Friday, June 24, 2011

deep canadian thoughtss

As many of you know, its been a rather large explosion of life in a very short amount of time for this girl. In a matter of 5 days, I took and passed my state nursing boards, moved into a new penthouse in downtown milwaukee, had a housewarming party, and left for a 7 day/7 night nature lovers dream getaway to the boundary waters/ Quiteco Canada trip. This was unlike any type of vacation that I have ever been on and thought it deserved its own column to reflect upon. I have decided instead of journaling everyday what happened, that I would compile a list of things I learned in a weeks time away from the real world. Let me begin by saying that i have been a lot of places in this world, but this was by far the most "exotic" trip I have ever been on.
So sit tight, enjoy the comments, and prepare yourself for a fun-filled reflective and educational occasion:

"Canadian Life Experiences 101 for Dummies"

1. You must be one with your "paddle buddy." Joey and I were paired together for the first part of the trip in a 70lbs wooden canoe. I hadn't been canoeing in over a year and was placed in the back side of the boat to steer. Instead of going straight, it was a constant battle to correct the zigzagging across every lake for the first 3 days. My inability to effectively steer combined with Joey's overcompensation in paddling made for a pretty frustrating mode of transportation.  It wasn't until the third morning that I sat in the front and we were finally able to go where we anticipated.  Although, I was inducted into "Tribe farting while walking" as "Scenic Lake Traveler" the one who saw all ends of beauty in every body of water.

2. Bodily functions are happily accepted by all and expelled with pride.  You must burp as loudly as you can and use your flatulence to compete in games like "fart tag." Sam "Young Squat" Heely was overall champion of that game.

3. There is no room for wimpy kitty baby whiners on a 6-day canoe trip.  This means your sore arms will get stronger, your wet clothes will dry, and you will get used to having 9847593847598437 layers of dirt under your fingers. You'll learn to get over it real fast, or you'll end up being eaten by a large fish.

4. The bigger  the northern, the more ugly and slimy is becomes.  These fish are prehistoric creepers that more than likely missed their calling to becoming extinct when the dinosaurs waved the earth goodbye.  Luckily the one I caught never made it out of the water. Little tiny Mary Mode caught a 42incher and Danielle said it looked like a Shamu show from shore as she watched it splash and thrash.


5. You could offer me a diamond necklace on a 24 carat golden chain or a simple shower after an entire week in the Canadian wilderness and I would still choose the shower.  I was amazed at how massively dirty a nurse can become and just not care when it comes to living in the wild.  Handsanitizer was present on the trip, but only one small bottle for 9 campers to assist in hand cleansing after "bigger business" has taken place. ;) Danielle still wins award for the filthiest camper, she turned 4 facial wipes jetblack with her garbage hands.

6. Nothing tastes better than a simple PB&J after paddling and portaging 4 or 5 hours.  Actually, we ate like kings the entire trip.  Props to the Mode girls for planning and packing all the grub for 18 campers for an entire week.  Who woulda thought you could eat walleye (caught 2 hours earlier), quinoa, and freshly baked gooey brownies for just one of the nights. I think we all reached our FDA acceptable mercury levels for the next decade with all the fresh fish we consumed. I ate more on this trip than i would in a typical 2 week span.  There was even enough food packed to keep Joey's tapeworm, Edward, satisfied.

7. It was a constant educational experience. It was a definite vacation of "firsts." Never did i ever expect to learn so much in such a short amount of time. Just a few examples: how to fish properly, the most efficient way to squat, get my hands full of fish guts while learning to filet, it takes a LOT to tip a canoe, most effective way to portage as a team, etc. I now understand it takes a special group of humans to consider a canoe trip a "dream vacation." There is a lot of muscle, sweat, knowledge, and work to make it thru alive.

8. The term "gas station" is much different in Canada vs. America.  When a camper states they are going to the "gas station," it is a planned process.  First you must get a canoe, scoot yourself across the water to no mans land, grab the shovel, dig a hole, and __________ (if you are capable of reading this blog entry, you are capable of figuring out the next step.).  We adopted the rule "drop a log, grab a log" to ensure that our woodpile was finely stocked.  Also note, it is not acceptable to poop in the dining room.

9.  The world without electronics is bliss. There is no cellphones, texting, internet, or connection with the outside.  It forces people together through conversation, dry humor, and ridiculous antics.  The only source of connection we had was "The Spot."This little device had a GPS tracking system that would let us check in online and allow people to track our progress back home. It also had an emergency *911* button in case that was necessary.  I can honestly say that there were no major injuries minus the bass that bit off Nicole's finger and Steve slipping three times on the same rock while preparing to portage.

10. If Zeus can pump 20 tons of iron, Steve Mode can pump 90. This man puts Chuck Norris to shame He is into everything. He snorkels amongst the fercious fish of the sea, builds convection ovens from flat rocks, smiles and sings while doing 3/4 mile portages, and is truly fanatical about nature.

11. Sometimes sticks can fix things and other times they cannot.  We used a lot of trees throughout the camping process: firewood, stability columns, etc.  Tony was setting up his hammock on our 5th night and was so intelligently recommended to use a twig to help hold on of the knots. It wasn't more than 3 minutes when there was a massive *WHUMP* as Tony laid dazed and staring at the tree tops.

12. Everyone who goes on a Canadian adventure should bring a Sam Healy with them.  This little twerp was always amusing in some way or another. He could undoubtedly be found climbing trees, saying ridiculous things, humming the Pirates of the Carribean song in a high pitched frequency, or eating pizza after arriving back in Ely from his Sierra Cup.

13. It is a huge honor to be inducted into the "Tribe Farting While Walking." (Aaron and Danielle, please excuse my inability to type with a British accent here!) Squatting Squirrel and Lady Lockin are king and queen of picking a special name for every new camper based upon their own personal experiences the first 4 days of the trip. The night of induction went a little like this: our camp marched into the other with 9 torches in the dark night of a full moon, we were named and tapped with the sacred stick, and arm motioned saying "how." Please look forward to Nicole (hawkeye snapper's) blog for a follow up of all the tribal names.

14.  If there was some way to jar up loon noises and bring them home to the big city, i would be all over that business.  The first night at about 4am, i heard these lil water birds call out- they are far more beautiful sounding than the putrid mourning of the doves outside your bedroom window at 5am. It was also amazing to see them on every lake that we passed, even to the point where they just pop out of the water by your canoe without ya really expecting it. Neat stuff.

15. When people fall, there is no use trying to hold back the laughter (granted you know they're ok not injured). This is going to chip off a little of Steve's pride, but our 5th day out paddling and portaging in the S-chain was the best. Steven attempting to roll the canoe onto his shoulders from the water: *WHAM*.  Attempt number two while walking up the slippery granite rocks:*WHUMP* on his knees again. Attempt number three: *THUMP*. It was like watching cartoons where the character slips on the banana peel, except it was live and with a real human.

16. Crisco and koolaid.  These were two of the major food groups on the trip. I can def say that I have consumed more of these two food stuffs in the last week than i have in my entire life. The lardy goodness is what made our filleted fish every night and the koolaid was an awesome idea to keep people from getting sick of pumping and drinking water all the time.  Although, i will admit but not recommend, using the koolaid to brush my teeth a few of the nights. Kind of an oxymoron.  I missed the last call for water. oops. But seriously, it cant get any better than minty grape.

17. You  get very used to being wet quickly.  During the 4-5hr paddle/portage sessions per day, it is very likely that at least 75% of your body is wet.  This means that your socks, shoes, undies, pants, and everything below the waist is wet. You then have no choice but to paddle harder or you will become chilly rather quickly. Don't worry the pruny hands and feet only last until  you get to camp and then you put on your other pair of wool socks that are covered in sticks, soot, and reek to high heaven. Its a win-win :)

18. Coffee tastes a crap ton better when it is perculated over a hot fire in the morning with breakfast than any starbucks out there.  I am a rather large coffee connoisseur and worked at a Caribou for a year, and there is still nothing that tastes better than waking up to the fresh smell of woods and slowly crawling towards the fire pit to go get your morning cup o joy.  Thank you "8'oclock coffee."

19. Mitch Hedberg and Patton Oswald are very useful companions to take along on an 8+hr car trip. There's no way around it, its a long car ride with 5 people in a Saturn VUE- these men help to distract and keep everyone's sense of humor fresh and light.

20. Nobody judges in Canada.  Some of the friendliest people out there are those woodspeople you meet while portaging.  We met a 65+yr old couple from Gainesville, FL who drove 2.5 days just to hit up the boundary waters, thats passion. Also, when you spend a week with the same 9 people nobody cares that your wear the same clothes everyday, reek to high heaven, or wash your hands in a lake before you eat dinner. You learn to embrace living in nature's bounty with one another.  The best part about vacationing in Canada is that there are no drama queens or pimp daddy whiners. Just a bunch of friendly folk who love the woods and fishing.

This is about my best attempt to relive a week in Canada in educational list form.  Its funny, because I still continue to see things that i learned last week be used into my reality life.  I use TP more sparingly in the bathroom, flex my sporty looking paddling pipes, and find myself spending more time outside just because I miss nature in full fledge. Overall, it was an amazing trip that I will not forget.  Joey and I would like to thank the Mode clan for the invite and incredible experience. Also, the Brus boys and Sam for adding to the good company and memories. The only thing i would change for next is that i learn to track a moose and then domesticate it for a practical house pet, but then again that is a big dream. Maybe next time :)

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