The River

As we approach summer, here is a great read for those who long for outdoor living. In  “The River“, the story centres on two young men, Wynn and Jack, who have been best friends since their freshman year. They bonded with a similar curiosity and love for fishing, the mountains and camping.

Deciding to take a long wilderness canoe trip on the Maskwa River in northern Canada, the lads get themselves outfitted sparingly but wisely with the best quality equipment they will require during their adventure. Having done some canoeing myself, I loved reading about the gear they brought.. the utility of the cooking devices, the kind of sleeping bags and clothing, each piece chosen for the multi-faceted uses that would be required of them. They were able to live in a kind of sparse luxury. Even the food they brought was well-planned and intended to supplement a diet of fish and whatever other food that could be derived from nature.

At the outset, we find them living idyllically, paddling leisurely throughout the day and making camp as the sun ebbed. Books are a common denominator and they spend their leisure time discussing their favourite reads.

One day while out on the water, they smell smoke and as the day wears on, they come to understand that this smoke is the harbinger of peril for them. Knowing a massive forest fire is heading in their direction, they make the decision to run hard to their final destination. They try to warn a couple of Texan fisherman about the imminent danger but they drunkenly laugh it off.

The next day, en route, there is a commotion coming from the shore, the sounds of a couple arguing intensely. Making the decision not to interfere, Wynn and Jack keep a brisk paddling pace until making camp that evening. This is the part of the story when mayhem breaks out and the skills and intuitive sensibilities of these young men are tested to the limits.

Author Peter Heller’s research into forest fires, wildlife and survival training is what takes this fast-paced, well-written psychological thriller to the next level. I was absolutely glued to this book and felt emotionally spent at the end. I gave it 5 stars!!!

— Nancy C.

100 Nature Hot Spots

100  nature hot spots

Summer’s coming! (Or at least it’s supposed to be, but frankly I’m starting to wonder.)

So time to dream about and plan for summer vacations and outings. I’ve just checked out the book 100 Nature Hot Spots in Ontario by Chris Earley and Tracy C. Read and it’s jam packed with lots of cool places to visit.

I’m a nature fan, I think we should all be nature fans. It’s so beneficial—and healing, too — to take time out of our busy, stressful lives to immerse ourselves in nature. And we do our kids a huge favour when we introduce them to nature.

Some of the places listed in the book are favourites of mine. For instance, I love the Guelph arboretum. And there is something magical about Point Pelee, that long, long spit of land that narrows to a point. I’ve always wanted to visit Pelee Island as well, but haven’t made it yet (I’ll put in on a bucket list). Or a visit to the waterfalls in the Hamilton area (Felker’s Falls and Devil’s Punchbowl are listed in the book) makes for a great day’s outing. BTW, did you know there are about 100 waterfalls in the Hamilton area–amazing! I’ve also got a soft spot for the beaches of Prince Edward County (Sandbanks and Presqu’ile) as I grew up nearby.

But a couple of personal favourites didn’t make the cut. Like the Thousand Islands, a place that I absolutely love. And also Petroglyphs Provincial Park (near Peterborough) which has over 900 petroglyphs (First Nations rock carvings)–turtles, snakes, birds, humans and more. It is truly wondrous. (There is another Ontario site for petroglyphs that is listed in the book, though it has a much smaller number of them. That’s Bon Echo Provincial Park in eastern Ontario. I have seen those as well, they are well worth a look.)

So go ahead and have a look at this book. Then start planning some fun outings.

— Penny D.