realization that our daughter for this chapter in her life, has chosen to stay in Halifax with her roommate and create a life for herself there. I think back to when I was her age, and there was no way I would have been mature enough to strike out on my own right after college graduation with no job and only an apartment found online and head across the country to a city she and her roommate knew little or nothing about.

But, she did it and has settled into the daily routine of work, relaxation, time out with friends, paying bills, doing laundry. They’ve found a new place which they will move into in September. It is only 3 or 4 minutes away from where they currently live, in fact, it’s on the same street. Nevertheless, I’ll miss the “Old Elmwood,” such a great structure with a rich history and tapestry of tenants all coming together as one in a wonderful location in downtown Halifax.

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“The Elmwood”

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“The New Place”

But, change and the components that comprise it are part of life and living and I’m slowing getting a grip on the idea that there isn’t much I can do about it and that I might as well embrace it and go along for the ride.

Isn’t life and our existence at times a precarious balancing act of driving towards our dreams and goals, but counter-set against the day to day trials, tribulations and successes of living.

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Lynn often tells me that I need to live “more in the moment” and not get so involved in planning everything down to within an “inch of its life.” Maybe, that is what I’m struggling with is that we spent the best part of seven or eight months thinking, dreaming and planning for this vacation and thoughts of moving to PEI, that there was no way the actual time out there could ever live up to the level of anticipation we forged in our chemistry lab of planning.

I’m starting to have the scale fall off my eyes to understand that just taking a step or two without knowing the full picture takes “a healthy set of nards” all mixed in with a decent dose of faith is perhaps the right and best thing for a person to live as they are supposed to live.

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We had the wonderful chance to stumble upon this sandwich shop in the village of St. Peter’s Bay. The owners originally from Ontario, exemplify the “healthy set of nards” principle in my opinion. After visiting the Island in the fall, they decided to change direction in their life. They signed a leased on the unit; went back to Ontario sold their house and quit their jobs; bought a place just down the road in the next village; completed renovations and are now open as a soup and sandwich restaurant. As one of them said, “I gave up my high-stress healthcare job to make sandwiches and homemade soup; gave up social media for the most part and now instead I sit and write my friends letters. It freaks them out, but I couldn’t be happier.”

Although planning in life is necessary to some extent, perhaps we go way too far and plan the “crap out of everything” that the concept of “carp diem” or seize the moment vanishes. The exhilaration of just making a decision and going for it, whether it be a decision that changes the direction of your life, or simply a decision to get in the car and go where the wind takes you.

5Although life can be fraught with stormy skies and swirling seas….8

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…life also has those times of peace, tranquillity and magnificent vistas.

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The reality is, perhaps the moment we’re in right now is all that we really have. Life moves along most times like a bubbling brook, other times like a raging torrent of water cascading through a rocky river gorge.

Overthinking things; over-analyzing life in essence just steals the spontaneity and exuberance of the moment. There are a time and place for those overthinking and over-analyzing endeavours, but just not on vacation, or the days after.

Carp Diem – seize the day.

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Hatchery Falls – The Return Trip

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The last few weeks have been a whirl-wind of life-related activities so to speak. With everything from photography related business stuff on Lynn’s side of the equation; to family commitments; ice storms/poor weather and just those day-to-day undertakings that take up time and way more valuable energy than required. So given all that, we haven’t had the opportunity to get out as much as we would like or as much as we need to. That doesn’t even take into consideration the hours that dreaded “9 to 5” work deal gobbles up out of the week.

Seems as well, I haven’t had the motivation or inspiration to tackle much from the “Thoughts From The Wilderness” posts either. I guess all of us at one point or another go through those creative dry spells.

Nevertheless, last Friday as temperatures rose to way above zero and looking like spring was finally making a long-awaited appearance, we decided to pack up the camera gear and head back to Hatchery Falls on the Skeleton River located near the hamlet of Bent River in the north Muskoka area of Ontario.

Screen Shot 2018-04-13 at 7.06.06 AMBeing slightly over an hour from our home in northern Simcoe County, it makes for an efficient and quick drive up Highway 400 and across Highway 141. There are countless advantages of living where we do. One that occupies a coveted spot near the top of the list is, it’s usually just a “reasonable jaunt” in any of the four cardinal directions to find an adventure to keep us occupied for a day.

However, if the “right adventure” gets dropped in our laps, we’re more than willing and usually very excited to tackle it or at least give it the “old college try” even if it requires us to make an “unreasonable jaunt.” Enter driving over 5000 kilometres in six days last fall, including a couple of days adventuring across PEI. It’s one of those “put in the effort – reap the reward” kind of approaches. For the most part, it almost always requires putting in long and every once in a while exceedingly exhausting days. Seems I’m NOT a sit on the beach kind of adventurer.

So, go figure – it does work for us though.

We have been to this sweet part of Muskoka three times so far this year, with the last trip only a couple of weeks before. You can read about that adventure here.

After getting our gear together and packing some water and a couple of Clif Bars we headed north towards Fish Hatchery Park.

It’s hard to believe that there has been this much change in snow cover in just under three short weeks.

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Snow up to your ????

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Not so much snow.

After heading east along Highway 12, north up Highway 400 and finally east along Highway 141, we arrived at Fish Hatchery Park about 11:00 am. We quickly collected our things and set off to photograph in greater detail Hatchery Falls, located less than a kilometre from where we parked our car.

I was amazed at the sheer difference just a couple of weeks made in terms of the overall look of the area. Two weeks prior everything was still covered in snow, much like it was at New Years when we first visited the area. Now, near the end of April and after only experiencing a few precious days of warm temperatures much of the snow in the open areas and a significant amount of the forest was melted.

With the sun shining and the light filtering down through the tree canopy, I knew that this was going to be a great outing. One of the things I love about early spring is the textures created by the sun weaving its way through a spruce and pine forest and reflecting off the snow that remains scattered on the ground. Days like this make it worth-while to be living and enjoying being outdoors.

The trail is well-marked with white blazes on trees as it passes through the park area.2

Still a fair bit of snow in the bush, but with the warmer weather that is being predicted it won’t be around for much longer.

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The trail was well packed down, but there were many sections that were ice-covered and very slick.

A short video of the snowy approach to the top of the falls.

I shot the short clip using my phone, so I apologize for the rather poor production value. Seems in getting our gear together, I forgot to pack the camera I’ve been shooting video with. Must be old age creeping up on me.

A couple of shots upstream of the top of the falls.

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Hatchery Falls. The angle of the video doesn’t present the magnitude and size of the falls very well. The published height of Hatchery Falls is seven metres with a three-metre crest.

A few still shots of the water cascading down the falls.

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We actually spent a fair bit of time at the base of the falls. It is a steep and tricky slope down from the top of the trail to this location. All of this was compounded by ice and frozen ground.

More shots from the area both up and downstream.

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After spending considerable time photographing and investigating around the base of the falls, we climb back out of the river gorge with the intention of slowly and leisurely making our way back to the car located about a kilometre away.

That is until I spied this up at the top of an adjacent slope.

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Although the perspective of the picture doesn’t capture it precisely, the ice formation on the cliff face is about 2.5 metres in height and at the top of a rather steep snow and ice covered slope.

This was something that must be explored. At least that was my sense!

Once we started to scramble up the snow and ice covered slope, this was the feature that caught our attention. An opening through the ice into a potential cave.

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I zoomed in using the camera on my phone for the above shot. That opening in the ice was about two feet higher than me and located at the top of an extremely slick and steep ice slope.

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The above picture illustrates to some extent the steepness of the slope. If I was to lay along the slope with my feet against the tree in the foreground in the picture and stretch my arms out, I would just reach the opening in the icefall.

However, as things were melting the face of the icefall was unbelievably slick. But, all was not lost. I did manage to capture a picture of one of the most elusive animals found in the north Muskoka area.

The hibernating “pretium extrema” – photographer extreme in a cave opening.

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The “pretium extrema” waking up.

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A couple of shots from inside the cave opening.

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A few shots from along the base on the icefall.

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Anything to get in the right position to realize the shot – I guess?

3934We actually spent an hour or more scrambling along and over the base of the icefall without slipping and hurtling down the slope to the trail below. Much fun!

 

 

It was a great late morning and afternoon spent adventuring in this beautiful and fascinating area of north of Muskoka. A day with the sun shining; warm temperatures; dazzling scenary and landscapes and good company doesn’t get much better. Lynn and I both felt it was one of those “we need to get out” type of exploits.

And don’t each one of us needs those types of days? To get away and forget about the trials and tribulations that life throws at us. To remind ourselves that life is meant to be lived and experienced. The more and varied the experiences – the better.

Lynn and I are no fans at all of the whole “living to work” paradigm. Careers, jobs and such can be “here today – gone tomorrow.” Guess over the years we’ve become devotees of the “working to live” point of view. However you may choose to define it, life is meant to be lived. So, stop putting off getting outside and into nature. Get out there; there is a whole world to explore. Some of it is in your own backyard.!

This has been our fourth trip to this specific location since the beginning of 2018. A little bird keeps whispering in my ear there is another adventure on the horizon sooner than later. This one involves bushwhacking to a location in this general vicinity that I managed to discover and do some sleuthing on.

So stay tuned for that.

Remember, get outside this weekend or even today and explore something in your part of the world. Keep at it – “cause you never know what’s around the next bend.”

Thanks for reading.