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Attending the Ontario Winter Camping Symposium
Sometimes things just fall perfectly into place.
What started as a personal trip to see a favorite band perform in Toronto quickly morphed into something much, much better. I was able to attend the sold-out Ontario Winter Camping Symposium on Saturday, handing out lots of free safety information to participants – including the new winter camping revisions to our infamous “Oh Sh!t Emergency Kit” listing. (You can find a combined pdf copy of both documents HERE.)
The symposium was a blast. It was really gratifying to meet so many people that not only love the same things we do, but who also appreciate the difficult work first responders do on a daily basis. Perhaps most notable in this category was Mike MacHugh, who was volunteering at the show for the Friends of Temagami. Mike shared the story of the time he fell off a cliff face in the backcountry and injured his spine, as well as the rather frightening sequence of events that occurred in order for first responders to stabilize him and bring him back for extensive medical care. (He also kindly gave us an unsolicited donation to pay it forward to first responders! What a cool thing to do!)
Social media has given us an extended paddling family, and I was finally able to meet many people that I “know” from Facebook but have never met in person. People like Camper Christina, who presented on designing and making her own hot tent and had contacted organizer David Bain (himself a really nice and very funny guy) to get us a table at the show.
There also was Mike Hickman, (a dual-discipline first responder and early supporter of The Outdoor Kind), Alan Drummond of Kingdom Outdoor Products (my “booth neighbor” who kept me laughing all day), Leanne Hennessy (who had previously helped me find some outdoor gear that isn’t sold in the States), Susan Windsor-Sheppard (teacher extraordinaire and “owner/operator” of Sue’s Outdoor Crew), Scot Robinson (the heavily-bearded, burly owner of mancamping.ca), David Lee (the Passionate – or Punishing – Paddler), Jon and Megan Wakani (of Whisky Jack Outdoors Co.), and the Camping Family (the Sonntags, who are just as much fun in person as you’d guess from their posts).
It also was great to bump into Kevin Callan again. We’ve yet to see him slow down at a show. Kevin pitched a new Snowtrekker tent next to our booth, and was answering questions for attendees about it. I was especially happy to see Kevin doing this as Snowtrekker owners Duane and Margot Lottig are “neighbors” of mine, located just a few hours north of my home in Wisconsin. When Kevin was inside the symposium, I answered the occasional question about the tents too…not because I have any connection to the company, but because I’ve spent so much time looking at their website that I know a lot of the specs! (If you’ve not seen their tents, be sure to check out their website. Their gear is top-of-the-line!)
Another reason for coming over was the chance to visit with Sean Rowley and Derek Specht again. Sean and Derek host the Paddling Adventures Radio podcast and cover all types of paddling…and winter camping in the frozen-water season.
I had the great pleasure of calling in and doing weekly reports with them from the Yukon Journey this past summer, and it was great fun to meet up in their studio again. That podcast will “air” tomorrow (Episode #146), and covers the symposium, winter camping safety, and plans for the upcoming Yukon Journey Ver 2.0. If you’re not yet a regular listener of their podcast, tune in. It’s funny, includes great info, and they’re strong supporters of water safety and all things paddling.
Realistically, I should be returning to Wisconsin now. But as everything connected with this trip gets better and better, I’m actually writing this blog entry while sitting at Derek’s kitchen table (and drinking loads of his coffee!). Come this weekend, I’ll be joining Sean and Camper Christina up at Mew Lake Campground in Algonquin to enjoy the snow that’s currently falling there.
It’s been an amazing trip to Ontario, and I wish I could stay longer. (That tends to happen every time I visit Canada.) But I’ll be back again for paddling shows in the spring and the chance to connect once more with some amazing people. Thanks, Ontario. It’s been a great week so far!