The wonderful North, and a pony

February 23, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Once, a lot of years ago, I drove across Africa from Morocco to South Africa, in a Volkswagen kombi, with my then husband, Ernest. On reflection, it was a relatively wild thing to do, maybe, and it is for sure we came off really lucky about all the things that might have happened and did not.

When we returned to Canada, we were gung-ho to travel to the North to see the Canadian wilderness but, somehow, we did not do it. Perhaps, the sheer difficulty we perceived in actually getting there slowed us down or, perhaps, our life just went other ways.

Well, it is quite a different sort of effort going there and, although the wonder of it all it is worth it, the challenges of simply being in such a remote, sparsely populated and vast land are much more than any of us can handle driving our humble Volkswagen. Indeed, not very far into that wilderness, there are many places not accessible by VW.

Here is the good news: I went, a couple Saturdays ago, to the Farmhouse Pottery establishment on Hockley Road, not far east of Orangeville, for the presentation of this year’s tours of the north, run by Al Pace and his wife, Lin Ward, for paddlers and adventurers of all ilks and most ages.

They have a truly superb video, which was put together by Tourism Canada, as their business, Canoe North, offers what Tourism Canada calls a “Signature Holiday.” This is defined as a holiday that brings forward the joys of travelling in Canada and demonstrates the essence of this beautiful nation.

The video consisted for the most part of the music – entirely suitable – and the photos of people travelling with Canoe North, led by Lin Ward and Al Pace. Fabulous scenery, wondrous adventure on the rivers, laughter and camaraderie in the daily camps and, of course, happy hour.

Their base is at Norman Wells, on the Mackenzie River, which is only accessible by float plane. These planes haul people, baggage, equipment and supplies. In Norman Wells is the home away from home, for they had a lodge built to accommodate up to 25 people, with facilities and dining – everything needed to prepare for several days on the river. Basic but great.

The couple use four rivers in the north: Keele River, Yukon River ( for those heritage tours), Mountain River, for the more advanced paddlers, and the Horton River. Each has its own flavour and appeal; each has a different story and emphasis; all share the awe-inspiring scenery and the chance to see exceptional wildlife.  All of them are more or less two weeks long.

However wild the scenery, the attention to safety is paramount and, really, even comfort is considered. Food is wildly good for the art of open-fire cooking takes on new meaning under the guidance of these two deeply experienced people.

Here is the point: the crazy adventure, the northern experience, even the last of the season trip that brings in the Aurora Borealis can be had in safety; there is the rough-ish and tumble, the living out of doors for two weeks combined with the unimaginable exhilaration of busting out of this city-bound, cellphone-trapped, nonsensical hyped-up environment poisoning our every day. Lin and Al have pieced these trips together over many years of doing it and now they do it right and remarkably.

On to another subject, if you will: my Arabian horse, Donny, died last week. Very sad. He left my Shetland pony, Toby, to live alone, which is never good for an equine as they are definitely herd animals. Naturally, I attend to him and his needs every day but he is still alone.

So, I am looking for a home for him. He has to be able to come in, in the evenings – he has always had his own stall with me – for the last nearly 20 years. He is great for anyone of you who breeds horses, for he is a perfect baby-sitter, calm and kind. So, when a big truck drives by the paddock or some such, the youngsters are inclined to be frightened, but when they see that Toby is not, they calm down.

He is the kindest, most pleasant-natured Shetland imaginable.

He can be ridden by rather small children and has been the riding introduction to many a tiny person who also learned not to be afraid from Toby. He has his own saddle and bridle. He has no health problems.

Anyway, if there is some one of you who would like to talk about Toby coming to live with you and your gang, just get in touch with me here at the Citizen: telephone 518-941-2230 or and it will be passed on to me.

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