Destination: Huntsville, Ontario (Home)
On our very last morning of our cross-Canada trip, we awoke to fog so thick we couldn’t see the surrounding islands from the dock. We assumed it would lift soon enough, so we gathered our belongings, packed up camp for the last time, and made our way to the canoe where it was waiting for us on the dock.
We hesitated a bit while waiting for the fog to lift, but we had a busy day planned and a tight schedule, and we still had a good chunk of battery on Christie’s phone, so we decided to go for it and let the GPS guide us. There weren’t any other boats on the water due to the lack of visibility, so we weren’t too worried about being collided with, though I can say it wasn’t the smartest decision we’d made on the trip. Indeed, a couple on a small yacht tried to encourage us to wait but we went ahead. Gordon Island disappeared behind us in a matter of moments, and we were deep in the mist with no landmarks or landscapes in sight. Navigating amidst islands and landmarks with a GPS is one thing – navigating completely blind and having to constantly readjust was quite a challenge.
Eventually the fog did lift. Soon we began to see outlines of trees, then houses, and soon we could see several islands ahead. Navigation became a joy and shortly thereafter the route was littered with the houses we’d seen on the way through the first time, and we didn’t need the map or phone at all.
We left the wilderness glad to be back on the mainland but so trilled about the success of our interior journey. There was a giant spider on my backpack that had hitched a ride, and it freaked us out to think it had been in the canoe with us all morning! We left it far from home, and packed up the car.
Christine did all the driving on the last day. The drive from Thousand Islands National Park to Barrie was a brutal one. The traffic was thick and infused with anger, and there was construction at every turn. A far cry from seamlessly navigating over water with the power of a paddle.
Our first stop was sushi in Barrie! We were so excited. The cheese and crackers had begun as a treat but after about 4 meals of it over three days, we were ready for some variety. We were only 1.5 hours from home at that point.
When we pulled into the restaurant, Christine noticed that the front driver’s side tire had a bulge in it like an egg. We entered the restaurant and while we were eating, Christine called her roadside assistance and we kept an eye out. The lunch was divine, something we’d been looking forward to for weeks.
The auto service showed up and we had to take all our gear out of the back of the car so we could get to her spare. We had bins and belongings piled high all alongside the curb, it was hilarious. On our last day, too! The tire got swapped without an issue and we were told we’d be fine to ride on the spare to Huntsville and then back to Keswick for my sister.
Our next stop was a tattoo shop in Barrie. We were getting matching tattoos! We were so thrilled about this, something to really cement our journey and complete the bond. We designed a very simple line art piece with two mountains, two waves, and a sun, and over that the artist would do a watercolour style smear of green, blue, orange, and purple. I was really annoyed with the male artists in the shop because they were so obnoxious, both to us and to the female artist doing our tattoos. It was difficult to feel comfortable back in that world after it seemed we’d spent so long outside it. Christine got her tattoo done first and then I did. They are beautiful and an awesome tribute to our journey.
On the way home, about to take the extremely familiar highways 400 and 11, we drove 80km an hour, as Christine was nervous about the spare. We actually took a wrong exit somewhere and ended up taking Old Barrie road, which was great because we had to slow down, but also because it maintained the sense that we were driving somewhere we hadn’t before, still on our roadtrip and not just taking the usual road.
For the remainder of the drive, Christine and I talked, sang along to music, and enjoyed stretches of silence as well. We arrived in Huntsville just before 8pm. It felt wild to look back over the day: waking up in thick mist, canoeing several kilometres, driving through a tangle of traffic, having an amazing meal, needing our tire changed, and getting tattoos. But it felt wild like that about the entire trip. All the places we’d been, everything we’d seen and experienced, all the hikes, and sites, and challenges, and the people we’d met… It was an amazing whirlwind and we were so proud of ourselves, and our bravery. But at the same time, we both knew no one would understand, except us, what this journey had done for us, how it had changed the way we related to ourselves and each other, how it changed the way we saw our country, and the world.
I learned about Christine and she learned about me – we both became better at being good to each other, at communicating, and asking for what we want and need. I learned that sometimes it’s okay to have a fork in the path, where one sits on the beach and the skies and the waves, and the other hikes up the mountain and pushes her limits. I learned that the most beautiful things are the most difficult to get to – but the everyday things are just as worthy of seeing. I learned that sisterhood is the most precious gift on the planet. I believe that, when it is healthy and good, it’s the most precious gift you can receive or give.
The lesson I had cemented, that I hope to carry with me always, is that I’m here on Earth for a reason, that I have gifts that are necessary to explore and make space for, but that it’s also okay to do things that are just for me. I’m the collection of my lessons and experiences, and my desires are worth honouring. I also know that our ability to thrive on this planet is limited by our greed, ignorance, false sense of helplessness, and the corruption of those in power – and that we have a responsibility to this absurdly beautiful and deeply precious place we call home. I learned gratitude for the gifts of the Earth, the help of strangers, the love of my sister, my own capacity and strength, and the sense of community that kept us company when we were far from home.
Road trip complete. 45 days. 20 000 kilometres. 3 islands. Challenges, triumphs, fears, failures, lessons, sisterhood, and love. Always.
Read through again, from the beginning!