For me it was camping. The location? Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. The park is so vast, there are multiple campgrounds and hiking trails within its borders as well as logging areas, a Logging museum, an Arts museum, outfitting stores and vacation resorts. . It’s home to Bears, Loons, Moose, Beavers, Wolves, birds and its lakes and rivers home to fish, turtles, aquatic life.
I had some time up there last week and today is back to work day. For me, it’s not an escape or a get-away destination as are some places but rather the opposite. It’s a return and a get-to destination. When I’m there, my perception of time slows a little, I breathe a little deeper, I feel the soft pine forest beneath my feet, walk soundlessly in those forests, and feel grounded; connected.
One particular trail of only 1.9 km in length takes the traveller through a forest of birch, maple and pine culminating with a view over a cliff face. From there, you can look across miles of the pine forest canopy; see Lake of Two Rivers, the undulation of the landscape before you, shaped and molded from the passing of vast sheets of ice in what was the ice age. The view is blue skies above and shades of greens below. In a month, much of that green will be ablaze in red, orange, yellow and rust; the colours of Autumn.
It was just as I was departing this view when I turned to my wife behind me and saw that she was taking my picture. I reached out my right hand and placing my outstretched arm against a tree upon the crest of this cliff, I said, “This is a pose my dad would have taken.” Wow, I hadn’t done that intentionally, but I recognized in that pose the image of my father. My father who had with my mother, exposed me to Algonquin and camping all through my childhood. And so, again, instead of getting away for a week as co-workers will see it, I was in fact returning not just to a park, but to a memory of my own past.
Do you have a special place of your own that brings you peace, sanctuary, relaxation; somewhere where you connect with a part of yourself that you just can’t find anywhere else? It’s spiritual in a way, because my spirit is always affected when I’m there. It does me good, and I’m good for another year. When I don’t make it up there, something is missing and I feel it until I’m back. Four nights there and I’m changed, again, reminded of what’s important – to me at any rate.
And it doesn’t stop when the sun dips below the skyline. There’s the campfire. How many people have spent time seated before a fire, drawn into those orange flames that curl around logs, the glowing red and blue embers that radiate intense heat and the sounds of crackle and sparks. Looking up at the plume of smoke that disappears in the darkening pine canopy, the stars above in a cloudless night are captivating; and they’d have to be to steal your view from the campfire.
Gaze long enough and you’ll see the moon ascend, moving on it’s trajectory across the night sky, but in the forest it appears to hide and reveal itself continuously behind the trunks of the tall pine giants. There are no street lights, just the campfires from others. Noise travels more at night and at this time of year, there are few occupied sites; those with children are back at their homes, their children in schools. Every so often a lone cry is heard from a Loon. It’s magic in the woods.
At this time of the night, there are no electronics on; no wireless internet, no television, radio or even reading of a book. Every so often a laugh from another group of campers is heard; one by one the fires are extinguished, campers move to their tents or travel trailers. It’s cool at night; not cold mind you – that will come in the weeks ahead. No, it’s perfect for a sound sleep with the air cool, the sleeping bags warm and waiting. It’s like a long lasting hug, cocooned inside where you body heat is all you need to spend a warm night. And dark? It’s void of light here; an exhale of content, and drifting away…
Sitting back here at home now, I’m ready for the day ahead. In ten minutes, the routine of a shower, dressing, breakfast, a packed lunch and the commute to work will bring me back to work. It’s okay and it’s good.
I hope that you who read this also have had or will have a vacation that gives you what it is you seek. Be it a strengthening of your spirit, a memory you make with your family or a solo adventure of travel and sightseeing, getting what you want and need is my hope. If you stay at home, may you be in your happy place, for it’s not always a big trip with lot’s of stories that we need.
If you’ve the interest, share your favourite vacation spot in the comments. How is it spent? Is it a road trip? Whether campsite, resort, backyard retreat or tourist attractions, it’s all good.
Mentally recharged and sincerely grateful.