Posts tagged ‘camping’

September 22, 2017

Adam House Camping 2.0


Aiden, Tim, and I planned another camping trip with the Adam House Community since the trip last year was such a success. Aiden could not make it in the end, but we also had Jocky and David join us as volunteers. We had planned for there to be 24 people on the trip, but unfortunately many people cancelled in the few weeks before the trip. They missed out though because we had another great weekend! This time we went to Grundy Lake Provincial Park. I picked it because I knew there would be some easy trails with nice views, and that we would be able to enjoy the rocky ridges of the Canadian Shield. We drove up on Saturday morning and had smooth sailing. We arrived with plenty of sunlight left and so we went to the beach after setting up camp. The beach was shallow and sandy and so Hani tried swimming for the first time. There was also an area for volleyball and so we played several matches with some other young people. When the sun started going down we decided to drive to Clear Lake and watch the sun set. There was a shallow smooth peninsula rock that went into the water, and Ali discovered that if you took a picture of someone sitting or crouching near the end of that rock, it looked like they were on a high cliff overlooking an abyss of sky. This is because the colours of the clouds and setting sun were reflected like a mirror into the still water. I guess the name “Clear lake” is appropriate! We had a lot of fun after that with various individual poses and selfies! After the sun set we returned to the campsite and made pasta for dinner. We ended up making far too much than we needed and had a lot of leftovers! We enjoyed a nice fire while we swapped embarrassing moment stories and roasted marshmallows.

It rained hard overnight but our tents were good and we managed to stay dry. I was thankful that the rain didn’t start until after we went to bed and stopped by the time we got up. I started setting up a tarp just in case it rained again, and Elchin and David soon came to help me. I was very impressed with how well we were able to hang it! We tied the rope to a rock and threw it over some branches to get it higher. It was cooler and overcast and so we took the morning slow and then decided to go for a hike along the French River in the afternoon. We drove to the French River Visitors Centre and took the 1.5km path to go and see the falls. The forest was beautiful! The falls were small in height but powerful with a lot of water! I liked how the water started like little tendrils that got thicker towards the falls. The guys found a thick styrofoam block and started to play around with it. I hoped they wouldn’t do anything reckless with it and they didn’t. They did decide to bring it back to Grundy Lake with us though to use as a swim toy back at the beach! Another site we saw was a large snake, probably the largest that I’ve seen in Canada, that we think was a Massassauga Rattlesnake. At first we thought it was dead, but when David prodded it with the tripod it moved. The poor thing probably just wanted to be left alone! After the hike we went to the Visitors Centre, which was in a well designed building that I thought fit well in the landscape (I found out later that it was designed by Baird Sampson Neuert Architects). We also went to check out the nearby suspension bridge that was built primarily for snowmobiles. On the way back to camp, I convinced my car to go get ice-cream from the Grundy Lake Outpost. The others were too far ahead and so we went without them. I thought I might remember something of the place from my childhood, but it all felt different!



We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach and I proposed that we go to the Red Maple beach instead. As we were getting in the cars, Lana told me that Elchin had run off saying he would beat us there. When we got to the beach he was nowhere to be found. While Lana went looking for him I introduced the others to the slippery rock. It was just as slippery as I remember from my childhood. The water was warmer than the air at this point, and so we didn’t swim for very long. Lana didn’t succeed in finding Elchin and so we drove to the main beach because we thought maybe he had ended up there from a miscommunication. We were right! The sun returned and we played a few more games of volleyball. Those of us less interested in playing left early to go watch the sun set from the lookout point near Red Maple beach. We found a nice peaceful spot with a beautiful view of Grundy Lake. Over the course of an hour we watched the sun and clouds go through several transformations. The others joined us right after the sun had dipped below the horizon. They had brought chips and salsa and so we snacked while continuing to watch the final changing hues of the sky. The next morning it was raining like crazy! We knew that it was not going to subside and so we had to pack up camp wet. Yuck! Everyone were great sports though and we were so efficient that we were on the road shortly after 10! The ride home confirmed that we had made the right decision in not trying to wait it out. We drove through three more intense downpours before the sky cleared almost two hours later! Even though it meant that I had to take an extra day off of work to dry the tents out (although I ended up using it as an E4C day), I was glad that the rain happened at the end of the trip instead of during it! I’m so thankful to my friends and family who all lent me their various camping equipment! This trip could not have happened without them! I’m so glad that we have started a tradition with this trip!





September 16, 2017

Adirondacks 4.0

I was super excited in mid-August to go on a fourth hiking/camping trip to the Adirondacks, this time with Rachel and Vikkie and three of their friends who I didn’t know well at the time, but got to know better: Mauri, Jason, and Ryan. My job and research fellowship were keeping me very busy up to the day of departure, and I actually made the mistake of thinking that the trip was from the Saturday until the Monday but then on Thursday near the end of the workday I realised that it was in fact Friday to Sunday. I don’t think I ever packed that quickly before but luckily I am familiar with what items to bring camping. I am also fortunate to have a flexible job since I had asked for the wrong day off! Rachel didn’t want to get stuck in traffic picking me up somewhere off of the TTC, and there was no certainty that I would be able to catch the first bus going to Unionville from Union Station. So Rachel and Vikkie came to pick me up from my house…. at 11:30pm. They are such amazing friends! We didn’t get to bed until after 1am and so would be running on 5 hours of sleep. The next day we were on the road by 8ish. We were a bit delayed because we couldn’t get the cargo container closed because we had tried to fit too many things into it. The drive was smooth. It started raining when we stopped in Lake Placid to get groceries, but we were lucky that the showers were local and that Wilmington had stayed dry. We set up camp and then drove around, and after stopping at a very abandoned santa’s workshop and a closed High Falls Gorge (that charged money anyways), we eventually found a place where we could walk down to the river and see a small waterfall.The others enjoyed getting to the middle of the river by climbing across some logs and jumping rocks, but I was tired so I just sat on a rock by the shore and watched them. Back at camp we made chicken fajitas and had a beautiful fire. I treated everyone to Saranac beers, although because I was so tired I ended up with a mean headache.

We woke up at 6 and after breakfast and lunch prep we were on the road by 8. I was eager for us to leave early because I was worried we might have trouble finding parking. We went to a place called the Garden in Keene Valley and got lucky because we got there just as a group that had returned from an overnight trip were leaving. Otherwise we would have had to drive back, park at the airfield, and take the shuttle. We hiked Big Slide via the Brothers and it was a beautiful ascent! The Brothers offered views from several ridges that kept us wondering if we were almost at Big Slide. It was further than we thought (as always is the case), but the final reveal was stunning! Near the top there was a glimpse of the big slide that gave the peak it’s name. We decided to make a loop and descend towards John Brooks Lodge instead of going back the way we came. Even though the route was longer, we would get to explore more of the unknown, have the final few kilometers on fairly flat ground, and check out what this John Brooks Lodge place was like. It was helpful that we stopped at Johns Brooks lodge because several of us were getting short on water and they had a tap where we could fill up. The lodge seemed like a great place and I think I want to stay there some time! It is similar to a hostel and during the high season it costs more ($70-80 in high season, $30-40 in low season), but they provide breakfast and dinner and a packed lunch for day trips! From the lodge we followed along the valley back to the Garden. We were all pretty tired by that point, but we kept our spirits up by singing random songs. I was thankful that we all made it back safely. I always feel a little protective of a group when I am introducing them to hiking in the Adirondacks for the first time! It is important to choose a route that is exciting and challenging, but also not too difficult.


Looking back on the first Brother



“Are we almost there?” snack break


Big Slide


At the summit


Following the creek down to the valley

On our drive back, Rachel was determined to find a swimming spot. I didn’t really care either way, but in the end I was glad because we had a great time. She pulled into a little parking area on the Ausable River across from the airfield in Keene that had picnic tables and a shallow area where people could wade. I watched for a while as the others went in, and finally decided to go in too but with my sandals because it was so rocky. There was a line of larger boulders where the water flowed over and you could get a foot massage. We found out that the area on the other side of that small water fall was better for swimming because it was deeper and surprisingly went up to our shoulders. Vikkie had an underwater camera and so we then proceeded to try and take group pictures and selfies under the water! We decided that we would eat out in Lake Placid that evening. Rachel wanted to go to a place called Smoke Signals, but they were full up with a two hour waiting list, and so instead we want to a place I had been recommended called the Cottage. We got a seat on the patio which overlooked Mirror Lake. The atmosphere was nice but the food was only okay. You would think we would be tired by this point, but the guys were determined to have smores! So we went to the grocery store to pick up supplies!

The next day we packed up camp and I decided to take us to hike Little and Big Crow which would be nice and short but still promised nice views of the High Peaks in the distance. Again we had some trouble finding the trailhead, but eventually took a small road we thought would lead us there. It brought us to a small parking area that had a trail going directly to Big Crow, instead of the one that involved a loop as I had originally planned. In the end it was better because we had more time to relax and enjoy the scenery. At the top we met a man who was very familiar with the peaks and was able to point out Mount Marcy (the tallest peak), Big Slide (the peak we had hiked the day earlier), and Giant Mountain (one of the peaks we hiked two years ago). We decided not to hike to Little Crow so that we would have more time for lunch. We planned to have a picnic to finish up all of our leftover food. Since we couldn’t think of another place to go, and because we weren’t that far anyways, we returned to the swimming spot in Keene Valley. On our way there a truck in front of us lost a skid from the back, and I thank God that we had enough space to move around it and not hit it! We soon forgot about that event because in the airfield across from the swimming spot there was a Sunday market going on. We decided to stop there and check it out. Then we went back to our swimming spot that was full of people this time. We claimed a picnic table and enjoyed our leftovers. From there we hit the road back home. The trip felt far too short, but any chance to get into nature (and mountains) is worthwhile. I am thankful that despite being so busy I was able to enjoy these moments in nature with friends! The next time I go to the Adirondacks I plan to do back-country camping!


Pointing out Giant Mountain to us (it looks like an armchair from the back)


The summit of Big Crow with a view of Mt. Marcy and Big Slide

August 18, 2017


On the Canada day long weekend I went camping with Vikkie, Hong-Li, Julie, and Jo at Mikisew Provincial Park. We were on a bit of an adventure because we had to change our booking last minute because of flooding at the original campsite we had booked at Grundy Lake Provincial Park. Hong-Li and Jo went up earlier to set up camp because they had the Friday off, and Vikkie, Julie, and I came later in the evening. Vikkie’s GPS didn’t know exactly where Mikisew was on the road, and so it said we had arrived when we hadn’t and we were on a pitch black cottage road. We decided to try going further and finally came upon the turn-off to the park. We didn’t arrive until 11:30 and so we set up our sleeping bags in the tent and quickly turned in. I slept very poorly (if at all) because there was a family next to us who was talking into the wee hours of the morning and then had a young child who was wailing like crazy. I was frustrated at the parents for letting their child stay up so late to begin with. Sounds in this campground seemed to travel very easily because the forest was made entirely of large coniferous trees with not much ground cover. I felt relieved when a light rain started that quieted our neighbours down, but it soon turned into a thunderstorm and downpour. I was thankful that we all managed to stay dry.

I was pretty tired the next morning, but being in a new and exciting place can have a way of keeping you going. It looked like we were in for a gray and rainy day. We had a slow and lazy morning, and in the late morning decided to go and explore. The others wanted to go canoeing, but Vikkie and I convinced them that it would be nicer to do that the next day when it was supposed to be nicer. Instead we visited the beaches and the dock and then went to check out some nearby trails. We soon discovered that we would not be able to get very far because the trail was flooded in many areas, including the trail to a lookout point we wanted to go to. We turned around to head back to our campsite, and it started to downpour! Some of us had brought rain coats and others had not, and so we shared what we had and trudged back in the pouring rain. We settled in the tent to change into dry clothes and spent the next hour or two eating snacks and playing Dutch Blitz and Wizard. It continued to rain so hard that our campsite started pooling and the bottom of our tent felt like a water mattress! Luckily our tent was very new and the bottom tarp held out for us and kept us mostly dry.

When the rain was over we felt like it must be late afternoon already, but it was only 2pm! Since we couldn’t hike and we didn’t want to canoe with the chance of more rain, we decided to make a day trip to visit a nearby site that Hong-Li had looked up before coming. It was a curious place called the Screaming Heads of Midlothian in a town called Burk’s Falls. We stopped first at a small one-room school house that had been turned into a museum, and the lady there directed us a short way down the road to see the screaming heads. And upon turning in we saw exactly that – several large, concrete, leaning, screaming heads – and a spiderweb gate out of rebar that led to what looked like a half castle, half Incan ruin. It was fascinating! You can find the most interesting things in the middle-of-no-where Ontario! We went through the gate and found the creator of the pieces working away on something in the yard. He directed us to where we could find another cluster of screaming heads. The other cluster of heads were round and were formed in a layered circle around a big pile of rocks. This group felt more creepy to me. Then we crossed the road and took a look at the screaming heads across the street that you could only look at from a distance because of the tall grass, and they looked more like screaming trees. On our way back we decided to stop to see Burk’s Falls and get ice-cream at the welcome center. It was already 5pm and we found out the place was closed, but we convinced the girl who was locking up to let us in to get icecream. She amazingly obliged us and totally made our day! Not only that but the icecream was inexpensive, delicious, and they only served on waffle cones! Yum!

When we got back to the campsite we decided to prepare half of our dinner, and then go down to the beach a bit early so that we could get a good spot for watching the fire works. We got our lawn chairs and sat on the beach as dusk settled. Soon the beach was full of people. We watched a group of kids play with a cool wireless mini-motor boat toy. Someone in the crowd initiated the singing of the national anthem. We were at the point of wondering if the fireworks were ever going to happen or be worth the wait, when the show finally started and it was fantastic! I was surprised at how extensive the show was for such a small cottage area. After the fireworks we returned to our campsite and had our dinner 2.0 followed by smores with Canada 150 maple marshmallows!

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On day 2 Hong-Li convinced us to get up early to watch the sunrise. We went back to the beach, this time deserted, and sat on some rocks and watched the sky change colour. It was beautiful and so peaceful. After breakfast we went to the Narrows, which is the place where they set off the fireworks, to rent boats for the day that were available on the beach at the campground. It looked like rain again and so we turned around and got a few ponchos to bring along. I decided to direct us to a place on the map called Angus Bay because it was the cutest, smallest little bay on Eagle Lake. To get there we cut across the lake and went around some of the islands. The wind was fairly strong at times and we had to be careful to go mostly perpendicular to the waves. Although we thought it would rain, we got some periods of sun and really warmed up from the paddling. We stopped at an island and swam for a bit off the rocks before changing up and continuing on. Angus bay was much calmer because it was so small, and it turned out to be a great spot to stop for lunch. Hong-Li really wanted to use the dock of someone’s cottage, but we convinced her it was a bad idea because everyone was at the cottage that weekend! Instead we bridged our boats with our ores to keep the boats side by side, turned around to face each other, and enjoyed the lunches we had packed while we drifted. It was lovely! Our return trip was pretty fast now that we knew where we were going. Jo and I were tired of canoeing, and the others wanted to keep going, and so we stayed and waded/swam a bit while the others decided to canoe north towards the narrows. When Jo and I were tired of swimming we also decided to go out again, but quickly turned around and headed back when we saw rain clouds quickly approaching! We just managed to pull the boat out of the water and place it on the rack, when it began to downpour! The others soon came to shore as well and we got soaked (AGAIN!) as we put away the other boat and the supples.

The rain stopped pretty quickly, but by that point all of our changes of clothes were wet. We went to the comfort station to see if there was a dryer, and were very pleased that there was! After another nice dinner and fire, Vikkie and I decided to go and see the stars by the lake. The view from the beach was okay, but I convinced Vikkie that we should go to the dock! Luckily Vikkie had her phone that had a pretty powerful flashlight, because the hike to the dock seamed much longer in the dark, and there was still a lot of mud and puddles to watch out for! It was totally worth it though because the dock was the perfect place to watch the stars. We layed down on the end of it and stared into the sky. Vikkie has the Google Sky Map app that shows the constellations in the direction that the phone is pointing. We saw Ursa Major and Minor (the big and little dipper), Cygnus (supposed to look like a swan but looks like a cross to me), Cassiopea (looks like a “W”), and the most interesting because it was my first time seeing it, Sagittarius (teapot). We took the road back afterwards which was much faster than returning by the beach route!




It was too bad that we had to leave the next day because the weather was beautiful! We decided to pack up camp and then go to the beach and rent a standup paddle board for an hour or two since a few of us wanted to try it. It was easier than I thought it would be and I definitely want to try it again. When Jullie took her turn she was having trouble steering back to us and the wind was pushing her further and further away. I knew she was getting to the end of what I would be able to swim, and that I didn’t want it to become a big thing, and so I ended up swimming out to her and then kicking and steering her back to the beach. She was probably 100m away! I was pretty proud of myself since I had only recently started swimming for sport for the last few months and would not have been able to do it if not for that. I was definitely tired at the end of it! After the others had taken second tries, we decided it was time to head for home. We stopped for lunch in Barrie and then I drove Vikkie’s car the rest of the way to give her a break. She generously dropped me off at home, and since it wasn’t that late yet I convinced her to stay for an episode of Once Upon a Time! That was the end of a very enjoyable weekend!





October 22, 2016

Adam House Camping 1.0

I had one day at home after my family camping trip before heading out camping once again! This time I had plans to go camping with some of the volunteers and residents of Adam House. I slept for one night at Mom and Dad’s and then packed up their van along with borrowed sleeping bags, tent, dishes, tarp, etc! I left for Toronto at around noon and later met Aiden and Tim at Adam House to see what food we could get from there and then go grocery shopping for anything we were still missing. The next morning I picked up ice and went to pick up some of the residents. I knew that I wouldn’t have enough space for everything in the van, and so I took my parents suggestion of putting all of the sleeping bags and mattresses in two big garbage bags and tying them to the roof rack. We were a bit delayed doing this before heading off, but it worked like a charm and gave just enough space for everyone. I met up with Tim and Aiden’s car at York Mills Station and then we all headed off! It was fun to hear the residents talking about Afghani and Persian history and music while I drove!

Upon arriving at the campsite we set up camp with many hands to help! There were ten of us in total! A funny moment happened when we set up Aiden’s two tents only to discover that one was a dining tent and could not be used to sleep in. That meant that the seven guys would all be packed into my parents tent that luckily is pretty big! We decided to use some of our remaining daylight hours to go exploring and find the beach. We discovered that was a short walk from our campsite. The water was oh so cold, but that didn’t stop everyone except Tim and I from going swimming. I decided that I would have plenty of time to swim the following day! After the swim we decided to find a peninsula that was on our map called Sunset Point. I decided to be artistic and spelled out Adam House with pebbles and we all had a good time taking photographs. We headed back before the sunset to prepare our dinner of burgers and sausages. We also got the fire started and everyone enjoyed just sitting and chatting. I surprised everyone by pulling out my guitar and playing a few tunes and a few others played as well! We stayed around the fire until midnight and then we came up with the idea of going for a night walk back to the beach to look at the stars! We walked all the way to the point we went to earlier, laid on the ground, and just stared up at the beautiful sky for a half hour. Several of us saw shooting stars at different times! As soon as we got back we all went to sleep. I was pretty tired and so fell asleep pretty quickly, but apparently there was a bit of a snoring contest from the guy’s tent!

Sunset point

Around the campsite

The next day a few of us got up at around 8am and started making pancakes. In the late morning we packed up everything we needed to spend the day away from the campsite. First we went to the store to pick up a few things (and enjoyed some popsicles!) and then we went for a hike around one of the large ponds in the park. The path was a nice loop with two lookout points intended for bird watching. We were such a merry, chatty group that we probably scared most of them away! We had fun taking pictures of the group at a few points along the path. After the hike we were ready to go to the beach! This time we decided to check out the public beach that we hoped would be a bit bigger than the campground beach that we went to the day before. The beach was bigger but in the water in most places there were big rocks that were impossible to walk on. There was only a narrow strip where stones had been cleared away and there was sand. It didn’t stop us though and we spent a good amount of time in the water. At first it was freezing cold but eventually we all got used to it. Ali had a phone that could go under water and so we had fun taking underwater photos and videos! Lana and I built a small sand castle and a few of us enjoyed just laying on the tarp and soaking in the sun. Volleyball is a tradition with the folks at Adam House and so there were two very epic matches where the winners got to kick the losers into the water! I watched the first game and then played in the second game and lost! We headed back to camp to wash up and then left for the point again in time to see the sun fully set. Once again there was not a cloud in the sky and it was beautiful to see the golden ball slowly sink below the water. Back at the campsite we had spaghetti for dinner and enjoyed another fire. This time I made sure everyone got to try a well roasted marshmallow! At midnight we went a second time to see the beautiful starry sky. I felt so at peace and was so thankful to have this time to spend with such great people.


A bunch of crazies…


Volleyball tournament

The next day we packed up camp early because we would have a long drive back and I also had to drop off my parent’s van and return the equipment I had borrowed. We had bacon and eggs and leftovers for breakfast and Tim brought us through Psalm 8 which was so applicable to the nature that we got to enjoy on the trip. It is true that looking at the stars makes us feel so small, and yet God reminds us that he values us and gives us work to do on this earth. I was thankful that we all arrived back in Toronto safely and that everyone had a good time! I was so glad to share the experience of camping with the residents. It is an activity that is so unique and amazing about this country!


Psalm 8 (ESV):

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants,

you have established strength because of your foes,

to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;

you have put all things under his feet,

all sheep and oxen,

and also the beasts of the field,

the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

September 21, 2016

Portaging with the Family

At the end of August our family went portaging together in the Algonquin Highlands township. Al did all of the logistical planning and Mom and Dad prepared all of the meals. We decided to take it easy and do two nights at one campsite and two nights at another. We all met up at the canoe rental near Minden because we were all coming from different places. We put the canoes on the three vehicles, and were on our way to the launch point when mom texts Al with the realization that we had forgotten to take the oars! That was a funny mistake on our part and the part of the rental guy! Al and I turned back to fetch them and we didn’t lose too much time.

By noon we were at the launch at the Oakview Marina and headed out over Little Hawk Lake bound for Clear Lake. Clear Lake deserved its name because it was remarkably clear! When we arrived at our campsite in the early afternoon we discovered that it was still occupied! There was a girl and her dog. When we asked her to show us her papers (campers are required to have a printed copy for this very reason), she made excuses that she had it on her phone but that her phone was dead. Two guys eventually came to shore in a bare-bones motor boat. They knew that they were camping illegally but still asked us if we could go take one of the campsites nearby. We refused and started dialling the park registration office. That was enough to get them packing! We went and canoed around while they packed up and left. Thankfully they cleaned up the campsite before they left! The campsite was very nice. Our tents were a bit spread out to find flat spaces. There was a convenient little counter that had been constructed by spanning a 2×8 between two trees! After we set up and had a delicious dinner of chicken fajitas, we walked up a nearby hill to the top of a cliff to watch the sun set. Later that evening back at camp we laid on the flat rocks by the water to watch the stars. It was magnificent!


The next day we all decided to go on a day trip to some smaller lakes and ponds nearby with several portages that make a loop. We left in the late morning. It was nice to pack lighter for this journey though we were pretty tired by the end! There were beautiful wetland areas but we didn’t see any big wildlife. We passed a beaver dam but we were making so much noise that we probably scared them all away! There were some areas where it was hard to get in and out of the boats from the portages. Chris accidentally tipped the boat once while trying to launch! I thought I saw a heron that was ready to catch a fish in the water and had the whole family watching it intently, only to discover it was sun hitting the tip of a log sticking out of the water! Back at the campsite we prepared a dinner of pasta. While washing out the French press in the lake I noticed a large snapping turtle just off the shore! It looked so old with lots of wrinkles and overgrown toenails. Once in a while it would stick it’s nose up for air. What an amazing creature! We went back up to the cliff to watch the sunset again and this time played a new card game called Code Names that I brought along.



We packed up camp the next morning and were off before 10am. We left Clear Lake, and crossed Red Pine lake. We came across some rocks far away from shore that were only just an inch or two beneath the surface of the water. Al decided to climb out of the canoe to get a “walk on water” shot! It turned out pretty well! Next we came to a portage that goes around a dam. We had the choice of either putting our canoes back in the water on the other side of the dam and canoe through some small rapids, or else portage the boats further to avoid them. Al wanted to go through them! We got through the first set okay, but a more difficult challenge came when we came across a fallen tree across the river. We had to get out onto the log, pull the boat over, and get back in. I make it sounds so sequential, but it was easier said then done. There was a moment when Al was trying to help Jen and Chris and was holding my boat by a rope as the rapids were pulling me. I must admit though it was exhilarating to get so much speed! Once we reached Nunikani Lake it started to look like it might rain. At one point we even pulled our canoes under some trees at the shore when we heard some thunder. When it subsided we headed on again. As we approached the campsite it began to drizzle. We quickly got out of the boats and rushed to set up camp! If we had been even a half hour later we would have had to set up camp wet. After the tents were set up we set up a tarp near the fire pit to have a sheltered place where we could sit. It rained and it rained and it RAINED! I was tired of sitting and there was really no place to stand and so after we made some tea I went and laid down in the tent until dinner time! For dinner we decided to have the chili because it was the easiest meal to prepare. The heat of it was also warming! We all went to bed early! It rained for ten hours until around 11pm! I had a fitful sleep because our tent was on a slope and I kept sliding down and waking up when my feet touched the damp edge.


Coming to the rescue


Attempting to stay dry


Drying out camp

Thankfully the next day it was a bit overcast but dry. We laid everything we had out onto the rocks to dry! Al, Mom and Dad decided to do another day trip to another pond, but Jen, Chris and I decided to stay put. I spent time just laying in the sun for a while and then in the afternoon Chris and I went on a short canoe trip to check out if there was a grill at the nearby campsite. We followed the south edge of the lake and got out when we saw a good swimming spot! When the others returned, Al, Dad, and Chris got it in their heads to build a table out of stones. They made it quite expansive but it allowed us to play a game of wizard after dinner! Our final meal was rice and sausages and we got to enjoy a fire unlike the night before.



And finally it was the last day of our trip! We packed camp early because we wanted to be at the car by a little after noon. There was another dam we had to portage past at the south end of the lake and another small group of rapids. This time we made it through much easier! We saw a blue heron and got pretty close as we followed along the river. To get back to the starting point we had to cross Big Hawk Lake. It was windy and the water was choppy, but luckily we had the wind on our side! We arrived at the cars tired but content! I hope that we will do more trips like this in future! Jen and Chris split ways early, but Mom, Dad, Al and I met at the first McDonalds we could find! What a contrast between nature and our consumerist culture!

August 15, 2014

Adirondacks 2.0

This past weekend I went for the second time to the Adirondacks in New York State. I went last year with a group of friends and probably talked about it too much because my friends Vikkie and Rachel had it in their minds that I should take them there this summer. We went with the same group of girls who did a canoe trip together last summer: Vikkie, Rachel, Jacky, and myself. Because I had been there before I had the fun job of selecting where to camp and what hiking paths to take. I decided that Wilmington Notch was probably the cheapest place to camp and selected trails that were described as being challenging but still okay for “out of shape” hikers. I didn’t really know what that meant but I decided we could try it out and change plans if necessary. We drove down on Friday and had smooth sailing the entire way. We even had time to stop in Kingston for a nice lunch on the water followed by ice cream. I was a bit anxious about crossing the border because I had to travel on my dutch passport because my Canadian one was in processing for a Congolese Visa. I have discovered that being a dual citizen has its benefits! For the first time ever we had to pull over at the border crossing and I had to go inside to fill out papers for a Visa waiver. Luckily there was no border wait and we were on the road again in no time.

On Saturday we hiked Giant Mountain, the 12th highest peak in the Adirondacks. We took the primary trail from Chapel Pond and it was six miles (9.7km) round-trip that took us seven hours. The ascent began right from the car until the summit and we found it quite challenging. The first part of the path was very rocky with a steep ascent where we often had to grab on nearby rocks and trees to pull ourselves up. The first view we got looked down on what we thought was the “Giant’s Washbowl” that looked like it had a beach and road access. From that point on we dreamt of swimming in the refreshing water after the hike! We later discovered that it was actually Chapel pond that we were seeing, just a step away from where the van was parked! The second portion of the path had long stretches of slanted rock face that opened up to continuous views. It was kind of cool to get the same view again and again, but each time higher. Eventually we couldn’t see the pond or road anymore but could see above and then further beyond the adjacent peaks. The trail was busy and at the top we joined a substantial group of people who were chilling and enjoying the view over lunch. It turns out that outdoorsy people are also dog people because I’m convinced there were more dogs on the mountain than people. The descent felt much faster than the ascent but by the time we were done our muscles were exhausted. I think that this first day was bit of a revelation for us of what climbing a mountain actually takes! Even though we were tired nothing would stop us from a refreshing swim after the hike. It was beautiful to swim surrounded by the trees and hills and felt amazing to let our limbs be weightless for a time. Getting out of the water after was a bit difficult! Even though we probably could have turned in early, we decided that camping wasn’t camping without a cold beer (Leffe to be precise), a fire, and some smores.

The ascent

The first view


Pano from Giant Mountain

On Sunday we woke up even earlier because I had planned an even longer hike that needed an earlier start. We were very stiff and sore but even though I offered the suggestion of doing something easier, the others didn’t want to give in and so off we went to conquer mountain number two. We hiked Algonquin Peak that is indeed the second highest peak in the Adirondacks. Even though we had done a previous day of hiking, the ascent felt quite fast. We all agreed that we thought the second day was easier, even though we learned later that the climb has a higher level of difficulty. My theory is that we just toughened up as time went on! On the way up Algonquin there is a side route that leads to Wright Peak, the 15th highest peak. Since it was only 0.4 miles out of the way we decided to go for it and aim to summit both. It took longer and required more energy than we thought, but the top was worth it! Unlike Giant that was limited to a view in one direction, the top of Wright was bald and had 360 degree views. Another thing that was awesome is that we were completely alone except for one guy who was chilling out a ways from the summit. The only problem about ascending Wright was that we saw Algonquin looming large and far in the distance. Some doubts passed through our minds of whether we had the energy to get there. We had summited a peak and that was good enough, right? Nope. We had to go for it or we knew we would regret it later. So off we went. We descended Wright (which thankfully felt fast) and began the last 0.9 mile ascent of Algonquin. The climb became much more technical by that point with very steep sections of rock, but somehow we made it! The top of Algonquin was much busier with people and so we were glad we had time alone on Wright. The views on Algonquin were even more spectacular and we chatted for a while with a ranger who told us a bit more about some of the rare alpine plants that grow on a few of the tallest peaks. The descent felt loooooong, especially the final few kilometers that had felt so fast that morning. In total we hiked 9 miles (15km) in 9 hours. It was dusk by the time we approached the car. The parking for hikers was nearby the Adirondack Loj and so we decided to check it out. We discovered that the Loj was on a lake with a private swimming area. Even though we weren’t supposed to, we went swimming there anyways. Afterwards we parked on an empty campsite and prepared a dinner of pasta since it was our plan to go check out Lake Placid without stopping first at our campsite. In town we wandered the main street and explored several interesting shops. We didn’t last as long as we thought we would and were almost stumbling down the street. We went to the campsite and went straight to bed.


Pano from Wright Peak

Arctic Vegetation

Group shot

Even though we intended to sleep in, some obnoxious birds woke us up early. We took the morning nice and slow though. By late-morning we packed up camp and headed to our final destination – Whiteface Mountain – the 5th highest peak that actually has access to the summit by car and elevator. It was fun to play tourist even though it cost thirty dollars to get in. The access road wound its way up the mountain and parking was a single row along the road after a cull-de-sac. From there we had the option of either taking the elevator up the final 27 stories or taking a curated trail up to the summit. We took the trail that had magnificent views the whole way. The top of Whiteface was flooded with people. We saw that there were still hikers who had come up on foot and joined the crowd at the top. I got talking to a Belgian woman who had driven up with her grandkids and were waiting to meet up with their parents who were hiking up to meet them. We also coincidently ran into the man we had met on the top of Wright Peak. We descended by the elevator so that we could experience the tunnel. You could tell the elevator and tunnel were old and the tunnel was very chilly. On our drive back down the mountain we pulled over at an overlook with a picnic table and enjoyed a final lunch of noodle soup. We sat four in a row on one side of the picnic table so that we could eat and enjoy the view. From there we began the long drive back home. We arrived at the border quite quickly and of course I didn’t even have to get out of the car this time. Thanks Canada for making me feel welcome (although they didn’t stamp my passport :P)! Unfortunately we got stuck in quite a bit of traffic on the 401 because of construction and didn’t make it home until almost midnight. We stopped for dinner at a pub we knew had a Monday night wings special and had to stumble into the restaurant after sitting so long in the van!

Tourists on Whiteface

Noodle soup with a view

Pano from Whiteface

It was a fantastic trip and am glad I got to visit the Adirondacks for a second time. The running joke now is that I might as well be a 46-er since I have 5 peaks down already :P.I prayed for our safety several times and am thankful we succeeded without injury beyond general soreness. The thing I really liked about climbing the peaks was that it was impossible to think of anything else but the next step ahead. All attention had to be on what stone to step on next or what tree to hold on to and so I didn’t have time to be anxious about my thesis or upcoming trip. My muscles were refreshed by the physical challenge and my mind and spirit by focusing on the present and enjoying the mountain air and glorious views of God’s creation. Pictures are compliments of Vikkie and Jacky! :D

Some funny memories (Rachel, Vikkie, and Jacky you have to help me add to this):

– While stuck in traffic I told the others that I felt like running alongside the car for a while kind of like a Chinese red-light. Turns out they didn’t know what it was and so we preceded to look it up in the urban dictionary to prove I wasn’t making things up.

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September 5, 2013

Canoeing at Wolf Lake


To end the summer I was fortunate to be invited on a canoe trip planned by Matt and Leah. Originally there were too many girls that could make it, but when not enough guys could come, I got one of their spots. Leah and I decided that we were tough enough to keep up with the boy-girl canoe pairs! :P The weekend started calm with rain and then ended with dazzling sun and a strong headwind. The landscape was beautiful! There were white cliffs, tall cedars, small stretches of swifts and water falls, and shores of red stone likely coloured by the metals in the dark turqoise water. This trip was exactly what I needed in this next transition of moving from Toronto to Cambridge for graduate school. My mind was completely emptied of all the thoughts, worries, and anticipation for those few days, and instead I just enjoyed the simplicity of time with friends and being in God’s creation. I slept better on that hard ground than I had for days in my new (and foreign) apartment. I think that the whole group agrees it was a fantastic trip. Because we joked about listing these, I will blog by highlighting the top ten moments from the trip. Many thanks go to Leah Wills for taking these amazing photographs!

The Ikea Bag

The canoe rental gave us our smaller items in a random tarp Ikea bag. When we were preparing the boats to launch, we forgot to put it back in the car and so we had to take it with us. It so happened that the bag became the most useful item to us on the trip. If ever we needed a functional item, the bag usually filled the role splendidly. It served to carry our dirty and clean dishes to and from the lake for rinsing, carry all of the water bottles as we went to fill them with the filter on the lake, act as a table cloth on some of our lunch picnics, and carry the fish that Jim caught.

The Fish
Jim brought a fishing rod along on the trip and was fishing on-and-off most days while we were paddling. He mostly caught plenty of small bass, but finally caught a big one! We kept it and he prepared it for dinner that night. The poor Ikea bag never lost the fish smell after that.

Rosy, Ikea Bag and Fish

The Lagoon

On our first day we went to go swimming in a lagoon that was mentioned in a book about where we were canoeing. We had to climb over a pile of logs that traversed the river in order to get there, and then climb down a steep rocky ridge to get to the water. It was worth it though because a small waterfall fell into a nice deep and shaded area that was great for swimming. We were already in the water when we learned that Chris who was behind us had hurt his toe badly by slipping on the logs. It was very painful and Chris was hobbling for the rest of the trip. It was a good thing we had a nurse with us, and we were glad in the end that Chris was able to stick it out for the rest of the weekend despite the pain and inconvenience. From that point on we each had to take more items across each portage. Alexa and I took turns taking the extra boat. We were lucky that the two rented canoes were kevlar.



The Alexa

On the first day of paddling Chris and Alexa’s boat flew ahead. We asked what it was that made them so speedy and Chris said that they had an Alexa. I said it sounded like it could be the name of a motor…. but oh what strange sounds it made (she was laughing)! On the second day of paddling, Alexa and Chris decided to switch places with Alexa in the rear. Alexa got a bit frustrated at Chris who would abnoxiously have spurts of powerful strokes which would put them off course. Chris on the other hand said that whenever Alexa laughed they would go off course. I’m sure that both accusations were true! It was hilarious to watch them!

The Sunday Morning Service

While Alexa couldn’t laugh and steer straight, we soon determined that Leah could not sing and steer straight. On Sunday morning Alexa made the excellent suggestion to sing some worship songs together as we went along. Leah and I immediately began singing the songs we could think of. Eventually though we were far off from the others but just kept singing anyways. It was great to open up in song to the Creator right there on the beautiful water.

The Pan Lid (and other thrown things)

So Matt and Leah like to throw a lot of things such as pan lids, back packs, apples, waterbottles, shoes and the like. Sometimes their aim was questionable as was their judgement which resulted in some hilarious moments. The first moment happened when a pan lid fell into the water from where we were cooking dinner. It landed in shallow water and so Matt went down to get it. He decided to throw it back up but it didn’t make it and it landed back in the water; this time deeper. Leah later swam to go get it. We could still see it under the water because it looked so shiny. The second moment happened at a portage when I was already out of the boat and Leah was planning to pass her bag to me. She decided she was going to throw it but as she rocked back and forth to give the toss some power, she tipped the boat and fell in the water. The last moment was when Leah was throwing a water bottle to Matt but then lost her footing, slipped and landed on her butt.


Whenever we thought that we were in the middle of nowhere, we would quickly be brought back to reality by seeing very obvious signs of civilization. When we were packing up camp at the first campsite a couple pulled up on an ATV. Then that same day on one of our portages we came across a group of campers that had driven to a campsite that had access by way of a gravel road; they had Starbucks coffees in their hands! The most amusing moment was on the third morning  when a guy on an ATV pulled up while we were eating breakfast on the beach at our campsite. The guy stopped and asked us if we had seen two dogs. We told him we had not, and when he tried to continue on his way, he couldn’t get the ATV to start. He disappeared on foot and left the ATV sitting there. We joked about how it was ruining our view…. or that it was an answer to Chris’s prayer for a way to get through the rest of the portages! Finally the guy came back with his buddy on another ATV and they towed the one away with the other. Of course Leah had to climb on the ATV for a picture!

The Many Climbable Rocks

This title more or less speaks for itself. Whenever there was a sweet looking rock protruding out of the water (or an abandoned ATV), Leah had to climb it or jump off of it or both! I like to call the photos below Leah’s Power Stance.

Leah Power Stance

The Six Pack

Rosy got this fabulous new nickname this weekend. The funny moment happened when we were swimming and those of us in the water called out “Hey Six Pack, get over here!”. Jim – “Awww you guys are going to start calling me that now?” Us – “No, we were talking to Rosy!” Rosy took the nickname without complaint for the rest of the weekend.

The Committee and The FAB

Fire starting proved difficult on our first night because the wood was very wet and got easier over the rest of the nights. I forget when it happened, but Alexa invented “The Committee” to make an executive decision about the fire at some point. It became a running joke. Jim was often the one to add logs to the fire and whenever he did so he would say that it was time to “make an adjustment”. He eventually coined the term FAB for the Fire Adjustment Bureau, likely a subsection of The Committee.

Beach Campsite

The Chocolate Almond Affair

Those of us who know Leah know that she doesn’t do well if she’s hungry. On the last day we were paddling through a very strong headwind. We were running late to get back to the car and so we hadn’t stopped for lunch even though it was the early afternoon. Matt and Leah had saved chocolate almonds to have that day, and Leah finally asked Matt for some. We finally caught up with Matt and Rosy’s boat only to find out that Matt had already finished the chocolate almonds and that he was offering up Rosy’s. Leah wasn’t too pleased!

That was eleven top moments but I couldn’t think of which one to cut out. Thanks everyone for sharing in a great weekend!

Group Shot

Beautiful Sky

July 20, 2013

Canoeing at Massassauga

Photo by Vikkie Chen

I’ve been really fortunate at the amount of times I am going camping this summer. None of the trips are long, but that isn’t making them any less enjoyable. This past weekend I went camping with a mix of architecture classmates and friends of friends. Because we didn’t want to pay the extra cost of renting canoes, I took transit home on the Friday night to pick up the van and my parents’ old canoe. They hadn’t used it in so long that we had actually never tried putting it on the minivan that we have had since 2006! I left really early on Saturday morning to meet the others at the 400 and highway 7. I’m glad that I only had to worry about one canoe on my vehicle because Rachel had two canoes on her parent’s minivan!

Photo by Vikkie Chen

It was very helpful to have two guys in the group who had been on many canoe trips. Vikkie and I were paired with my parents very heavy canoe but we were determined to succeed. We both had some experience with canoeing but neither of us had ever been in the back and steered. I had also never done much portaging. I started at the back and lets just say it was a bit of a slow start. We were doing big S’s for a while as I attempted to master the J-stroke. Let’s just say that hearing my dad tell me how to do it and watching “how to” YouTube videos wasn’t enough and that I just needed the time to feel it out for myself and see how the others were doing it.

Photo by Vikkie Chen

The journey had its ups and downs. We had five portages to go through in order to get to our campsite. Because we weren’t strong enough and had the heavier canoes, us ladies carried our canoes in pairs holding it on our shoulders from the front and back seats. It really hurt our shoulders after a while because unlike a proper yoke, the seats were digging into the top of our spines. Along the way we tried everything from wearing our lifejacks and towels for padding, or even trying to wear our bags to try to pass the weight onto them. There were some difficult hills and also some areas with very bad mosquitos where you could feel them biting you everywhere but had no ability to swat them away. But then whenever we got on the water again, we could almost forget how bad the previous portage was just because it was so calm and beautiful on the water! I definitely think we got better as we went along.

Photo by Vikkie Chen

One funny story I recall is when I lost my sandal while stepping into the water to reach the back end of the canoe to lift it out of the water for one of the portages. The mud was very deep and thick and I didn’t even know exactly where I had stepped. I searched for a while and almost resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get it back, when Rachel who was helping me search miraculously came across it! I’m telling you, the chances were slim! Then at the next launch, Rachel very ironically lost one of her bright yellow crocs. She new exactly where she had stepped and it still too several minutes to find it again! We also saw some leeches at one particular spot and so we got better at avoiding stepping into the water. I got less paranoid about scratching the canoe when I realized that my ancient canoe had the best looking underside of the bunch!

Photo by Vikkie Chen


There was one particularly difficult part in our journey where a portage that was supposed to be 100 meters was actually 500 meters because of the lower water levels. Luckily we managed to shorten down it to 200 on the way there by canoeing through some shallow reedy water, and on the way back we actually cut it back to the original 100 by finding a full way through. There were lily pads and flowers everywhere; what amazing things they are!

We made it to the campsite by five and had a few more hours of sunlight to set up our tents, go for a fabulous swim off the rocks at our campsite, and prepare dinner. We had a whole lake to ourselves! The next day we had breakfast, packed up camp and headed back the way we came. The way home was just as difficult but we all agree it was overall an excellent trip!

Photo by Vikkie Chen

Photo by Vikkie Chen

Photo by Vikkie Chen


July 8, 2013


Photo by Leah Wills

Photo by Leah Wills

For the long weekend I went with a group of church friends to hike in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid, New York.  We car camped at a small campground called Wilmington Notch and did two day trip hikes.  I have learned stuff about the Adirondack mountains.  Supposedly there are 46 high peaks (those over 4000 ft) in the Adirondacks and hard-core hikers try to summet them all.  We only had time and energy for 3.  On the first day we hiked the 36th highest peak called Cascade and the 38th highest peak called Porter.  I think we walked thirteen or fourteen kilometers that first day.  It was raining for most of the day and the path was very muddy!  There was a lot of jumping from rock to rock and I felt sometimes like I was in a video game or something.  My feet and legs were absolutely soaked and muddy before we were even halfway up the mountain!  The next day we hiked the 10th highest peak called Gothics.  To hike this one we had to cut through a golf club, and unfortunately had to make quite a long approach (3.5 miles one way) along a road to the base of the mountain path because the bus that traversed the same route was for club members only.  We walked some 22 km that day and my legs were rubber by the end of it!  The hike that day was harder but more interesting than the first day and also less muddy because it didn’t rain too much.  For the last mile we were literally climbing, grabbing onto rocks and roots to help hoist ourselves up.  It was my upper body and not my lower body that was sore the next few days!  It was well worth it though.  We reached the top of a secondary peak called Pyramid, and an amazing view opened up to us at the last moment.  It was amazing and we felt like we were on top of the world!  When I visit places like this it always reminds me of the might and majesty of God, that He created these mountains and he can move them, and also that he had pleasure in creating this earth and looked over all he had made and said that it was very good.


Photo by Leah Wills

Photo by Leah Wills

Photo by Leah Wills


Photo by Leah Wills



Photo by Leah Wills