It seems that on every wilderness trip there comes a time when people say to themselves ‘what’s the point.’ Whether it is a three kilometer portage, or nasty biting mosquitoes something always seems to come up which brings thoughts of ‘why am I here.’ While these thoughts drift into my mind I am always drawn back to the outdoors in search of peace, beauty, and solitude. The times that I encounter those things far outweigh the ‘why bother’ thoughts that seem to pop up every now and then.
Remembering and wanting to again see the peace and beauty found in the wilderness, four of us loaded our canoes, and packed our gear and food. We drove for hours spending much of that time on a maze of twisting barely used logging roads. We left our deodorant and nice clothes behind and prepared ourselves to slog it out on the open lakes and, most likely, uncleared portages around Atikokan. Our hope was for peace, solitude and the chance to experience beauty; not being content with flipping through someone else’s photo album.
The scene only intensified as we reached our put in, and found fresh bear prints and scat. Our trip had definitely begun. For five days we hoped to enjoy the peace, and beauty found here. Things were heading in that direction as our internal clocks started to coincide with the rising and setting of the sun. It was only the second day but so far we had seen every sunset, and heard the loons crying in the distance.
Around lunchtime on the third day we reached a portage that, in my opinion, would lead us to one of the most beautiful places in Northwestern Ontario. Dirty, sweaty and wearing the same clothes we started the week in, we came over the portage and it is here that the nagging questions of ‘why bother’ began to haunt me.
Just around the point two huge boats come roaring into the bay and dropped anchor close to us. As they turned up their Dance Mix 99 or whatever they were listening too, and started reaching into their coolers for eats and drinks. I saw we were worlds apart. We had them, with bronze skin, and clean faces sitting sun bathing, and enjoying cold drinks; and then there was sun burnt and smelly, trying to find shade, while we drank lukewarm water from our Nalgenes.
With all this happening new thoughts crept into my mind. ‘Maybe this idea of peace and solitude isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,’ and ‘why did we do all this work when we could have used the boat launch at the other end of the lake?’ Now feeling slightly embarrassed about my unshaven, dirty bushman look I tried to avoid eye contact and hoped they would go away leaving me to my miserable ‘what’s the point’ thoughts.
Later that night as the sun set and the stars popped out around us a new scene unfolded. The bird chirps and loon calls changed to frog croaks and cricket scratches. A cool evening breeze blew in while we warmed ourselves by the fire and enjoyed a glass of red wine. Then an old comforting thought drifted back into my mind and whispered ‘this is beautiful,’ and at that point I could not think of any place that I would rather be.
Despite the miserable thoughts that every so often creep into my mind I know there is peace and beauty that can only be found in the wilderness. The peace, solitude and beauty will always draw me back.