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.
Canoe Trip Leader
I wonder if snowmobilers would trade in their machines for something better? Would they line up to trade them in for a recreational replacement that would do much less harm to the earth while also nourishing their bodies and souls. The replacement I’m refering to, is of course skiing. Any kind of skiing. Cross-country would offer the best body and earth benefits, while alpine skiing or snowboarding might give the thrill seeker a spiritual lift! Any way you carve it, anything that could get people off snow machines would be a step toward better health for everyone. Snowshoes are fine but skis might be the best fit since the joy that comes from controling a board or boards on snow with your own body is a type of natural high that snowmobilers have no doubt missed out on, otherwsie that is what they would be doing instead of driving their machines blindly around. While its true that skiing is a skill and is harder to learn than pulling a throttle; and while its true that for those who need it most, it may be difficult to get off the seat, the fact remains that part of the joy in skiing comes from improving yourself, from learning and changing your body for the better. Senses are awakened and the participant is intimately engaged in the fragrances, sounds and sights in their environment.
Would ski resorts and ski manufacturers offer a snowmobile amnesty? You know, trade equipment, lift tickets and/or trail passes for each snowmobile that gets turned in? Imagine what a world it could be if they did…
Here are some of the benefits:
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Conserves fuel for more necessary pursuits (reduced demand on resources reduces cost )
Improves ground level air quality from reduced *VOC emissions
Reduces noise pollution
Improved fitness, vitality, mobility
Improves cardiovascular health
Spend time doing something more worthwhile
Personal Satisfaction of taking charge of your body and health
Personal growth and satisfaction of learning a new skill
Feeling that you are improving yourself and the world around you
And snowmobilers would save a lot of money that they could use for a lot of other things, even after buying new skis!
O.K. That’s not likely to happen, not by tomorrow at least but there is something that might help bring on the change…Skiers! If you are a skier, you have power! As skiers we can extend the olive branch to a snowmobiler and offer to take them skiing…to teach and mentor them. And its in our best interest to do so since the snowmobile is contributing to the global warming that is melting away our winters! Start close to home, with family, neighbours or friends. Be vocal and share this idea and who knows what might happen! There are other benefits to our communities and tourism initiatives that could be realized if local facilities were developed and networks established.
*VOC stands for volatile organic compound. In terms of snowmobile emissions, VOC’s are the smelly unburnt gas and oil emissions that are spewed from the engines exhaust. It can make you choke and your eyes water (it is also a toxic mix of chemicals that damages living tissues, and contains heavy metals, benzenes and other chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic).
Here is one of my personal experiences with snowmobile exhaust: While out for a jog down my gravel road one evening in the early spring of last year, I was passed by a procession of snowmobiles. Their noxious smoke brought water to my eyes; I could taste it on my tongue and could barely breath. Needless to say my jog was over. I walked for several minutes after they passed hoping the air would clear so I could get back to my run. Unfortunately though, on this calm night the smoke hung over the road, trapped between the forest on either side, until I had walked all the way back home (a 10 minute walk from where I stopped running). When I came into the living room of my home, my wife and kids asked me why I smelled of gasoline.
To find out about, Doug McColl, author of Dougsplace click ABOUT at the header, or visit www.geocities.com/dougscanoe/blog.html .
Keep your paddle in the water!