Geocaching Is For The Dogs

While spending time on the water is always our preference, the dogs would often prefer to go for a walk. Today we decided to give the dogs what they wanted, but incorporated a bit of geocaching to keep it interesting for us.

Darrell and I decided to grab a few geocaches we had missed in the past along the Guelph-Elora Trail, or “GET”. There are approximately 40 caches along this trail and we grab a few each time we go to this area for a walk or a bike ride. We had several of the caches for two concessions of the trail, but were missing nine.

Molly, Darrell, and Jack.

Molly, Darrell, and Jack.

The trail travels along a hydro corridor and the first thing we noticed was that it had recently been cleared. The brush had been knocked back along the trail and around each tower. While making for a nice walk, I wondered if any of the caches may have been impacted.

Only two minutes into the trek, we both realized that wearing gloves and toques would have been a good idea. It was chilly! The dogs didn’t seem to notice the chill as they raced from one side of the path to the other, following scent trails and pulling at the ends of their leashes. Jake usually travels in a straight path, but Molly is all over the place. The setter in her comes out loud and clear on a walk.

Generally speaking, Darrell is a better geocache finder, and he found our first couple quite quickly. Despite wet feet, clinging branches, and slippery slopes, he seemed quite happy to grab each cache. We signed the logbooks, traded some items, and logged our finds online from the trail.

geocaching

A larger geocache container. Caches of this size usually have items that you can trade for. One of the caches today actually had a fishing lure in it (a spoon). I would have loved to take it, but I didn’t have anything to leave in its place.

geocache

Time to sign the logbook.

geocache

The smaller the geocache, the trickier it is to find. This one was hidden in a pretty neat place. I only found it because I thought it was weird for a wire to be sticking out of that spot.

On my old phone, I had paid for and downloaded the Geocaching app. The app worked well and I was planning to download it on my new LG G3, but I found a free app, c:geo, that looked just as good. This was my first test of the new app and I have to say that I loved it. It was easy to use and navigated well. For what I need in a geocaching app, this one fits the bill. I highly recommend this app for Android users (I do not know if it’s available for iOS).

Two of the geocaches stumped us for more minutes than I care to admit. We looked around in quite a broad area before I was able to find them. I’ll admit that I was proud to be the one to find them, not Darrell. What stumped us was that both of these caches were hidden in slightly different locales than the other ones. The dogs seemed to think we were crazy for walking back and forth in one area so many times, but they enjoyed gathering new smells.

A couple of geocaches had narrow misses from the recent clear-cutting of the trail. Both were hidden in trees that had lost several branches. We didn’t stop to check on the caches we had found previously, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one was missing.

trail

Bridge out! It’s hard to tell in this picture, but there used to be a bridge connecting the trail. If you want to cross now, you’re best to wait for the summer when it’s dry.

The colours make autumn so enjoyable.

The colours make autumn so enjoyable.

Jack enjoyed watching the birds that we flushed from the shrubs. He notices every little noise and stops to have a look. The gobbling turkeys at a farm near one geocache location were almost too much for him. I enjoyed looking at the reds, oranges, and yellows of the surrounding vegetation.

We called it a day after collecting the nine missing caches. The dogs were happy to jump back in the car and head home after all that fresh air and exploration. Geocaching is an excellent way for all of us to get outside and have some fun.

Why Pinktober Matters To Me

I am very lucky to have two fantastic sisters. Born within five years of each other, we were often screaming, fighting, and ganging up two on one in our childhood years. We also covered for each other when necessary, shared a passion for horses, had long talks about life, and enjoyed a lot of laughs. For three sisters, we could not look more different. We span the spectrum on hair colour (dark brunette to blonde), body shape, and clothing choice. In fact, the three of us had been showing horses for a few years before most people at the shows realized we were sisters.

Alyssa, me (Rebecca), and Leslie.

Alyssa, me (Rebecca), and Leslie (this picture is from several years ago).

As the oldest, I have always felt protective of my sisters. I never want them to be hurt, I always want to look after them, and want everything to work out perfectly for them. But that’s not always possible.

A few years ago I was having a typical day at work. I’d dealt with some upset customers, solved some issues for the technicians, and was having a nice chat with my coworker when my phone indicated I had a voicemail. The message stills plays in my brain, clear as a bell. The one sentence felt like it was on repeat as it played over and over in my head.

“Alyssa has breast cancer.”

I was sure that someone was playing a cruel joke, so as I walked out of the office and into the storage room for some privacy, I called our middle sister. Through tears, she confirmed my worst fears.

What. The. Fuck.

Excuse the language, but there was no other way for me to process my emotions. She was by far the healthiest of the three of us. She ate well, was extremely active (she had gone to university on a rowing scholarship), and was always cognizant of her health. I tried getting in touch with Alyssa and had to settle for a text. I had no idea how to be there for her, no idea what she wanted or needed, and could not begin to imagine what she was feeling.

I won’t go into the details of her battle, as she has started documenting it in a beautifully written blog, All Things Alyssa. I encourage everyone to read at least a few of her posts. Whether you’re a cancer patient, a survivor, a caregiver, or a supporter, her words will really open your eyes.

The fantastic news is that Alyssa IS a survivor. She’s in remission, has since married a wonderful man who loves her very much, and has the most adorable 7-month old son (I may be a bit biased on that, but my nephew truly is the cutest and happiest kid I’ve ever known). She has returned to school and is working on her Masters in chemical biology. Her hope is to go med school, and if there’s one thing I know about her, she can do anything she sets her mind to.

My sister found her lump while doing a self-exam. She was aware enough that she should be doing self-exams, something I’ll admit I’ve never been good at remembering. Then, despite the fact that everyone told her she was too young to have breast cancer (especially with no family history), she insisted on follow-up testing.

This is why Pinktober matters. Having a month where breast cancer patients and survivors are encouraged to share their stories, spreading awareness about screening and breast health…it’s so important!

After my sister’s diagnosis, I was enrolled in a high-risk program that meant I was scheduled for a mammogram and MRI. Following the Monday mammogram, Darrell and I went on vacation up north for a week of fishing. On the Wednesday morning I was sitting at the campsite when my phone went off. The woman on the other end of the line told me that something had been noticed on the mammogram and I needed to come in for a follow-up. Darrell returned from his walk to find me sobbing.

The rest of the week went by in a blur, as my mind kept wandering off into questions of “Is this happening?”, “Did they really find something?”. What I later found out, and wish I had been told at the time, is that many women get a call to come back in after their first mammogram. It’s not abnormal, so try not to panic.

I ended up in the hospital several more times for MRIs, mammograms, ultrasounds, and finally a biopsy. Through all of it, everyone assured me that I was too young to have breast cancer.

Really? My youngest sister’s diagnosis was the reason I was there!

Darrell came to every appointment I asked him to attend, put up with my psychosis during that time of uncertainty, and was generally just amazing. When the results of the biopsy were negative, I felt unbelievably lucky.

This summer I almost chose to skip the annual mammogram and MRI. Then I reminded myself of what my sister had been through. I read stories from breast cancer patients and survivors. I thought about how lucky I am to live in an age with screening tools (even if they’re not perfect). And I thought about how much I love my life. So I went.

Screening is important. Self-examination is important. Supporting research is important. This Pinktober, don’t get annoyed by all the pink everywhere, be thankful for the reminder to stay on top of your health. Participate in fundraising events, volunteer where you can. Donate to organizations that support patients and their family. Ask someone if they mind sharing their story with you.

Pinktober reminds me to be thankful that I have my amazing sisters in my life. They are incredible women. It reminds me not to take my own health for granted. Breast Cancer is brutal, and I long for the day when a cure is found. Until that day, a month of Breast Cancer Awareness will always be a good thing.

Take a moment to read the stories of some breast cancer survivors, including my sister, in this feature from the Hamilton Spectator.

Happy Thanksgiving!

thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of the year. It is usually one of the most beautiful times, with colourful leaves and autumn weather. There’s plenty of food, lots of pumpkins, and several Fall Fairs. Most importantly, the fishing is usually outstanding around this time.

Thanksgiving is also a time to pause and give thanks. I have a lot of things in my life to be thankful for. Here are a few, in no particular order.

1. My job - I was very lucky to have a job upon graduation, within the field of my choice. I’m even luckier to still be there after my summer contract ended. Every day I get to learn new skills, new information, and new ways of looking at things. Much of my time has been spent in the field, something I really wanted when I returned to school. I have great co-workers, and it’s nice to be able to pay the bills.

2. My fur kids – I am thankful for the love and companionship I get from the cats, dogs, and horses. While they often drive me mad, they do make me happy. It’s always rewarding to be given their trust and love.

3. Being Canadian – Canada is not perfect, but there is no nation I would rather live in and call home. The natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and generally tolerant society, are things that I cherish. I have the freedom to pursue the type of life I desire, and nothing is quite as awesome as hearing ‘Oh Canada’ play when we win another hockey tournament.

4. My fishing buddy  – Without Darrell, I never would have gotten into fishing, I likely would not have turned into a conservationist, I can guarantee I would never have started this blog, and I would have missed out on a lot of amazing things. Being able to share my life with someone who makes me smile, who puts up with my eccentricities, and takes me fishing, is truly a special thing.

There’s my short list, and I hope everyone takes a moment to be thankful for all they have. Have a fantastic weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

Fall Rainbows On Lake Ontario

There is a reason that so many anglers refer to Lake Ontario as Lake Awesome, it just is the most awesome lake one can fish.

My love affair with Lake Ontario has grown exponentially over the years. In fact, the trigger for buying a bigger boat was the day we drove to the big lake, only to find the forecast had not told us the truth, and the water was too rough to take the little boat out. Frustration and disappointment lead me to Kijiji.

Now that we have our beloved old Sea-Ray, we can get out on the big lake far more often. However, our latest outing was not one to test the rough water handling of the boat. Instead, it was a perfect, clear, calm, sunny September day. One of those days where it is almost criminal to spend it anywhere other than the water.

lake ontario

Darrell was pretty happy to be out fishing.

We launched before the sun came up, a few ducks quacking in the dark being the only noise other than us. The dogs happily jumped in the boat while Darrell warmed up the motor. I stared at the mesmerizing lights of the shoreline until they disappeared into the void. Anticipation of a day on the water had me alert and ready to go.

We ran out to 160FOW, set our rods, and kept trolling out. The blackness of the morning was inviting, rather than scary. For all we could tell, we were the only ones out there, and the idea of that much water to play in had me smiling. The dogs had a snack and settled down for a nap. Molly is a creature of comfort and always seems to head for the cuddy. Jack, on the other hand, is devoted to Darrell, and never strays far from his feet.

Jack loves being able to spend time with Darrell on fishing trips in the big boat.

Jack loves being able to spend time with Darrell on fishing trips in the big boat.

A haze prevented us from getting the full glory of the sunrise, but any sunrise on the water is still rather spectacular. I felt so lucky as I watched the sun come up. On Lake O, everything is more magnificent.

lake ontario

Sunrise on Lake Ontario.

We haven`t had the chance to fish the big lake much this year, so the best starting point we had was from the spring. A lot of anglers on the big lake are willing to share pointers on what works for them, and we sometimes use this information as a starting point. However, we rarely seek out this information. Both of us are extremely stubborn people, and we have far more fun when we develop a pattern on our own and manage to get into a few fish.

With the bigger salmon already running the rivers, we had decided to have some fun and search for rainbow trout. I love these kamikaze fish. They jump, they run, and they are an absolute blast.

The fish started coming in 180-220FOW. The first rod to fire was grabbed by Darrell since I was too slow off the mark. Considering the line it pulled and the thumps of the rod, it looked like a good one, but Darrell wasn`t able to keep it on. If that had been the only action of the day, we would have been happy. But there was more.

lake ontario

A perfect day.

We trolled out to the Blue Zone for the first time in my trolling experience. I stared at the finder until it read 300ft, then I let out a cheer for finally having reached this seemingly mystical area I could never go to in the little boat (it just wasn`t safe to go that far out in a small boat).

Working back towards the waypoint from the first fish, we got lucky and hooked into a few more. Darrell finally managed to get one in, and I was thrilled to take a picture for him before he released it. We had been worried about how easy or difficult it would be to release fish from this boat, but Darrell is the perfect height to lean over and revive them. Every fish we caught ended up swimming away nicely.

rainbow trout

Darrell`s first of the day.

As happy as I was to see Darrell get a fish, I wasn`t about to let him have the next one, and I ran as the next rod popped. This fish was exactly what I was looking for. She flew out of the water and splashed several times before going back down and pulling some line. Every time I made up ground, she wanted some more back. My arm was aching and I couldn`t stop laughing. What a rush! I got her to the boat after a few minutes, then had to hold on once she saw it and took off again. When people tell me they don`t like trolling, I know they have never had an experience like this. Once you get into a fish that gives you a good fight and a real show, nothing will ever be the same. With all that water and all that space, with the freshness and spunk they only have out in the lake, there is absolutely nothing that compares.

lake ontario

My lovely fighter. What a blast!

Since we continued to mark fish and bait, we stayed in the area, landing a couple more fish, loosing a few, and having too many knock-offs. It could not have been a more beautiful day out there, with flat water and sunny skies. It was nearly impossible to turn around and head home.

I stare at the boat every day and wonder if it is time to winterize her. We should, I know. The chances of us getting out again this fall are slim, but I just keep thinking about this last outing, and I`m not ready to wait until spring to experience that again. Lake Awesome is calling.