Peggy Varner is a Canadian paddler, freelance writer, and communications professional with a blog about sea kayaking, paddling and perspective. Let's keep it vague (Vaag!) so we can see where it will go.
November is a transitional month in Canada when fall has to find its way to winter. November just can't make up its mind from one day to the next. And we fiddle with what gear to break out, or put away.
One day you're jogging with the dog in the fog on an urban trail.
The next day, you're kayaking in the rain and running into a thin sheet of ice on a mountain lake.
Then, wake up to over 20 centimetres (7 or 8 inches) of fresh snow.
This is November folly in Canada.
In the National Capital Region of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau, Quebec), cross-country skiing has already begun in Gatineau Park, Quebec.
November has finally made up its mind in Canada, it's winter!
It's not fun to retire the bike and difficult to put away the kayaks when November hits in Canada. But most of us do. November is a month of seasonal transition. It is hard on many people. Others embrace it. The cold North wind scares most of us into indoor training and overfeeding until the snow comes. I like that too. The overfeeding part is easy. The indoor workouts with equipment need music!
Yoga is always good, no matter what the season.
I thought it would be fun to winterize a couple of mountain bikes and hit some snow. Then I looked into what was involved with winter cycling. There's a lot to look out for with parts freezing, jamming up, and rusting with salt and slush. Then, add in the cost of snow tires.
Winter cycling takes a toll on a bike. Some road warriors are out there year round in Canada. It's a curiosity, a wonder, a joy, a mission, or perhaps a necessity.
Our bikes will rest in peace indoors for winter. But, until then, we can still enjoy that last blast of wind in our jackets before the snow and ice comes. If the wind is at your back, you'll fly. It's a great feeling. But watch out for the wicked wind chill at this time of year. It is amplified by the speed you travel. Where are my ear muffs!
If you like cycling along great waterways, you may enjoy my next story on The Great Waterway, a cool Ontario tourism website, where I'm a regular blogger.
The skis, snowshoes, and skates will break out for the upcoming winter season.
But, heading out with an awesome mountain bike outfitted with good snow tires on a sunny, winter day with some fresh snow on an easy trail still sounds like fun to me. Maybe I'll borrow someone else's bike . . .
Enjoy the seasons wherever you are.
No need to rub your eyes. This is what November looks like on a cold mountain lake in the Laurentians in Quebec, Canada when it rains and the sun sets way too early. It is a little blury, surreal, and foggy. The only colour to be seen is my bright yellow kayak and my red PFD. Everything else is a shade of grey or black.
Then at the nose of my kayak I suddenly hear crunch, crunch, crunch as we break through a thin sheet of black ice that I couldn't even see covering the shallow bay of the lake and we grind to a stop. It surprises me. It was 10 degrees Celsius (50F) with a light rain and hardly any wind. How could there be ice already, the air felt warm to me.
The water is so cold. It feels like a drink with too many ice cubes. It's my hands that notice. Not a good time of year to forget the gloves or mitts.
Yes, this is what November looks like . . . until the sun comes out.
Stay warm, dry, and safe.
I like being in or near the water. Rivers are always a challenge. If you don't know the river, you've got to research if you can paddle it, or scout it out on foot, by bike, or drive the route if a road follows it. There are currents, and the effect of wind direction and speed to think about, water temperature, and often dams and bridges, especially in urban areas. And other surprises which can be good or bad . . . a sandy beach? A fallen tree? Rocks?
Tidal rivers, like the Saguenay River off the St. Lawrence River, near Tadoussac, Quebec, or rivers prone to wind tides, like the Napanee River, in Ontario, add other challenges. It isn't always easy to find information about some of the rivers you want to paddle.
Because we did not know the Moira River, in Belleville, Ontario (Canada), with its mouth on Great Lake Ontario's Bay of Quinte, we left the kayaks parked, and decided to cycle it to scout it out.
We discovered theMoira Riverfront Trail, a very cool 4.4 kilometer (2.7 mile) long dedicated pathway (meaning no cars!) that runs parallel to the river.
In Belleville, the Moira River has visible current, rapids, shallows, rocks, several dams and bridges.
So this stretch of the river is better visited on foot or by bike. You can bring the doggie. The Moira Riverfront Trail is dog friendly, as long as dogs are on a leash and you stoop and scoop. Bring your own doggie bags. There are some receptacles for garbage and recycling along the way. Two thumbs up!
If you've got a fishing pole and are wondering what's biting, there are dedicated spots on some bridges for fishing. This is also probably a clue as to the best and most popular bridges to fish from.
There are gazebos and pergolas along the way. Perfect for striking a yoga pose. To me, they are Zen structures. I like to spend time in them.
Depending on the season, you'll see a heron or two taking flight . . . but you'll need a good zoom and fast shutter speed on your camera to catch the takeoff without a blurred image.
Cormorants air their wings on the dam booms.
You may even spot a snapping turtle or two along the path. In spring when they lay their eggs in sunny, sandy spots along the gravel sections of the trail, or in the late summer/early fall, when the baby snappers scramble out of the nests.
The Moira Riverfront Trail in Belleville, Ontario is one of my favourite urban cycling paths.But there's more . . . a cool lunch spot we found.Two thumbs up for the Moira Riverfront Trail and the lunch spot.
Watching a female snapping turtle while she was laying her eggs and burying the nest along an urban path was like stepping back in time. It was an odd feeling. Time stood still. Turtles take their time, and they have endured through the ages.
Her face was covered in sand, dirt, and gravel. I felt a bit sorry for her. Then I noticed her beady little eyes trained on me while she continued her methodical task. I wondered what she was thinking as I took pictures from a distance so as not to disturb her business at hand. She really had no choice. She couldn't stop now. This is a very vulnerable moment for a turtle, or any creature giving birth or laying eggs.
It was such an odd sight to come across a snapping turtle digging a nest and laying eggs as we were cycling along theMoira Riverfront Trail in Belleville, Ontario, Canada.
While she laid her eggs, her prehistoric-looking spiked tail was braced inside the nest to hold her up in the sandy hole she'd dug with her tough, wrinkly hind legs and clawed feet.
It was hard to believe she could cover the nest with soft sand using only those big clumsy hind-feet without damaging the delicate little eggs underneath. But she did, skillfully, carefully and slowly using her tail braced across the hole to elevate herself above the nest while she shifted her weight right and left and scooped sand over the eggs. Her tail is a very important tool! She used it the way we use a jack to elevate a car and change a tire.
When she finished covering her nest with soft sand and gravel she crawled a few inches away.
Then she collapsed and laid flat and motionless in the grass. You could see that she was completely spent. Her exhaustion was evident by the look in those beady little black eyes and by the way she lay.
She needed a few moments to rest before desending the little hill to the banks of the Moira River where she lived, a tributary of Great Lake Ontario in the Bay of Quinte, Belleville, Ontario, Canada.
As I look at the video I took of her, I wonder why were we so excited to see a big female snapping turtle laying her eggs along an urban path in June.
If we saw professional footage of a turtle laying eggs on a television program we wouldn't blink an eye. It's the awe and wonder of surprise that catches our breath when we come across something unplanned and unexpected and witness it as it naturally unfolds.
If you watch the video, you'll hear it in my voice. I'm not out of breath from cycling.
People keep making me stop to look at turtles. I never seem to find them on my own.
Uh, oh. What's next for me and turtles? So far I've missed everything in between. Mating season! Don't think I'd film that!
You may also enjoy my most popular Turtle story called . . . Turtles!
Have any of you seen this big blue ball bounding around on trails, crawling through caves, and making its way around other nooks and crannies that a car, bike, trolley, or even a snowmobile can't reach?
Google Trekker has been making its rounds across the world. And recently, it was spotted in Canada's 1000 Islands National Park.
Hello world! For three days, from August 20-22, 2013, Google Trekker visited the 1000 Islands National Park of Canada.
The views from Google Trekker around the world gives me chills of the best kind. It sure beats traditional Street View!
What is Google Trekker?
Google Trekker is a backpack-mounted, sophisticated camera system that captures 360-degree panoramic images. It weighs about 40 lbs and is worn by a Google operator who can leave the street and go anywhere a person can hike. It’s Google Maps Street View gone wild – I mean off-road.
Google Trekker needed a boat to get to the 1000 Islands trails on Camelot, McDonald, Mermaid, Beau Rivage islands, and more. I don't think you'd want to haul that 40 lbs pack and camera on a kayak!
For more information and pictures about Google Trekker in the 1000 Islands, my next story is up on The Great Waterway, a cool Ontario Tourism website where I've been a regular blogger for three years:
Credits: Special thanks to Parks Canada for providing me with information and images about Google Trekker in the 1000 Islands and other Canadian national parks and historic sites, and for answering my questions. Sophie Borcoman, is the Visitor Experience Manager for the 1000 Islands National Park of Canada and is the spokesperson for the Parks Canada project with Google in the 1000 Islands. Images courtesy of Parks Canada.
I love this question. I began thinking about it while cycling. I haven't cycled very much this summer, but why do I feel so strong and have so much cardio despite the heat and humidity?
Why do I feel more balanced? Why do my standing yoga poses (on land and in the studio) feel so much easier and grounded? I can hold them longer in comfort and relaxation.
Nothing hurts. My muscles are long and lean.
The only thing I did differently this year from past years was lots of SUP (Stand up Paddleboard). What I call "simple SUP". Just paddleboarding at a relaxed easy pace for an hour (or two) several times a week. Even 30 minutes feels good if that's all you've got time for, or if a thunderstorm rolls in and you have to get off the water.
The results of simple SUP, something I find just plain fun and easy, are amazing.
When one sport or practice informs another, they are complements to each other. Athletes call it cross-training.
When one sport or activity informs another, and improves your performance and feels good . . . where's your center?
It's in balance! There's harmony and good flow in your body and mind.
Enjoy the many benefits of SUP (Stand up Paddleboard)!
I wish you a safe, peaceful, and happy Labor Day holiday.
I'll admit, I've become a SUP (Stand up Paddleboard) junkie. I tried it last year for the first time in a group SUP lesson on a lake. This year we own two SUP boards, and I have introduced it to numerous people. So far, they all take to it within minutes.
I love to watch a new SUPer get on and listen to their reaction during the first trial, "Oui. C'est agreable comme sport!", "I like it!", "It's fun!", "It's tippy! I'm scared!". Then watch how quickly their balance and confidence improves in 15-30 minutes. And the smile grows bigger. Both for me and for them.
These are all things I've said and felt too. It's normal to feel off balance at first.
But, it's worth giving this emerging sport a try. While you're having fun, you're also getting toned with a good low-impact, core and cardio workout. And, all the little twitch muscles (muscle fibres) you never knew you had, are engaged as well. You may feel some of them the next day or so. There's so much you can do with a SUP. You hardly feel like you're working out, unless you're pushing it for speed in a race, or surfing hard with it.
SUP yoga has become popular. But I still prefer yoga on solid ground. It is hard to ground yourself into the Earth, when it's a few feet under water!
I even introduced SUP to the family dog. Now, I don't have the board to myself any more. She loves it too and jumps on the board before I even get on. When I try to sneak out by myself, the dog runs down the dock and whines for me to come back and get her. All 45 pounds of her. The extra weight on the board (she rides in front) gives me a good workout, and she is good company.
Our dog, a Border Collie, Australian Shepherd mix is smart, highly trainable, and has good balance. The soft steady beat of the SUP paddle and the gentle glide of the board on flat calm water relaxes and fascinates her. Waves, wakes, wind, and the ripple of the water make her curious and surprised and test her balance, just like mine. She may stand, sit or lay down on the board, or jump off for a swim - but, only when I invite her, or if we lose our balance and fall off. She wears a doggie PFD.
It's a lot of fun to SUP with friends, family, and even the dog. Or alone. I find that after about 15 minutes of SUP paddling, whatever I was hanging on to in my body and mind starts to let go. I can feel it. It's awesome.
The SUP crowd is quickly growing around the world. As a fan of outdoor sports, paddling, and yoga, it's more than perfect for me in the heat and calm of summer.
I just wish the ducks didn't like it too!
Enjoy the SUP, but please also respect the dangers that can come with any paddle sport and stay safe. Don't launch from docks and rocky shorelines standing up. I've seen this far too many times. And, I do wear a PFD (life jacket). Most people don't.
My next story is up about SUP on The Great Waterway, a cool Ontario tourism website where I'm a regular blogger, if you'd like to check it out.
Friend of all things YAK.
The biggest waters I've paddled on so far include the Atlantic off Acadia National Park-Maine, Veraderro-Cuba, the Saguenay River from Tadoussac, Quebec, Lake Superior's Apostle Islands off Bayfield, WI, Lake Ontario at Sandbanks, the St. Lawrence 1000 Islands off Gananoque- Ontario, the Pacific off Ventura, Calif. around one of the Channel Islands (Santa Cruz), the Caribbean off St. Martin. I want to get on the water in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and BC. I like little water too! BaffinPaddler@hotmail.com