Category Archives: Outdoors

Canoe Program at Arrowhead Provincial Park

I was lucky enough to lead canoe programs at Arrowhead every year from 2004 to 2009. One experience that really stood out was “Paddle the Big East” in 2005 (or 2004) , with author Bob Henderson as a special guest, in which we took a huge urn (80 cups) of Tim Horton’s coffee with us! Myself and co-leader Tim, portaged Stubbs Falls  with the urn which Bob Henderson thought was hilarious…a first for Bob!

Other authors were invited on these experiences; like Hap Wilson,  Carol and Bruce Hodgins , and  Max Finkelstein. Unfortunately, Hap Wilson was always running some wild Arctic river during the summer so could never make it! Max couldn’t come for the trip but did come and do a great presentation called Canoeing a Continent.

We had some good times sharing the little patch of water known as Arrowhead Lake and occasionally the Big East and Little East Rivers in Arrowhead Provincial Park. Myself, a half dozen co-leaders and over 1000 paddlers (over the years) spent time together on Sunday mornings during the summers from 2004 to 2009. We watched the mist rise as we loaded our canoes and we took the day’s first paddle strokes while miniature mist twisters spiraled up off the lake in the morning sun. We learned a lot about the lake, its place in the region and wildlife, but mostly we learned about ourselves and how we could just “be”, while out there floating in the lake. We watched clouds, told stories and occasionally I would break out a surprise snack that we could enjoy while rafted together in the middle of the lake.

I want to thank everyone who participated in Canoe in the Mist, Paddle the Big East, the Canoe Rodeos and presentations at Arrowhead about canoeing.  Leading canoe experiences was one the best things about being an interpreter. . Most of the joy for me was leading others to discover a joy in nature that they had never known.
Doug McColl
Canoe Trip Leader
Experience Builder


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Food Security and Canadian Schools

I’ve always thought of Canada as a world leader.  Our innovation sets us apart from many other nations, especially when you consider our low population.  Historically, zippers and national health care and in more modern times the Canada Arm on the space shuttle.  In terms of humanitarian effort we do pretty well; our legacy of peacekeeping for instance, and foreign aid to countries in need.  I’m sure we are a leader in education in some respect and in helping to feed a hungry planet; but the challenge that lies ahead for our planet will require us to blend innovation on both of those fronts.  For various reasons (lets not get into all of them here), crops have failed and are failing in many crop growing regions of the world,  a few multinational corporations are producing and controlling larger and larger proportions of the worlds food supply and the human population of the earth is increasing.  If recent food prices and forecasts for astronomical food prices aren’t putting some fear into you then you should give yourself a pinch.  I don’t want to dwell on the images of a future where we have failed to act, my time and yours is better spent on taking action and getting others to take action.  My answer is to grow food. 

Growing food for yourself (and others) reduces some of the demand on the worlds food supply.  Schools can take a lead role in this by reviving a spirit of self sufficiency in their school community and setting up a program to grow food. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just some; enough to “feel” significant for the students. Enough for students to feel like they can make the world a better, healthier place.  Enough to spark students’ imaginations, to plant the seeds of innovation that they, and we, may need to realize a healthy and secure supply of food for our planet’s population.  

Administrators and teachers are always looking for ways to make students recognize the consequences of their actions and to take responsibility for them…well…growing food is a great place to start! I don’t want to sound too much like a teacher, but think of the cross curricular learning potential!  Science…too much to cover here; Social Studies…study a country or culture and try growing a representative food; Art…sketch it, paint it;  Language Arts…journal it, record it, read about it, talk about it!  The possibilities are almost endless.  And then there is the impact of…Growing a living thing.  Just saying it or reading those words carries weight…do it and you are forever changed.  You become nurturer, parent, aware.  Your plant responds to you and the world around you.  You make an investment in, and become connected to life; your labour; your plant, your food. Suddenly you are connected to the plants and foods of the planet.  If you are an educator, then you know I am right about this.  There are published examples of the impact of gardens and plants grown by kids and adults in schools and communities and time after time it brings about poitive change to those people and their communities (Good link here is Evergreen Foundation).

The only question here is “why”.  Why are we not doing something now?  It would have been better to do it 30 years ago, but now is what we’ve got.  And I would suggest that tomorow…no…today, we need to start growing with our children to enculture a future with citizens capable of not just surviving, but thriving.  A future where Canadian innovation in *self sufficiency in food production is a model for the world, and a future where global food shortages is not going to threaten them or their children.


*self sufficiency…just a note:  genuine self sufficiency is a sustainable activity.  If my “self sufficiency” depletes or poisons the earths resources over time then its only a facade.  I could grow enough to feed my village if I intensified my use of pesticises and fertillizers, but now I’m increasingly dependent on other resources not to mention the fact that I’m destroying the system that allows things to live in the first place.  The same holds true for Genetically Altered Crops, except for them we are placing a high wager on the success of a vary narrow gene pool…a pool of one set of genes in fact!  

Below are the titles of some literature that would make excellent reading for those interested in learning more about this topic.  But don’t read them before you start growing…JUST DO IT! I’ll put some links in later so come back!

The Hundred Mile Diet

Monocultures of the Mind

Diet for a New America 

Tragedy of the Commons Garret Hardin (an essay)

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Keep your paddle in the water!

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