February 18, 2020

Preparing For Easter – A Lesson From Wilderness Adventures

Lent 2012: A Journey through the Wilderness
Preparing for Easter: A Lesson from
Wilderness Adventures (Mike Bell)

• • •

There is a little patch of wilderness I like to call my own. Covering about 200 square miles along the southern edge of the Canadian shield, it is rugged terrain, where pristine lakes and rocky barrens were formed by the retreat of glaciers about 10,000 years ago. Here there are no interior roads, and after a day of canoeing, my companions and I can find a lake that we will have all to ourselves for the week.

These lakes have been a second home to me for 45 years now. My dad took me on my first adventure into the interior when I was three, and since then I have taken another twenty trips into the area.

My favourite times to visit are late August and mid-July. Most of my recent trips have been in late August, the bugs are gone, but the water is still swimmable. As the lakes were gouged out by glaciers, there are many places where we can jump from cliffs directly into the water. This is by far the activity most enjoyed by our children.

In mid-July, the water is wonderfully warm, the blueberries are at their peak, and we can always count on blueberries mixed with out favourite pudding for desert. Mid-July is also the peak of mosquito season, and when they swarm at dusk we had better be in our tents. The drone we hear is not an airplane overhead, but mosquitoes massing around our tent. After nightfall, the mosquitoes settle back down, and we can emerge to enjoy a campfire. Along with marshmallows, we enjoy spider-dogs, and bread on a stick.

The fishing is almost always amazing no matter what time of the year we go!

In my early years, several of my trips into this wilderness were with organized groups, either with the Boy Scouts (my Dad was the Scout Leader), church youth groups, or with the Canadian Armed Forces. And not all my trips have been in warm weather. I remember the weekend of January 10th-11th of 1981 like it was yesterday. We snowshoed ten miles into the interior on a winter survival exercise with the Hastings Prince Edward Regiment. We took turns breaking trail, or pushing and pulling a 200 pound sled loaded with all our supplies and equipment. The temperature plummeted to minus 28C, while the wind was gusting up to 32 Kilometers an hour. With the windchill, it felt like minus 42C (-43.6 F). Oh, did I mention that we slept in a tent?

The wilderness can be a harsh place. In the middle of Canadian deep freeze, deathly so. With good preparation, your experience can be not just about surviving but about thriving. The more preparation we put into our wilderness experiences, the more we get out of it. In the winter it means making sure that you have a good shelter, a good heat source, and arctic sleeping bags. In the summer we make life-jackets mandatory for everyone both in and on the water. We double check all our gear, and carry an extra paddle, and a canoe repair kit – just in case.

As I interact with nature in my wilderness experiences, I am often filled with wonder at God’s creation. Whether lying on my back and seeing the brilliance of the Milky Way spreading out like a canopy above me, or rising early and watching the morning mist rising from the lake, I am reminded our God is indeed awesome. As we celebrate Easter this year we are again reminded of God’s goodness to us. We can approach Easter week with little preparation, and still benefit from it, or like camping, we can greatly enrich our experience, by putting some energy into a time of preparation. This is why as Christians we celebrate Advent and Lent. Taking time to prepare for Christmas and Easter can make the experiences of Christmas and Easter that much richer, deeper, and full of wonder. Like camping… but better.

Postscript: They recently turned this wilderness area into a provincial park to help preserve it for future generations. If you are interested in visiting, google Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. The top and bottom pictures were taken from our favourite campsite.

Comments

  1. Wow, Mike, the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park sounds wonderful! What a great resource for you all your life. I DO wish that mosquitoes and black flies did not exist, though. They can make a day outside quite miserable at times. I am sure birds and fish would survive without them and we humans would be happier!

  2. Beautiful, Michael. “With good preparation, your experience can be not just about surviving but about thriving. The more preparation we put into our wilderness experiences, the more we get out of it.” I will definitely be sharing this as strong advice for Lent, Advent, and even Ordinary Time.

    Great photos, as well.

  3. Michael,

    One question, not that I’ll ever probably make it up there (even though I’d love to). Bears?

    Austin

    • Austin-

      The website for Kawartha says black bears.

      Better pack our long rifles…

    • There are some bears in the area. I have only seen one from a distance, although my Dad did have a closer encounter once. Another preparation thing that we do is hanging our food from a tree away from our tents in a way that bears are not able to reach the food. We also clean up our campsites completely when we are done, so that bears are not tempted to visit.

      • Hanging packs keeps the mice away too… there’s nothing that gives me the willies more than having mice running all over me while I (try to) sleep. Kind of reminds me of Willard….

        • Not to mention racoons, deer, porcupines, skunks, coyotes.

          We camped on an island once figuring we were safe. Some racoons swam out from the mainland and raided our campsite. We chased them off and they swam back.

          • You know, snakes and scorpions always scared me waaay more than the bears and other critters. I’m not sure if it’s inherent connection to them as mammals, or just fear of what I can’t easily see…

          • At least no poisonous snakes or scorpions in this wilderness.

  4. I am really late to the Lenten ‘party’. This is the first time in my life that I have fully embraced it as an opportunity to prepare, thanks in no small part to IMonk. I appreciate what you are saying about preparation as I am anticipating Easter in a rich way this year.

  5. David Cornwell says

    Your description is wonderful. I would say you make me envious, however I have no desire to deprive you of the benefit of this part of God’s creation.

    From Psalm 104:
    10 Thou makest springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills, 11 they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild asses quench their thirst. 12 By them the birds of the air have their habitation; they sing among the branches. 13 From thy lofty abode thou waterest the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy work.

  6. Great piece, Mike.

    I’m with David. (a bit envious)

    Nice fish! I have one that looks sort of like that on my wall. It sings.

    ____________________________

    On another note, for those who may be interested.

    I’ve got another blog going that is just a daily devotional site. Good for beginners if you have any friends or family that you might to aquaint with Christianity without banging them over the head with it:

    1minutedailyword.com

    • Steve – but the burning question is… are you a wild and crazy guy? (Hopefully you are old enough to catch the reference)…

      • If not, you are not the only aging SNL fan from back when they funny! Oh, nooooooooo Mr. Bill……………

  7. The Previous Dan says

    Great advice. And beautiful pictures to boot.

    My dad would take our family into the Adirondacks and I did the same with my kids. Looks very similar and has similar black flies and mosquitoes. They are about 200 miles southeast of your Kawartha Highlands. Some of my fondest memories were made there, same with my kids.

    • I was already thinking of doing a trip to the Adirondacks. Not too far from where I currently live. Any favorite camping spots you would recommend. (Car camping in this case as we will be continuing on east.)

      • The Previous Dan says

        Lake Eaton Campground on Long Lake is an old favorite for my wife and me. The first fight we ever had as a young married couple occurred when we were doing some early morning canoeing. We have old and dear friends who still laugh about watching us argue as we paddled in circles. Her fault of course 😉

        Once the kids came along we started going up to the Lake George/Lake Champlain area. There are many sites and activities around there. Rogers Rock Campground is on the north end of Lake George and is very close to Fort Ticonderoga, the famous Revolutionary War fortification. It is well worth the visit. The town of White Hall is also close by and was the birthplace of the US Navy when General Benedict Arnold siezed some British ships. Around there they remember that Benedict Arnold was a daring hero before he was a traitor. If that bullet had hit him instead of his horse he would have gone down in history right up there with George Washington.