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Sometime in the last year, I stopped counting my steps.

It wasn’t a conscious decision. I stopped wearing my Fitbit one day, and that turned into weeks. Eventually I sold it. I no longer found any value or importance in tracking my movement.

When I lived near the mountains, bagging a peak, completing a multi-day trip, or even nailing a day hike was an accomplishment. I did these things for more than just physical gain, but I wore those steps counted, distances tracked and elevations gained like a badge of honour. Knowing what I had accomplished made me feel like a total badass. Having that information pushed me to push myself further, harder.

The Canadian Shield is different terrain than the Canadian Rockies. I wouldn’t say it’s less challenging, but it’s challenging in different ways. The elevation changes aren’t as quick or noticeable, but the bush here is thicker, more dense, and, in my opinion, more wild. Traversing the land by foot during the warm months can be difficult – it’s interspersed with thousands of lakes, and the ground is often boggy where it’s not rocky. Paddling drew me in this year – I kayaked every day from May 20 – when the ice on the lake I lived on broke – until mid-August. I found myself on the water, seeing the world from a different perspective, exploring different facets of the lakes and the land up close, eye-to-eye. I went out every day for months to see details and colours and changes, to float below the eagle and beside the blue heron and around the ducklings. I went out every day to calm my mind. I went out every day because the world is so beautiful and I had to be in it. I don’t know how many kilometres I paddled this summer. I don’t know how many strokes I took. It doesn’t matter.

Now it’s winter, and the lakes are frozen, and so much more of the Shield is accessible because I can move on little trails that were once impassable creeks and bog. So I walk, I hike, I snowshoe. To see new places and to check for tracks and to catch snowflakes with my tongue and to feel the cold air on my face. If I’m lucky, I’ll see a coyote or a fox or a mink. But I love to see the land up close and eye-to-eye. I go out because the world is so beautiful and I have to be in it. I don’t know how many kilometres I snowshoe. I don’t know how many steps I take. It doesn’t matter.

Getting out into the bush has become less of a competition with myself or with others, less of a thing I do to get fast or fit or strong (though I am witness to these things happening). The numbers mean nothing to me, anymore. It’s something I do to feel joy and glee and calm and peace. For lack of a better explanation, it’s a spiritual experience.


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