Fall Wilderness Wanderings : Good for the Body and the Soul

A couple of weeks ago, when I returned home from New Brunswick… home from home, you might say… Hubby and I packed the truck and headed for the hills, and the valleys, of the Bonnechere River. We have been making this fall camping trip for many years. Getting away from the city… or near city… where we live. Getting out in the bush, or as close as we can get to the bush with our truck and tent trailer. Soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. And sometimes the rain. But let’s not go there.
On the road to Bonnechere
No bugs and few people.
Fall camping is the very best of the best of wilderness experiences, as far as I’m concerned. In the fall there are no bugs and few people about. Then there are the crisp mornings and warm sunshine-y afternoons. Dusk coming early. Sitting around the campfire after supper, cradling a glass of wine, and watching sparks disappear up into the night sky. Makes me all calm just thinking about it.

This year we went in search of new places to hike and walk. We drove up Turner’s Road so I could take my requisite shot of the old bridge pilings on the Little Bonnechere River.
Little Bonnechere River
Then we hiked the trail up to beautiful Whispering Winds Lookout on the edge of Algonquin Park. Lovely views from here. And surprisingly none of the fall colour we saw everywhere else.
View from Whispering Winds Lookout
The next day we tossed the canoe on the truck. Ha. Hubby tossed. I stood by and offered moral support. Then we drove up into Algonquin Park, to catch the last day of the fishing season. No pun intended.
The dirt road into Algonquin Park
Not too many people seem to fish this part of the Bonnechere River. Probably because once you put the canoe in the water and paddle for five minutes you reach a boggy area something like this. And it can be tricky to find, and then to follow, the main channel of the river.
View of a bog from the  highway
This year we encountered evidence that beavers have been very busy since we were last here. Quite often the dams are small enough that we can pull the canoe over them. But this time we had to make a sluiceway to be able to get through. Hubby loves this. A little adversity makes the fishing all the more satisfactory.
Me. I’m just taking the pictures. And the video. And pulling off my socks in preparation for getting into the water. Unsurprisingly, I have no pictures of me balancing on the top of the dam, ankle deep in water, as Hubby pulls the canoe up and over the top. Ah. Ah. Ahhhh. I will say that it was a pinch chilly on the bare ankles.
But the reward for our hard work was that there were brook trout to be had. We caught just enough fish for our evening meal, and after that we just paddled, and enjoyed the day.
On one of our camping days the sky was overcast, and it rained off and on all day. So we ventured into nearby Barry’s Bay and were pleased to find that this was the weekend for the local Madawaska Valley Artist’s Studio Tour. We picked up a map at the Visitor’s Centre in the old railway station and plotted our route, wending our way along the back roads.

We visited several studios, but by far my favourite was Joyce Burkholders’ studio, in the village of Wilno. I love Joyce’s work. She’s a “wilderness artist,” and certainly the bold colours of her paintings brilliantly depict the Canadian bush, in particular Algonquin Park. You can check out her website here. Joyce is a lovely person to chat to, and I found out that she also gives painting workshops. Ah, wouldn’t that be wonderful? But, as I explained to Joyce, I’m just re-learning to draw at the moment, a long ways from trying to paint. Still… maybe one day.

Looking at Joyce’s work makes me feel like I’m in Algonquin Park. I’m sure I’ve driven down that dusty road, or paddled up that stream in the mist under those skeletal jack pines.
There’s just something so restorative about being in the wilderness. Even if only for a few hours. And apparently science is just catching on to that fact. It’s no surprise that being out in nature helps us emotionally. And physically. Lowers blood pressure, decreases levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and even helps lower resting heart rates. But in the past few years studies have shown that being out in nature, among the trees, also helps increase the number of cells in our bodies which kill bacteria and viruses etc. “Forest bathing” they’re calling it now in Japan.
We call it wandering in the wilderness. Being able to breath deeply. And talk to each other without interruptions. We think of it as getting back bits of ourselves that we lose in the hustle and bustle of everyday urban living. Good for the body and for the soul.
This is my view from the bow of our canoe as we make our way through the bog on the Bonnechere River. You can hear the splash of Hubby’s paddle in the water and the sound of it knocking gently on the gunnel of the canoe.
And nothing else.

Now… tell me that you didn’t find that relaxing.

So what about you, friends? Do you like to get out in the wilderness? How do you recapture the balance in your life when urban living takes it toll?


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22 thoughts on “Fall Wilderness Wanderings : Good for the Body and the Soul”

  1. Hi Sue , really great post, so well written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in the early hours this morning! Couldn't sleep and remembered you saying you'd been trying to upload photographs onto your blog!! I tried drifting off by imagining I was in a canoe surrounded by colourful Canadian wilderness 🙂 Unfortunately it didn't work but I'm still left with beautiful images and the relaxing sound of the water in my head. I can see how. Spending time there is good for general health … restoring body and soul. I feel like that in the mountains in Switzerland. Not only is the air so clear and fresh but I always feel so happy and invigorated when I'm there …completely uplifting!
    Have a good day …I'm off to have an X-ray of my foot !

    1. There's a spot on Booth Lake where we go canoeing in the summer that I visualize when I'm trying to fall asleep. I try to imagine three hills across the lake with the sun setting behind… doesn't always work, though. What did you do to your foot, Rosie?

    2. It's been painful for a few months when pressures applied to the outside of my foot and I just put it down to the many times I've caught and twisted my little toes when rushing around barefoot!! However I caught my little toe again on Friday and the pains starting to wake me up and hurt when I walk :(. My Dr thinks it's either a new fracture or I've aggravated an old fracture and it's arthritic type pain!! I should get the results tomorrow.

    3. Rosie,I hope that you'll be better soon and the results the best they could be in this situation

    4. Thanks Sue and Dottoressa! Good news, thankfully! Nothing fractured, just a soft tissue injury. So hopefully the pain won't last too long …I'm relieved!!

  2. I agree with Rosie , you do write well & I know exactly what you mean . We've always been walkers & it's a lovely feeling to enjoy a beautiful spot that can only be reached on foot – very satisfying . Are there any restrictions on where you can wander in Canada ? Here in England the public footpath system , mainly ancient rights of way , means we can cross much private land . but in Scotland there is a 'right to roam' , which is even better . We've been dismayed in some countries at the lack of public access . How lovely & empty your roads look too.
    Wendy in York

    1. There are restrictions about walking on private land. Although we have "rights of way" laws here, mostly in regards to old roads that are no longer maintained. Sometimes we walk or cycle abandoned roads. Sometimes landowners just build right over the path and unless someone protests, they subsume the land, and the path disappears without anyone noticing. Luckily a few years ago Hubby lead a protest in our community when a golf course blocked off an unmaintained road to build a driving range… and as a result we still have the old tree lined road to walk and ski on. And due to the publicity many more people use it now… which is a good thing. Nothing raises Hubby's ire like cutting down masses of trees for no good reason.

  3. Marvellous!
    I am so happy, and feel priviledged, to explore Canada's different and beautiful landscapes through eyes and words of some of you and your blogs- I am so enriched!
    Near or in the water,river,lake,sea… I feel strengthtened and refreshed,sitting on the pebbles beach,looking in the distance,where sea kiss the horizon.
    To reach my former wineyard/now orchard,you have to walk or drive through the woods-short but beautiful
    Beautiful nature on island Mljet,harsh,lonely but beautiful stone mountains of Biokovo or Velebit,Plitvice lakes and waterfalls, fairy tale Alps in Slovenia,lakes of Bohinj and Bled, snow covered path for nordic walking between Nassfeld/Austria and the bar in the middle of nowhere in Italy,where I went for a coffee every day ….memories…..
    To sit and merge with the nature and silence……..we all need it so much

    1. We do need it, Dottoressa. And sometimes we don't even realize how much we need it until we get out there. I am going to look up where some of those places you mention are located. Sounds wonderful.

  4. Beautiful photographs. Sounds like a lovely escape and I enjoyed travelling a little alongside you courtesy of the video clip. Liked Joyce Burkholders paintings. Add in the glass of wine and I'm starting to understand the appeal of the wilderness. Iris

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