By canoe: A reminder to stop complaining

It’s the time of year for canoe trips.

Algonquin Provincial Park lies northwest of Ottawa, and several of my acquaintances have headed to Ontario’s oldest provincial park for pleasure jaunts to the wild solitude of its lakes and canyons.

They dip paddles in still waters. They drift slowly by moose munching shoreside water plants. They dive into the deep, cold waters of the Canadian Shield lakes.

Their trips remind me of John Shaw. I learned of him and his wife during a trip to the Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre. He was a miller from Inverness, Scotland, who travelled to the area in 1847 from what was then Bytown [now Ottawa]. He and his wife, Barbara Thompson, made the trip by canoe.

Today, people make the trip by car in less than two hours, but in 1847 it would have taken days and days by canoe. They would have paddled against the prevailing wind. They might have battled pouring rain while balancing cumbersome loads. They would have portaged around rapids, carrying the heavy canoe and all their worldly goods.

Renfrew Museum beside the Bonnechere River
The Renfrew Museum beside rapids along the Bonnechere River.
P199, CC BY-SA 2.5 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

What a hardship.

AND, they did it with two-year-old son in tow.

Toddlers in warm, safe homes are challenging enough. Imagine travelling by canoe for days with one. (Were there even life jackets in 1847?)

Those hardships put any of our petty little problems into perspective.

Whatever comes at me today, at least I’m not paddling a canoe in the rain with all my worldly goods and a two-year-old. 

Tip of a canoe on the glacial green waters of Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

7 thoughts on “By canoe: A reminder to stop complaining

  1. marianbeaman

    This post called up memories of our recent kayak trip (adults only) and then a vicarious experience with you, exploring natural beauty with friends. I wonder if those are your shoes in the canoe pictured here. Ah!

    Reply
  2. karen

    Perspective is like a good mental jolt of caffeine to wake us up and shake off any present woes. Great story, Arlene, and one that I was not aware of!

    Reply
    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Some day if you are interested in a trip to that part of the Ottawa Valley, there are some pleasant hikes around the conservation area. Of course, these days you are spending time at your cabin, so it might not be for a while, but someday . . .

      Reply

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