I have taught the ways of the wilderness for well over thirty years and have authored a novel which dives deep into the shadows which follow you as you traverse wilderness trails. It is my hope to reach as many people as possible to tell everyone that the wilderness is not a place to be wary of. It is the only place where a person can dig deep into their soul and find that which is hidden to them by modern day society.
~ R.G. Wright / Hawks Shadow

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Welcome Home

As the sun slowly slips down the western arc of the sky, shadows extend out from the surrounding trees pointing to the place where the sun will appear the next day. Wood smoke rises in a thin blue haze reaching upwards towards the pink hued sky. You sit quietly on a log in front of the fire pit immersed in thought.

The Light begins to fade and the cool night air stalks into your campsite forcing you to forgo your contemplation and move toward your tent. Opening the zippered door, you rummage around in your clothing bag looking for the hoodie that you know you packed. 

Clothed for the cool night air, you take your seat by the fire and resume watching the flickering flames as the fires' light pushes the relentless darkness back toward the forest and creates shadows which seem imbued with life. 

A loon cries out, the plaintive call filters through your mind and pulls your soul deeper into the wilderness.  Within the blackness of the forest, a barred owl calls out; four haunting notes repeated twice, then silence fills the camp site. A slight shiver runs up your spine as you realize you are a stranger in this wilderness, simply visiting from a place which does not allow the wild to exist. The realization that you are being watched by creatures which do not need the aid of artificial light, makes you feel inept and out of place.  

 Pulling yourself away from the warmth and security of the fire, you wander toward the shoreline upon which your canoe is resting. Keeping your headlight off, you gingerly make your way down the time-worn path. Your eyes begin to adjust to the darkness and you begin to see the world in black and white. A slight glow to your right alerts you to a phosphorescent fungus which imbues the forest with a hint of magic. 

A slight breeze tickles the water which reacts by sending ripples to tease the shoreline. You close your eyes and breath in deeply. Holding your breath for several seconds you then exhale the baggage your mind has conjured up. 

When you open your eyes, the sky is filled with pinpoints of light which are mirrored by the lake. The Big Dipper points toward Polaris, Orion stands on guard and Cassiopeia forms the letter W. 

Your eye focuses on Cassiopeia and your mind formulates two words, why and who. A question walks out of the fog within your consciousness.
 "Why am I here?"

As your mind grasps with the enormity of the query, a creature, unseen, laps at the water. You listen as it drinks. Not daring to move, you are instinctively frozen to the ground, becoming part of the wilderness you paddled into. Within a few heartbeats, the animal vanishes without a sound; you begin to breath again. 
The answer to your question has dislodged from your civilized brain. It is simply answered by two words; 
"To feel."  

Another question forms in your mind, coalescing out of the darkness like a far distant flashlight. 
"Who am I?"

The stars have rotated clock-wise while Polaris remains in place. A slight chill has wormed its way to your skin and you want to return to the fire, yet you linger because the question of "who?" requires some more thought.   

Shuffling your feet slightly, your right foot slips into the cool water sending ripples out into the blackness, informing everything they touch that you exist. The clarity of the moment lifts the fog from your mind and the question of "Who am I?" is answered. 

By simply re-arranging the words, the answer if forthcoming.  The sentence embeds itself  in your consciousness and you smile. The answer to the question is simply; 
"I am." 

As you walk back to the fire, the light of the moon begins to fill the site. Fear no longer lingers in the corners of your mind, you have blended into the wilderness and the simple act of breathing becomes special. Wood smoke fills the air with it's comforting aroma and you feel as if time is standing still. 

You place another log on the fire and resume your vigil beside the fires' glow. Heat seeps into your clothing and chases the chill away. Once again the owl calls out into the moonlight bathed world. You cup your hands over your mouth and call back in poor imitation.  Surprisingly, the owl responds. You have now become part of it's world, blending in and flowing within the dictates of nature. Any thought of dominance has evaporated and a sense of belonging has infused your soul. 

Welcome Home. 


Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"Dam" Beavers!

How many times have you cursed the number of beaver dams blocking your route as you traverse a river?

The itinerary you painstakingly worked on during the planning stages of your trip is now in serious jeopardy of failure. A far distant lake is going to serve as your sanctuary for the coming night, yet this small wall of sticks, stones and mud is hampering your forward momentum.

"Damn Beavers!" You yell aloud to the reeds and cattail that surround you like a living wall as you pull your canoe and gear over the engineering works of the resident beaver. 

In reality, the problem is not caused by the beaver and it's penchant for building dams; the problem exists within our minds. 
We are habituated to time schedules and as such, anything that impedes our progression becomes an irritant.

It takes me several hours of paddling to leave my "society" mind behind. The pressures of everyday societal life slough off me as my paddle digs into the water. The first few beaver dams I encounter are considered annoyances, the following dams are welcomed. Without the dams, we would be forced to portage or walk our canoes down many water courses. 

The beaver builds the dam to ensure adequate water for its existence. That sequestered water is deep enough to navigate with a fully loaded canoe. 

The much maligned beaver is in fact responsible for shaping the multitude of original watersheds found throughout Ontario. Without this large rodent, Ontario would not be a paddlers paradise. 

I grew fond of these large intelligent creatures while traversing the forests and ponds of my youth. Their tenacity and strength was always something I marveled at.  

These images are those of a female beaver who became a companion of mine, she would follow my canoe whenever I chose to invade her pond. 

She would sit mumbling to herself as she groomed her fur. I would talk to her quietly as I surveyed the world she had built.
Climbing back into my canoe, I would paddle away as she followed in my wake. As I pulled my canoe over her large dam, I would thank her for her company and bid her farewell. 

The pond I once shared with her is now marshland; she and her family moved onto another area of the river where the food supply would sustain them through the winter. 

One day, the marshland will once again become a pond and I will pull my canoe over the rebuilt dam and make acquaintances with the resident pond builders. 

Happy Paddling. 


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Mayhem on a cottage lined lake

I often wonder what draws me to the quiet solitude of a wilderness lake or forest.

As a child, I spent as much time as possible wandering the forest trails around my home. It was within those green walled paths that I learned the ways of the forest and learned to "see" the lessons painted on the forest floor. It was there that I learned to remove myself from society and become a part of something that was ancient and profound.

Nothing has changed since those days long past, I have no power to resist the siren call of the woods. The trials I have traveled slide beneath my bare feet as body sleeps and my soul searches for messages and insight.

There are times when curiosity pulls at me and forces me to venture into places I would usually avoid, places where people rule and all other creatures must step aside and stay hidden.

I ventured out onto a cottage lined lake near my home. The cacophony of noise which bounced from shore to shore shattered any illusions of a peaceful paddle within moments. Boats and high powered watercraft created a chaos of waves which shattered on the shoreline continuously. My prospector canoe handled the waves perfectly; but the rat race on the lake forced me to retrace my strokes back to the seclusion of the marsh and then the portage trail from whence I came.


As I pulled my canoe back up onto the shore where the portage trail beckoned me home, the silence of the forest filled my being and pushed aside all the "noise" that had encapsulated me. I hoisted the canoe on my shoulders and walked the portage trail home pondering many questions pertaining to the impact of humans on the world. I have my thoughts which will remain my own. I am more than thankful that there are many wilderness areas here in Ontario which have been protected and provide us quiet paddlers a place to roam.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Portage - Repairing the marsh crossing


Portage trails are varied in length and can be anything from an easy walk through the woods to a muscle challenging trail that would test the most athletic woodland traveler.

Many portage trails cross bodies of water which are not navigable by canoe. Bridges of all sorts can be found throughout canoe country. These range from simple planks of wood which test our sense of balance to engineered crossings complete with railings. Most deep woods crossings are made from logs gathered in the surrounding area or rocks thrown into strategic places. 

This video displays one method of crossing a marsh area. I describe marsh-land as a submerged or a semi submerged area which has a tendency to suck shoes off unsuspecting hikers. 

This building method maintains water flow and helps to mitigate damage to the wetland.  Nails and fasteners are not required.  

                    Happy wandering!


Monday, August 10, 2020

River Otters - Weasels who love to have fun.

The river otter is a member of the weasel clan. These powerful predators patrol waterways in search of fish, frogs, turtles and a host of other species which live in, and around water. 

Otters usually travel in groups and are incredibly playful. I have seen them playing a game of water tag where one otter chases the others; they in turn try to avoid being tagged. The game usually falls apart quickly and the whole gang gets into a rollicking game of "pile-on" which entails a lot noise and chatter which is hilarious to hear and see.

I spotted these otters chilling out on a floating log grooming their fur. I moved in as close as I possibly could and watched them for well over thirty minutes. 

The secret to this kind of interaction is to keep your excitement as contained as possible. Keep all movements to a minimum. Move position only when the otter submerges.  

I have spotted them on almost every canoe trip I have undertaken through Algonquin Park and the Haliburton Highlands Water Trails.  

I truly hope you have an opportunity to see otters in the wild. They are truly amazing creatures. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

First portage of a 10 day trip and my son gives me lip. Great.

We had just arrived at the east arm of Opeongo lake in Algonquin Park. I make one simple comment about the canoe pack that I am about to carry and my son decides to give me a piece of his mind.  

The fun had just begun. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Excerpt from the novel, "A Long Paddle Home."

The novel "A Long Paddle Home," follows the life of a park ranger as he carries out the duties of his position. He is haunted by a past of which he has no knowledge, and a future which tears at the very fabric of his soul. 

Accompanied by Rusty, a Labrador Retriever, the protagonist wanders into a surreal world which challenges his sanity and forces him to make decisions which could alter the very essence of who he is. 

Mystery, love and fear team up to create a novel which will portage you into the depths of the wilderness where shadows come to life and control is just an illusion. 

This video was taken on site 17 on Sherborne Lake. The text within the video is from the book "A Long Paddle Home." 

Campsite 17 on Sherborne Lake is the place where the book first manifested itself. I was sitting on the "outlook rock" and I could feel the presence of something which was just outside of my understanding. 

A quote from a reader's review:
"The novel is set within the wilderness of The Algonquin Highlands. The lakes, forests, campsites and portages as detailed within the book are real places, places where the reader can actually visit and feel what the writer is conveying."

Enjoy the adventure!  


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