I’ve had two distinct golden ages of walking: one was during undergrad, when I explored the trails around Nipissing and North Bay listening to Teaching Company lectures, and the other seems to be right now.  I’ve been at my family’s cottage since last autumn and through the winter, with walking being a critical part of my lifestyle: the grocery store is a six kilometre round trip, and is a very boring route, so I’ve taken to adding variety by hiking the trails near Brechin and Lagoon City to get there.  This typically entails detours of another four to eight kilometres, often in completely the wrong direction.  The bush here is swampy and beautiful, riddled with nicely-maintained ATV roads and a raised, straight strip of land that used to be a railroad line, handily cutting across the wetlands in slow, stately dereliction.  The bugs, which can be monstrous during the summer because of all the standing water, haven’t yet appeared, so the walks are essentially perfect.

I’ve semi-intentionally developed some feedback loops which support my daily excursions.  I need groceries regularly because of my eating and drinking habit, but I dislike carrying heavy bags down three kilometres of straight country road, so I make light trips every two days or so.  The exercise typically leaves me unhungry and buzzing, so I don’t over-shop when I go.  I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I walk, which I try to ration specifically for the purpose, adding to the appeal in general and making the prospect of actually getting up and going out more inviting than it might otherwise be.  All of this has grown into a habit that actually makes me cranky and restless when I miss a day, and particularly good books mean I’m incentivized to stay out longer and walk further.  My regular routes are now about twelve to fourteen kilometres each day, about a third of which is over roughish terrain.  It feels fantastic.

What’s been really exciting lately is the return of hibernating and migratory animals as the weather warms up.  A couple days ago, there was an explosion of mating red admiral butterflies that’s still going strong—enough that they regularly crash into me and occasionally land on my jacket while I’m passing through.  There are Canada geese with fuzzy babies in adorable profusion: walking along the undeveloped side of the canal system that crenellates Lagoon City like sulci, I saw three families all at once.  The region is ravaged by beavers too, one of which swam alongside me at walking pace the other day for several uncanny, contemplative minutes.  Blue herons and enormous, motorcycle-engine wild turkeys explode out of the undergrowth along the path regularly: the former lend the rest of the walk a sort of exotic prehistoricism after I watch them very slowly swim through the naked trunks and branches of the drowned trees and diminish unconcernedly into the distance; the latter scare the shit out of me and make me jump around and scream for a while.  Yesterday, I saw turtles for the first time here: three the size of compact discs, shaped like perfect skipping stones seeing to play with each other in complex acrobatic tumbles and whirls in the deep, clear, slow-moving stream, and one great saurian thing with a shell more than a foot and a half in diameter, its plated stegosaurus tail lolling behind it, luxuriating in the sunny mud.  For a quarter of an hour I stayed about a metre away and watched it breathe while I gradually came to understand that I was sitting in nettles.

I’m very happy.

You come too.


P.S.: As enticement, I’ve discovered something sensational and human-made in the woods that I desperately want to show people, but I’m not telling what it is.  Toronto friends, you should make arrangements to visit before the bugs come out.

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