About

The 1960’s folksinger Tom Paxton penned some memorable songs but it was “Ramblin’ Boy” that seemed to speak most to me.  You’ll find it on the flip side of his 1964 debut album.  After the songs “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound” and a provisional answer in  “I’m Bound For The Mountains and the Sea”, you hear this –

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-12-53-13-pm

While it is clear to me now that we’re not talking T. S. Eliot-level poetry here,  in 1964 it was definitely a cut above “She loves you – yeah, yeah, yeah”!   With Woody Guthrie as his model, Paxton was romanticizing the lives of the 1930’s Depression-era hobos riding the rails across a broken America in his very traditional folk song which sounded like it had been written long decades before.

I was about seventeen when I discovered Woodie Guthrie’s autobiographical Bound For Glory at the public library and that book – and Paxton’s songs – made a big impact on my developing sense of the world.   it may have been  the Summer of Love and “acid”  in San Francisco but the songs of Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton spoke more directly to me, a miner’s son growing up in a hard rock town in northern Quebec.

1969

I’ve had the rambling’ boy bug all my life.  I had it when I was five years old and hanging on to the inner tube of a car tire along with my friend Veshu about a hundred meters from the lake shore where our families were picnicking. We were on our way to a nearby island when my father swam up and very carefully pulled us back to the beach!

I still have it almost sixty years later.  It has shaped the things I love to learn about – i.e. all of the humanities from languages to world history to world religions to anthropology, politics,  and economics.  It has definitely shaped the things I like to do with my spare time – wilderness canoe tripping, bicycle touring, hiking and mountaineering, and working out regularly at the gym so that I can do all that other stuff and enjoy it.

at the Carlson dock in Red Lake

at the Carlson dock in Red Lake with pilot Mike and my brother Martin

It has ushered me into some incredibly beautiful (and maybe even sacred) places where few get to go because of the time or effort required. Not everyone has the ramblin’ bug and they have used their time and money – and their good health – to indulge in other pursuits. That’ s just the way it should be.  But for me,  there is nothing like the feeling of standing at the end of the road or the side of a railroad track with a backpack or canoe on my shoulders…and knowing that the adventure is about to begin!

lakhpa and brian and I

Without getting overly philosophical, I hope to share some of what I’ve learned in some of these recent adventures, as well as show some of the pictures I took along the way.

The teacherly tone that comes from thirty-five years spent in front of mid-to-late teenagers in various classrooms will occasionally be evident!   If my posts encourage other travellers to step out of their front doors and embrace what has so far been unknown to them, that would be the best of all!

Every once in a while, as I look at maps and surf the net for another place or two to pitch my tent, I think of Lao Tzu, the legendary writer of the Tao Te Ching. One poem in particular, # 47, comes to mind.  It reads like this –

Without opening your door,
you can know the whole world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the way of heaven.

The further you go,
the less you know.
The more knowledge you seek,
the less you understand.

The Sage understands without leaving,
sees clearly without looking,
accomplishes much without doing anything.

“Hey, true_north, where do you think you’re going?” he says to me. “Don’t you know that you’re already there?  All your ramblin’ is only taking you further away from this obvious truth.”

the legendary Lao Tzu on his water buffalo heading into the Himalayas

And then I think back to his own legendary life and the fact that the collection of poems only came to be because a border guard insisted that he write down the essence of  his wisdom before he left the Middle Kingdom and continued towards the Himalayas on his water buffalo.

I want to shout out to him – “Hey, Lao Tzu,  where do you think you’re going?”

After crossing the border he was never heard of again.  We can only imagine the stupendous camp sites he came upon in his travels!

Eliot’s Four Quartets is one of those places I’ve returned to often to pitch my tent! Here is one of my favourite sections –

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

Off we go!

And as Tom Paxton put it forty years ago – May all your ramblin’ bring you joy!

on the Yukon river in the summer of 1978 - my first great canoe trip!

34 Responses to About

  1. Jeff Reid says:

    Great pics and stories on your Holguin/east bike trip. All those pics are so familiar. I am down there regularly doing the same rides. Really enjoyed reading your detailed article!

    • true_north says:

      Jeff, it is nice to hear you enjoyed the posts. I put them out there in the hope that they might do the same as the posts that I read before I decided Cuba was a good cycling destination. As you know, it was absolutely the right choice!

      By the way, “props” for your work with bikesforcuba. I had heard about the work you guys do a few years ago when I took Narayana Reddy’s bicycle repair course at Central Technical School.

  2. Great site! Very inspiring.

    I was wondering if I might be able to use your photograph of El Chaltén (“the road into El Chaltén with Cerro Poincenot (3002m) and Monte Fitz Roy (3405m) behind”) on my website, Switchback Travel. Beautiful shot. We were just there but didn’t quite have the weather on our side on that day. Thanks!

    Best,

    David Wilkinson

    • true_north says:

      David, I just noticed that I approved the comment but didn’t respond. I am sure I sent you an email but just in case – yes, of course – make use of the shot. Just put a small indication of where you got it. Without a doubt the weather in southern Patagonia can be unpredictable!

  3. Debbie says:

    Came across your blog while looking for pics of driftwood. Found one I would like to share on my facebook . Yet not sure how to address the credit to you. Your name etc…thanks

    • true_north says:

      Debbie, feel free to share the pic. Putting my home page url would be more than enough credit!

      Perhaps the most amazing beach I’ve visited – the 10-kilometer stretch of wild shore of Vancouver Island from Tofino to Wickaninnish called Long Beach- has incredible driftwood strewn about. I remember spending some time trying to frame just the right shot as I cycled it from one end to the other.

      • Debbie says:

        Can you post the link?

      • Sharon says:

        We live on Vancouver island and that beach is incredible. Interesting to read this as I was mainly looking at your blog regarding your trip to Nepal which is fabulous. We did Everest/Gokyo a few years ago and now are doing Three Passes in fall 2015. Its amazing that there are so many places to go in the world but we cannot help but to return there…. We are in our early fifties and also feel that we can only do those challenging hikes for so long so its important to go while we can. We do a lot of kayaking off the coast of Vancouver island so if you loved that beach in Tofino, you would LOVE the private beaches all up the west coast of the island. Just as gorgeous without a soul around often. Magical place.
        Thanks for your blog, its very well done and informative.
        Sharon

  4. Debbie says:

    I meant the link to the beach photos…the 10-kilometer stretch of wild shore of Vancouver Island from Tofino to Wickaninnish called Long Beach- has incredible driftwood strewn about.

    • true_north says:

      Ah, the link to the post on Long Beach! There is no post and unfortunately I’m not even sure where the pix are! It was back in 2004 before I turned to digital photography so I am sure they are in a box somewhere! You’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

  5. Aaron says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for the info and very helpful information on your website and the post on Lonely planet for Patagonia! I tried replying to the topic I asked 2 days ago but they somehow deleted the thread, maybe they thought my flickr account is some sort of advertising…So I thought I will post here instead.

    Anyways, back to Patagonia, the purpose of my trip is photography and I’m more of a photographer than a hiker. I have done hikes in Iceland and North America and Canada but not really experienced with camping. It’s very important or me to be at the places during sunrise and sunset. After looking at most of the best spots, it looks like they all require hiking and perhaps camping, especially in El Chalten.

    So would it be best to say that I should just hire a car in Puerto Natales (or is Punta Arenas cheaper?) for few days in TDP, take bus to El Chalten, hike, take bus to El Calafate, rent a car to drive to the glacier for sunrise, bus back to Punta Arenas?

    As for accommodation, in TDP should I just stay 2 nights in Puerto Natales, drive along some scenic spots (Lago Pehoe, anything else), do 4-5 days W trek. I assume I need to camp or stay in Refugios for the shots. For El Chalten, I suppose the only way is to camp or stay in Refugios to avoid walking hours in the dark….

    I really would prefer to stay in Refugios with a proper bed, but are they still too far from the sunrise/sunset locations in TDP and El Chalten? I wouldn’t mind 30 minutes walk in the dark but nothing more than that. I know that TDP is one of the most expensive place to stay, but what about staying in the refugios there, would $50 a night be enough? And do you have to book and pay for camping or is it free?

    Here’s some of my shots from my previous travels, I’m on a 2 months trip starting Feb next year and will be going to Arizona, Utah, Canadian rockies, Yellowknife or Whitehorse for aurora, Salar de uyuni and Patagonia. Seeing that you are from Canada, would love to travel with you to the Rockies if you happen to have time.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marvels_of_creation/sets/

    Please feel free to contact me on email, cosmicnova@hotmail.com

    Thanks

    Aaron

    • true_north says:

      Aaron, the sunrise/sunset requirement does make it a bit more difficult! BTW I took a look at your picture sets and can see you’ve got some great dawn/dusk shots from some amazing places, lots of “wow” moments for sure!

      In the mountains just west of El Chalten unfortunately all the great spots to be require you to be camping unless you want to leave your room in El Chalten at 2 or 3 in the morning! I’d have to say the same about Torres del Paine. This is not to say that there aren’t other great miradors (viewpoints) that photographers haven’t found. The entrance to El Chalten from the east, for example, might make a nice sunset shot. From the road going through TDP Park there are undoubtedly some fine spots from which to frame memorable shots.

      You seem to have a passion for the outdoors and beautiful landscapes. Given that you have a lifetime of photography ahead of you, I’d say forget the rental car idea and embrace your inner camper! Spend the money on quality gear that you can use over the next decade instead of on car rental fees. This will give you a flexibility and the access to places that 99% of people don’t get to because of the time, effort, and skills necessary to get there. As I write this I think back to the work of Galen Rowell, a truly great American photographer who combined his love of mountaineering with his photography skills and created an impressive body of work. Check out the following link for some examples –

      http://www.mountainlight.com/gallery.html

      Having said that, I am sure it is possible to find some great vantage points from further away that would still allow you to get some stunning shots. Take a look at the following set of Patagonia pix by another photographer, Ian Plant – many of them sunrise or sunset – and you’ll be looking at what you are after!

      http://www.popphoto.com/gallery/ian-plant-gallery-sponsored-gallery?i=343029&s=2

      Fantastico Sur is one of the two major refugio owners in TDP. Check out their price list here –

      http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/rates/

      It is a bit more than $50. a night but you’ll be there in prime time (February) and would have to prebook to be absolutely sure of getting a bed. While I tented my way around the TDP circuit, I did make use of the refugio restaurants whenever I could, keeping what food that I had for situations when there were no restaurants available. Having a tent gives you a fall back if the refugio is totally booked. You do have to pay a camping fee- it is something in the order of $10. You also have to pay a $38. park entry fee at TDP; the hiking trails out of El Chalten are free.

      Aaron, I’m sure I haven’t answered all your questions. You’ve got a few months to get a better handle on things and how to do them. In the end, you will go down there and, given your eye for framing interesting shots, you’ll come back with a memory card full of great pix.

  6. fernwehh says:

    Hi true_north! Thanks for the like and follow. I am loving your blog here, and can totally relate to your ramblin’ boy bug. Many of my friends have chosen to focus on other things in life but to me the sense of adventure is incomparable. I’ll be making a long extended trip to South America towards year end so I’ll be checking in to your blog very often! Drop by South East Asia sometime!

  7. Jen says:

    Hey Peter. Had you as a history teacher about a decade ago at EY. Your lectures and stories about your travels were always fascinating. Keep up the great work!

    • true_north says:

      Jen – is that Jen C? – nice to hear from you! It’s always nice to hear from old friends. You use the word “decade” and it sounds downright historical!

      The blog started as a way to share canoe trip pix with friends a couple of years ago and has become what you see here – true_north’s digital shoe box of pix with adventures and how-to advice! Once a teacher, always a …

      I hope the passing years find you happy and fulfilled with your journey so far and the twists and turns it has taken. Let me know when your blog is up and running!

  8. Alex says:

    Hi there! Ran into your fantastic site whilst planning a big trip. Am wondering if I can ask you some questions about transport and routes? Could you email me back? Alex

  9. Red Langford says:

    I’m planning a trip to Wabakimi and have some questions. Could we arrange a telephone call?

  10. Cam says:

    Hello. How does one get a hold of you to chat by email?

  11. Shirley Rose Cockburn says:

    I would like to use some of your photos from your adventures in the Temagami area as reference photos for some of my paintings. Can you please contact me.
    Thank you for your time.

    • true_north says:

      Shirley, feel free to use any of the photos that inspire you to put brush to canvas. Perhaps you’ll remember this post when your painting is done and you’ll send a link – if there is one! – to the digital image!

      • Shirley Rose Cockburn says:

        Thank you heaps… so excited. It will be several months before I do refer to the photos as I have a lot of painting images on the go right now. I will certainly reference you on the art write up when I do refer to your photos (they are great by the way). I have a blog which I try to keep up to date, but not always successfully, which is http://www.cockburnstudio.blogspot.com Take care, Shirley Rose Cockburn, CockburnStudio

  12. Hi Peter
    My nephew alerted me to this site and I am blown away by the depth and breadth of your research on Morrisseau/Dewdney. I share your love of the north and among other interests, spend about 5 months a year in the Chapleau area prospecting. At age 11, I complained to my father that my older brothers had more interesting names than me and so he offered that if I wanted a middle name I should just choose one. I chose North. I live on Ward’s Island and would be thrilled if you dropped in if you ever get out here… and looking at your travels in Toronto, I’m sure you do.
    I spent a few summers with dad on what my mother termed “expeditions” the most interesting one included recording James Redsky’s interpreting the Midayewin Initiation scrolls and his oration of the Ojibwe Creation “myth”.
    Peter North Dewdney

    • true_north says:

      Peter, it is nice to hear you liked the post on the pictographs.

      Your name has certainly popped up a number of times as I have read through one or another of your father’s books. Ever since I first found a copy of Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes my life as a retired teacher has included what most would call an obsession with pictographs and anything written by Selwyn Dewdney. It certainly has been an education and one for which I can thank your father – and bow paddlers with names like Chris or Keewatin or Peter!

      It’s funny that you should mention Chapleau. My brother and I just spent 45 minutes on Skype looking at the Google Earth map of the Little Missinaibi River that we plan on going down from Healey Bay on Lake Windermere to access Little Missinaibi Lake. We want to see the pictograph sites there and then paddle down to Fairy Point and on to Missanabie where we would catch the Budd car back to Chapleau.

      Peter, one day soon Viggo and I will hop on that ferry for an island walk and visit.

  13. Lynn says:

    Stumbled across your blog while looking up possible cycling routes from Bowmanville to Ottawa as I am considering a route this summer. In doing so, it looks like I have found another blog to enjoy reading!

    Lynn

    • true_north says:

      Lynn, nice choice for a scenic ride! The route along the lake via Prince Edward County and then the St.Lawrence down to Brockville and up to Ottawa is one that I’ve done a couple of times. There are a gazillion other route options! BTW – nice blog! Just got knee deep into it but there is more to check out! Gotta love WordPress for making it so easy for us to share!

      • Lynn says:

        The thought of the route from Brockville working up towards Ottawa intimidates me a wee bit as I suspect there is some climbing involved. Not a huge fan of hills but I suppose it is inevitable I learn to develop a better relationship with them!

        WordPress is such a wonderful forum to share information & stories. I could never imagined the wonderful friendships & the people I would connect with through blogging.

        Love your play on words with the knee deep in it! I was a sight to behold, that’s for sure!

      • true_north says:

        Lynn – look at this Google Maps- generated map of the bike route from Brockville to Ottawa – https://goo.gl/maps/niXKxDgDE8x

        What you want to do is focus on all the downhill parts – of which there will be a bit! Have a great ride!

        brockville to Ottawa elevation profile

        Not so bad, eh! Do it over two days – Merrickville is a pleasant little spot to spend the afternoon!

      • Lynn says:

        Awesome! Thanks so much!

  14. lineairbeeldresearch says:

    Dear Rambling Boy,
    Our office provides a Dutch schoolbook publisher, Uitgeverij Noordhoff, with pictures for their books. We would like to use a picture of you from an olive hut in catamount glacier could you perhaps give us permission to use this beautiful picture for this purpose? We can send you the photo that we are interested in via foto@lineairbeeldresearch.nl when you leave a reply. We hope to hear from you ! Best regards, Lineair Beeldresearch, Brigit Klein lankhorst

    • true_north says:

      Brigit – Groeten uit Toronto, Canada! Every time I see that photo I think how lucky I was to spend a night there.

      Feel free to use the photo! Let me know if you need a larger mb file for publishing purposes.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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