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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Elusive Firewood


 Most sites I have camped on are picked clean of firewood. 

Shreborne Lake - R.G. Wright

Generations of canoeists have wandered in ever-widening circles into the woods to gather the dry firewood which will sustain them while on-site. 

Most of the time, I find it much easier just to venture out in my canoe to collect the dead wood which is normally in abundance along the shoreline of any wilderness lake. 

A campfire is something we all look forward to, especially when the temperature drops into the single digits. The shear volume of wood required for a couple of days of camping, can be somewhat daunting. 

Camping is a lot of work, but in this case, work is fun. When you're collecting your firewood, use the time to investigate the forest. You will be amazed what you can discover when your canoe is beached and you are wandering through the woods with your saw in hand. 

Happy adventuring.  







Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How to dry out a tent



Setting up camp is full of expectations and excitement, the days ahead show promise of adventure and freedom. 

When it's time to strike camp - thoughts of unpacking your gear once you arrive home fills your head with thoughts which are not conducive to making you smile. 

A wet tent is a problem because you can't leave it packed. Mold and mildew will ruin the shelter and stink up your camp closet. You must set the tent up upon arriving home and wait until it dries out. 

A simple way to preclude this extra step is to dry the tent out at camp before packing it away. If the campsite has bushes, simply place the tent on top of the them and let the air dry the shelter out. 

It's fast, efficient and beautifully simple. The entire tent will be ready to bag and put away until your next adventure. 

P.S. 
Make sure the bushes are the gentle type and not full of thorns.  Of course, this method doesn't work if it is raining. 😉

Happy camping!   





Wednesday, October 14, 2020

How to tame campfire smoke


 Once the tents are set and the gear is organized, Campers gravitate to the fire pit and spend hours contemplating life while staring into the flames. It is a beautiful sight. 

The smoke eventually finds you, targets you, and the game is on. You and your friends end up running around the fire pit trying to get away from the smoke. So much for the tranquility.   

If you make a few simple changes to the pit, the fire will burn efficiently and smoke will take a back seat to your ringside seat. 

This is my go-to technique for creating an efficient and safe wood burning fire pit. 


R.G.W. 

  


Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Freedom of Imagination


When the rain is hitting the window pane and the wind is making the trees sway, an outdoors person can find themselves at a loss for things to do that day. 

HR and WC Model Railway - Built by R.G. Wright

Climbing into your head and feeling sorry for yourself, as you stare at your beached canoe, quite simply will never do. The secret I find, is to totally unwind by climbing into my mind and opening up the magical world hidden within the box  labeled - Imagination. 

Finding the box may not be easy amongst all the clutter. 

You will find it hiding under a thick moldy blanket labeled with an old worn tag. 

A single word is written upon the aged paper. Leaning in close, you will see the letters, faded with time and barely recognizable. You squint and discover that the word is non other than - logic. 

Pull off the blanket and find that box. Dust it off and open it; then dive in. This is where you will find a world which is all yours; the shadows of the day will certainly fade away as you connect with influences far beyond the reach of everyday matters. 

Life is always a long paddle home. 




Sunday, October 4, 2020

R.G. Wright - Why the second name?


 During the introduction to any outdoor teaching, I always explain the name of Hawks Shadow. 

A birth name is simply that, a birth name - you pop out and your parents name you. 

A name that floats into your consciousness unbidden, is a name which has meaning. 

There is much more to this story than what I describe in the video. One day I will share the whole story.
 


 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Sunrise Meditation


There are times at camp when I am simply at a loss for words when witnessing one of natures many wonders. 

I woke up on this particular morning to mist dancing on the lake. Mesmerized, I could barley take my eyes off the coalescing vapor. 

Many thoughts wandered out of the mist to mesh with my mind as the cold air plucked at my skin. I immersed myself in the moment which became a memory which I will hold for many years to come. 

Hope you enjoy the dancers on the lake. 


 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Morning Lesson


The play between cold air and warm water can result in a magical display which is irresistible to the wandering eyes of an outdoors person.
I paddle into the mist and become invisible to the world. My mind conjures up images of spirits dancing to a melody which only they can hear.


 
As my canoe drifts through the surreal scene, an island appears from the depths of the lake. It seems, for the moment, that I am standing still and it is the island which is moving.

The Earth spins a few more degrees and the sun's heat begins to dissipate the dancers on the lake. I paddle to shore and spend a few minutes immersed in the magic.


A thought moves into my mind; unbidden but welcome. It's message remains shrouded for a short time and I do not search for it's meaning. Slowly it moves to the forefront and I write it into my memory. 

The message is clear and poignant. It tells me that life is fleeting. Most of us believe that the future holds more promise than the present. We look beyond the moment to moments which have not occurred yet. We miss the lessons of today for the hope that a greater lesson will present itself tomorrow.

As I walk back into my campsite, I become aware of everything I did not see just moments earlier. I turn my eyes back to the lake and thank the universe for the lesson I have just learned.



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.

 
R.G.Wright

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!  

 




Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A TENT IS JUST A TENT - RIGHT? PART TWO.



When a single person or two person tent just won't do, you will have to scale up to a larger shelter. Tents are usually sized by the amount of people they can hold.

The problem with this measurement is that gear is never taken into account. A two person tent will house two adults and their sleeping equipment. All other gear must be stowed outside. As you scale up, the same holds true. 

The size of tent you bring to any camp will be determined by the number of occupants wishing to share the tent. Once that is determined, comfort becomes a factor. If you wish to share your tent with one other person, a three person tent will give you wiggle room and a place to stow a couple of packs. The trade off is weight. The larger the tent, the more it weighs. A few pounds extra seems like no big deal until you get into your third portage of a long day and I promise you, you will wish your pack had wheels. 

Algonquin. R.G.Wright.

A tent becomes your home when you are camping.
It's imperative that you choose your shelter wisely. 
I have seen many broken poles, ripped tarps and a 
myriad of other problems due to people purchasing 
substandard tents. 

You can get away with this if you are car camping 
as the car can become a shelter if something should 
go wrong. 

Interior camping is another story, a ripped door or
broken poles will ruin your stay in the woods if no
repair can be made. 

Please see my previous post "A Tent Is A Tent, Right?" 
Part One, on other tent models, for the best fit. 

See my YouTube video explaining more below.



It is my hope that these videos will help you choose a 
tent that is right for your needs. 

Happy camping. 

                                               

Sunday, June 28, 2020

A Tent is a Tent - Right?


Long ago, I remember camping with the Scouts in massive canvas tents that housed at least eight people. How the scouters managed to get those  tents to site is beyond my memory, but I do know that setting them up was a task which took the concerted effort of the entire troop. Once erected, we stuffed all of our gear into them and claimed dirt space. I always picked the back of the tent for my bedroll. The reason for me choosing that area was simply because raids by other troops were the norm. When the interlopers came through the door,  I simply rolled out from under the sidewall and was free of the mayhem ensuing inside the canvas walls. This enabled my buddies and I to take on the would be raiders face to face.  

Animals would venture under the sidewalls and make incursions into our shelter, making off with all kinds of gear which they stowed away in the surrounding forest. 

I truly do wish those days never ended. But time moves past our canoes and slips away in the boats wake.  

Modern tents are perfect for camping, provided that you choose the tent which suits your needs. Mesh doors and walls preclude the tiniest of insects from entering the shelter. Advanced ventilation keeps the occupants dry and comfortable. A tripping tent is lightweight and compacts into a very small space saving precious room for other camping necessities within your pack. 
  

Choosing a tent can be a confusing task. It is my hope that this video helps you navigate the confusion and pick a tent that will suit your needs for many years to come. 







Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Portaging can suck, but it gets you to where you are going.

To some, a canoe trip without portaging is simply not a trip at all. Tripping by its very nature requires the tripper to move many kilometres into the interior of any given nature reserve or wilderness area. This requires the tripper to carry everything they have across land, on designated or non-designated trails known as portage routes. 



Portage trails usually follow the shortest route to the next lake. The problem is - not all portage trails are equal; some trails will test the endurance of seasoned veterans. 



It is important to plan your trip according to your capabilities. If you are new to canoe tripping, stay on well traveled portage trails. These routes will be well maintained and if you find yourself in trouble, a fellow tripper will come along in a short time to help you sort your trouble out. 



Portaging is a workout. It will force you to use muscles you may not have known even existed. Heat, bugs, rain and a myriad of other environmental factors could cause your mind to slip a gear and force you into a state of self reprisal. You may even wonder what the heck you were thinking when you sat down at your desk and planned the route you now find yourself on. 




Yep, a picture is worth a thousand words. This photo was taken on day six of a planned ten day trip. Total trip length was 140 km. The yellow signs informing us of another portage ahead became beacons of foreboding. Unless you have crossed the same portage prior - you have no idea what lies within the twisting confines of the forest trail which you are about to traverse. Once crossed, the mystery of that trail is now exposed and you have learned much. 



The trials of the trail are soon left behind as you set up camp and settle into the wilderness. The soft subtle sounds of the forest serenade you as the fire sends tendrils of smoke into the air and fills your camp with its intoxicating smell.



The primitive person in you escapes from the confines of civilization and your mind relaxes to the point where it is free to roam where it chooses. The only way to get here from there - is across the portage trail. 



Happy camping!


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

How to handle flying vampires.



Living outdoors is a perfect way to reconnect to the world around you. Every sense in your body is awakened as you immerse yourself in the subtle lessons the forest and trail offer your questing mind. 

Weather becomes a reality which can't be ignored by closing a door and reclining in a climate controlled environment. You are forced to deal with rain and temperature variations which in turn teach you lessons about your own resilience. 

Biting insects are a fact of the trail. They are an essential part of the ecosystem through which you paddle your canoe and portage your gear. As you set camp, they can swarm you in numbers too vast to count and can cause major physical discomfort, which in turn, can taint your love of the outdoors. 

There are ways to mitigate the havoc these pesky little creatures create. Setting your camp up in an area where wind can infiltrate is one such method. 

Some people are not too adversely affected by insects, others are a meal ticket and draw the little devils in like magnets. One thing is for certain, you must have a game plan in place in order to withstand the clouds of winged vampires; if you want to keep your sanity while traversing the trails. The only time when you will be bug free is when the temperature drops to single digits.

This video shows some methods which have served me very well over my many years in the forest. 

Every time I wander into the bush, I always remind myself that I too am part of the system. A few donations to the flying blood bank is well worth it. 


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

How to load your canoe.




A canoe is a light-weight boat capable of carrying loads ten times or more than the weight of the craft itself. 

Stability is the key. If you load your canoe improperly; the boat will not track well and you are putting yourself at risk of tipping. 

A properly loaded canoe will sit evenly in the water and will be easier to control in winds and waves. Always take into account the weight differential of the bow and stern paddlers.  

Less is always best when canoeing. Think carefully about the gear you wish to bring with you. Make sure that it is absolutely necessary. You will understand this statement when you have completed a long portage. 


© R.G. Wright

Have a great trip. 



  

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Winter fades away to spring.

Winter is fading as the sun returns to warm the land. The forest streams are trundling their way to nearby lakes and ponds. 

The wild ones that persevered through the cold months shake off the chill and meander around the woods loving the warmth. Migrating birds are returning and filling the silent woods with their songs. Frogs and turtles rise from their deep sleep and move to the surface of the ponds to say hello to a world they have not seen for several months. 

Spring peepers; small frogs with huge voices, call out into the night creating a chorus of sound which fills the hollows of the forest with deafening power. 

Soon the black-flies will come out from under the leaf litter and fill the air with their clouds of annoyance. Knowing that they in turn will feed the fish, makes their arrival easier to accept.  It is simply part of the cycle which makes the forest healthy and whole. 

Into this awakening world I move, as quietly as possible and without purpose. I want to soak in all the sights and sounds of the spring for I know, without question, spring will turn to summer and new sounds and sights will fill my mind and spring will fade into memory.    

Once again my paddle can dig into the cool water and my canoe can glide silently into the wilderness carrying me into the world which I call home. 



  
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