It’s Friday!!! What does that mean? It’s means it’s time for another addition of the #getoutside2019 blog series. Up next is Buck Miller of Crossing Algonquin 2018 and many other adventures. So pour a coffee , pull up a chair and enjoy the read. I cannot stress enough that you should read this whole piece. Buck has. A great message to share here and I really enjoyed reading this.
The Big Adventuring Dad Life
I get asked often about how I manage to pull off the lifestyle I keep. So for the #getoutside2019 blog challenge, I’ll try an offer some advice to help you get out there. Here’s a little background about said lifestyle. I’m 36 years old. I work 40 hours a week, all year, as a Facilities Coordinator for a kids camp. I’m the president of the Huntsville Mountain Bike Association. We live in Lake of Bays township and are the last house on a dead end road with our own 50ac. I’m happily married with one daughter nearly 5 and a son who just turned two. My wife is a Social Worker and is doing her Masters in Counseling Psychology full time, while working full time. We also own a rental income property. We’re busy.
Here’s a short list of some of the trips I’ve done while Dad’n it up hard:
The Sutton River, canoe trip, 12 days, September 2017
Crossing Algonquin, winter ski traverse, 11 days, February 2018
Moose River, canoe trip, 6 days, September, 2018
James Bay Descent, fat bike expedition for charity, 12 days, February 2019
Now, I’ve done a bunch more between those trips, but all five days or less. Regional trips, close to home. My wife loves to paddle. Together, we won the Mattawa River canoe race this past summer in the Rec category, she’s strong and stoic. We paddle that river at least once a year, even during our time living in Moosonee we’d head south to make the trip. It’s a great river to put kids in the canoe for the first time. With big lakes and a tight, twisty river section with safe rapids, it’s a central Ontario gold medalist for entry level paddlers wanting to get their first taste of river travel. Jen needs to maximize her time in the outdoors and canoe trips are her favorite. It’s a delicate balance, but when she jots the date in the callander, we stick to it. We have to prioritize that weekend over anything else. If Eleanor, our daughter has swimming, or we have a family birthday party people would like us to be at, we choose paddling first. The kids will remember every trip we take them on, and Jen’s work and school are so tight that if we skip that weekend, she won’t get in the boat that month. Sacrifice is the name of the game. There’s no magic potion that lets you please everyone, and still accomplish the things you want to do in the one season the recreation is available.
Now, you might think “well, it’s easy for you, Buck, you live in Huntsville!” We never paddle in or around Muskoka. I’ve only camped in it to cross Algonquin last winter. I’m from Northern Ontario, I came into the bushlife through the front door. I was raised in it. My dad’s a long in the tooth trapper. My mom is from northern Manitoba and a 2x provincial trap shooting champion. Making the move to Huntsville from the James Bay Coast in 2015 with my new family was met with great trepidation. I didn’t want to leave the North. So when we paddle, it’s no farther south than Mattawa. That’s over 2 hours north of my home. There’s a multitude of paddling routes and camping options within 2 hours of “The City”. You just have to commit. Remember what it’s like when you finally load the canoe, check ten times that you have your keys and wallet, and push off from shore? Or the purest form of freedom the canoe offers that we all know and love. Let those be the reasons you make sure to stick to that date on the calendar . Now, if you have kids, the hardest part is packing, loading up and finally getting on the road. Once my kids are in the canoe the worry is gone. PFD full time means if they want to act up and fall in, I let them. Lessons are learned this way. I remember my daughter reaching too far to grab a lily pad one time. She wasn’t 3 yet and took a dive. Now she rides along just fine, and often sleeps on top of a dry bag. Try hard to find a campsite with the best wading options for kids. They’ll spend hours and hours splashing around no deeper than their bum, naturally, and this gives mom and dad maximum time to sit back and enjoy seeing the kids having an absolute blast.
The next layer to my advice is one that hits some people the hardest. They (the rat racers) don’t like to hear it and will always believe that wilderness can be conquered in a weekend, but I’ll toss it out anyway. If you love the outdoors, and you wish you and your family could be spending more and more time in it, there is one thing you can do, so let’s get into it. The north is a vibrant place. Because there’s so many people living in the south, you’ll find a surprising amount of work when you turn the needle to the north. However, as long as life is about money, the commute, and work, you’ll never fully satisfy the beast inside you that is the wilderness. Meaning, if you can’t afford to take more time off to travel north, or you don’t want to take your kids out of one or two of the ten extracurricular activities they’re likely in, your time spent in the outdoors will never be enough, and a long weekend will always feel like a few hours. My wife, Jenny, often tells me to stop the preaching around this time. But, in true Buck Miller style, please allow me to go one step more. Move here. Live here. Here, being in the Boreal Forest. “Buck! You’re a madman!” I can hear you through the world wide web, yelling at me. Should you heed my advice, here’s what will happen:
No commuting (yeah, we don’t do that here, downtown or the country is close)
You’ll find work, there’s enough of it (unless you’re an Astronaut)
No traffic (soon, you’ll get nervous driving to Barrie and costco scares you)
You’ll have tons of money (and buy a house easily with all that freed up cheddar)
Visits to the family in the south will be better quality
You can paddle, or winter camp from your doorstep (I literally do this, from my door)
You can actually have a reason to complain about the cold (now that you’re a northerner and all)
You’ll be happier (really, just like that!)
Bug season (just means the trout are biting, go get some!)
You’re always the last person to get picked up by the carpool when planning canoe trips with your southern friends (bonus en plus!)
Look, I know it’s easier to say than do. But we don’t live on the moon up here. We’re normal people, you can live here too. Plus, it’s scientifically proven that living close to, or in, the places you love to recreate increases your mental wellbeing and personal happiness by 23,000% (probably). Further to my point; I have many friends in the city who love to paddle and winter camp. Just because of where I live, I get out so many more times a year than them. Living where you vacation is a slam dunk in the net of life. I’ve dunked that net so many times I’m swishing from the 3 point line now. My wife and I also value a career solely on the amount of time off it affords. In the middle class range, jobs with more money tend to come with less vacation. We’ve made life choices that ensure our work, life, ballance schedule is tipped in the ‘life’ side of things, and I can’t recommend enough that you do the same.
Our trip “Crossing Algonquin” last winter managed to get a cover shot and feature in Mountain Life Magazine. I met a bit of resistance from some friends when I headed out on that trip. Much like a two week whitewater trip down the Katawagami River two weeks after my daughter was born. Friends telling my wife she’s “crazy for letting him do that” and telling me I’m the most selfish Pr*%k known to man. The truth is, my wife is proud of me, and she makes these adventures a big deal with our kids. They follow us along, look at maps, the kids are in the basement, ripping everything apart that I’ve laid out the day before I leave and asking a thousand questions. I got home from the James Bay Descent this February and the magazine my team made the front of was in glass, mounted on the wall of my five year old daughters room. She loves it, and always shows it to me. To you, dear reader, I’m just a carpenter. But to Eleanor, I’m a hero that goes on “a big trip” every now and then. The most recent trip being “a big trip to help indigenous people” according to her. The sacrifice is huge for my wife, obviously. I’m only able to do these trips with her support. But ultimately, this isn’t about me. As my kids grow up, I’ll shift my time with friends on northern, remote trips and substitute them with my wife, daughter and son. I was brought on my first remote access canoe trip when I was 5 years old. It was a moose hunt northwest of Kapuskasing with just my dad, his friend and myself. I’ve got big plans for my family in the future. Between now and then, I’ll hone my skills in the bush of Northern Ontario as often as possible and be thankful every minute of it. Inspiring our kids to get outside in a exponentially growing, digital world has never been more important.
If you’re interested, you can check out @xalgonquin and @jamesbaydescent on Facebook. Instagram @buckyjmiller and @jamesbaydescent for some killer photos.
Youtube Crossing Algonquin 2018 for a 17 minute video. But remember, social media isn’t an accurate portrayal of one’s life. Studies don’t have to show that those who spend less time on these platforms are the baddest ass folks out there. So, forget following. Start leading.