In the fall issue of ML Blue Mountains we examine themes of resilience. The past year has beat up our immunity on many levels. Our remedy is wide-open spaces where we can unite and explore, taking nature as our guide. In this issue we spend a year on the Trail, balance on Nosara waves, learn how to avoid being eaten by a lion and find lost apple orchards. We also ski-tour at the sugar shack, ride Ontario’s top bike town, crash at Knute’s Chalet and more.
Neditorial: Fear Less
It was a clear, calm day on Georgian Bay in late October. Two friends and I had paddled a five-kilometre midsection of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula when a dolostone bluff came into view, suggestive of a colossal fortress wall crumbling away under the weight of peacetime centuries. We knew of a beach campsite not far past this bluff. Then, in the space of about 10 minutes, the sky darkened and a strong wind came up behind us—luckily, pushing us to our beach.
Just after we landed, at around 5 p.m., a gale hit. We sat wrapped in fleece and rain gear on our beached kayaks, watching the waves explode onto the shore just a few feet away, foaming savagely as they retreated over the jumble of cobbles and slabs.
The wind died down by dusk but the rain continued, so my friends roped up an ingenious three-tarp system that funnelled water down a side spout as effectively as any eavestrough. After a while the rain abated and we lit a fire in a preexisting rock ring on the beach.
Towards midnight a gibbous moon rose, casting its bluish light through the upper reaches of the cedar and aspen above us. After a fitful sleep I awoke just before dawn to the roar of the surf. My tent was only about 5 metres from the beach and I could feel the force of the waves reverberating through the ground. The wind was up again.
How would we paddle home?
For various reasons we all needed to head out that morning. My brain began spinning a doom narrative of a desperate and possibly fatal paddle mission, sideswiped by frigid, angry waves.
Around 7:30 a.m. we broke camp under a sulky grey sky, gulping down dried fruit and shots of black coffee. A light frost sparkled on the cedar boughs and mossy boulders around our campsite. The bay was churning with rollers built up in the night contending with fresh chop from a stiff northwesterly.
We needed to hit the water. I had a hollow feeling in my chest as I rammed dry bags into my kayak hatches. Certain I would eventually capsize, I packed my boat carefully, trying to ensure that nothing would fall out when I rolled over. We all wore dry tops or partial wetsuits but not full safety suits; in cold, deep Georgian Bay in October, a swim could be hypothermia-inducing within minutes.
But once I launched, the wind died down a little and the waves, though dizzying when they heaved my boat up what felt like 3 metres above the surface, proved manageable. Whisper-screaming the opening lyrics to Keith Richards’ “Struggle” (Talk is Cheap, 1988) I paddled hard and braced against the waves, my arms feeling stronger with each decisive motion. The three of us stuck tight together and as close to shore as possible, ready to help if anyone went swimming. Nobody did.
I’ve changed since this 2009 trip and of course the world has, too. For many, life today is a little or a lot more anxious. The future—as when I lay awake in my tent that blustery early morning—feels heavy with dread. Yet I learned something invaluable on that trip that helps me understand fear, in all its mutating forms. The troubling thoughts that inhibit us, even paralyze us, tend to focus on what might happen if every good intention fails. When I stopped worrying and launched my kayak into the waves with my friends, I suddenly knew exactly what to do. –Ned Morgan, Editor
Check out the online issue here. For Ontario print-issue pickup locations, check with our local advertisers. High-traffic pickup locations include Blue Mountain Resort and Blue Mountain Village, The Collingwood Brewery, Collingwood Loblaws, Hardwood Ski & Bike, Minds Alive Collingwood, Kamikaze Bikes, The Cheese Gallery, Market on Marsh, Scandinave Spa, Skiis & Biikes Collingwood and Thornbury Foodland.