I started what I would describe as pilgrimage many years ago on a road to a lake in Northwestern Ontario. The gravel road is perilous with tight turns, blind hills, washboards, pot holes, animals, and logging trucks traveling at high rates of speed.
Cracked windshields, forest fires, and occasional insect invasions have not deterred me from going back time and again.
Pressing the accelerator to get up the road makes no sense as each turn reveals a treasure which needs to be savored like the perfect sunset. The areas where logging has pared down the wood line reveal vast vistas, winding streams, small lakes, and plentiful wildlife. Time and nature will reclaim these views, which make these visions personal to only the few who happen by in this window of healing.
The Boreal forest with its rich contrasts of greens, browns, and grays keeps my focus while the sweet smell of burning pine from distant forest fires captivates more of my senses. In a deep new growth valley with a stream meandering at its base surely has to be the most beautiful scene anyone has ever witnessed.
From the crest of a high hill, I watched a rare red phase black bear with ivory claws, feverishly pulling at a rotted tree trunk in search of grubs for dinner. With a slight turn, I witnessed a cow moose with her calf standing knee deep in a small lake munching on its submerged bounty.
Once while hiking back to camp, a bit later than I would have liked, I was startled by a bull moose ambling down a hill twenty paces from me. We both paused for a moment staring at each other through the blackness, each trying to make sense of this encounter before both of us slowly faded away into the night.
In the pitch dark under a canopy of stars, I could hear an unnerving eerie deep drone, and my mind ran wild with scary possibilities. I found out later, this was the sound of night hawks swooping for insects, and I chuckled at my brief insecurity.
Many misty mornings I was treated by wood-thrush, warblers, and other song birds singing a chorus befitting this other world amphitheater.
In my kayak gliding across the lake, I could not help but appreciate water so clear that it felt as though I was floating in air. I could see many species of fish flee from the shadow of me as I slide silently over their world.
As I slip along the many rocky points and shorelines littered with driftwood, I came in close contact with woodland creatures that have not learned to fear humans. For those fleeting moments, we are equally bound in amazement with the sight of each other, permanently imprinting these visions forever.
I am content with the knowledge that when I pass on from this life and walk through the pearly gates, I will find myself hiking down that Canadian road.
(Photo of rocky point by the author, Gunner Lund.)