There are two activities that I believe every Canadian should be encouraged to experience, if only once.
I fervently believe that every Canadian, young or old, should have the opportunity to go snowshoeing, and to paddle a kayak or canoe on the water.
First, a little about my obsession with winter. It may be a distant memory to you in summer, especially in times of heat and drought, and possibly smoke and worry, but my dreams of winter are vividly filled with pleasure.
On the Sunshine Coast, snow is often tricky to get to, but the trek is worth the effort. If you haven’t tried walking through a snowy winter landscape on snowshoes, you are missing something important that’s far beyond exercise.
Snowshoeing is a simple but almost magical activity. Where downhill skiing is an exhilarating adrenaline sport, snowshoeing slows you down and intimately reconnects you to nature.
Walking in the snow links human beings young and old with the history of this country, and to the intriguingly alternative universe created by the presence of low temperatures. Snow, ice, hoar frost and the winter light are in themselves beautiful, and they transform everything they touch.
Snowshoeing offers a host of visual delights that are best seen while taking a relaxed walk. It’s beautiful in the forest, lovely on a grassland or marsh, and breathtaking along a ridge.
You can snowshoe over a frozen marsh or lake, or along a silver blue creek. If you take a little time to prepare for the cold and layer on some warm clothing and footwear, winter has visual delights awaiting you along every trail you travel. You’re welcome. I hope you enjoyed the chill !
Meanwhile, this country is awash in fabulous quantities of both fresh and salt water.
Like lovely Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast is home to freshwater lakes, rivers and streams, and the great salty seas. Instead of driving vehicles through a network of clogged bridges and massive paved highways, people who live on and visit the Sunshine Coast are ported here by regal white ships over the Howe Sound.
Among the very first sights a visitor sees from the ferries are forests, mountains and water.
Right now, in the time remaining before the establishment of a new LNG facility, the Howe Sound is beautifully clean. Seals regularly pop up their heads to peer at humans, whales and dolphins pass through, and you can see fish jump. Waders in the shallows can see every pebble and frond beneath their feet through sea water that is clean and clear.
When you come to any waterside settlement, anywhere in the world, you are missing something essential if you don’t get out onto the water.
Here’s a chance to be environmentally benign and self-propelled. To get intimate with the water in a dingy, canoe or kayak. The sound of an oar or a paddle dipped into the sea or waters of a lake is one of the loveliest in this world. The sunlight on silky or glittering water is exquisite.
As you push along in your small and quiet watercraft, you experience the water in ways that are impossible when driving along a highway or even walking along the shore. Your watercraft brings you close to other of the world’s inhabitants: a seal raising its head to gaze at you, a Kingfisher grabbing a meal, or a river otter slipping into a watery den.
The Sunshine Coast is a region blessed – birds and animals that have disappeared from other places can still be seen here by those who take the time to watch for them while out on the water.
Every single Canadian should have these experiences – at least a time or two.
I didn’t get into a watercraft, with or without a motor, until I was a teenager. I was a city kid who had never experienced any kind of small boat. It meant a great deal to me to row with my friend at her family’s vacation cabin in the first dingy I’d been close to. It was unlike anything else.
I was an adult when I first climbed into a canoe. It belonged to friends, and was a graceful, slender, silent vessel that provided an entirely new perspective on travel by water. I was immediately in love.
When my own children were nearly teens, we bought a canoe of our own. It was faded and old, and had a fine history. The man who sold it to us had been taught to paddle it by his grandmother when he was a child. With loving care, my husband repainted the canoe inside and out, and it remains in our family still.
A few years ago, my sister and brother-in-law invited us to step into a Hawaiian-style Outrigger Canoe at a lake on Vancouver Island. My mother, always afraid of the water and about seventy-five years old at the time, climbed into the long and slender canoe, learned the strokes, joined with the team, and made her family proud. She too found this a magical experience.
My husband and I have plied the waters in a variety of vessels- canoes both large and small, kayaks, rowboats and the outriggers. I am a short-excursion paddler out on the water for its visual and aural pleasures, and he enjoys challenging the sea with a team.
I’ve come to understand why people feel compelled to name their watercraft, with or without motors. Just as a bicycle gives a two-legged human the ability to fly over the land with the wind, a watercraft gives us the power to float on and skim the waves, to join with a liquid universe.
Even with just one puny human being at a time in the tiniest of kayaks, watercraft link us, physically and spiritually, to the most wondrous element on earth.