Like many, I was heartbroken to cancel upcoming trips, while also grateful that we got the lead time here in Canada to cancel things before it was too late (hopefully). Because it seemed ideal for the times, we did go on our planned March Break adventure: We stayed in the middle of the forest, in an isolated yurt at a MacGregor Point Park a few hours north of home. (If you’re just here for the photos, scroll to the bottom 😊)
It was me, my two teenagers, and my son’s friend who joined us on the same trip last year. We’d had so much fun then that we booked a longer stay this time. On our drive up, they interrupted me belting along with my oldies on the radio to tell us about a woman in our home city testing positive, and she hadn’t been travelling so it might be the first evidence of community transmission. We felt lucky to be getting out just in time.
Being immersed in nature is like living in a dream. I’d step out of the yurt early in the morning… and marvel at the stars and moon still sparkling. All through the day, we were one with the wind and sky and sun and trees and water. Even inside the air was filled with the clutter of geese honking in the evenings and bird calls in the morning. We chased sunrises and sunsets, spent hours on the shore of Lake Huron, hiked endless trails, and my daughter was welcomed into a family of red squirrels (though re-joined her original family for card games and meal times…).
We shared the outhouses and a central full washroom with many other campers. I don’t know how many there were, maybe twenty, maybe forty, sixty? There were many more people around than last year, when the weather was icy. Or maybe the increase was that others also felt safer away from cities. The washroom had two small sinks and three stalls, and there were almost always other people in there. It’s hard to practice social distancing when you’re elbow-to-elbow brushing teeth with a family of four.
What had seemed like the epitome of isolation started to feel like a breeding ground for a new outbreak. We used lots of hand sanitizer and had a tub with water and dish soap in the yurt, but I cringed every time someone went to the shared space. Our last full day, I talked with a friend back home and heard panic and exhaustion in their voice. People panic-shopping, hard decisions to be made about what to close, chaos of setting up work- and learn-from home options, and general fear of others – the anxiety was overwhelming and it infected me too. I was in paradise and couldn’t truly relax. What tipped me over was the noise of kids playing in the forest by our yurt (and their parents yelling at them). I realized they’d just arrived. I remembered noticing a group getting set up at a site we passed on a hike earlier too. How much turnover was there each day? How many new dozens of people would be washing their faces in my sink?
I talked with the kids about it. Was I in a spiral of irrational fear, or was I right to be concerned? There was no obvious answer. The park is in a fairly rural area, and they’d just had two cases confirmed there as well – a couple coming back from a cruise, who had no symptoms but were checked because of their contact with someone with the virus. Had they spread it to others before they knew?
We came home a bit early, after sunset on the night before we planned to leave in the morning. One last sunrise missed, though it turned cloudy and snowy as we left so it was probably for the best. We’re happily hunkered down at home now, with fewer trees around but our own bathroom, and all sorts of places we can hike here. We have oodles of pictures and I hold the stars inside me. We’ll get laundry done and see how we can help others struggling through these strange times. Be well, friends.