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A tale of two adventurers, not long from now

Weekend hikers and paddlers, your attention please.

I give you two scenarios: Sally and Sid.

Both have some serious bush cred as hikers and paddlers, which they have built up over the years, along with storage units full of gear designed to be as light, as compact, and as durable as possible. This gear is largely trimmed with neon; tangerine and lime green being the hot colours. They use this equipment to get as deep into the wilderness as they can for short periods of time. This makes them very happy.

Sally is slightly more intelligent. Sid will argue this point.

Exactly one year from today, they both set out from a central point in Orillia, intent on finding some silence and solitude in the woods. Sid is headed to Algonquin Park. Sally has decided to explore the newly created Black River Wildlands Nature Reserve.

Both throw loaded day-packs in their cars. Sally takes a few extra minutes to strap on a kayak.

Sid is away first. He hits Highway 11 with a smile on his face. Sure, the traffic is heavy as he slips into weekly migration moving north, but the day is perfect. Five minutes in, traffic slows to a crawl. He turns up the radio a notch. The traffic stops.

Sally takes a back road. Urban scenes give way to ripening crops which give way to woods. By the time Sid starts moving again, Sally is east of Washago and the road is shaded by big pines and hemlock. She turns her radio off.

Sally has decided to explore the newly created Black River Wildlands Nature Reserve.

Sid doesn’t have air-conditioning. More accurately, he doesn’t have air-conditioning that works, opting instead for a new tent that was a full 15 ounces lighter than his last one. This is an affliction many adventurers will recognize: good gear, lousy car. He`s rethinking that choice as the traffic slows to a crawl for a second time before he has crossed the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Sally arrives at the nature reserve, unloads her boat and launches from a spot that has been made accessible to the public by The Couchiching Conservancy.

Sid offers his middle finger to a guy in a Hummer who has cut him off near Gravenhurst just as the traffic is loosening up.

Sally paddles upstream a kilometre or so, scaring up a great blue heron and crossing paths with a family of otters.

The Hummer guy slams on his brakes. Sid tries to remember where he stowed the bear spray.

Sally can hear the Ragged Rapids for a while before she rounds a bend in the river and they rise before her. Good place for lunch, she thinks.

Sid has passed several fast food joints, but he doesn’t want to get off the highway, because daylight`s wasting.

 After lunch, Sally crosses to the south side of the river where she pulls up her kayak and sets out on a newly created trail that runs along the river. She`s not planning to do the full loop, just sample a bit of it today. It`s close enough to come up again tomorrow if she likes what she sees.

Sid pulls into the parking lot for his favourite trail at Algonquin Park. It`s full, but he works his way into a corner that isn’t meant for parking. For the first time that day he takes a deep gulp of pine-scented air.

Sally finds an eastern hog-nosed snake on the trail. It puffs itself up in defence, putting on a hell of a show. Sally is unmoved, so it finishes by flopping down and playing dead. She snaps a photo. Perfect way to end the day, she thinks happily, and heads home with a hint of rain in the air.

Sid steps onto the trail at Algonquin just as it starts to spit.

Weekend hikers and paddlers, I give you the campaign to protect the Black River Wildlands, a 730-acre tract with more than four kilometres of river running through it.

Right on your doorstep.

The Couchiching Conservancy is well over the half-way mark in its drive to raise the $575,000 required to preserve this beautiful place and we invite you to become part of it by donating today at www.couchichingconserv.ca.

Sally gets it.

One year from now, as Sid is making his way back from Algonquin in the dark, chaffing in soggy, but very light-weight pants, he might get it too.

We don’t just protect land for animals. We keep it close for people too.

 

You can help us protect the Black River Wildlands