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Algonquin Canoe Camping – October Wilderness Adventure

Algonquin Park – Ontario, CanadaIMG_0445

We planned a four-day canoe adventure into magnificent Algonquin Park… for my first experience canoeing we decided to keep the trip relatively short and we chose a route that was recommended for newbies as it plans for only 4-5 travel hours per day.  I think for my first time canoeing it was the perfect length, although I must admit I was a little reluctant to have to head back in after the four days were finished!!  With more experience it would be amazing to spend a week – or longer – in the park to have a chance to really explore the area!

Algonquin Park is incredibly stunning!  The park encompasses an expansive wilderness area that is full of small lakes, creeks, and waterways – making it ideal for canoeing, backpacking, and exploring the natural beauty without crowds, noise, light pollution and cellular data!

Sunday October 15th, 2017- DAY ONE:

We started out our canoeing adventure in CANOE LAKE and launched beside the Portage Store.  It was a windy morning with rain clouds heading our way, but we were optimistic and prepared for adventure and so we headed onto the lake despite the weather forecast!  We started making great progress as the wind was at our backs and helping to push us along… my sister-in-law told me that her mom says whenever paddling on CANOE LAKE you can expect to have the wind pushing against you no matter which direction you are headed – coming in or going out – and I felt that we were pretty fortunate to have the wind at our backs on this morning!

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BUT…. the wind continued to get stronger, the waves continued to grow larger and we got caught down an inlet where we did not want to be!  After only an hour of paddling we were beginning to consider docking and waiting out the wind for a while.  We attempted to get out of the inlet and around the point several times – now the wind was pushing against us and each time the canoe would get caught by the wind gusts and we’d get turned back around… we decided we did not have the skills to continue (and really did not want to end up capsized!) so we found a dock close by and pulled ashore to wait out the storm.  We docked just in time to get our gear covered before the heavy rain started and took shelter under an overhang of someone’s cabin.

To pass the time we decided to explore the land, and we found an old abandoned cabin!  This cabin provided great shelter from the wind and we had decided if the weather did not cooperate we would be okay bunking out there for the night if necessary…

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I remembered reading about the Tom Thomson Cairn and saw on our map that it was not far from where we had docked so I went in search of the Cairn.  I found it – and also met a couple people who were stranded just on the other side of the point where we had docked our canoe!  Their canoe had tipped due to the waves and they went in the water, swam to shore and now had a small fire going to try and warm up.  Sometimes life happens in mysterious ways, and I was thankful that I stumbled upon them and was able to offer some assistance to help them call for rescue … it also made me realize that we had made a very good choice to pull off the water when we did!

Once their rescue boat arrived, I headed back to the other side where our canoe was and the cabin where we were seeking shelter.  It started to downpour once again, so we made the decision at that time, that we would just lay out our tarp on the floor of the cabin and bunk there for night.  As the rain began to slow, we headed back towards the canoe and our gear with the intention of bringing our gear up to the cabin, when we looked out at the lake and discovered that the water had calmed, the wind had died down, and the lake appeared as still as glass!!!  We were so excited!  Back on the water we went, and we were able to continue to the end of CANOE LAKE to the portage point across the dam.

We headed into JOE LAKE, but by this time, it was late afternoon and the rain started up again.  We decided we had better find a campsite and get set up for the night.  We went to the first site available and found one on the island in JOE LAKE.  My sister-in-law started the fire – very impressive as it was both windy and rainy – while I set up the tent.  By the time we had our water boiled for dinner it was starting to get dark.  We ate as quickly as we could, and then went into the tent for the night.  This would be the coldest night of our trip!  NOTE TO FUTURE SELF:   invest in a good tent!  (the tent that I have – and brought for this trip – has a great venting system which is amazing in the summer… not so amazing in the cold weather as the vents cannot be closed to help retain heat!)

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Monday October 16th, 2017 – DAY TWO:

JOE LAKE:  we prepared breakfast at our campsite and started to pack up to continue along on our trip.  It was very cold on this morning… I even saw a few snowflakes while we were packing up!  Everything took us a little longer, as we’d have to stop to put our gloves on for a few minutes in between packing things up… but as the morning continued, the sun slowly began to come out and it started to warm up.

We continued North along JOE LAKE up into Tepee and then into Fawn Lake.  Here is where we had a wonderful surprise!!!  We rounded a corner and spotted a large moose feeding among the lily pads!  Absolutely AMAZING!!!!  We stopped to watch the bull for several minutes… and took lots of pictures!  Even though we were almost a day behind on our schedule, we didn’t really mind – we might not have seen the moose if everything had gone as planned the day before!  It was truly memorable seeing this large creature, just living life in its natural environment!

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We let the moose be, and continued paddling North into LITTLE DOE LAKE.  The sun was shining, the air had warmed, and it was turning into a beautiful day!  We leisurely paddled up the small waterway connecting LITTLE DOE to TOM THOMSON LAKE.  A beaver had been busy making a dam across the waterway and we assessed that we were not going to get across by canoeing, so we got out and lifted the canoe over the dam.  Once we arrived into TOM THOMSON we decided it was time to break for a late lunch.  We stopped at a campsite and prepared some water for our lunch.  Our feet were still wet from the morning (and the day before) and we spent an hour just soaking up the sun and drying out our shoes.  We had a look at our map, and decided that there was not enough time that day to get to the lake which was our ultimate destination for that day, so we decided we would spend the night in TOM THOMSON.

 

We found a great, South-facing campsite and set up our camp there.  Once again, my sister-in-law worked on the fire while I set up the tent, and we enjoyed our dinner with the warm sun still beating down – it was a beautiful evening.  It was quiet along the lake, and I am pretty sure we had the entire lake to ourselves that day!  That night I stole a glimpse of the night sky – the sky was clear and full of stars, and was absolutely breathtaking!!  You have never truly experienced a starry sky until you have witnessed one up North, and away from the light pollution of the cities!

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Tuesday October 17th, 2017 – DAY THREE:

I woke up as the sun was starting to rise on this morning, and witnessed the beautiful sunrise over the water… it was a peaceful morning.  The wind started to pick up as we were having breakfast and packing up our gear, but calmed a little as we headed away from our campsite and back along TOM THOMSON LAKE.  We headed back over the beaver dam and into LITTLE DOE LAKE.  Since we were a day behind schedule, we changed our itinerary and decided we would head through LITTLE DOE and across the 1140 portage into BURNT ISLAND LAKE (instead of portaging up to SUNBEAM, and then portaging down to BURNT ISLAND) – it would be a longer portage, but less of them and ultimately would take us less time.

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The paddle through LITTLE DOE LAKE was relatively calm, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning.  We arrived at our portage and decided we would walk our packs along first and then come back for the canoe.  It felt so good stretching out my legs; the hike was magnificent and I felt energized!  We took a break for a snack/lunch at the end of the portage route and decided we would find a campsite close by and get set up for the night.

 

 

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Our campsite was on a small island in BURNT ISLAND LAKE and we had the entire island to ourselves!  After getting set up, we still had a couple hours before dark.  The sun was shining and when there were breaks from the wind, it was quite warm!  I spent some time exploring the island, enjoying the view, and reflecting on our experiences.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy a beautiful sunset that evening, and as the weather was warmer, we stayed up a little later playing cards in the tent.  It was another clear night, and I was able to catch another glimpse of the starry sky after the sun went down.

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Wednesday October 18th, 2017 – DAY FOUR:

We woke up to a beautiful morning on BURNT ISLAND LAKE!!!  The weather was warm and the wind was calm… I started a fire for our breakfast and enjoyed the view of the morning fog gently lifting off the lake.

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Once we were all packed up, we headed back in our canoe, and back to the portage point – this time we would just be covering the small portage section to BABY JOE and from there we would be travelling into LITTLE JOE, then to JOE LAKE and finally back to CANOE LAKE to head back inland.  We took our time across the portage from BABY JOE to LITTLE JOE and checked out a running stream while hiking the portage trail.  The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm!!!  We couldn’t have asked for better weather that morning.

As we headed into JOE LAKE, the wind started to pick up and the paddling became more challenging… we worked hard to get across that lake!  We reached the portage point to get to CANOE LAKE, and took a little break.  My arms were pretty tired from the paddling along JOE and welcomed the break!!!  I remembered what my sister-in-law’s mom had said about CANOE LAKE working against you both ways, and prepared myself for what I was pretty sure would be a tough paddle out!

We took the right shoreline along CANOE LAKE to try and avoid the centre of the lake (to keep out of the waves as much as possible) and thankfully the wind started to settle down a little!  It was still windy, however we managed to get across without too many gusts and turned out to be a little easier paddling that JOE LAKE, which I was very thankful for!  By the time we reached the shore at the Portage Store, I was exhausted from the days paddling, but felt amazing that we had accomplished everything!

Throughout the trip, we endured heavy winds and rainfall, strong wind gusts, cold temperatures (mostly above 0, but did get to -1 the second morning!), and carrying heavy gear… we also were blessed with amazing experiences!!!!  Being able to help fellow travellers, being witness to a moose grazing in the lily pads, enjoying the sunrise and sunset, catching a glimpse of the night sky, feeling the warm sun and experiencing the natural world as it is meant to be enjoyed – off the grid!!!

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First 30k Around the Bay

April 3rd, 2016

This date marked a HUGE challenge for me and will remain one of those moments in time that I will not soon forget!  April 3rd 2016 – this was the day of the Around The Bay Road Race in Hamilton (and the day that I completed my FIRST EVER 30km race!)  Why is this such a big deal?  Well… it might not seem like a big deal to those of you who compete in races like this all the time – to those fantastic athletes who compete in marathons, triathlons and other sporting events (and whom I admire greatly!)  But for me and my own personal achievements, this marks a BIG DAY for me!

A friend of mine decided to register for the race (she said she wanted a BIG GOAL to work towards) and asked if I would join her – before this race, I had competed in numerous 5km runs and thought “what’s another 25km??” – so how could I say no?

I trained a little (by a little I mean that my training consisted of logging into my NIKE Run App and sometimes following the schedule outline by my “coach”) – and before I knew it, the day had arrived!

I showed up to the event, and thought I was ready to go (I had my iPod, earbuds, toque, and mitts… what else could I possible need?)  – THEN my friend asked… did I have any energy snacks with me??  did I take any Advil before coming?? did I eat a big supper full of CARBS last night??   Ummm – pourquoi?

… CLEARLY I was not quite as prepared as I thought!

We headed to the race start and found our place, near the back with all the other time-challenged runners (after all, our goal was mainly to complete the race!)  The gun went off… and the race had begun!!

We ran at a steady, casual pace and before long,we reached the 10km mark… things were going well!  The sun was shining, the cool crisp air was refreshing… and man did it ever feel great being out there!  (I feel I must mention at this point, that the longest I had ever run prior to this race was 8km…)

So… we continued on… 12km… 14km… 18km… and finally we reached 22km – at this point I recall my friend commenting that this was the farthest she had ever run!!  (I didn’t feel it necessary to mention that I had surpassed my longest run an hour ago!)… something else happened at this point – my music died.  Not a biggie if you are used to running without tunes (and sometimes I do!) however this lack of music was certainly not helping to increase my motivation!  The sun had disappeared… the air had gotten quite cold… the hills started… (so many hills!!!)  ….. I have to admit – THIS is the point where the REAL struggle began.  My body started to ache… my knee was throbbing… I truly feel that if it weren’t for my friend running alongside me, I am not sure if I would have made it!

This point in running… this is where the REAL commitment comes in – How committed am I to finishing this race?  What can I TRULY accomplish?  How badly do I want this?

The last 10km was a real struggle.  I remember as we got to the final 5km, and we finally reached the point where we saw the Grim Reaper (which I felt was rather fitting as it matched how I was feeling!!) – I remember a sense of overwhelming relief set in! … ALMOST THERE … I pushed on for those final few km’s (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”)

As we made our way into the stadium, and finally reached across that finish line, a strange combination of happiness, tears, joy, and relief came over me – it is an AMAZING feeling that is difficult to explain!  An overload of emotions – a sense of achievement, accomplishment and satisfaction – I DID IT!!!!!

That right there -that feeling when you finally cross the finish line – that makes it all worth it in the end 🙂

So this date marked the FIRST 30km run for me… I learned a lot from that experience.  I learned that it actually is beneficial to train properly for all kinds of reasons (especially to avoid injury!!  Did I mention I was limping for several days after the run?!!) and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

For a FIRST – it was an amazing experience and I am so grateful that I was able to share it with such a great friend.IMG_2100

First blog post

Welcome to Tara’s Fitness!  I created this site as a place to share some of my adventures in travel, fitness, and volunteering experiences!  In this site, you can find any tips that I learn and feel would be of benefit to share with others; new class formats and home workout routines; as well as my class schedules (if you live near me!)

Mostly what this blog will be used for is a place to share the beauty of the world as captured through photos while travelling, volunteering, and enjoying the fun and adventure of hiking, running, canoeing, and exploring! A place to capture life and a sort of living document to share my experiences.

My hope is that you, the reader, will find some inspiration that either motivates you to get out and enjoy nature and to get started on a fitness journey of your own, or encourages you to travel to someplace new, to explore the world in a different way, or to plan for your own adventure somewhere that you perhaps had never thought of travelling to before.

Enjoy 🙂

Finding your Fit-Groove

FINDING YOUR FIT-GROOVE:  Ever look at people who faithfully get up at the crack of dawn, head out down the road and appear to effortlessly run 10km before having their morning coffee, and wonder what their secret is?  Have you ever thought to yourself that the idea of getting up early sounds amazing (almost magical) – having the road all to yourself, enjoying the sun rise, the cool breeze in your hair as you jog in the brisk morning air – however the reality of getting up and out of bed before the sun just doesn’t seem to fit no matter how many times you set your alarm clock extra early?

Truth is – we are all different; we all have different internal clocks and the trick to setting -and maintaining! – a lasting workout regime is to find the time of day that works best for you!  Some of us are at our best in the early morning hours and are most motivated when we first wake up; some of us find our groove after slowly waking up, enjoying our morning breakfast and hot cup-of-joe; others are more motivated in the afternoon while some of us are night owls and can get our best workouts in at night… perhaps even outside under the stars 🙂

Once you figure out what time of day is best for you, you will have a much greater chance at sticking to your workout schedule!

The same can be said for finding a workout style that fits your goals and one that you can be excited about doing!  If you haven’t found something you LOVE yet – then keep searching!  There’s nothing harder than trying to get motivated for a workout when you don’t enjoy doing it!  And there are literally thousands out there… everything from dance, to Yoga, to simple burpees, push-ups, and planks!  There is running (road running, trail running, endurance running, sprint running…), there is swimming, cycling (off road, mountain-biking, street riding…), there’s sports and group fitness classes… programs you can do from home, and gym memberships you can join – My point is, there is something out there for EVERYONE – the trick is just in finding ones that are right for you!

Once you’ve found a workout style or two that you can LOVE and get excited about you will find it gets much easier to schedule it into your day!  And once you’ve discovered your peak time of day for getting those workouts in, you’ll soon be flowing into a routine and getting into your fit-groove!

FINDING YOUR FIT-GROOVE can take some time, but once you get it, it will start to become part of your life and will help you to create a healthy lifestyle change – and the benefits to that are endless 🙂