Women. In. Wilderness.

Usually, when you need to just get away with your besties, most women book themselves into the spa to indulge in body wraps, side-by-side pedicures and to chit-chat by the pool while sipping wine. A ladies retreat, where you come out scrubbed, polished and relaxed.

Sounds lovely, but let’s do a reality check here.

I live in Sioux Lookout.

“Where!?”, you ask.

Ah yes, let me tell you. It’s in the middle of nowhere, just a few hours from nowhere and just north of nowhere. Let me show you:

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We have two restaurants that are occasionally open and that’s about it. No mall, no public pool, no private gym and certainly no spa . Our only fast-food option is Tim Hortons and our only bar is the Legion. There isn’t one singular stoplight in our whole town. It’s that tiny.

If you want your legs waxed or a facial, well, that’s just a short 4.5 hour drive east to Thunder Bay or a quick 5 hour jaunt west to Winnipeg. Take your pick.

So, when it comes to getaway options for my girlfriends and I, there is only one obvious choice. Backcountry canoeing – because if you paid attention to the map at the beginning of this post, you’d see that where Sioux Lookout lacks in amenities, it sure makes up for in the number of lakes. We absolutely live in the heart of paddling paradise.

While spending precious vacation time in the backwoods of Northwestern Ontario isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, thankfully, it is mine! And even more astonishing is, that battling headwinds, bugs and blazing sun is actually the stuff that my best girlfriends’ dreams are made of. In this tiny town in the heart of nowhere, I have found my soulmates.

You may recall last year, out of desperation to have a little slice of kid-free, work-free time to myself, I convinced three of my best friends to go on a mini-canoe trip.Β On our last day, as we paddled home, we promised each other that we would make this an annual event. Just us ladies – no kids, no partners – each summer.

With busy schedules, growing families, new partners and endless other commitments, I had my doubts that our Women in the Wilderness 2018 trip would come to fruition. But, with months of planning, we miraculously aligned our schedules and even found two new recruits!

After a wine-fuelled planning meeting that involved a conference call to our dear friend Cat in Masset, Haida Gwaii, we had nailed down our route and completed a menu and grocery list that mostly involved more wine and lots of chocolate. After a day of packing and sorting gear, we were set.

With canoes strapped onto the vehicles, we bombed out of town and drove an hour down a remote highway and eventually along an old railroad track, further and further into the bush. We unloaded the boats and got on the water and were on our way!

The next four days were full of swimming, sunbathing, dutch blitz, charades, skinny-dipping, relay races, camping Olympics, heart-to-heart conversations, tears and many, many laughs.

We paddled hard into headwinds, survived vicious ankle-biting bugs, lifted each other’s spirits when the going got tough and pretty much kicked ass in the teamwork department on the portage trail. We gorged ourselves on excessive amounts of summer sausage, wine and chocolate and generally had the time of our lives.

There is just something so unique and awesome about an all-woman trip. No stress, no regard to physical appearance, seamless synergy. It’s magic.

So here is to my fierce, strong, bad-ass paddling buddies! Can’t wait for next July!

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Pre-Trip: Packing!

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Canoe trip shopping with Auntie, Henry and Alice!
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Our treat post-shopping – fresh muffins and steamed milk
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Aren’t they perfect angels!? Just quietly playing a lovely, civilized game of chess! HA! I wish. 2 seconds after this picture was taken, there were chess pieces everywhere πŸ™‚
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Packing extravaganza

Day 1: Off we go!

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Megan and I

 

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Katrina & Meghan
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Still happy despite crazy headwinds.
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Powerhouse paddler Lizzie
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Epic.
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Katrina & Megan
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Finally a break for lunch after a brutal few hours of paddling in crazy winds.
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The second we arrived at our campsite, we jumped in the lake. Hurray! We made it!
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The best feeling.
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Camp priorities – boxed wine and a good fire.
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Ah yes, Dr. Bollinger, tell us all of your wise yarns.
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Apres-dinner charades.
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Beauty.

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Haha Meghan.
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“Live every day like it’s your last”
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Lizzie – the best group hydrator. Thanks for keeping our Nalgenes full and our kidneys happy!
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Duuuuuuuutch Blitz. Endless games of Dutch Blitz.

 

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More charades, with an extra element of difficulty – why not act out Blueberry Bert with a sheet over your head?!
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A totally normal thing to do πŸ™‚

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Day 2: You can get so much done when you wake up at 5am!

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Due to the high winds the day previous, we woke up at 5am, and were on the water by 6am to avoid another day of headwind paddling. Thankfully we were blessed with a beautiful, calm morning!
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Map check! Navigation consultation.

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Meghan and I

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Moose spotting!

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Katrina’s first moose!

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So excited about the moose πŸ™‚
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After a difficult portage later that morning, we immediately stopped for a full breakfast of eggs, bacon and coffee. We had gotten to our 2nd day’s campsite before noon that day since we had started so early and had powered through the portage. As the site was TERRIBLE. We ate breakfast and decided to keep paddling with the intention of doing a DOUBLE DAY! Effectively, we covered Day 2 and 3’s kilometers in one day.
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What are friends for if not for massages?!

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Having a rest.

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Lizzie & Cat
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After lunch, the wind picked up again but thankfully, it was in a favourable direction for once! Wahoooo for tailwinds!
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Sailing in the background.
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After a loooooong day of paddling, we reached our campsite with relief. It was a beauty spot with great swimming rocks. Unfortunately, it was also OVERRUN with the WORST ankle-biter a$$-hole flies. When they bite, they don’t itch, but are actually SO painful!
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Due to the flies, bug suit fashion was necessary.Β  After many, many years of outdoor pursuits, even I was losing my mind with the flies. You basically had to be either in the water or in your tent to save your sanity!

 

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Life jacket diapers! The only way to leisurely lounge in the water away from the flies.

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Katrina…?!
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Amazing Cat preparing dessert. Muffin batter in orange peel muffin ‘tins’…
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Which she then slaved over in the fire to bake to perfection.
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Yum!

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Yes, besides massages, on girls’ trips, we also do each other’s hair πŸ™‚

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Night, night!

Day 3: Rest Day!

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The next morning, we immediately packed up and headed out to find a new campsite that wasn’t bug-infested. Thankfully, we found a gorgeous spot on an island with NO BUGS!! Thank goodness.

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The kitchen.
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The bedroom.
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First priority – breakfast! Chocolate chip pancakes – delish.
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Our fearless leader cooking up a storm.
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After breakfast, a whole arduous day of lounging ensued.
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With much time spent swimming and lounging in the water.

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We also created, practiced and ‘performed’ an entire syncrhonized swimming routine to Shania Twain’s “It Looks Like We Made It”. I know. We’re weird.

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Ultimate relaxing pose.
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So much stress. So many tasks on my mind that I have to get done. So many emails to answer. So much laundry to fold. So much meal prep to complete for hungry mouths… HA! Not today!
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The best.
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Hunting for leeches for fishing πŸ™‚
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Gunnel bobbing.
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Time for lunch! Such a hard day!
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Who’s the kid in this picture!? hahah Check out Lizzie’s lovely array of veggies, hummus and sandwich paired with a glass of vino compared to my charred mess of a grilled cheese!

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More relaxing.
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After we had achieved maximum relaxation, we began the campsite games. This one is called pinecones πŸ™‚
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Basically your partner has to direct you, while you’re blindfolded, to find a pinecone on the ground and successfully hit your opponent three times before they do the same!

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Winding up hard for the strike!
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Noooo! Trying to avoid a direct hit!
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It was hilarious. We then did a series of relay races that involved combinations of more blindfolded maneuvers, three-legged races, wheelbarrow races, spinning around a ‘baseball bat’ and generally acting like we were back in summer camp!
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Post-camping Olympics. Dinner time! Then more Dutch Blitz, hanging out and s’mores until the craziest number of mosquitos that I have EVER seen descended upon us and forced us into the tents.

 

Day 4: The last day 😦 so sad.

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We woke again at 5am to threatening skies and thunder. We allowed it to pass before heading onto the water, but after less than an hour of paddling, out of nowhere, we were caught in another thunder and lightening storm that forced us to shore in pelting rain.
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It’s a wet one!
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Running to take cover!
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Chilling out under a tarp waiting for the storm to pass. Of course, we played games to pass the time. Remember ‘Stella-ella-ola, clap, clap, clap”?! Oh yes, we played that one! We also played murder wink, directed by our games coordinator, Meghan Wilson.
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Weathering the storm!

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Assessing the skies.
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Should we make a go for it?!
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Thankfully, the skies cleared into a GORGEOUS, bluebird day!
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Meghan powering the bow of our boat.
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Those goof-balls.
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Megan and Cat expertly running the rapids at our final portage.
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They’re bad ass and so strong, that they weren’t aware of their own power. Cat shattered her paddle with the draw stroke of the century while playing in the rapids πŸ™‚Β 
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RIP paddle.
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This conversation ensued. “Hey, who has the extra paddle?”, “What extra paddle?”, “Didn’t you grab and extra paddle?”, “Uhhhh, no, didn’t you?!”. Ahhhh, shit.
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Cat, always fishing.
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More hair-braiding.
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Group shot!
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Snacktime.

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Thankfully, we were so close to our take-out and only had a short paddle to go. I paddled with Katrina and Meghan, while Megan soloed like a boss. She’s amazing.
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After getting back to town, before we unpacked and faced reality, we stopped for ice cream. Sitting on the curb at the Wellington. I’m sure people thought we were such grubs. Thankfully it’s just Sioux Lookout, so who the hell cares!!
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Oh yeah!
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The best paddling a girl could ever ask for. Thanks for the adventures ladies! xoxo

 

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