I often claim to be the most urban person in the world. It’s not that I actively hate the country but frankly if I could spend the rest of my life exploring the urban centres of the many great cities of the world (which often include some very nice parks) I’d probably be perfectly happy.

This comes from several factors. First, of all I’m pretty much allergic to everything in nature. I breathe clearer in smog than I do in the pollen-filled breezes of a mountain park. I’m also not keen on being bitten by mosquitoes, black flies and ticks. In a city, mostly I just have to avoid bedbugs, which to date I have. And then there are the bears, cougars, wolves and other assorted predators who, I’m pretty sure, would find me reasonably tasty. After all, I’ve been marinating for years.

Finally, I really hate sleeping on the ground. And I particularly hate sleeping on the ground when it is cold and wet and when the dawn chorus really does come at dawn and I’m forced to wake up and face another abysmal wilderness morning. Famously, on the very last camping trip I went on, while Liz was enjoying the birds and frogs etc. I rolled over and cried out – much I am sure to the disgust of fellow campers – Shut up! I’m trying to sleep. It actually worked for about 10 seconds.

Still, I am not without some sensibilities as to the pleasures of nature as long as they can be managed in a civilized way.

When I lived in Yellowknife, I had a 17 foot Kevlar canoe which was kept strapped to the top of our Honda Civic like some oversized hood ornament. If the forecast was good we would get up at dawn, having slept in out comfortable bed, and head for the Cameron River. Remember dawn comes at 3:30 a.m. so we were getting an early start. We would get in the river and paddle up to Cameron Falls for the only really hard portage of the day. After that we would stop for a nice breakfast, cooked over a camp stove on an island well away for the bug-infested banks.

Another few hours would take us a long way up the river with only a few short portages to get by some rapids. The Kevlar canoe was built for racing so basically one person could carry it though we usually shared the load.

By now we were a long way from the city and had views of eagles and muskrat and beaver. We even saw a wolf one time – again from the middle of the river. He eyed us speculatively but swimming would put him at a disadvantage and we had paddles. We would have lunch and supper – usually with a bottle of wine – and then would gently float back down the river, strap the canoe on the car and be back at home by sunset – which in the north was after 10 pm. So we got a full wilderness trip of over 15 hours and never had to sleep on the ground.

Now that’s camping.

And this is ten minutes.


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