some of the information on this page is reiterated again elsewhere, but this is my story and my storytelling...an introduction.
Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe. -Anatole France
Wandering reminds you to be real. You lose sight of silly first world problems as your concern invariably becomes the substantive parts of life. Food, shelter from elements and drinking water. Everything else becomes kind of frivolous. The news on the CBC, asinine. Being a human in that moment is how we are meant to be.
You recognize the foolhardiness of our man made shelters, and are reminded of the brutality of nature.
You are responsible for you. Your choices are yours alone when there is no one else to rely upon or to judge you. Swaraj. It is freedom. Genuine freedom.
ONCE UPON A TIME
About me…I’m an artist, who’s built my life around my creative spirit. My career as an artist would never be a choice someone would make who was motivated by money…good thing that’s not me. I’m a free spirit who tries, and mostly succeeds at living in the ‘right now’. I’m a guy who grew up in the city living in Toronto’s punk scene in the '80s. A risk-taker, my life is full of fascinating and entertaining anecdotes, (and some really dark shit) and I earnestly hope my wake is entertaining.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. –Mark Twain
One day I was thinking of dying, and how people regret what they’ve never done…I didn’t drive, so other than bombing through in a passenger seat, I’d barely seen Ontario never mind Canada. I didn’t want that to be a regret.
One of my misadventures landed me in Vancouver and when I returned to Toronto I left all my belongings in a storage locker. I'd made plans to drive across the country, camping and pick it all up with a female friend. One of the best decisions of my life as an unpleasant experience evolved into something great. Not the first time something grotesque became something magnificent and hopefully not the last. Like a caterpillar in its cocoon, my life sprouted wings.
I flew to Toronto, hooked up with the girl, Tracy, I’d been friendly with. Bought a tent and a few camping supplies and loaded up her Land Rover. I wish I could just say we were great at making camp off the go but nope, there was a steep and necessary learning curve. She’d travelled the world before, living abroad. It hadn’t even begun preparing her for this, and even though I camped with my folks as a kid and hitchhiked Ontario between cities. I wasn’t ready either.
Our first night at a campsite probably took us over an hour to set up; it was pretty bad…A girl pulled into the adjacent site and had her camp pitched and a cheerful fire started in 10 minutes’ solo. That would be us in a couple of weeks but not yet.
Someone took pity on us, who’d witnessed our feeble attempts, and went so far as to leave a square of white birch bark on our firewood the next morning. People can be pretty cool, and I learned how great birch was for fire starting. It will burn wet due to its natural oils, so collect pieces washed up on shore or from fallen trees as you go. It’ll save you from having to skin live trees.
It’s absurd watching people who are starting now, trying to be surreptitious making themselves obvious. It causes me to recollect how we were incredibly nervous at first, in spite of bold plans to rough it we stayed in maintained parks, etc., but by the end, we’d pull in behind any grassy knoll for a free campsite. Still, we didn’t do much exploring…
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things. -Henry Miller
Even then, there was another life-changing moment, the next evolution of self, as we rolled over a hill in northern Ontario, I’d heard of people crying because something was so beautiful it genuinely moved them. I thought it sounded like crossed emotional wires until it happened to me, like some weird inappropriate response that a lunatic or extremely stressed people might have during a breakdown.
THE SPLENDOR OF VISION AND VENERATION
The sun was sinking on the hills and the greens of the tree looked so alive. The clouds were light wisps and the water was twinkling like glittering stars on a blue sheet off to the side…I cried, but not like a little bitch but in exultation. I changed again. A spiritual metamorphosis as I basked in the extraordinary beauty of it all and tears poured down my cheeks.
Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind. –Seneca
Fast forward a few years…
Another female friend hauled me to a large parking lot and started teaching me to drive. I was in my forties and terrified. I was always intimidated to drive and had never before been motivated enough to amend that. I got my beginner's driver’s license and bought an RV, but that’s a separate nightmare. I sold that and went to Mexico for a few months instead. I returned and bought a little 2003 Matrix I will talk about later. The car I still use to camp today.
DISCOVER THINE OWN SELF.
Learning to spend time alone is so empowering you can’t imagine. Don’t get it wrong, locals ordinarily know about the spots you’re going to find, so running into a few people on a balmy day is the least you can expect. But, and this is huge, your conversations will be generally shallow and have next to no emotional weight or context. You walk away and forget their names. There are exceptions; I met a man who’d collapsed on a beach as a result of his chemotherapy. We discussed spirituality and beauty when I stopped to offer a hand. I didn’t learn anything but that we shared a view of the world. I guess I’d found a short cut to what he was seeking because I didn’t wait until I was dying. It too inspires me.
Nevertheless, it’s a gift to yourself and learning to be quiet inside is addictive…its turning off that little voice that makes you wonder what else is going on with another thought, ‘where would I rather be?’ and I assure you there’s so much to find, that answer will be, ‘nowhere.’ Honestly, it takes a couple of days before I settle down that voice.
Not until we are lost, do we begin to understand ourselves? -Henry David Thoreau
I love to be by the water; you’ll see that by my photographs, and I feel safe. My heart ‘bears can’t swim’…my brain ‘of course they can’ and the heart wins out. The ions released into the air combined with the overlapping rhythm of the waves are so soothing when I’m falling asleep. You can drink right out of Lake Superior (although I boil the water when I run out of the 20 gallons of potable water I carry in my car in with my gear). It’s such an exalted all-encompassing feeling for me to be around the pristine waters.
You discover other little pleasures that make these moments worth living, small discoveries in the passings of time. Washing your dishes in the lake and the minnows swarm in for the Instant Oatmeal, and the light tickling as they settle on and brush up against your feet. Sitting motionless and seeing almost microscopic insects moulting or hunting each other. Seeing a Pike an inch and a half long eat another minnow, two thirds his size. A huge Dinosaur of a snapping turtle who was afraid of nothing, basking. Fields of Flowers all facing the sun and soundtracks you overhear playing at stores. Butterflies swarming in a field. I’ve even been wakened in my car surrounded by a pack of wolves. Chased a wolverine with my camera trying to get his picture in my flip flops. Looking at the stars misting behind the stars serves to remind us how small we are and really, how little we matter…it’s liberating. Just take in these moments as pure joy in the individual experience.
The primary expense is the gasoline and my cigarettes (okay and frequent Timmy’s stops, three cream one sugar). You’d think exploring would add up, but really, driving 30 miles in a whole day makes it nominal. It’s the 700 kms or so I drive to get away that costs. The other cool thing is my cigarettes, up on the North Shore I’ve bought Large King Size for $61 a carton so even my smoking habit is cheaper. The local Indigenous dispensaries also sell edibles so of course, I eagerly take advantage of those.
When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. -DH Lawrence
Exploring is how I discover cool places to hang out at or camp over at.
Streets named Beach, such as Harmony Beach rd. or Huron Beach rd. are always worth a few minutes to drive down and properly explore.
Carefully looking at a map and seeing water right to the edge of the highway when you can see the beach with your own eyes? That's crown land and great to use.
For sale, Four Beach Front Lots, with an arrow pointed right down the road…nifty.
Periodically brazenness pays off too, I’ve camped out on a few properties during the weekdays or after labour day since most of them are empty anyway. They never even know I was there, like anywhere I camp, and it suffices when I’m in desperate need.
Or you can straight-up ask locals if they think anyone will mind you camping over, Canadians are genuinely that nice, trust me.
Some Provincial Beaches on the Great Lakes have boundary signs on the edges, and unless they abut a private property you can camp just outside of those markers.
Around both sides of Lake Superior’s Provincial Park every third driveway there is an unmaintained Camping location. Just go look, what’s the worst that happens…dogs bark, people wave? What do you really have to lose?
Creative thinking worked for me on a trip to BC. I discovered a darkness sanctuary that was meant to be used for astronomic viewing. When security arrived to close up at 9-9:30 I told him I was there to view a meteor shower. There wasn’t one as far as I knew. I spent five pleasant days there on the way in and three on the way out…it was conveniently located a five-minute drive from an awesome beach.
Sheer audacity has worked for me as well; I slept on a hill on Sunset Beach Vancouver in plain view, knowing that with the rampant drug culture everyone would assume I was just another junkie. The considerable amounts of drugs I used over that course of time, they would have been pretty close to right too. Good times.
I’ve also woken up to an entire music festival set up around me. Drugs are extraordinary adventures in themselves sometimes. I DON’T do drugs and drive, so I always plan on sticking around when I do them. I packed up that day and left the ordinary people behind with their peach festival, but trust me I’ve found some cool small-town festivals too.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Victoria has a great policy; you can set up your tent in any city park after dark and no mosquitoes. Seriously it is genuinely like the antithesis of Manitoba and the squadrons of vampire monsters sucking your precious blood there. I passed the Manitoba sign on the TransCanada for the second time and I popped an anti-histamine…No shit. But this is more about tripping around the Great Lakes, the most spectacular stretch of Canada.
No motorized vehicles beyond this point is also an invitation to explore, I’ve discovered beautiful places.
I’ve also tripped over abandoned campgrounds that haven’t been maintained in years and developed campgrounds with no gate ergo no payable fee, but someone maintained the grounds.
Once you’ve properly established a camp as a base, it’s painless to branch out and explore locally, knowing you can just come back.
I’ve even slept inside of band shelters on a stormy night or kid’s jungle gyms at city beach fronts.
No overnight camping signs often means I’ll enjoy the beach to myself that night. Frequently municipalities put these signs by crown land trying to imply ownership. Being informed by current crown land maps pays off if you’ll assert your rights.
As a bonus, if someone else does try to camp and I genuinely want the beach to myself I walk around with my flashlight for a bit and they bail. It’s most likely not the kindest act but the fulfillment of self matters to me as well.
A lot of these places aren’t in the map books, but with a GPS that you can pick up for $20 at a pawn shop, you can accumulate your catalogue of co-ordinates, of places worth seeing again. You won’t regret it and a lot of places your cell phone will be useless, invest the money…it's peanuts.
THREE PATHS TO WISDOM
Another necessity has been my CAA membership. I’ve needed boosts, tows, ditch extractions had my battery swapped out on site, etc., etc. This is an expense that you NEED to accommodate and you can trust this as a truth or an inevitable lesson. There are three paths to wisdom according to Confucius, imitation which is the easiest, introspection which is the noblest and experience which is the bitterest… Don’t wind up bitter.
My cell phone is my life soundtrack, six and a half precious hours plus of excellent music and I listen to it endlessly. Second, it’s my portable camera. I mean I own two nice cameras, but they take forever to set up and about a minute to boot up anyway, the local wildlife just never cooperates that long, and my phone is usually right there in my pocket. Its turned on anyway. Convenience inevitably seems to win with me.
Third, it is an outlet for me to reach my social media pages and start to produce a catalogue of pictures to share with my friends. Those same photos constitute the foundation of these writings, even though some of those phones and memory cards are long gone. It’s not these mundane words, or the font I selected that got you interested in reading this, was it?
Fourth, it is a research tool for finding places worth seeing or identifying fauna and flora that I trip over…knowledge is power if you have reception and data.
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. -Benjamin Disraeli
Finally, I wield it as a phone. My mom and friends, fortunately, miss me, and sometimes I miss them.
Another thing you’ll recognize is my camping is relatively minimal, with no air mattress, compact car, simple to prepare foods. Nothing too frivolous, just the basics.
I have rolls of toilet paper stashed in a few places that are easy to reach and a short spade for digging my bathroom pits as well. You want to shit a reasonable distance from where you are camped. I am fucking imploring you to bring that shovel though, because I hate seeing those wads of bright white toilet paper and feces someone has indiscreetly left 3 feet to the side of the path. A lot of places don’t have even an outhouse set up, and you can’t always make it to the next Tim Hortons in time.
Another concern is cooking and eating a reasonable distance from where you plan on sleeping…I make a change of clothes before bed, so I don’t go to sleep smelling like food.
I keep my food and garbage in my car and have a huge bottle of ‘bear deterrent’. The food is in that cooler in the back and I usually have a plastic bag from groceries for my garbage back there. Generally, I just think of them as massive raccoons (raccoons can be mean, trust me.) and take the same precautions. I’ve observed them, but never an encounter worth mentioning.
As an aside, I snatched a few steaks and thought one would keep until tomorrow. At home, I intentionally leave them on the counter overnight, it helps with the tenderness. Ha-ha, want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The meat turned and when I opened it up, it stank. Well, I had a cooking fire going anyway, wanted the meat gone and thought hey, burn it. it burned forever…and the smell of burning rotted meat must have spread for miles. I slept in my car sitting up that night as common sense kicked in.
I’ve slept in my car sitting up on numerous occasions for an assortment of reasons, plan on it sometimes. At the other end of that spectrum, periodically I grab a motel room. Those days I pull in early and pull out right around eleven. I shower shave, do my nails and upload any pictures or videos using their WI-FI. All nineteen of my faithful followers on Instagram think it’s significant, I’m almost famous.
PROMETHEUS BRINGS FIRE TO MAN.
My cooking fires are small, usually in a shallow fire pit, and I typically throw my cans of stew/chilli/whatever and/or kettle of water right into the glowing coals. Usually about 8-10 inches in diameter, I burn driftwood to make a nice bed of coals from what is mostly hardwood. Once the teepee shape has a healthy flame and a fair number of embers, I knock it over and throw in my stuff. Feeding in wood as I see fit, I hold my can in a cooking mitt and stir with a handy twig or spoon. A surreptitious fire is a kind of requirement if you want to keep a low profile on your activities. I also have a small grill I can lay over the hole if I want to eat other things…wood is the greatest spice of all and even chicken wieners taste good although I do carry hot sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, and condiment packages from road stops.
I’m not a guy who gets off on big bonfires at night either. It seems like most other campers feel safe gathered around a massive fire and are drawn to it. It’s not solely because it draws attention I avoid them, although it was initially. I dress sensibly, so I don’t need the warmth and believe it or not I’d rather have my night vision and be able to see around me. I have a few small flashlights that I use if something requires a keener look and see. But even a starry night with no moon, I can see enough to get around easily.
People don’t take trips… trips take people. –John Steinbeck
Drugs…hmm what to comment about them. Considering the liberalization and progressive views I see in most Canadians I feel free to discuss this openly. I also consider the kinds of risk takers most likely to take this voyage with me. I use them. A lot. Not just weed either and I include them in my adventures and plan around them. Tripping on psychedelic mushrooms contemplating the cosmos and our proper place in it is humbling. Eating edibles adds to the fractals. Laying on a beach listening to Lou Reed while down on heroin or percs is amazingly liberating. I even went so far as to try DMT one night, smoked it mind you. An extended trip doesn’t work for me that deep down the rabbit hole from ayahuasca tea, but those are my own limitations (for now). You decide your boundaries. It’s a personal choice, but one that I recommend…Expand your mind, your peace, your reality and take your spiritual journey to new and enhanced levels, if you can. Life, memories, experience, even colours are all a chemical reaction happening in the brain and drugs can be a short cut. Do research, use common sense and play safe is my only advise. If it’s not for you, que sera, I love the stuff but I get it and don’t judge.
Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God. -Kurt Vonnegut
Booze isn’t my bag, but I always try to accept hospitality, a beer with four strangers on a beach all meeting each other for the first time or Jäger and red bull on a beach with young punk rockers on their way to Ottawa. It lets me meet strangers and engage in shallow social engagements full of other people’s stories and journeys.
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been; travellers don’t know where they’re going. -Paul Edward Theroux
There has been such an assortment of places I’ve catalogued for 'sleeping under the stars'; A river with rapids you could swim in or another with super fine white-sand shores. Romantic beaches with a collapsed cabin on its shore where you could spend a night entwined. Secluded beaches to be alone with your thoughts and stone beaches to get primitive with friends and no one will ever hear you. Butterflies teaming, enormous snakes. Little hide holes just outside of towns (okay sometimes in town too) where my car and tent are invisible. Crown Land camping and free campsites, Beautiful tourist places teeming with people like Bridal Veil Falls on Manitoulin. You have to go there. Have to.
There’s additionally an assortment of places I plan on seeing still, Pancake River Provincial Park, kayak over to Batchawana island... god, I still haven’t seen Singing Sands by Tobermory After Labor Day, it’s a lot more fun I hear and the parking is free like at the Wasaga or Gatineau Beaches. Parking your vehicle outside the gates of anywhere that charges for parking and humping in on foot saves a few dollars. Those dollars can easily mean another day on the road as well. Little things to consider as you travel.