Originally published as a column on September 5, 2014 in the Armchair Mayor News.
It was Saturday morning and the sun was the brightest in a few days. We were planning an overnight hike to a nearby lake, the boys’ first if you don’t count a canoe camping trip we did a while ago.
Six of us, as we had two of our relatives from Europe, hiking enthusiasts who have never been into the Canadian back country. In a very subjective manner, we might’ve mentioned that British Columbia has the best of it. Subjective with a side of love if you will.
We loaded backpacks, fishing rods included, and somewhat delayed by an afternoon storm, started our trip later than planned. We took a forest trail that saw us chat two by two, drenched by sudden rain and amazed at the sight of tiny forest frogs, chipmunks and squirrels. Sudden wing flaps made room for guessing games about the birds we could not see, and so did crunching noises coming from farther away.
We kept our path and hit the lake two hours later. The adventure that followed included hiking through a swampy terrain and finding our way through thickets, thus helping the boys understand what bushwhacking really means. Rain continued, feet dunked occasionally as we stepped over slippery logs, mud abounded, but all six of us kept going.
The youngest of us got to ride on shoulders most of the way because small feet can only do so much in moose paradise. It really was. We found a moose bed and though we didn’t get to see a real one, we knew they were near. Wild and proud, Canada made us mucky travelers humbled to be there.
Our guests loved it, the boys did too (more so after we reached the cabin we were headed to) and we all had the unmistakable feeling of victory as we approached the cabin in what could be described as complete darkness.
We peeled off drenched clothing, the boys huddled in a sleeping bag together for warmth and us adults made a big fire and got dinner going. Restaurant dining and a walk through town would’ve never made our guests see what we truly wanted to show them. Canada at its finest: colours, textures, smells, simple beauty that if seen and felt for real, would make anyone not only proud but willing to work their hardest to keep it like that.
A bucket of stars spilled on the night sky, and we found the brightest ones on the lake surface as well. The chilled air of the early fall was drawing steam from summer-warm lake waters and because dinner was taking a while anyway, we went for a night swim. Try it at least once.
We toasted to great adventures, resilience and togetherness, and then we had a sleep guarded by far away loons and a harvest moon that fit perfectly above tall pines.
Soup for breakfast, pumpkin bread and coffee, complete with fishing and exploring the surroundings. Then we were ready to head back, hoping for a boat to take us across the lake so we can avoid swamp trekking.
Out of the blue, a boat came. We called on it, asked if crossing would be possible and the man graciously obliged. Two by two, we were deposited to the other side, leaving the swamps to the moose, because they do it better anyway.
We asked the man for his contact details so we can repay his kindness. Smiling he said ‘Not to worry, just pay it forward.’ We smiled back and promised we will. We do often; random acts of kindness are the best way to feel yourself human.
We trekked back. Rain and bright sun accompanied us and when we reached the car we knew the trip had become more than we ever hoped it would be. Our guests got to see what Canada is made of. Beautiful wilderness and kindness to start with; two valuable assets we should keep on guarding because they are part of the foundation we build our identity on. It definitely made us proud to say ‘Welcome to Canada!’