My arms are still sore after returning from a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park. I am blessed with a daughter who thinks it’s a great present to go on a trip with her Mom into Canada’s great outdoors. She has lots of outdoor tripping experience after years at a Waldorf school, and I would listen with more than a bit of envy as I heard her tell tales of portages, stars, and open spaces.

So, I decided it was time for us to check it out together.

Full disclosure: I went with a guide so I didn’t have to think about food prep, or safety. We did a four day excursion with Northern Edge Algonquin. I told our guides that I wanted to learn how to do everything myself so I could do this with my kids next summer – all on our own. Mid Forties, I feel the need to be more and more resourceful, self-sufficient, less reliant on others to fix things for me.

So I learned how to tie fancy knots, find wintergreen for tea, portage, light a soft wood or hard wood fire, and live with being dirty.

At dinner around the campfire, everyone was complaining of sore backs, sore arms and chest. I rarely volunteer my occupation since people sometimes have strange expectations of me and my body after hearing what I do for a living. My daughter, however quickly volunteered that I could probably help – and in no time I was leading a stretching session around the fire, and explaining the benefits of sitting with your tail back instead of tucked under while canoeing. Eventually my discomfort at being in a teaching role turned to delight as the simple tools in my “pocket” were met with oohs and ahhs of relief.

The next day, everyone had a better day on the water. My sore forearms went from aching to a pleasant “worked out feeling” after a good stretch too. And I take pleasure from carrying the bags over the portages. I’m grateful for being able, and for the simple task of the physical work grounding me into my own skin and experience. My Pilates and my life of moving amply prepared me for these physical challenges. Being in touch with my body also really helped me live in the moment instead of letting my mind wander out of the park.

Being in Algonquin is like touching history. You feel somehow closer to what makes us Canadian: Aboriginal traditions, Tom Thomson and Pierre Elliot Trudeau, moose, and open space. Canoeing against winds for many hours brings you closer to all sorts of uncomfortable and good edges in oneself, especially when your 13 year old daughter is steering the canoe. I liked that our roles were reversed – her steering, me the motor, her the expert, me the novice. In the meantime, I’m back to work and back to being a regular parent, but feeling a bit more aware of the wind on my face, and sun on my back.