Adventures Big and Small

August Greetings,

Just back in town after four wonderful days adventuring with my students on the Avalon Peninsula, a truly magical place. As I sorted through the pile of emails that came in while I was gone, I was excited to see one from Paula Tessier. Paula and I have played hockey together for years and she is the staff member for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation-Atlantic Office in Newfoundland. She is my liaison with the organization and she wrote to say the on-line link for donations to the climb was ready.

Click here to donate to Pumori: Climb for Awareness online via a credit card.

For those who would prefer to use the mail, please visit my website for a downloadable form that you can fill out and mail in with your contribution. In either cases, your donation goes directly and entirely to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation-Atlantic Office to fund their excellent work towards a future without breast cancer.

Thank you in advance for your support–it will fuel my training over the next two months and will help power me up the mountain. The past week was a rest week. I enjoyed having some extra time to catch my breath and be away from the structure of my training life. I head into the next four-week training cycle tomorrow and know I will be challenged both physically and mentally by its demands.

My week was filled with adventures big and small, some new, some familiar, some outdoors, some with friends. I found this two quotes which rung true for me this week.

One cannot discover new oceans unless one has the courage to lose sight of the shore.
–Andre Gide

A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.
–William Penn

As I share the outdoors with friends, students, and teammates, new connections are forged. These connections are tempered through hard work, magical moments, and time shared in communion with trees, clouds, oceans, peaks, and stars. My life has been blessed with so many friendships that were kindled around a campfire or sunset. I’ve enjoyed watching my students this summer experience the same blossoming of connection as they hiked, climbed, canoed, kayaked, and backpacked together. This was the crescendo week for the course where their skills and group dynamic were tested over and over again.

On Wednesday, we headed down to Burnt Cove to sea kayak and were greeted right off the beach by a pair of humpbacks. They are truly magnificent and they swam within 20 feet of us as we bobbed in the swell. I have two students from Germany and one from Ontario. I was thrilled for them to have a “close encounter” with our most famous summer visitors. We did lose sight of the shore a few times as we paddled around the islands off Burnt Cove. I had a most unique view on the day. A view spent looking backward through the day.

Through a bit of a miscommunication, there was one less boat cockpit than we needed. Jim tried to find another boat for borrow for the paddle but was unsuccessful. Not wanting anyone to have to spend time on the beach, we looked for other options. Jim has a large double in his fleet so we looked to the middle hatch. The two by two hatch proved too small for anyone but the most accomplished yogis (of which we had none in our group) so that option was ruled out. Both Jim and I spied the rear hatch at the same moment. Narrower but longer, I squeezed myself in and knew we had a workable (yet unusual situation).

As Jim shoved our “triple” off the beach and we wobbled insecurely in the mild waves, I knew I was in for quite the day. With no seat, I sat directly on the boat bottom and could feel every splash on the boat’s hull. I had a commanding view of the beach from where we had just departed but no ability to look forward towards where we were headed. A metaphor bubbled immediately into mind and I commented that I would be in a reflective state much of the day looking back.

I had no paddle, no ability to change the course of the boat, I was truly “along for the ride.” I surrendered to my fate and looked to enjoy my powerless position. I found it excellent for photography when we managed to pull up to the group. We frequently found ourselves behind as my poor paddling companions had to drag me everywhere they went. As we rounded one island heading for some caves, the sea became much more confused and the bile of fear rose in my belly. Again, there was nothing I could do but trust my paddlers and sit with the fear. As there was no place to run and no way to get out of the situation, I just had to stay with the feeling and work with my mind.

After much of the group had a touch of seasickness from the wonky seas, I realized I was the perfect person in the group to be sitting in the “trunk.” I almost never get motion sickness, I’ve had enough time in sea kayaks to be able to understand that it was unlikely we would actually flip over, and I could deal with the adventure of looking in a different direction than everyone else. I appreciated the opportunity to surrender and give over control and experience the adventure of sea kayaking in a unique way.

Thursday we headed out into the rain for a backpacking trip into Brock’s Head Pond. The trail was slick and each step was an adventure in itself trying to stay upright with heavy loads on our backs. As I often say, we all have our own Everests and they can be big or small. Carrying a loaded bag isn’t much of an adventure for me anymore but for these first timers, it was huge. The smiles on their faces when we arrived in camp bespoke the pride they felt in their accomplishment. I’m cognizant of celebrating those kinds of moments whenever they occur.

Friday, we embarked on the adventure of cinnamon roll baking. It’s one of the favourite things I teach since it opens new doors (and menus) for the outdoors and it’s so empowering for students to gain a strong skill set with the stoves. Since playing with flammable liquids is generally discouraged in life, students arrive with a healthy fear of the camp stoves. I see it as my job to instill confidence, knowledge, and skill in using these devices that can be quite dangerous (second only to driving in terms of likelihood on injury in the outdoors). Whenever I teach a baking class, I feel like I am an orchestra conductor trying to reign into thinly veiled chaos. Having each group moving through the process in their own time, venting stoves, and lighting twiggy fires in close proximity brings me to the edge of my teaching practice and I spend the class in close focus and engagement.

Despite the soggy woods, the students manage to get small fires build on top of their baking pans (which are sitting atop their stoves) and the prospects for well-baked rolls are looking very good. The required baking time passes and I eagerly await the unveiling. The lids of the frybakes are pried off and golden brown delights are revealed. Wahoo! A peak. A summit. Everything has come together and the students and I squeal in the delight of a baking adventure. We snap many pictures and enjoy a delicious breakfast.

Yesterday, I turn over the hike out to the students. They lead the way, set the pace, call the breaks, and bring us back to civilization. It is the culmination of our time together and the next step in their evolution as outdoor adventurers. I step back and become the leader that is scarcely heard or seen. I hang back and learn to ID mushrooms from my co-leader and am once again, “along for the ride,” though paying attention for the moments where I need to come forward to manage a risk or provide a gentle direction.

Indeed, as I write this reflection on my week, I see that my life is a series of adventures. Some personal. Some physical. Some with others. Some inside my own head. My hope is to take what I learn from one adventure into the next. And with that, I’ll close for now and get off my chair and go have “a time” doing the dishes or sorting out where the leak in my backroom is coming from.

Have a good week and thanks for your support of Pumori: A Climb for Awareness. I’m glad the link is available since so many of you have been asking for it. Thanks as well to those who pulled up their keyboards for a spot of tea–I enjoyed hearing from you.

With gratitude,


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