There are few good things about this pandemic. One for me is that I was able to go camping in 2020, something that I did not do in 2019. Last year I was too busy running trips, hosting visitors or attending regattas to enjoy the smell of woodsmoke from a campfire and waking up with sun flooding through the walls of the tent. I love camping. And I think that being in nature and living a bit more rustically is good for us. Well for me, anyway.
With Covid-19 most of our trips are postponed to 2021. We have created Independent Rowing Experiences in the USA and other countries and are working on some other new travel concepts. I am now at five months of being home in Winnipeg, Canada. It is the longest that I have been here in about seven or eight years! Luckily, as much as I love to travel, I also really appreciate being home. And summer in Manitoba can be absolutely stellar. This is one of those summers with just about perfect weather. Wow. We are lucky. Even within Canada travel is still limited, but in Manitoba we can go west or into NW Ontario without the requirement of 14 days self-isolation upon return.
This camping trip was both spontaneous and easy. When other travel is beset with such uncertainty, deciding rapidly for this park, this campsite, these dates was a gift. Thank you Anastasia! Off I went. It was wonderful. Caliper Lake Provincial Park in NW Ontario is about a four-hour drive from Winnipeg and a different environment from the Prairies and city. It is on the Canadian Shield, a huge mass of pre-Cambrian rock filled with lakes and trees. White and red pines dominated the landscape – quintessential Canadian trees especially if you are a fan of the Group of Seven. Initially there were not many people there, which suited me just fine.
I had packed my Oar Board with inflatable SUP and planned to go rowing on Caliper Lake. After a lazy first day, I got to work inflating the SUP and assembling the rower. It was a lot of work, especially in the heat and the biting flies were irksome. Finally I was on the lake, rowing. Ahhhhhh. The first person to row on Caliper Lake. I did a little (and I admit rather pompous) video from the water on this fact. It seemed important that I was first. Oh, and the scenery was gorgeous and so wonderful to see from the lake.
The day that I had to leave Caliper, I was running a bit late – I had a couple of cottages to stop at for socially distanced visits on the way home. Turns out this was a good thing (and it worked out for the visits anyway). I looked up from packing my tent to see … some one rowing by! What!?
I hailed him and we had a lovely chat. Neil has been rowing on Caliper for years. He had a sliding seat wherry, built from a kit from somewhere in Washington state. He couldn’t remember exactly from where. I thought Port Townsend, but in fact there are quite a few kits to be found, including the Oxford Wherry with shots of Mount Baker in the background. Rowing is so wonderful.
I do not believe that I am being indiscreet in revealing that Neil indicated that he had never rowed with the clubs in Winnipeg where he lived and that he was self-taught when in his wherry at the cottage. He seemed a bit concerned about this. His daughter had rowed at university and had given him some tips. Watching him row away, I thought that his technique was just fine. Neil offered to let me try his wherry, but sadly I was now really, really late and did not have time. I might be back and will try it then. It was terrific not to be the first rower on Caliper Lake after all.
In 2016 I wrote a blog post about my new SUP rower and some lessons from business that I extracted from that experience. It is always tempting to see analogies (and make pompous videos) from experiences which are important to us. But there is a lovely lesson to be taken from rowing Caliper Lake. It is not important to be the first (my issue) nor the best (Neil’s concern). It is just important to enjoy. As Neil said, any time that he is out on the water is a good time.