Travel ideas: Kayaking in Ontario's Pinery Provincial Park

Photography by Doug Freure Image by: Photography by Doug Freure Author: Canadian Living


Travel ideas: Kayaking in Ontario's Pinery Provincial Park

I gulp in a breath of chilly air, cock my paddle instinctively and lean forward and to my left, relinquishing my point of balance in the kayak. Plunging sideways into the brainnumbing cold, I spin with conviction through water on the verge of coalescing into ice.

I emerge from the 360-degree roll with a solid hip snap and a sweep of my paddle blade over the water. I feel utterly alive as every exposed skin cell tingles with an icy burn while water rushes off me like a waterfall. A wicked grin stretches across my face. It is both my first paddle and my first roll of the season on this sunny March day at the Pinery Provincial Park in southwestern Ontario.

A few hours earlier, I had slid my kayak into the placid sediment infused water of Lake Huron through a break in the wall of ice. I hastily entered the cockpit so the ice-cold water wouldn’t soak through my neoprene mukluks and thick wool socks. I had snapped the spray skirt shut with habitual confidence and taken the first few strokes with my double-bladed paddle. This is where I love to be.

At the Pinery, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, I nourish my soul under the expansive sky. It’s a natural place with a magnetic pull. With unbridled childlike glee, I revel in my time on the lake, paddling effortlessly for hours. As a worked-to-the-bones elementary school teacher, I find being on the water is like aquatherapy.

The hectic pace of teaching demands I find this me time so I can give with passion. As I paddle in a blissful hypnotic rhythm, a vault of blue sky surrounds me, and I feel in sync with my natural surroundings.

I glide close to shore, but a wall of sandencrusted ice barricades me from the land beyond. The beach is void of people. Distant poplars stand erect and bare in the dunes as a lone red pine stands sentinel, overlooking this vast expanse.

Overhead, a flock of white tundra swans flies in v-formation, heading inland, their gentle cooing audible on this calm day. Sculpted ice floating serenely through brilliant sparkles of light tricks me into believing I am in the high Arctic. Under the waning sun, which hovers delicately on the lake’s horizon spilling golden liquid light, I sit in silence and reverence on a mirrorcalm satin lake.

Water and sky fuse into an imperceptible horizon. The caress of a gentle breeze tickles my neck and plays softly with wisps of loose hair. I feel insignificant yet closely connected to the universe and all that exists. It is time to return.

As I paddle, the steady cadence of my stroke brings me perspective and clarity. The sun’s strength is diminishing as I land, chilled, at shore, weary but revitalized.

This story was originally titled "The Thrill Of The Chill" in the March 2013 issue.

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Travel ideas: Kayaking in Ontario's Pinery Provincial Park