I can see the Canadian Rocky mountains from my window. As I sit here and reflect, I can feel the chill in the air and smell the freshness of snow, yet I long to be elsewhere. Those towering mountains are both breathtaking and beautiful, yet I know when I get closer to them I will see the hundreds of people, hear the sounds of screaming children, and they will lose some of their beauty. I long for the silence of Northeastern Ontario, the vast emptiness of the land, the dark skies that teem full of stars. I want that.
“You are so lucky to live in the West”, I hear all the time from my friends, my family; yet I sometimes wish I could trade places with them, feel the crunch of the leaves during the long fall seasons underneath my feet and soak in the hot sun in the summers.
It is easy to take advantage of the emptiness found in Northeastern Ontario – enjoy being the lone camper at the campground, the only canoe paddling through the still water. The solitude brings forth the creativity and inspiration I so desperately seek. The lack of people, the lack of distractions found here, makes you think deeper, harder about life. Backcountry canoe trips where days are spent not seeing a soul and coming across such diverse landscapes are what inspires us to come back year after year. Time spent only in the company of wildlife and myself make for incredible memories.
I long for the old-growth pine forests in Temagami, towering above the lakes and casting off the utmost incredible reflections. There is something about the tall trees that make it feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairytale, and other than the scamper of squirrels and the chirping of birds, you are met with only silence and beauty.
Manitoulin Island beckons to me with its fresh air, along with unbroken trails in the wintertime that are perfect for snowshoeing. In the summertime, Misery Bay is deserted, a hidden gem on the south shore of the island where the waters of Lake Huron sparkle in the sunlight, inviting swimmers into its warm water where it seems to go on forever. Spending hours exploring the trails and boardwalks, along with discovering so many species of birds, have been many perfect summer days.
Some of my best memories are in Northeastern Ontario, spending weekends along the French River while sipping on cold brews and playing a good old game of euchre. Sleeping outside on the porch of cabins while bats zigzagged through the air and mosquitos buzzed in my ears meant I was home. While they were once a bother, I get excited to see a mosquito in Alberta, a reminder of the good times.
The changing of the seasons is perhaps what I miss most, though: the bright red and orange leaves that dot the landscapes, the rolling hills of green grass in the spring, and the long hot summers. The seasons change here in an instant; one moment it's summer and the next snow is upon us. I long for fall, for the pumpkin patches, the cornfields, and sweater weather. Longingly I flick through photo after photo of my time spent in Northeastern Ontario, from the sparkling blue lakes to the towering forests.
Out here in the west, I feel obliged to climb higher, summit mountains, and learn to snowboard. Gone are the days when a hike meant a flat trail with some small hills that leads to a waterfall; instead I must learn avalanche survival techniques and push myself to reach the tops of mountains. I yearn for long walks through the forests, alas without bear spray, and where no one cares about summiting a mountain.
I think what I long for most, though, is the people in Northeastern Ontario: the funny and humble ones who embrace the snowy winter days, teach their young ones how to hunt and fish, and can be described as rugged, yet completely hospitable. You can find them snowmobiling down uncleared roads to help out their neighbours, chopping wood in the backyard to fuel their fireplaces and inviting a stranger in for a hot cup of coffee, or a cold beer. I miss the stories about "back in the day," when they had to trudge through five feet of snow just to get to school; I miss the thrill of learning how to fire my first shotgun, and I miss the smell of the snowmobile when it first fires up.
Perhaps though, longing for all of this is what makes it so special. The memories, the stories, those will be with me wherever I live. And for that, I am forever grateful to the landscapes, the people, and the experiences I had in Northeastern Ontario.