Mountain Life – Blue Mountains - Summer 2022

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water +wheels SUMMER 2022 // FREE












Receive complimentary access to Blue Mountain’s hiking & cross-country trail network as well as unlimited access to the Open-Air Gondola all summer! ONLINE AT BLUEMOUNTAIN.CA *Price +HST until October 13, 2022. Youth ages 5-12 at time of purchase. Blackout dates and conditions apply. Visit for details.


orchard side in Clarksburg, online or at LCBO + fine bottle shops.




UPFRONTS P.15 New Kids on the Trail P.17 Ghost Cats P.20 10 Years in the Canopy

FEATURE P.25 Voyage to the Windy Islands

ON THIS PAGE Sunset SUP yoga on the Ottawa River.





P.70 TRAVEL Family Nature Therapy

P.35 TRAVEL Hike, Hut, Hike

P.73 MTN HOME A Cottage Off the Shelf


P.81 INSIDER Blue’s Skills Camps

P.47 BIOPHILIAC Travels with Neegik


P.50 EPIC TRIP Wisdom of the Watchmen

P.88 HOW-TO Choose a SUP P.91 GEAR SHED

P.63 WHEEL WELL Biking the Borderlands

P.98 BACKPAGE Cry Fowl

P.66 PADDLING The Full Reset 9








CONTRIBUTORS Les Anthony, Dave Barnes, Ryan Carter, Melanie Chambers, Sarah Chisholm, Geoff Coombs, Alain Denis, Nolan Dubeau, Zak Erb, Michelle Gelok, Molly Hurford, Keita Inoue, Maddie Johnson, Carmen Kuntz, Marc Landry, Maxime Légaré-Vézina, David Loopstra, Stu MacKay-Smith, Benny Marr, Drew McIvor, Conor Mihell, Jason Petznick, Alan Poelman, Laura Raimondi, Richard Roth, Dan Rubinstein, Annie Rusinowski, William Tam, Tom Thwaits, Leslie Timms, Kyle Wicks. SALES & MARKETING GLEN HARRIS BOB KOVEN STEPHANIE MARTINEK MIKE STRIMAS LINDSAY EARLE JEREMY GOURLAY

705 441 6334 416 721 9940 705 441 3684 416 779 7908 416 553 5658 705 606 5843

Published by Mountain Life Publishing Inc, Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Publications Mail Agreement Number 42005545. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Mountain Life Magazine, Box 100, 112 Clark Street, Clarksburg, ON, N0H 1J0. Tel: 705.441.6334 Fax: 519.922.3099. To send feedback email Mountain Life Blue Mountains is published every January, March, June and October by Mountain Life Media Inc. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. To learn more about Mountain Life, visit To distribute Mountain Life in your store please call 705 441 6334.

OUR COMMITMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT Mountain Life is printed on paper that is Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC ®) certified. FSC ® is an international, membership-based, non-profit organization that supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests. Mountain Life is also PrintReleaf certified. PrintReleaf measures our paper consumption over time and calculates the forest impact. Our paper footprint is automatically reforested at planting sites in Canada.

Forest Stewardship Council

THE ARTISTIC RIVER VILLAGE: DISCOVERING PAISLEY Bruce County is much more than the Bruce Peninsula. We’re here to let you in on a secret: a thriving community nestled in Bruce County’s interior region, just waiting to be discovered. The village of Paisley offers something for everyone, and isn’t overrun by summer crowds. Located at the confluence of the Saugeen and Teeswater rivers, Paisley boasts a picture-perfect downtown core full of murals, antique shops, unique retail stores and boutiques, art and artisan studios, historic mills, and a spa, a museum, the family-friendly Bruce County Library and a wide selection

of food options. And it’s all easily explored on foot. The self-guided Paisley Heritage Tour winds through downtown, featuring a wealth of buildings with long-ago stories to tell. And for outdoor enthusiasts, adventure is very close at hand in Paisley. Thanks to four local access points to the Saugeen River, including one just off the main street, a safe outing by canoe, kayak or SUP has never been easier… More at: Check out the full article here:


STEP INTO SUMMER As another summer unfolds, we can look back on a couple of years that have brought change and upheaval to countless lives. But last spring on the trail as I watched the trout lilies shoot up, adding the first daubs of green to the washed-out greys and browns of the forest floor, I reflected that seasonal cycles continue in spite of humanity’s missteps. And that is somehow reassuring. One of the changes here at ML Blue Mountains is our decision to stop publishing a spring print issue. We did this in part to align the Ontario edition with our sister publications in B.C., Alberta and Quebec, who don’t publish a spring (aka “mud season”) issue. At the same time, though we remain committed to sustainable print magazines—every tree harvested is replanted through the PrintReleaf program—we recognize that more digital content is the path forward. Thus we’re even more focused on creating fresh content on and across our social networks. That said, we’ll never tire of putting a well-printed magazine in your hands so we can share our love for the outdoors and hopefully inspire everyone to protect and enlarge wild places. In this Water + Wheels issue, we visit a remote Great Lakes island chain but don’t name it (p.25), explore the lifedirecting properties of an old canoe (p.47), revisit the edge of the world (p.50) and shoot the legendary rapids of the Spanish River (p.66). We also introduce you to our region’s first youth mountain bike team (p.15), myth-bust the wild cat phenomenon (p.17), celebrate a mountain bike community we can all learn from (p.63) and dive into family nature therapy (p.70). See you on the beach. –Ned Morgan, Editor

The Windy Islands.



Long days. Big adventures. Sunup to sundown, there’s a lot to explore in a day. Make the most of it with The North Face. B:7.625" T:7.375" S:6.875"




Collingwood Collective team member Elly Moore.



Meet Collingwood’s first competitive youth MTB team

A new initiative is turning the wheels for more competitive cycling opportunities in Collingwood. Launched in the spring, the Collingwood Collective is a cycling team initiative that aims to develop youth mountain bike and cyclocross athletes in South Georgian Bay. The Collective is spearheaded by Bruce Zigman, owner of downtown Collingwood’s Summit Social House, a bike café that combines coffee, sandwiches and beer with a full-service bike shop. Having grown up racing bikes, Zigman knew the value that a local team could bring. “I saw what racing did for me in my teenage years, and the positive effects it had on me as a person,” said Zigman. After he moved to Collingwood and opened the area’s first-ever bike cafe, he was shocked to find a void in the competitive bike scene—especially for youth. He always knew he wanted to have a team affiliated with his shop, and after operating for almost a year, he realized the focus needed to be on youth.

“Collingwood has a massive bike scene,” he said. “So I was surprised not to find any of the competitive youth programs you have in other sports around here.” Zigman already had a handful of his suppliers lined up and ready to sponsor whatever team he did establish when the time came. After further conversations with local businesses who expressed interest in sponsorship opportunities, he realized just how much of a need there was. Along with Summit Social House, ten other businesses have sponsored the inaugural team, including Propeller Coffee Co., PowerWatts, Pedal Pushers Cycling, Maximum Physiotherapy, F45 Training Blue Mountain, Engel & Völkers, Edward Jones, Collingwood Youth Centre, Chalk’s Training and Barista Coffee Roasters. Zigman said there was a waiting list for sponsors this year. Cycling kits, race fees and coaching programs are provided by sponsors, and in the future Zigman hopes to add training


rides, mentorship and even mechanic services as well. This year, the team budgeted enough to sponsor five riders, but after hosting a kick-off event in April, they raised enough to partially sponsor three more. The eight cyclists who represent the Collingwood Collective are between the ages of 12 and 16, and while all of them have extensive riding experience, for most of them, this is their first year racing competitively. It’s up to the riders to decide what races interest them and where they want to travel, but as a team they aim for weekly sessions to work on technique and endurance training. The athletes are also provided with in-season and off-season training guidelines and informal mentorship opportunities. In June, the Collective received a provincial government grant through Ontario Cycling, allowing them to add four more fulltime athletes to the team, as well as more coaching capabilities and an inventory of equipment to help racers on-site. So far this year, the Collective has boasted at least one podium finish at every race its riders have attended. “It’s a very friendly community in Collingwood,” Zigman added. “Everybody wants to see people out there on the trails, developing their skills.” –Maddie Johnson 15


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Ghost Cats Are Ontario’s elusive mountain lions making a comeback?

An 1830 painting of a mountain lion in Louisiana, which is outside the animal’s current habitat.

It was a fall afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., and Frank Docherty was driving home to Little Britain, Ontario—100 kilometres northeast of Toronto—from his job at an auto plant in Oshawa. He was just a few minutes from town when, suddenly, something ran across the road. “It wasn’t a deer. It wasn’t a bear. It was in the distance, but I saw the tail. It was a cougar, I’m 100 per cent sure. It gave me goosebumps. I thought, They’re really here.” The animal Docherty almost certainly caught a glimpse of back in 2008 was a “The story has changed, Puma concolor, otherwise known as the and there’s strong cougar, mountain lion or puma. Native evidence now that to North, Central and South America, the species retreated to roughly one-third cougars are migrating of its historical range in Canada and here from the west.” the U.S. in the 19th and 20th centuries, surviving in the less-populated western expanses of both countries. By the 1940s the mountain lion was considered extirpated from eastern North America, and since 2008 the animal has been listed as endangered in Ontario. (In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct,


although that subspecies is now seen as a misnomer by wildlife scientists who believe there’s only one type of cougar in the Americas.) Despite this decline and the elusiveness of big cats, sporadic sightings have continued in Ontario over the past few decades, occasionally captured in grainy photos or videos, including one filmed by a woman who had an experience like Docherty’s while driving north of Kenora last December. Whether in the northwestern part of the province, the Collingwood area, the Ottawa Valley or anywhere in between, most of those cougars had likely escaped from or were intentionally released from captivity, says naturalist Michael Runtz, who may have spent more time in Ontario’s forests than anybody else in the past 50 years. Sometimes the tracks or dens of other species, like foxes or coyotes, are thought to belong to cougars, according to Runtz. Without scale, a bobcat or even an overweight house cat on a grassy hill can look like a much larger animal. “People see what they want to see, or misinterpret what they see,” says Runtz. “But the story has changed, and there’s strong evidence now that cougars are migrating here from the west.” 17

Eyewitness: I Saw a “Ghost Cat” When my eyes first detected movement on the edge of a scrubby field about 10 metres from the Georgian Trail outside of Meaford—where I stood astride my bicycle, my water bottle raised—I thought, young deer. An instant later, however, I realized that the animal fleeing into the cover of a nearby wood was not a deer. Was it a hallucination brought on by overexertion? As the creature’s strange shape, gait and coloration fixed in my mind, one thing became reasonably clear: I had crossed paths with some kind of large wild feline. I guessed it to be more than five feet in length. Its tail was another two or more feet long and upcurled. Its lithe body was slung so low that its belly nearly touched the ground. It was dark mottled grey with a small head and small ears. According to Andy McKee, a former Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources I spoke to after this 2007 sighting, I had probably seen a mountain lion. At that time he believed these cats may have escaped from captivity. I wish I’d had a camera with me, but in any case the animal moved too fast for a clear photo. I’ve heard that wildlife biologists in California refer to the pathologically shy mountain lion as the “ghost cat”—an apt description. –Ned Morgan A trail camera capture near Thunder Bay.


That theory is confirmed by Brent Patterson, a senior research scientist with the province’s Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and an adjunct professor at Trent University. DNA from a dead cougar found near Kakabeka Falls in northwestern Ontario in 2017 and hair from the Thunder Bay area in January 2021 matched samples from populations in Manitoba and the Black Hills of South Dakota. “As such,” says Patterson, “we believe there are now some wild cougars pushing into northwestern Ontario from neighbouring Without scale, a bobcat populations.” The ministry doesn’t know or even an overweight how many cougars might be in Ontario, nor is there convincing evidence of a house cat on a grassy breeding population in the province, but hill can look like a much Patterson says the number of cougars in Manitoba is growing and that it’s likely a larger animal. “People see breeding population will eventually take what they want to see, or root on this side of the provincial border. Mountain lions need a couple misinterpret what they things to survive: prey and contiguous see.” – Michael Runtz tracts of forest. Ontario has the terrain to support them, says Runtz, as well as ample populations of white-tailed deer, their most frequent food source. Like other predators, including wolves and bears, cougars can pose a threat to livestock, yet Runtz discounts the rumour that farmers might “shoot, shovel and shut up” rather than report a cougar incident. That might happen when coyotes go after sheep, he says, but similar cougar attacks would be exceedingly rare. Beyond the proof cited by Patterson, nearly 500 pieces of evidence—from scat and hair samples to tracks, 18

photos and credible sightings—documented the presence of cougars in Ontario between 1991 and 2010. Patterson’s government colleague Rick Rosatte summarized this evidence in a 2011 Canadian Field Naturalist paper, concluding “What is important is that there are ‘freeranging’ North American genotype cougars in Ontario that have originated from an unknown combination of released, escaped, native or dispersing animals.” In a follow-up paper four years later, Rosatte added six more pieces of evidence, including scat found near Collingwood in 2012 that lab analysis confirmed to be mountain lion. While Patterson believes the Collingwood area is too densely populated and visited, too far from source populations and has forests that are too fragmented to support resident cougars without frequent and definitive detection, he’s excited by the prospect of breeding animals recolonizing parts of northwestern Ontario. “This represents a conservation success story,” he says, “a further move towards the restoration of naturally functioning ecosystems with all trophic levels intact.” Neither Patterson nor Runtz have ever seen a mountain lion in the wild, but Runtz really hopes to someday, especially in his home province, although there are also bird, insect and plant species in Ontario that he’s still looking for. Docherty, meanwhile, who used to hunt, has put down his rifle and picked up a camera. A few friends and neighbours have reported seeing cougars, and he’s zeroed in on a spot a few kilometres from his house. “I think the chances are good,” he says, still stirred by his past encounter, “and this time I’m going to get a picture.” –Dan Rubinstein



10 YEARS IN THE CANOPY: BLUE’S TIMBER CHALLENGE HIGH ROPES We’re only halfway up to the base of the Timber Challenge and my legs are burning and my heart is pumping. It’s a warm day but there’s some beautiful shade once we get up into the forest canopy where the course begins. After a quick stop at Base Camp, just past the Ridge Runner, we are harnessed up and ready to go for our high ropes adventure. Having done the Woodlot Low Ropes course as a family, I’m hoping that I’m up for the challenge of its sister attraction—a higher, longer and more intense ropes course with amazing views of Georgian Bay and the town of Collingwood. Initially installed in 2012, the Timber Challenge turns 10 this year and continues to evolve. For 2022, Blue Mountain Resort has added a continuous belay system—bringing the course to the cutting edge of international standards and making it accessible for an even wider age range. The new system is super-easy to use, and takes way less time to move from platform to platform. Guests remain safely harnessed at all times. “This is the biggest investment we’ve made in improving the high ropes experience since its original installation,” says Ryan Fiechtner, Blue’s Director of Mountain Experience. And it's a substantial improvement for families with kids as young as 10; this simpler belay system means they can explore together more easily. Worried you’ll be in over your head? While the obstacles are 20

definitely high up, they are not necessarily high in difficulty. The course is divided into green, blue and black routes, echoing the difficulty ratings on the ski slopes at Blue. Green is great for beginners, blue routes are moderate and black are the most challenging. That’s not the only snow season tie-in—the green course has a gliding aerial snowboard that you balance on while sliding through the trees.

For 2022, Blue has added a continuous belay system—bringing the course to the cutting edge of international standards and making it accessible for an even wider age range. “This type of activity gets guests up into the treetop and really submerses them in the natural beauty of Blue while giving them a sense of adventure and accomplishment,” says Fiechtner. The Timber Challenge makes a great add-on to your Blue Mountain visit as a family, a team building experience or a school group. Get all the details at –Allison Kennedy Davies

Enjoy the Day at Lora Bay Come enjoy an elevated golf experience at Lora Bay Golf Club. The 18-hole premium golf course will challenge you with five tee decks from 5,100-7,100 yards and generous views of the water. The restaurant at Lora Bay Golf Club has been redefined and now offers a new culinary experience focused on local ingredients to shape weekly menus. Book your tee time online today or by calling 519.599.7500.

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DOWNHILL HELI-BIKING IN WHISTLER, BC Experience incredible downhill/enduro biking on Whistler’s only heli-biking trail this summer. The trail, located between Whistler and Pemberton, is the culmination of several years of dreaming, planning, and building. Combining glacier views, alpine tundra, and old growth forest with both downhill singletrack and bike-park inspired sections, we are proud to share our specially built trail with intermediate to expert level riders.


to the

A SUP trip to a remote island group reveals both the solace of nature and the long reach of the pollution crisis words :: Ned Morgan

In the shelter of Big Windy Island, we still faced strong headwinds.






CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF LITTLE ED’S! Since 1992, Little Ed’s Ski & Bike Shop, a family-owned and operated sporting goods store, proudly serves the sporting community of southern Georgian Bay.

Book online at or in person at 3 Birch St., Collingwood (Harbourview Park)

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was alone—shouting at the water and the sky. After more than six hours paddling into the wind, I had reached a personal crisis point. From the moment our party of eight paddleboarders emerged early (-ish) that morning from a bay on the mainland, leaving our vehicles at the end of a chassis-cracking bush road, the wind did everything it could to throw us off course. Our destination—a sand beach on the west side of Big Windy Island*— was about 14 unsheltered kilometres from our launch. When the wind really stiffened by late morning, pulling over would have made sense. But the rocky shorelines of two smaller islands we passed were too exposed; if we stopped, we could get marooned if the wind came up even higher.

From the moment our party emerged from a bay on the mainland that morning, the wind did everything it could to throw us off course. For about half the crossing, a side wind threatened to push us out into open water, with no landfall for hundreds of kilometres. Then, alongside Big Windy, we changed direction and found ourselves struggling against a headwind that wanted to push us back where we’d started. My inflatable SUP didn’t cut through the water as nicely as the others’ fibreglass boards and I fell far behind the rest of the group, the perceived handicap of my board nagging at me as much as the difficulty of trying to make progress in the face of a 45 kilometre-per-hour wind. I decided to crouch on my knees as I paddled, in an effort to duck the wind. It seemed to help, though my progress was still torturously slow. After lurching around a long, forested point as breakers threw off my steering, I stopped paddling and began screaming invectives, my head in my hands. My arms felt rubbery and useless. I didn’t care anymore.

ABOVE Glen Harris digs in during our circumnavigation of Big Windy Island. BELOW A forecast of high winds necessitated this dawn start on our final day. SCOTT PARENT


When I looked up, I found myself in a small, relatively sheltered bay. Through the aquarium-clear water I noticed countless smooth, multicoloured rocks that seemed deliberately arranged on the lakebed for their complementary beauty, like a huge, sun-streaked mosaic. I slid off my board. As I stood in the waist-deep water—cooly welcoming on this mid-July afternoon—my feet on the rocks felt reassuring after so many hours on the board. With the wind still unceasing, I decided it was easier to unravel my throw rope and pull my board through the shallows. I wasn’t in a rush anymore; it was still only mid-afternoon and I knew our beach destination was less than two more kilometres away. Everyone else was already there. I realized the splendour of this place was due to what it lacked. In the absence of people, the biosphere thrived all around me. I watched an Arctic tern skim the churning water, crying out keenly.

As it scooped up a small fish I admired the bird’s consummate skill, using the wind and water to influence and guide its every move. I felt I could learn from a creature that, instead of struggling against its environment, simply observed closely and adapted continuously without over-analysis. When I stood up to paddle, the wind began pushing me sideways. But I dug in, focusing on each stroke rather than on my slow progress. With a feeling of speechless relief I finally arrived at the beach, now adorned with paddleboards and exploded camping gear. Someone handed me a cold (-ish) can of beer. Everything was good now. Then as I carried my gear across the beach to the tent site I noticed a children’s helium balloon—long-deflated, all multicoloured foil and tassels, wrecked by wave action but still identifiable as a

Camp in the dunes on the lee side of Big Windy Island.




Photo Credit: Alain Denis Location: Somewhere on the Bruce



butterfly. Our trip leader Scott Parent spotted it on shore earlier that day and had pulled over to recover it. We packed it out—the first of many pieces of mostly plastic garbage we recovered. It was jarring and a little depressing to find the balloon washed up in this otherwise wild place. I reflected glumly that earlier in the summer I purchased a similar balloon for my fiveyear-old daughter; I wasn’t blameless in the mounting pollution crisis we’re all living through but don’t want to confront.

It was jarring and a little depressing to find a balloon washed up in this otherwise wild place. Over the next few days we endured a tent-flooding all-day rain, paddled through two-metre swells and explored the footprint-free beaches. Every step lent a Robinson Crusoe feeling as we walked for hours, marvelling at the multi-leveled expanse of dunes overgrown with bearberry, creeping juniper, heartleaf willow and sand reedgrass—a primeval, fragile ecosystem which has been all but wiped out across the Great Lakes. The island interior was a tangled maze of old-growth cedar, spruce, birch and pine, each bedecked in lichens and moss and stunted by exposure to constant winds and colder temperatures than the mainland. During the rain day, a few guys in our group followed the remnants of a trail into the interior, probably used many years ago as a passage between the east (lee) and west (windward) sides of the island. It felt as though this place hadn’t changed much in thousands of years. Its isolation was, and remains, its salvation. On the final day of the trip, we took stock of the debris we had collected along the shorelines and scrunched under our decks’ shock cords: the big balloon plus smaller ones, water and detergent bottles, plastic bags, aluminum cans, nylon rope and bobbers. We found no litter associated with camping and no trace of campsites. We kept it this way.

ABOVE Juggling on the dunes. BELOW Arrival at campsite. Note the bag of recovered plastic garbage at the front of the red SUP. GLEN HARRIS


My Water Quality Tens of thousands of Ontarians make their way north every weekend. Packing kids, gear and coolers, the familiar trip inevitably

includes a quick stop: grab a carton of milk, a dozen eggs and, for many, a case or two of bottled water.

The much-maligned crinkly bottles make their way to cottag-

es and chalets, century homes and condos. Purchased for one-time

use, they’re drained and immediately tossed. By Sunday night bins overflow, and after a long work week the story begins again. Cases upon cases of water, nearly every drop tainted with microplastics, follow the same path.

Without the encouragement of a deposit refund, every

year only half of the 2 billion single-use beverage bottles sold in

Ontario end up in the recycling bin. The other billion make their

way to landfills—or are discarded or blown onto streets and ravines, where rain washes many of them into our waterways.

Use of disposable water bottles is completely avoidable for

confidence. Once a homeowner has knowledge about their own tap

water, they have the confidence to stop using bottled water,” she says.

“It’s really about knowledge and confidence. Once a homeowner has knowledge about their own tap water, they have the confidence to stop using bottled water.” – Tecia White, hydrogeologist Homeowners have long reached out to White’s environmental

consulting firm for water testing, but, because the company focuses on larger-scale assessments, the process could be time-consuming and expensive. Hoping to empower more residents to ditch the bottles, she streamlined the process and launched a new venture:

most Ontarians (boil orders notwithstanding). The sticker-plastered

To continue reading, go to

in your day pack; sleek and shining stainless steel bottles are as ac-


Nalgene is as ubiquitous to the outdoors as the crumbled granola bar cepted on the jobsite as they are in a Tesla. And a quick refill from a

tap is usually just steps away. But for those who jump on the weekly single-use-bottle conveyor belt, that tap water is often the issue. New to rural life with a well, uncomfortable with a lake-

sourced pump or concerned about ancient pipes in an older house,

homeowners often just aren’t sure about their tap water. It kind of has a funny smell. Or maybe the colour is a little off. Sometimes it just

doesn’t taste like the water they’re used to. Unsure of how to test the

water, or fearful of the cost, disposable bottles seem an easy solution.

Tecia White, a local hydrogeologist, has a growing frustration

with bottled water use, and with homeowners’ assumption the water

is cleaner and better than their own. “It’s really about knowledge and

Email Phone 705-888-7064


@mywaterquality MyWaterQuality

Full dune immersion.


While packing up on the last day, I found an eagle feather on the dunes and took it home to give to my daughter. It was a small gift I hoped she’d treasure much longer than a helium balloon. I’d love to show her the islands someday, but perhaps it’s better if we settle for the feather. People, like balloons, don’t really belong on the Windy Islands.


*We chose to both use a pseudonym and withhold the location of the remote Great Lakes island group we visited. Too much human visitation to the Windy Islands (an unstaffed nature reserve) could have a catastrophic impact. Camping is permitted here but by no means encouraged. The islands lie far from any marina, and the presence of encircling shoals further dissuades power boats. In summer a handful of intrepid sailors may navigate the shallows to stop in the single safe (-ish) anchorage and the odd kayak party may land on the Windy Islands, but we saw no sign of anyone, past or present.

Del Grams Real Estate Advisor 416-996-5492

COME PADDLE WITH US Offering guided tours and day camps

Book at




An classic overnight adventure in the Swiss Alps

words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten


Unaware it would be our last chance at travel for a very long time, we departed our little village of Thornbury in the summer of 2019 for a fairly epic European adventure. I managed to squeeze a short backcountry hut trip into a hotel-filled itinerary, hoping to whet my family’s appetite with a taste of this classic Alpine tradition. This morning we awoke in Zermatt, dozens of Sunday church bells clanging over the rushing Matter Vispa river as the sun rose on the Matterhorn. A six-train afternoon, punctuated by dizzyingfast connections and multi-platform sprints, landed us here in Engelberg—a summertime-sleepy ski town tucked deep in a narrow valley of the Swiss Alps. For nearly two weeks we’ve jumped from train to train and village to village, hiking, biking and eating our way through the emerald valleys of Austria and Switzerland. Engelberg marks the starting point of our final mountain adventure: a single night in a hike-accessible hut. When I found the place many months ago, a tiny symbol on a digital map, the Stäfeli Hut seemed the perfect choice of hundreds

scattered across the Alps. Smack in the middle of a gently ascending six-hour loop trail, it promised to be easy enough for eight-year-old legs yet lengthy enough to entertain my 75-year-old ultrafit father. But when we arrive in Engelberg, the intel we receive at dinner is accompanied by a giggle. “Stäfeli Hut? Oh, it’s just up the road. You take a bus to the end of town, then walk 45 minutes on the trail.” Hmm. Not quite the expedition the internet led me to believe. Next morning, the much-anticipated day of our big (or maybe not so big) hut trip, the pit-patting on our Engelberg apartment window signals the first wet, grey day of our vacation. Enthusiasm still intact, we don rain gear and fill our packs with the now-familiar Alpine combo of meat, cheese, bread and chocolate, finding extra room for an overnight stuff sack: toothbrushes, sleeping bag liners, fresh skivvies. We set out early, only to find we’ve narrowly missed our bus. With the next departure an hour away and our server’s giggle still echoing, we choose to simply walk through town. Take a little tour on our way. Halfway through the idyllic village—past looming chalets, lowslung barns and the sprawling, ancient monastery—we make an 35

obvious discovery: Marching on wet pavement in the rain is a far cry from squishing over soft forest trails. Little feet have many (many) complaints. Offering smiling distractions and silently muttering curses, we kneel to adjust shoelaces. When the bus splashes past with a roar, five of us stand and stare, gaping—then erupt in a short fit of mad laughter before we soldier on. Nearly two hours after leaving our apartment, we finally reach the trailhead. The sun is still MIA, the rain still falls. But the second we leave the road, we’re in heaven. Even my tween son, who generally opposes hiking, is grinning. On the singletrack we pass in and out of clouds, trek over rivers and beside countless cows and waterfalls; we crunch through dense conifer forests and clamber over boulders. In brief moments of sunshine, we stop to gaze at cloud-shrouded mountains as we head deeper and higher into the valley. After a proper hike that’s hours longer than the predicted 45 minutes, we arrive at Stäfeli Hut, just in time for an après schnapps. Richard and Edith greet us, and we discover the centuries-old stone hut is entirely ours tonight. Each of the beds is empty, every

seat in the restaurant up for grabs. And Richard—our host, chef and server—is ready for a chat. In sometimes confusing, always entertaining, translations, we learn the hut’s history. Warring tribes and deadly avalanches. An elderly aunt offering tea and haystacks to hikers. Decades and generations of expansion leading to this fully equipped restaurant and 35-bed bunkhouse. Richard runs the hut while his brother tends the goats next door, making the cheese and yogurt for tomorrow’s breakfast table. The stories are endless, as is the schnapps. The meal is glorious, servings monumental. Filled to the brim, we climb into our bunks and drift to sleep with goat bells tinkling through the open window. In the morning we set out, headed up and around the top of the valley on our loop back to Engelberg. Yesterday’s rain has passed, leaving behind an impenetrable fog. With visibility a few metres at best, we’re forced to judge the location of trail-hogging cows by the clanging of their ever-present bells and are left to merely imagine the mountains surrounding us. Only when we reach the very pinnacle of the valley and turn back toward town does the sun briefly bore its way through the haze.


Only when we reach the very pinnacle of the valley and turn back toward town does the sun briefly bore its way through the haze.

With surreal, super-saturated colours and a knife-sharp ridge peppered with wrinkled steeps, the view embodies the true and lost meaning of “awesome.” We’re gifted with only this single fleeting glimpse, and we pause to soak it in, get our bearings. Blindly pushing on through cows and fog, we focus on what we can see. My daughter spends hours investigating larger-thanlife snails, beads of moisture on intricate spider webs, new-tous mountain flowers. We chat with fellow hikers, stopping on a cantilevered café deck for hot chocolate and a strudel. Piling into the tiny self-loading gondola, we meet a local farmer who fills us in on her family heritage while we dive sharply into the mist. The base of the gondola marks the end of our loop. A day older and a day wiser, we choose to wait for that confounded bus, which


winds us swiftly through town and back to our apartment. Just in time, as always, for après. Collapsing into a corner table at the legendary Ski Lodge Engelberg, we recap our introduction to the world of Alpine huts. With a resounding “Prost!” we clink tall pilsners and raspberry skiwassers, declaring the adventure a success. I empty my glass with satisfaction. Even with the unexpected slog through town, the scheme was a success. They’re hooked, and my planning wheels are spinning. A month-long hut-to-hut may be out of the question with this crew, but they’re my crew, the best damn adventure mates out there. So maybe we’ll shoot for a week. Cross a couple passes, end up a few valleys over next time. There’s always a next time, right?




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Choosing Joy How Marissa Dolotallas found the key ingredient to her outdoor adventures

words :: Allison Kennedy Davies

ML: Your love of water sports has translated into a passion and a career. When did that begin?

I remember the first time I met Marissa Dolotallas: She was paddleboarding along the Georgian Bay shoreline, with her trademark grin sparkling nearly as bright as the waters she was braving. Dolotallas moved to the area back in 2014 and has already made her mark as both an outdoor guide and an inspired community volunteer. Locally, she teaches paddleboarding, kayaking and yoga under the umbrella of her business, Rise and Shine Adventures. Further afield, she’s recently taken on roles with both Wild Women Expeditions and Adventure Canada. We sat down, fittingly, at the waterfront Memorial Park in Meaford (Dolotallas is the chair of the parks committee for the municipality) to discuss her recent adventures.

MD: I’ve always loved being in and on the water. It brings me a sense of peace and serenity. Again, it started with being in a boat or canoe and fishing with my dad. When I still lived in B.C., I got my own sit-on-top kayak. Later I joined a dragon boat team and became a co-captain. I learned to windsurf at Jericho Beach and that was my first time feeling an adrenaline rush on the water. While I was windsurfing in Hawaii, I saw a lone kiteboarder and knew I had to try it. I learned to surf while I was there, too. SUP entered the picture when I was living in Toronto and didn’t have a car to chase the wind for kiteboarding.

ML: When did your love of the outdoors begin?

ML: Many of your guiding adventures focus on helping women explore and enjoy the outdoors. What’s so satisfying about that?

MD: At an early age. Mainly from fishing with my dad— whether it was casting from a beach, on a river or from his canoe. We would dig up sea worms for bait. We took lots of family road trips and camping trips. I also loved sports growing up. From volleyball to soccer, grass hockey, badminton, track and field. We made our own Stanley Cup out of ice cream buckets wrapped in tin foil! I graduated high school as the top female athlete and that journey continues today.

MD: I’ve met so many women through Women on the Water and they are all in different stages of their life and their careers—some widowed, some divorced, some about to retire. They are all looking to do something new. I’ve found that when they are learning to kayak or learning to SUP or canoe, it’s like a gift to themselves—to try and do something new and gain a sense of achievement—to find their power.






ML: Is there something you find therapeutic about being on the water? MD: Yes. When I teach people, they usually think they can’t stand on the board. Sometimes while we’re chatting, I stop holding on and then they realize they are doing it on their own. You remember those “aha” moments and you can apply them to other areas of your life—whether it’s having a tough conversation with a partner or talking about a raise at work. I like to give everyone a few minutes of space on the water to take a one-minute pause and dip their hand in, close their eyes and breathe.

ML: How did you end up in this region? MD: We were living in Port Credit and Chris [Scerri] was playing a lot of music there. But when Chris sold his share of the outdoor store he owned, we were looking for another area towards the Muskoka and Huntsville area to shorten our commute to go backcountry camping. But one day a fireman who lived in Kimberley walked into our store and we talked for hours and totally hit it off. We ended up housesitting for him in Kimberley. Then we started chaperoning for the winter Pursuits program at GBCS. We explored everywhere from Wasaga to Sauble Beach looking for the right fit, but we loved the quietness of Meaford.


ML: What’s on your to-do list this year? MD: I’m doing three back-to-back Adventure Canada trips in Atlantic Canada aboard the Ocean Endeavour, and some are a collaboration with Wild Women Expeditions. Then I’ll be home to run my own retreat in Killarney. Then Chris and I will be doing trips in both the Northwest Passage and Labrador as Adventure Canada staff.

SUP entered the picture when I was living in Toronto and didn’t have a car to chase the wind for kiteboarding. ML: Your mantra is "choose joy." Can you explain? MD: That’s become my mantra since the first retreat I attended in Costa Rica. I’ve been embracing opportunities as they come along and it’s all led to this. From yoga to photography, videography and outdoor life, I’ve found a way to include it all in my life.

If you want to learn more about Rise and Shine Adventures visit and follow Marissa on Instagram: @marissa.riseandshine

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Travels with Neegik An intimate history of humanity’s default watercraft words & photos :: Leslie Anthony Before Neegik sailed across the Prairies, tacking west against a 20knot wind. Before she suffered the indignities of a crusty veteran attempting to reclaim his youth. Before she resided near the sandy beach and played with laughing children. Before she traversed Algonquin Park south to north and south again one year, then south to north and onward to Temagami the next. Before the years spent mentoring a city boy in the ways and means of bushcraft. Before all of that, Neegik was but a blueprint on a drawing board. Since 1914, Les Canots Tremblay Ltee. of St. Felicien, in the Lac St. Jean area of Quebec, had manufactured classic cedar-strip canoes ranging in length from 14 to 20 feet, collectively known as the Chibougamau line. The sixteen-foot model was called a Huron. In 1972, I was gifted a red Huron for my 15th birthday. I named it Neegik (“otter” in Ojibwa). And it changed my life. As the oldest manufacturer of canvas-covered canoes in Canada, Tremblays were of surpassing quality, in my day coated in a tough new vinyl-canvas laminate known as Verolite. Appropriately for the territories it would ply, Neegik was built to handle rough or fast waters, with a 36-inch beam, 12.5-inch depth, and 1-inch keel to effect maximum stability. I’d eventually replaced its rawhide-lattice seats with woven lace versions, and swapped out the center thwart for a mahogany carrying yoke.

In the mid-1980s, after a decade of rugged canoe tripping and abusive whitewater had left Neegik bruised and beaten, a crafty friend who never let any project intimidate him led us in an amateurish restoration. We tossed the heavily scarred and UV-faded Verolite, replaced broken ribs and re-covered the boat in standard heavy canvas, painting it forest green; we also removed the mangled keel, rationalizing that the craft worked better as a fast-turning solo boat (as she was mostly then employed). As a non-essential element, a keel could always be replaced sometime in the future. (Some 25 years later, I did just that prior to a two-week canoe trip with my daughter.) Neegik—whose name I inexplicably fixed to the bow with the kind of brassy, peel-and-stick letters one might find on a rural mailbox—was my first real possession. It also became my companion, and canoeing—both act and history—my adolescent obsession. I revered Bill Mason, the great doyen of Canadian canoeing, whose book, Path of the Paddle, summed “The canoe is the simplest, most functional, yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created. In my opinion this is not a statement that is open to debate.” So immersed was I in this craft, that in bowed homage I undertook a semesterlong project of building a scale-model birchbark canoe in Grade 9 art class to understand the process. As a marvel of easy, low-drag propulsion, the canoe is humankind’s default watercraft. Dugouts are most common because

Neegik at Hurdman Lake, Algonquin Provincial Park.


they’re the easiest to render, requiring only a single tree of floaty, workable wood. Otherwise, the Inuit skin-covered kayak and umiak, as well as a range of moosehide- and bark-covered canoes found among the First Nations of North America, reflect the various eco-logic of the lands in which they were conceived. Offering lightness and mobility that dugouts cannot, they are the perfect means to navigate a geography that is truly terraqueous—part liquid, part solid. The featherlight birchbark canoe is the acme of this art: Though you can snap any of its components easily in your hands, when these same elements are well assembled the vessel is as sturdy as any—a model of fragile materials made strong through strategic bonds and parts that seem naturally to go together but require attention and care to make work. This is a metaphor for pretty much anything of value, in which the sheer beauty, effervescence and élan of the finished product belie an inherent resilience. Though the origins of its bauplan are lost in prehistory, one quality of a wood-framed canoe is obvious to anyone who contemplates such things—the striking similarity of its hull to the thoracic structure of a vertebrate animal. Bark, skin or canvas are stretched over wooden ribs braced by sternum thwarts and anchored by a central, spinal keel. Planking is the flexible musculature; sinew and root lashings, brass screws and nails the ligaments and tendons. Given the many animal-skin boat designs worldwide, one can even imagine the not-so-far-fetched notion of paddling an empty carcass that may have preceded it. As a form of nature incarnate, canoes can also bring you deeper into surrounding nature than cruder, more robust watercraft, where observations and understandings otherwise unattainable amass. First

Nations hunters knew how this immersion helped their cause. In my own case, seeing firsthand how the interactions of wildlife played out and integrated in places like marshes, shorelines, bays and moving water became key to my understanding of the biological world—and de facto driver of my curiosity around it. From frogs lying in ambush on lily pads, turtles sunning on logs, moose feeding on underwater vegetation, and the interplay of myriad insects, fish and birds at the air-water interface, the lessons were all delivered in a canoe. For the 20 years I’ve been based in Whistler, B.C., Neegik resided at the family cottage in Haliburton, Ontario. In summer I’d head back east for a few weeks and a reacquaintance paddle or two, sometimes even a full-fledged trip. And though I’d often thought about bringing her home with me, the logistics somehow never worked out. Or perhaps deep down I didn’t want them to, aware that this land of lakes on the Canadian Shield was truly her home. A few summers back, however, my brother sold the cottage and forced my hand. Arming myself with a roof rack, I drove east from the Pacific in mid-September, strapping a now-battered, somewhat neglected Neegik to the roof for a return trip in early October. Four mad-driving days later we were in Whistler. Together again in a new and different home. The Tremblay Canoe Company is long gone, victim of a government attempt to scale up production of an artisan process that couldn’t be rushed. But from a century-old blueprint in Quebec to the west coast, Neegik was nevertheless ready for a new chapter to begin.

Next column: From Algonquin to the Bowron Lakes—how the biology and ecology of canoeing differs between east and west.

Neegik on Alta Lake, Whistler.

From frogs lying in ambush on lily pads, turtles sunning on logs, moose feeding on underwater vegetation, and the interplay of myriad insects, fish and birds at the air-water interface, the lessons were all delivered in a canoe.


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WATCHMEN If you want to understand the value of Indigenous guardianship there’s no better way than a sailing trip through Gwaii Haanas words :: Leslie Anthony photos :: Paul Morrison






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PREVIOUS PAGE The Island Solitude sailing off of Juan Perez Sound. THIS PAGE Nature has its own watchmen; the sea lions at Garcin Rocks have something to say to anyone who passes.

Breakfast is over as the Island Solitude anchors on a falling tide. Scrambling into Zodiacs, we head for a cove of barnacle-constellated boulders and tie up. We bushwhack across a forested isthmus, crawl under a tangle of blowdown and emerge onto a grassy bench palisaded in fir. Beyond lies a half-moon beach exposed to the full force of the North Pacific, its tideline piled high with massive logs. Tracks of otter and deer crisscross the black sand while ravens and eagles peer from Hemlock aeries; the only human footprints on this strand are ours, the first in over a year. Like we’ve found a treasure. Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site provides a rare opportunity to explore the kind of pristine coastal wilderness before us, as well as the history and culture of those who’ve called its islands home for millennia. This crown jewel of Canadian coastal parks comprises the southern tier of the Haida Gwaii archipelago off B.C.’s North Coast. Its isolation requires watercraft to explore, and we’re happy to sail with venerable Bluewater Adventures, renowned for its low-impact approach to coastal ecotourism and its close work with First Nations stewards. But after several days of tracking archipelagic scenery, photographing whales and visiting key Haida cultural sites, we haven’t clambered onto a hidden beach to notch another touristic superlative. Instead, we’re here to give back—by taking away, so to speak. Brandishing burlap sacks, we fan out to collect a winter’s worth of washed-up trash—the myriad jetsam of an ever-shrinking world. Fittingly, the detail takes on the air of a treasure hunt, as we fish water bottles from between logs and yank buried rope from the sand. During a final tideline sweep I spot something distinctly different from my armload of plastic shards—a mouth-blown, blue-green, glass

fishing-net float from Japan, the only place this art is still practiced. I head back to the boat clutching not only my cleanup effort, but a prize plucked from the trash heap of humanity. Days before, we’d boarded Island Solitude at historic Moresby Camp, anchoring for the night in a cove ringed by towering mountains. It was early June, and with the sun aloft until 11:00 p.m. at this latitude, we were watching the sunset wash snow-spotted peaks with our new companions. In addition to 11 adventurers from the US, Canada, Germany and Singapore, there was Tyler the barefoot captain, mate Gaelen and crew Leo, cook Carmen and naturalist Anne. The Island Solitude itself already felt like a friend—spacious and comfortable, custom-designed based on lessons inculcated from decades sailing the North Coast.

I spot something distinctly different from my armload of plastic—a mouth-blown glass fishing-net float from Japan, the only place this art is still practiced. Next day we headed south, rounding Louise Island and anchoring near the old village of K’uuna. Here, we were greeted by legendary Haida Watchman Gitin Jaad (Deedee Crosby). Meeting members of the groundbreaking Watchmen program is a memorable part of any trip to Haida Gwaii (see sidebar: The Foresight of Indigenous Guardianship). The trio of figures traditionally carved atop monumental poles to stand sentinel over Haida villages now form the symbol for a program that provides seasonal employment 53

OPPOSITE PAGE AND ABOVE Jellyfishes, gooseneck barnacles and humpback whales speak to the range and abundance of sea life on display in Gwaii Haanas.

for Haida aged 16 to 80. In addition to being eyes on the ground with a stewardship mission, Watchmen share Haida knowledge of the land and sea in stories, song and dance. Gitin Jaad not only skillfully unpacked waypoints—trees sprouting from old plank-house corner posts, mortuary poles immortalized in a painting by Emily Carr—but connected them to stories of her grandfather, who hailed from K’uuna. We departed steeped in the main lesson of the archipelago’s human history—yahguudang, the act of paying respect. Off K’uuna, flights of pigeon guillemots whirred over the waves with a handful of marbled murrelets and the occasional black oystercatcher. We learned more about area wildlife at our next destination, East Limestone Island, where the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society has conducted decades-long studies on

chicks past cameras. Observing the gauntlet of roots, logs and cliff faces, these tiny avia must surmount to reach the sea was testament to the life-or-death nature of their journey. After Limestone, we circled T’aanuu Island as sun began to dominate what had previously been undetermined skies. As clouds fled, the San Christoval Range abruptly appeared on the western horizon, thick peaks with snowy helmets, stern faces and wellmuscled ridges—a hulking football team to oversee our night at Anna Inlet spent kayaking at their feet. We motored away next morning along the north side of Lyell Island, bound for Windy Bay. With rain stilling the air and water, it was an hour before we felt the slow, tectonic surge of oceanic swell pulling us seaward. At Windy Bay, Watchmen recounted the positive impact on the Haida Nation of the 1985 logging protests staged here, then led us to the base of a tree preserved by that action, a Sitka spruce so large that a dozen of us failed to encircle it. Retiring early that night, Tyler promised to wake us for a surprise. The knock came after midnight, as the wind of a rising storm howled through the rigging. Topside, the scene was surreal: Stirred by ocean chop, scallops of purple phosphorescence swarmed the surface as ancient murrelets cried through the wind, their frantic chicks constellating the water. When Tyler trained a light on one it bolted away like a torpedo, trailing strings of mauve. Eventually we made our way to historic Rose Harbour, once owned by industrial whaling conglomerates. Stepping ashore here channeled the haunting feel of any abandoned outpost born of resource exploitation. Near a slipway where whales were once hauled up by steam-powered winches stood a sienna mound.

Stirred by ocean chop, purple phosphorescence swarmed the surface as ancient murrelets cried through the wind, their frantic chicks constellating the water. everything from whales to deer. The station’s main study focus is the ancient murrelet, a small seabird widespread throughout the North Pacific. With the unique habit of nesting colonially in burrows, it’s also the only bird to raise its young entirely at sea. Within a few days of hatching, parents abandon the precocious chicks and fly to the water; the young emerge from their burrows by night and follow suit overland, identifying their imprinted parents’ offshore voices among rafts of other ancient murrelets. To study this behavior, researchers created a fence at the edge of the forest that funneled the peripatetic


ABOVE At Windy Bay, Watchmen like Walter recount the story of how Haida logging protests ensured that massive, culturally modified trees like this western red cedar still stand in Gwaii Haanas.

Here, hooks, flensers, harpoons and cables had once been tossed in an unceremonious pile to eventually coalesce into a rusting singularity. Along with glass, whalebone and copper artifacts, it formed a sombre bricolage of hubris and destruction. In stark counterpoint, a short walk into the forest revealed an ancient, unfinished Haida canoe that had withstood the area’s century-long whaling history without being disturbed. The stonetool-felled cedar lay on a downward angle attached to its stump, ensuring drainage that kept it from rotting into the forest floor. The bow was obvious, and the canoe’s crafters had begun to hollow it out from either end with the expectation of meeting in the middle; they’d never finished, and the providence of this preservation stunned us into silence. Next morning we conducted the plastic-hunting mission that opens this tale. Motoring back to the Island Solitude we see a humpback whale spouting. On board, Tyler raises the mainsail just as a whirl of birds appears to port; manoeuvring toward them, we’re treated to a squall of gulls, cormorants, guillemots and eagles dive-bombing a knot of fish boiling the surface. As we scan past the action for the whale’s tell-tale spout, it suddenly surfaces 20 metres away, mouth open, roiling the fish, slapping the water with its fins. It resurfaces for a few more mouthfuls, watching us intently with a single Argus eye, then disappears as we head toward Anthony Island and the village of SGang Gwaay under a blue sky streaming puffball clouds. It’s quick passage in heavy swell. On shore, David—an animated Watchman dressed summer-wise in shorts, flip-flops and traditional cedar hat—enthuses over everything, including the sunny weather. 56

The Foresight of Indigenous Guardianship An effective way to generate both immediate impact and broad transformation is through the kind of Indigenous stewardship of protected areas offered by the Haida Watchmen model. The Haida Nation pioneered the idea decades ago, and the model has spread to every corner of Canada. Indigenous guardians are experts trained to manage lands, monitor water quality, help restore fish and wildlife, disseminate cultural information and oversee development projects. These programs deliver obvious local benefits while helping Canada meet its commitments to conserve nature, address climate change and advance reconciliation. Research in Australia has shown that for every dollar invested in Indigenous guardian programs, $2.50 is returned in health, social and economic benefit. The sustainable Indigenous economies based on land protections in Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest have alone drawn investments of close to $300 million, contributed to upwards of 100 businesses, created more than 1,000 permanent jobs, and established 14 regional monitoring and guardian programs covering 2.5 million hectares annually. Currently, some 60 Indigenous guardian programs exist across Canada, drawing international recognition. As an example, east of Yellowknife, Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation co-manages 26,525 square kilometres of wetlands for migratory birds under a 2019 agreement with Parks Canada and the NWT government that created the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve. The program employs people summer and winter, sustains families, reduces public assistance costs and injects money directly into the community. The UN Development Program awarded its annual Equator Prize to the Łutsël K’e as an example to be replicated globally—the first time the prize was awarded in Canada.

ABOVE In Haida Gwaii, nature rises up admirably to meet the challenge of life in a North Pacific archipelago—even in reclaiming its own.

Worthy of his efforts, it’s hard to describe the feeling of SGang ringing tideline with its house foundations and weathered poles being reclaimed by forest. You can’t help but conjure the scene as it once existed: dozens of carved mortuary and ceremonial poles, oceangoing canoes pulled up on the sand, fish racks dotting the shore, garden plots behind majestic plank houses, kids playing everywhere. SGang Gwaay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great archaeological importance: there’s Machu Picchu, remnant of the Inca empire; the great Mayan and Aztec temples and pyramids;

of steep, treeless rocks marking the archipelago’s terminus. Surging on the tidal bore through a gap between the Kerouards and Cape St. James, site of an old lighthouse, we pass a colony of Stellar sea lions and nesting grounds of tufted puffin, pelagic cormorant and glaucous gull. On the far side we’re treated to a pair of sea otters recumbent on kelp mats, munching sea urchins. Extirpated in Haida Gwaii in the early 1900s, the return of sea otters raises hope for natural control of an urchin overabundance that’s currently destroying kelp forests. All in all, an informative and magical day. A few days later, clouds sag seaward as we kayak through drizzle in Burnaby Narrows, the tide draining against us at this famous portal to the near-shore world. Naturalist Anne points to decorative bat stars in red, fuchsia, mauve and blue; elsewhere are anemones, urchins, sea cucumbers, chitons and moon snails whose sand-fashioned egg collars resemble clay jars. Above water, a multi-coloured seaweed salad hosts crabs of every description, a bald eagle hunting fish from a rock and mating oystercatchers engaged in animated dance while deer graze the grassy flats above them. Backgrounding it all, clams squirt random, metre-high fountains from mud pockmarked with the burrows of ghost shrimp. After a long kayak back, the wildlife parade continues. We’ve just hauled anchor when Anne clocks a large bear on a distant beach, rolling logs, sniffing plants, turning an occasional rock. Heading out of the sound, Leo spots a pair of Risso’s dolphins—a rare inshore sighting of an offshore animal that resembles a small, grey beluga laced with scars from battling the squid on which it feeds. When squid are spawning in the shallows as now, the Risso’s follow them in.

A short walk revealed an ancient, unfinished Haida canoe that had withstood the area’s whaling history without being disturbed. and then there’s this lonely outpost in the North Pacific—the only remaining “constructed” artifact of North American Indigenous peoples. As we gaze from the chief’s house toward the idyllic lagoon, a large river otter lopes down the beach, slipping effortlessly into the ocean as if the tide were rising to meet it. With David’s blessing we disperse along the beachfront to sit council with our thoughts, allowing the power of this place to sink in; when we rise to leave only minutes have passed, but my thoughts have raced through centuries. Back on Island Solitude we sail into the groundswell of open ocean, tracking another humpback trailed by a few wheeling albatross. Hours later we finally spot the Kerouard Islands, a sprinkle 58




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Over our final few days we see more critters, pristine forests and those ravaged by invasive deer, old mines, sunken ships, ancient fish weirs and the cultural sites of Hotspring Island, T’aanuu and Cumshewa, assembling a growing bit-map of knowledge about the area’s human and biological history. Our gratitude is huge—to the Haida and to Parks Canada for their pioneering partnership, and to Bluewater Adventures for its low-impact practices, support for local communities, promotion of conservation, and high-level knowledge of wildlife, Indigenous culture and the environment. Sailing Gwaii Haanas has been a one-of-a-kind experience filled with opportunities for both learning and action—like the plastic cleanup, which paid immediate dividends by inspiring us to double down. A few days after our first cleanup, we anchored in expansive Luxana Bay with the intention of going ashore for a leisurely beach walk. Before long, however, we all reflexively started picking up plastic, stacking a literal ton onto the tidal flats over the course of two hours: ropes and nets, floats and buoys, Taiwanese bottles and Russian toothpaste. A Zodiac-load to drop at the warden’s cabin in Rose Harbour, adding to a growing stockpile of cleanup efforts that would eventually be barged out of the park. It wasn’t hard to understand our behavior. After voyaging into the blue, it seemed only fitting to leave things a little bluer than we’d found them. ABOVE A final night campfire jam in Cumshewa Inlet. BELOW A low-tide sunset above Anna Inlet.





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The Borderlands Mountain bike trails build community across borders

words & photos :: Kristin Schnelten At Kingdom Trails in northern Vermont, more than 160 kilometres of stellar singletrack and doubletrack snake their way through the rolling hillsides, passing red clapboard barns, diving into rocky, rooty forests and crisscrossing East Burke—a colourful oneblock town with everything a bike tourist needs and nothing more: a sports shop, a general store, a handful of restaurants and shops. And a wicked parking-lot tiki bar. The vibe at the bar, and in East Burke itself, is the stuff of dreams. Fancybeer-loving, dirty-dog-friendly, van-lifewelcoming and ability-inclusive, the place feels like home. It’s a community with heart, soul and character. The mountain bikers who flock here by the tens of thousands every year soak up and contribute to this vibe, but it’s the locals who create and foster it. For more than 28 years, volunteers and staff have been building trails in these mountains, the majority of which are located on private land. Even if those landowners never belly up for an IPA, they get it:

Welcoming pedal-powered tourists is part of being an active member of their community, helping neighbours and their businesses grow. The venerable Kingdom Trails system may get all the press, but visitor-friendly towns and mountain bike networks are scattered across the mountains of northern New England. For decades, riders have built trails in their own backyards, through the neighbour’s maple grove or on public multi-use land. With the recent rise in biking popularity, these established trail networks are witnessing an explosion in their ridership, and their once-quiet summertime main streets are experiencing unforeseen economic growth. Nine non-profit trail networks in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Quebec have joined under the banner of Bike Borderlands—an initiative by the Northern Forest Center, a nonprofit focused on sustainable community growth in the region. Bike Borderlands is, in part, about promotion, but relationship-building and communication is at its core: businesses, landowners, trailbuilders, municipalities, bike

organizations and visitors all work together to create a mutually beneficial experience. The Borderlands towns and trail networks stretch across a six-hour quintessential drive through the northern Appalachian Mountains, from Craftsbury, Vt., in the west, Franconia, N.H., on the southern end, Carrabassett Valley, Me., in the east, and the lone Canadian system—in East Hereford, Que.—to the north. Start at one end and make your way through. Or pick a spot and dig in for a few days. Every town has its own personality, each set of trails its own flavour. Classic New England technical singletrack is joined by flowy, machine-built berms and drops, with trailbuilders focusing on accessibility not only for adaptive riders but for all skill levels and ages. Dad and toddler can take their time on a striderbike green while big sister bombs down the adjoining black, everyone meeting back at the cabin for lunch. It’s like a ski vacation, but with a mud-splattered, grassroots spirit. Bike shops have always been a hub for insider info, and the Borderlands towns are 63

chock-full of shop owners and mechanics who dish out advice and mark up trail maps. But most of these hamlets in the hills have a secondary source of rider stoke: breweries. If you don’t see one on main street, take a right when you head out of town. Or maybe a left. But it’s there. The après-ride beer is a given, and the brewmasters along this route have embraced or even helped to establish the bike culture in their towns, catering to riders with patios, entertainment, food trucks and, in some cases, overnight parking. The people of Borderlands towns aren’t just passionate about biking, they’re passionate about being outdoors, protecting the mountains that surround them, sharing their trails, introducing the sport to others, and helping their neighbours. It’s a vibe that’s all about spreading the love, one pump track at a time.

Learn more about Bike Borderlands and their Ride with Gratitude initiative at their website: The nearest Borderlands destination is nine hours away. Building a similar culture here in Ontario is possible; it just takes one dedicated community member to make it happen.

BORDERLANDS TRAIL SYSTEMS QUEBEC Circuits Frontières, East Hereford: 50 kms MAINE Inland Woods + Trails, Bethel: 15 kms Carrabassett Valley Trails: 124 kms NEW HAMPSHIRE PRKR MTN Trails, Littleton: 37 kms Bethlehem Trails Association: 19 kms Franconia Area NEMBA, Franconia: 48 kms Coös Trails, Gorham: 35 kms VERMONT Craftsbury Outdoor Center: 21 kms Kingdom Trails, East Burke: 160 kms



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The Full Reset Low water but high spirits on the West Fork of the Spanish River

words & photos :: Colin Field The first time I heard about the Spanish River canoe route it instantly made my must-do river list. There are a few of them in Canada: the Nahanni, the Petawawa, the French, the Dumoine… rivers that earn you your paddling stripes. The most intriguing part of the Spanish? The shuttle vehicle is a train. Colloquially known as the Budd Car, the Sudbury to White River train line features a couple freight cars that carry your gear. From downtown Sudbury you load your canoe and gear into one of the freight cars with a little help from a railway employee. It’s $50 per canoe and, as far as I can tell, as much equipment as you want. We had eight days worth of food for our crew of 11, five canoes and not enough beer. Tales abound of the good old days, when you could ride anywhere in the train: the luggage car, the engineer cabin, your choice. Legend has it that beer flowed and good times ensued; those days are long gone. Now, after loading your gear, you ride in the air-conditioned cabin and simply choose one of the seemingly random places to stop along the route. We laughed and joked with nervous excitement the entire time while looking at maps and watching the beautiful scenery flowing by. The track paralleled the Spanish River for much of the way until our chosen stop at Sinker Creek, a middle-of-nowhere spot a kilometre or so from the Spanish proper. We’d opted to do the West Fork of the Spanish, hoping for as much whitewater as possible. The Spanish River’s name is said to come from French explorers who met Spanish-speaking Ojibwe people in the region. Apparently the Ojibwe learned the language from a woman they took captive on a southern expedition. This also led to the names of nearby towns of Espanola and Spanish. For the next six days we paddled downstream. We swam, ate great food, cemented friendships, played guitar and laughed. We laughed a lot. We saw bears, moose, beavers and one of the families got an intimate few minutes with a bobcat. And while the water levels were at a record low, we were still able to paddle most of the rapids. 66

next on my todos!


The crux of the West Fork of the Spanish River was the mighty and aptly named C3 Rapids. Aptly named because they are Class III whitewater: 400 metres of rocks, turns, braids and shelves. We’d known about these rapids since looking at maps, but we were finally here. Unfortunately, water levels were too low to paddle it. But instead of unloading and portaging (avoid the p-word at all costs!) we decided to line the boats. With a rope on each end of the canoe, we walked the boats downstream—easier said than done. It

As we age, the yearly river trip is a constant of sorts. It’s a reminder of who we are and what’s important, a full reset. There are no screens, no updates and no opportunities to gather likes or thumbs-up from strangers. was an ankle-breaking affair as we swam/walked/dragged behind/ beside and sometimes under our boats. Pulling and pushing over rocks and between each other, it took forever. It was stressful and it was exhausting. But we made it through without dumping. While we practiced the “take only pictures leave only footprints” ethos, we definitely left some multi-coloured Royalex in the C3 Rapids. This was our fourth annual dad trip. Each trip adds to the 68

legend, the myths of past canoe trips. Remember the time Rocky ate a thunderbox full of poo? Or the time we nicknamed one of the kids Cliff? How about that time we got busted by park wardens and had to pour out our beer? It becomes a lexicon of sorts. A type of shared language that a limited few understand. On our final day we paddled the 20-kilometre Royal Ride, a meandering downhill rollercoaster of swifts and mild Class I rapids. In other words, an absolute blast. Being in the last boat, I could look down the valley and watch each canoe as it went left, then right, perpendicular to the valley’s downhill trend. It was beautiful and inevitably led to introspection. I’ve always said that kids thrive on the river, but so do adults. There’s something about following the current downhill, listening to the roar of the river. It’s like a constant reminder of time: Water always flows. And as we age, the yearly river trip is a constant of sorts. An important constant. It’s a reminder of who we are and what’s important, a full reset. There are no screens, no updates and no opportunities to gather likes or thumbs-up from strangers. FOMO is non-existent and media-induced fear of the world around us dissipates. I will forever treasure our river trips and hope to continue them long into the future. The Spanish is one river I suspect we’ll return to: The East Fork is calling our name. Even in low water we absolutely loved this river. The train trip was just under two hours long, but it was a surprisingly memorable part of the week-long trip. And in my opinion, every Canadian paddler should descend it.





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Family Nature Therapy A dose of Quebec’s mountainous Charlevoix region will keep the doctor away words :: Dan Rubinstein

around banked hairpin turns, crossing creeks on wooden bridges and gripping the handlebars tight on rollers. The 20 kilometres of It seemed like a good idea at the time. And now it’s too late to turn trails (mileage that’s set to double by the end of 2022) slalom down back. After waking up at dawn and punishing our wheezy old van for the mountainside through a fairy tale-green forest of pine and fern, an hour up and down the roller-coaster highway hills that line the bursting out of the cool, moist woods onto ski runs for rest stops and north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, panoramic views as regular visitors (and a few pro riders) zip past. It my wife, twin teenage daughters and I are hiking up a steep trail takes us nearly 45 minutes to reach the bottom, and then we wheel beside Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, which tumbles 450 metres into our bikes onto the gondola for round two. the St. Lawrence near the base of the Le Massif resort. We’re carrying There is no shortage of options for low-octane nature therapy backpacks stuffed with wetsuits, climbing harnesses, helmets and in Charlevoix, either. The tides can rise and fall by five or six metres, ropes, and though we’ve been briefed by Éric Légaré, who runs which create perfect conditions for misty walks in the mud flats Canyoning-Québec in this part of the province, none of us really that span the shoreline. There are also a pair of provincial parks know what’s coming next. with hiking trails to high peaks, and postcard-perfect villages with Légaré leads us to a footbridge over the river and we start harbours and piers for picnicking or taking in the sunset. squeezing into our wetsuits. An experienced spelunker and climber We get the best of both worlds, a relaxing outdoor activity with who has pioneered first descents of a couple adrenaline, on Projet Vertical’s Via Ferrata dozen canyons throughout Quebec, Légaré course on the grounds of the Fairmont loves introducing newbies to an activity that Le Manoir Richelieu in the town of La The splash is big, the water combines vertical, water and exploration. This Malbaie. Wearing climbing harnesses again cold, but within seconds I’m trip to Charlevoix—where the mountains meet and clipped into a cable, we use a series the tidal St. Lawrence about an hour east of of metal ladders and wooden beams to scrambling onto a rock. And Quebec City—is our farthest foray from home traverse a sheer cliff above the St. Lawrence. thus begins four exhilarating since the pandemic began. It’s an opportunity Suspended in the air above the grey river, hours of rappelling down to shake off the anxiety of the past 18 searching for handholds and footholds months. But standing on a mossy ledge five in the rock face to avoid relying on fixed cliffs and through waterfalls… metres above a pool of cold, clear water and features, it’s a challenging yet safe way to being told to just, well, jump, isn’t what any feel like a climber. It also feels like a deep and of us were expecting. cathartic exhalation—like we’re in a strange One of the girls goes first, and when she surfaces, smiling, and netherworld between the water and the hills, slowly progressing, swims to the far side of the pool, the rest of us have no choice but to together, through space and time toward an indeterminate goal. follow. When it’s my turn, I will myself to neither look down nor think— Which, in this case, happens to be an afternoon of lounging heights are not my strong suit—and simply leap. The splash is big, the around Le Manoir Richelieu’s outdoor pool. Because sometimes it’s water cold, but within seconds I’m scrambling onto a rock. And thus OK to simply stop. begins four exhilarating hours of rappelling down cliffs and through Sitting poolside, I look across the lawn toward the St. Lawrence waterfalls of up to 20 metres, sliding on our butts and making a few and reflect on the great river that has been a major presence in our more jumps, serenaded all along by the cascading river. I had thought lives for the past few days. For starters, it’s a geophysical force far it’d take a while to sink into nature. Turns out, the immersion is instant. more powerful and profound than the transitory experiences that I’m a big fan of slowing down in wild places: hiking, crossdefine our daily lives. The tides determine where and when you can country skiing, stand-up paddleboarding. The latter two sports can paddle or hike; the slopes and cliffs above its shoreline bestow trails involve speed, but mostly, like a walk in the woods, they’re meditative. to bike down, creeks to play in and rock to dangle from. Which is not something teenagers are typically drawn to. So the day But most important, perhaps, is the sense of peace and after our outing with Légaré, we’re back at Le Massif, this time at the permanence it confers, from the water’s constant flow—a form of summit, astride high-end mountain bikes from the rental shop. therapy that you can’t get from a wellness website. Regardless of It’s the first summer of mountain biking on the hill with the what’s happening in the world, this will always be here, and as long biggest vertical drop in eastern Canada, a 770-metre descent to as we can get here, or somewhere like here, and sink into sync with the St. Lawrence. And even though it’s drizzling and the ground its rhythm, there’s a reason to get up and keep going. is slick, the four of us—all MTB rookies—gamely join Le Massif’s William Choquette on a string of green and blue trails, slingshotting





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The Backcountry Hut Company’s simple, zero-waste designs bring new meaning to “prefabricated”

words :: Kristin Schnelten When you’re in your early 30s and haven’t yet owned a car or home—and certainly not a boat—buying a small island doesn’t seem the obvious place to start. But for one busy Ontario millennial, it made perfect sense. “My friends have a place nearby, and I grew up visiting that cottage,” he says. “I was lucky enough to be re-exposed to Georgian Bay again a few years ago, and I thought, I hope one day I can have a place here.”

When those family friends gave him a heads-up about an island listing, he acted fast. But the path to cottage life wasn’t as clear-cut as the property purchase. “I had never built anything at that point,” he says. “My inexperience led me to hope I could buy a home like I buy a pair of jeans: You just walk into a store, buy this thing, and it works!” Internet sleuthing revealed you actually can buy a cottage off the shelf—sort of. What he discovered was the Backcountry Hut Company (BHC), a B.C.-based start-up specializing in sustainable, prefabricated, flat-pack cabins with transparent



processes and pricing. Design-conscious in his home and work life, he was fascinated by the concept and impressed with the architecture: “I really wanted to build something in keeping with the natural aesthetic, and their systems have a lower profile, with black-cladded metal, and I knew the cedar would be beautiful on the island,” he says. A phone conversation led him to The Interior Design Show (IDS) in Toronto, where he met BHC co-founder Wilson Edgar in person and toured the prototype, which was assembled on-site as the showcase Concept Home. The hut was an example of their System 01, one of four standard designs created by Edgar’s BHC co-founder, 74

award-winning architect Michael Leckie. Available in various configurations, the systems are constructed with a focus on beauty, functionality, longevity, sustainability and craftsmanship. Says Edgar, “Our intention is to create something that is quiet but impressive, a structure that melts or dissipates back into nature.” As a backcountry skier and seasoned traveler, Edgar found inspiration in the huts of the Alps. “They’re built at such a different level than those typically found in North America,” he says. “I thought, Why can’t we do that here?” He brought the idea to Leckie, who shared Edgar’s vision of a better backcountry dwelling.


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“Our intention is to create something that is quiet but impressive, a structure that melts or dissipates back into nature.”

“We discussed the shapes and modularity, how to make something that can be something different for different people, but at the same time was straightforward to fabricate, ship and deliver across North America,” Edgar says. Much of that development stage focused on building relationships as well, including with Swisstrained craftsmen who construct the kit-of-parts cabin components in their workshop. The fabrication methodology isn’t simply about streamlining the process. “We are fundamentally interested in creating a sustainable approach to cabin construction. It isn’t a second thought, it’s our primary interest. Construction waste is one of the biggest things that fills our landfills,” Edgar says. “We’re using materials that can be 100% recycled. Our windows are made from wood, and the entire structure is metal-clad. You can disassemble the whole building and recycle it.” Those meticulously sourced materials also ensure a lengthier lifespan than a traditional build. Edgar says, “The life expectancy is so long, we like to think these structures will be



around for hundreds of years. It’s more of a European thought process, a generational one. It’s a generational cottage.” Yet, for all that longevity, a Backcountry Hut can be constructed in just days. As soon as the foundation is prepped, the system will arrive on-site with everything necessary for a general contractor or homeowner to assemble: beams, cladding, windows, insulation and fasteners. Understanding the varying needs and tastes of clients, interiors are left for homeowners to complete with their distinct vision. Although in the case of the show home, many interior fixtures were already in place on the exhibition floor. The IDS prototype made such an immediate impression on the island owner that he decided to purchase that very hut. “Something about the simplicity of the process appealed to me, in addition to its beautiful, thoughtful aesthetic,” he says. “I felt so lucky and grateful to have found the property, and this decision seemed equally fortuitous.” At show’s end, BHC staff disassembled the prototype and repacked it into its storage container, where it waited until spring and its ultimate voyage to the island. Building remotely has its challenges, but the homeowner saw those challenges as a learning experience, and was so impressed with the initial structure and the passion of both Edgar and Leckie that he eventually added two more Backcountry Huts (each a System 00, a simple A-frame design with a miniscule footprint) to the property. “I’m supergrateful I was able to work with them. They’re great people, and great stewards of their product,” he says. The additional structures provide space and privacy for guests, who often accompany the homeowner and his wife on their frequent visits to the serendipitous retreat. “When I’m out there, I just don’t want to leave,” he says. “I really hope we’ll have a long history there.”

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STOKE + PROGRESSION AT BLUE’S SKILLS CAMPS words :: Allison Kennedy Davies Our region has quickly become a mecca for families who are passionate about outdoor activity. Most of us have put our kids in ski or snowboarding lessons with the dream of being able to build their skills to a level that you can eventually ride together. Blue Mountain Resort’s Skills Camps can help your active kids build their bike skills or round out their athletic ability with the same progression you’ve come to know and love. Week-long day camps are running at the Mountain this summer, with a focus on providing skills-based programming for either trail biking or overall athletic performance. While all experience levels are welcome, Blue’s Bike Skills Camp is offered to children ages 8-14. Campers require their own

equipment and should know how to ride a bike. With these basics in check, camp instructors will help the kids focus on adapting those skills to mountain bike trails. “There are a lot of unique skills and manoeuvres to learn when you start riding in an off-road environment,” explains Alex Mann, Assistant Manager of Snow School and On-hill Programming at Blue. “Dirt, forested trails, obstacles, steeper up and down sections, tighter, twistier turns—when you get into an off-road genre of biking, lots of new challenges pop up. The camp is structured around gaining those skills.” Based out of Blue Mountain’s South Base Lodge where Mike Towers, Manager of Parks and Trails Maintenance, and his team have been gradually building a skills zone for cyclists, the camp will utilize Blue’s existing XC trails as well as some of the lower mountain


collector trails. “Really what we are looking to do is rebuild biking at Blue Mountain from the ground up,” explains Towers. “We want to be the place to come to progress your skills—to feel comfortable, learn and develop. We were at the far end of that spectrum at one time— catering to advanced riders, really—but we missed this generation of progression for beginners of all ages.”

“Dirt, forested trails, obstacles, steeper up and down sections, tighter, twistier turns—when you get into an off-road genre of biking, lots of new challenges pop up. The camp is structured around gaining those skills.” For active kids who want to improve their overall athletic performance, Blue’s Multisport Skills Camp is another ideal summer option. Created by the Jozo Weider race coaching team, campers can expect to jump, throw, balance and sprint while engaged in a

variety of sports and outdoor play. “We have focused on activities that promote power and speed as well as overall coordination and agility,” says Becki Relihan, Director of Programming and Recreation for Blue. “This is a great option for off-season training for skiers and snowboarders but also a fun, well-rounded approach to any sport cross-training. That said, the Multisport Skills Camp is truly for any kid who is energetic and loves being outside.” Week-long campers will spend as much time riding and training as possible, but campers will also have access to the summer attractions at Blue. On rainy days, the bike skills camp will also have a focus on basic bike tuning and setup so young riders become as selfsufficient as possible. Relihan says trail stewardship, riding etiquette and good sportsmanship will also be touched on. “We want to get the kids here, have fun with them all week and they hopefully catch the passion for outdoor sport and encourage their parents to get outside and play when they’re here.”

Want to sign up your young rider for the summer? Call 1-833-583-BLUE to register or visit Guest Services at Blue Mountain Resort.





Outdoor toys • Craft Kits & Supplies • Games & Puzzles •Building toys Science kits • Puppets & dress-up • Infant toys • Thomas the Tank Engine And books for infants to teens

27 Hurontario St., Collingwood (705) 445-6222 Shop on line at Mon.-Fri. 9:30-6:00, Sat. 9:30-5:00 Sun. 11:00-4:00

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The Latest Toys, Books and Crafts for kids of all ages Outdoor Toys • Craft Kits • Games & Puzzles • Building Toys Science Kits • Puppets & Dress-up • Infant Toys • Books for infants to teens 57 Hurontario St., Collingwood (705) 445-6222 Shop online at

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Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park.



Alain Denis, Clarksburg.

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Andy Milovanovic riding his Lift eFoil on Georgian Bay.




Hardboard or Inflatable? Five things to consider before choosing your SUP

words & photo :: Diana Lee In the 10 years I’ve been paddleboarding, one of the most frequently asked questions I hear is, “Hardboard or inflatable: Which is better?” The answer isn’t straightforward. Whether you’re new to SUPing or have been renting and thinking of getting your own board, several factors might sway your decision, including brands, shapes, sizes, colours and price points. Before buying, ask yourself these questions to narrow your search: 1: What kind of paddling will you do? • Floating around at the beach or occasional paddling at the cottage. Both hard and inflatable boards will serve you well for casual use. • Adventure paddling, camping and travelling. This is where I love inflatable boards. They’re easier to transport, usually lighter than hardboards and are less likely to get dinged or scratched when portaging on narrow, rocky trails. • Long-distance paddling, maybe SUP racing. While there are good touring-style inflatables, try a hardboard first if you’re aiming to get into competitive SUP racing. Inflatables sit higher off the water and hardboards (depending on their dimensions, shape, etc.) can be faster. • SUP surfing. Most SUP surfers opt for hardboards, which are more responsive in the water, but wave conditions and surf skills can play a role. 2. Who will be using it? Consider the paddler and their individual preferences: • Falling onto an inflatable board is less painful. A child, elderly paddler or beginner might find more comfort on an inflatable. • An inflatable can be lighter to carry and easier to manage (especially boards with multiple handles). • Some people with high arches or ankle issues prefer the soft deck of an inflatable board, while others with the same conditions may prefer the rigidity of a hardboard. Try renting different boards and brands to see what feels better. 88

3. How will you transport your board? • Do you have a roof rack on your vehicle to carry a hardboard? • Do you need to carry your board a long distance to the water? Consider the weight of the board and look into accessories like carts or straps that can help. • If you travel by air, inflatables can be rolled up and don’t always count as oversized baggage (depending on the airline). For a hardboard, I recommend a high-quality board bag with padding to protect it during transportation. 4. How will you store it? A packed inflatable takes up the same space as a hockey bag. A hardboard is larger and requires a rack or safe spot where it isn’t prone to falling over and getting damaged. Both board types should not be exposed directly to weather elements while in storage. 5. How reputable is the brand? Hardboard or inflatable, new or used—do your research on the brand. If buying new, ask: • How long has the company been making SUPs? • What do the customer reviews say? • What kind of warranty does the brand offer? If buying used: • Check to see if the board has ever been repaired. • Look closely for dings, scratches, cracks or sun damage. If there is damage, is it fixable? Do you know how to do this yourself or do you know a reputable repair shop? • Closely inspect inflatables for pinhole leaks. These defects can be difficult to find without inflating the board and checking it on the water, or coating the seams with dish soap and watching for bubbles where air is escaping. Choosing the board that’s right for you is all about you! Hopefully these answers will bring you one step closer to bringing home your own SUP. See you on the water. Diana (@only1phoenixx) is a certified SUP instructor.

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All fishing and safety equipment is provided, fully enclosed washrooms onboard, all fish are cleaned, no experience necessary!

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1. The PEAK PERFORMANCE VISLIGHT GORE-TEX PRO JACKET ensures long-lasting protection, even in the most extreme conditions. It’s light and breathable enough to use in the summertime, and durable enough to handle climbing and skiing in cold weather. Packable into its hood, this is your ideal garment for overnight hikes. // 2. Offering unbeatable control, stability and speed, ROLLERBLADE RB CRUISER is an urban skate that will stand up in all environments. Lateral support and sliders, a dual-buckle/lace closure system with shock-absorbing padding in the heel and an attached brake make RB Cruiser ultra-responsive for skaters of all abilities. // 3. COLLINGWOOD BREWERY’S TIKI TIME SESSION IPA is a tropical vacation for your taste buds. This IPA is packed with juicy hop character and just a splash of coconut and pineapple. Available at LCBO. // 4. The NCM C7 CITY BIKE delivers maximum performance for your urban commuting, fitness and even adventure cycling needs. Powered by a 14Ah battery and an all-new torque assist, with a range of 120 km per charge, you can tackle your day’s journeys in sweat-free casual mode, fitness pace or anywhere in between. // 5. The KTM 12E DRIVE & 16E DRIVE ELECTRIC BALANCE BIKES offer a unique opportunity to share the sport with young champs of tomorrow. They can look just like their heroes while mastering balance and throttle control as they prepare to graduate to a larger platform. // 6. THE NORTH FACE FLIGHT VECTIV are light, fast, and responsive trail shoes made for high performance over long distances. Designed with input from TNF athlete team, these shoes are built to optimize energy return and reduce downhill tibial impact by ten per cent to propel you toward your running goals. Available at // 7. Rain or shine, they call it the great outdoors for a reason. Zip up for trail and travel in the WOMEN’S BURTON VERIDRY 2.5L RAIN JACKET and prepare to take whatever Mother Nature delivers. Fully waterproof and breathable, this jacket is loaded with convenient features like a chest pocket to easily access the internal mesh pocket through the shell, and the whole jacket stuffs into its own pocket for easy packing. A jacket worthy of adventure that’s totally at ease in the city, too.


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14 → 8. With an elegant Art Deco illustration, the handcrafted PULSE MERMAID 10’6” SUP is perfect for mastering the half-moon pose, gliding towards sunsets or paddling downriver. Comes with a matching bag, paddle, leash and fins. // 9. RED PADDLE CO’S PRO CHANGE ROBE EVO is built for performance, with a waterproof/breathable outer shell to keep rain out and a cozy inner fleece lining to lock warmth in and wick moisture away. Perfect for year-round adventures. // 10. The WEBER TRAVELER is for anyone who wants delicious grilled food away from home. Whether you’re camping, tailgating or picnicking, its sturdy, compact design makes for a seamless experience from setup to storage. // 11. The SIC TAO AIR-GLIDE is designed for the paddler who wants a board to take out with the family, surf small to mid-sized waves, take a SUP yoga class or cruise the shoreline. With drop stitch construction and lightweight, durable support stringer tech, these 12.6x30 inflatables are light, stiff and reliable. Three-piece paddle included. // 12. The KAHUNA ALOHA line is exclusive to Skiis & Biikes in Southern Ontario. The 11′ SUP is designed for entry- to intermediate-level paddlers looking for a stable, longer, all-round board. It’s a great cottage board for paddling with your dog, teaching your guests how to paddle or loading it up for your next marine adventure. // 13. With generous width and volume, BLU WAVE’S LAKE LOG line of soft-top surfboards were designed for Great Lakes surfing. They make a perfect first board for the aspiring Great Lakes surfer. Available in Pink/Blue or Lime/Blue in 7’, 8’ and 9’ lengths. // 14. Meet the new plant-based BREWER AUTO SUN FROM ZEAL OPTICS with the revolutionary Auto Sun lens, combining polarization with photochromic technology to automatically adjust tint and colour with changing light conditions for all-day adventuring.



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15. On the shores of Georgian Bay, ROOT TO FRUIT produces small-batch activated turmeric elixirs and syrups using all-organic ingredients. Enjoy 1-2 ounces a day on its own or added to your favourite beverage. // 16. The YETI CAMINO 20 CARRYALL is built tough inside and out, with dividers deployable at will and two interior zippered pockets. It’s made from the same waterproof, durable and easy-cleaning material as the Panga Duffel, so you know it’s built to withstand 1000 times more abuse than an average tote. // 17. RALLY DRY RUN PALE ALE is for folks who like to tip a tin while keeping fresh and clear. This non-alc is a hazy-gold pale ale that’s light, crisp and guaranteed hangover-free. Uncompromising on flavour, quality ingredients and packed with electrolytes. All pop, no wobble. // 18. For perfect summer sipping on the trail, by the bay or the BBQ, the black currant-infused SPY CRIMSON TIDE is naturally semi-sweet thanks to luscious black currants and ripe local apples. Never any sugar or artificial flavours added. Available on-site. // 19. What’s in your water? Most well users don’t know, blindly trusting their filtration system. MY WATER QUALITY is Canada’s premier at-home water testing service. Provide a sample using a testing kit and get a water report card, and peace of mind, within 10-20 days. www. // 20. The RUX mission is to boost the flow and freedom of outdoor adventure by creating systems that make organizing, storing and moving gear fun, fast and cool. The RUX 70L is a compressible, weatherproof gear management solution with a wide rigid opening for easy access, a secure tri-fold lid, modular straps for easy carry, and a component-based design for a wide variety of adventures.


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21. Go off-grid in the performance multi-sport COLUMBIA ESCAPE THRIVE ENDURE shoe built for the trail and beyond. A New TechLite Plush midsole delivers a smooth heel-to-toe transition, ensuring lasting underfoot comfort. Secure midfoot lockdown and a wet-dry traction outsole keep you going, mile after mile. Columbia Sportswear, Blue Mountain Village. // 22. Lightweight and compact, the RAB XENAIR ALPINE LIGHT HOODY is designed to adapt to your output and is the ideal layer for stop-and-start mountain activities. // 23. KAN JAM is a fast-paced two-on-two disc game perfect for the backyard, beach, park or tailgate. And it’s so lightweight and easy to assemble you can bring it anywhere and play within seconds. Ages 10 and up. // 24. Don’t let a little rain put a damper on your day. Visit Hillside Outfitters and pick up the simple, unpretentious PATAGONIA TORRENTSHELL 3L JACKET with three-layer H2No Performance Standard technology for exceptional waterproof/ breathable performance, all-day comfort and durability. Fair Trade Certified–sewn. Hillside Outfitters, Blue Mountain Village.

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NOT YOUR GRANDPARENTS’ RV You have to use the word “amenities” when describing CanaDream’s Deluxe Van Camper (DVC). It's bursting with them. But it looks so sleek from the outside that you'll probably underestimate what’s inside. Designed for two adults, this customized 22-foot Ford is #vanlife with #bellsandwhistles. This machine is built for compact comfort, from the memory foam cushions to the air conditioner to the combo furnace/water heater to the generator that will power your heating or cooling when you’re off-grid. But it’s also built to conserve energy; you can use the roof-vent skylight fan instead of the air conditioner, and it uses very little power and cycles fresh air through the rear slider windows. The DVC features a wet bathroom (the sink faucet extends upwards and attaches as a showerhead). And when the dual doors are closed, you forget the bathroom is there. The two tabletops also serve as the bed boards under the sofa cushions that fold down to create the queen-sized bed. The kitchenette includes a microwave oven, a recessed two-burner propane cooktop, a large sink you can close off with a removable inset counterpiece, and a surprisingly large fridge/freezer that’s always on (powered by the deep-cycle RV coach battery, supplemented by the roof solar panel).


The DVC is certainly built for comfort, and it’s also built Ford tough. The base vehicle is the Ford Transit (in the Coachmen Beyond series). It packs a lot of power under the hood—3.5L Eco Boost V6 310 HP engine with 400 lbs. of torque—and unlike grandparents’ RV, it's very fuel-efficient. We drove the DVC on dirt roads in the rain and it handled like a champ. For someone who has tent-camped since the age of 10, the DVC experience feels extra secure and, yes, deluxe. You don’t need to worry about bears or bad weather tearing through your campsite. You have everything you need in this self-sufficient cabin on wheels. Rentals available at

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This is Your Windfall Be a part of an inspired enclave where nature & neighbourhood are in perfect balance. Welcome to the next phase of mountain homes nestled between Blue Mountain Resort and the award winning Scandinave Spa. A community set proudly apart yet connected by nature. Distinctive architecture inspired by Georgian Bay cabins and mountain chalets. This is everything you want Blue Mountain living to be. This is your Windfall.

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Cry Fowl What can we do about plastic pollution in the remotest Great Lakes habitats? A great blue heron chick.

words & photo :: Scott Parent Six colonial waterfowl species nest on remote islands between the tip of the Saugeen Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island, and eastward into northern Georgian Bay. The ring-billed and herring gull, great blue heron, double-crested cormorant, common tern and black-crowned night heron all depend on these desolate environments to nest and nurture their young. Bald eagles, too. No matter your opinion on these birds, they are part of the big water environment and live in this remote heart of the Bay, co-existing on limited scrubby limestone real estate in the middle of nowhere. The islands are stable respites surrounded by open water. By sailboat or paddle, visits to these isolated places require windows of clear weather and supportive conditions. It takes commitment to make the necessary crossings required to reach them, and a great deal of humility and respect for the water if you plan to paddle. A deep respect for the diving birds and their space is also needed. Each visit, no matter how minimalist, can impact the nesting birds and their hatchlings during the spring and summer. These islands aren’t your ideal travel destinations anyway. Unless you like the fetid and trenchant odour of avian fecal matter, there’s no escaping the stench. My paddle trips to the islands are more of an inquiry into these fascinating residents and the region itself. While making these inquiries, I’ve made many extraordinary observations over the years. I’ve witnessed baby herring gulls hatch, then learn to walk, swim and eat. I’ve seen the shrill vigilance of both mothers and fathers protecting their young and how each species opportunistically preys on each other’s eggs when left unwatched. The health and durability of these populations are also intrinsically linked to the health and prevalence of the fish and subaquatic life they feed on. 98

I’ve observed a trend out there: the pervasiveness of plastic garbage befouling these islands. Unlike ocean current systems known as gyres, which circulate and collect floating trash into large swaths (the most famous of which is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch), trash in the Great Lakes ends up plastered along the shorelines, strewn along the beaches and hung up in grassy spawning waters. The garbage decorating the remotest islands of the Bay isn’t left behind by a human hand. It’s carried there by the water itself. I’ve been astonished and distressed to see plastic built into the nests of colonial waterfowl. This accumulation indicates just how saturated with plastic waste the open waters of Georgian Bay are at present. Plastic is snarling its way into the wildest places. Removing plastic entangled in nests can damage them. It’s as though plastic is tangled into creation itself. Human wastefulness is not without consequence. What those consequences are, we don’t yet fully understand. For everyone else, these remote places and their residents are far out of sight, and for the most part, out of mind. But I see them, and have their future in mind: the great blue herons, hatching in nests woven with remnants of plastic trash, and the herring gulls threatened by abandoned balloon string. Much of the plastic trash washing up here, like balloons, was used for a oneoff event but could end up contaminating these faraway places for generations. Reducing our single-use plastic habit is a much-needed step— for the sake of the lake and all her relatives. By showing up at your local beach clean-up with the family, you are not only cleaning up that shore, but helping protect distant shores conjoined by the water. You’re also helping the wild ones living there, like this adolescent great blue heron, watchful from its nest in an offshore colony south of Manitoulin Island.

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