A note from Maman on the Trail:
Meet Mar, a human of the outdoors. Mar lives in Toronto, Ontario and gets outdoors with her husband and their 1-year old daughter. Here is her story…
On her time outdoors…
I grew up on the shores of Lake Huron, and from a young age was passionate about the outdoors. This passion has carried into my adult life, and now that my husband and I have a daughter of our own, we look forward to sharing our love of the outdoors with her.
My husband and I spent three years living in Alaska, where we took full advantage of everything the great state had to offer, including camping, hiking and fishing. I have so many great stories from Alaska. If you asked our friends this question, they would hands down say that it isn’t an outdoor adventure with the Wards if there isn’t rain. We became known for bringing rain where ever we went. We also have some great bear and fishing stories. Now living back home in Toronto, getting outside isn’t quite as easy. But we still make do every chance we get. I am an environmental educator so my passion carries from my personal life into my professional one, and I am also very passionate about teaching others how to care for the natural world.
On inspiration through the generations…
My grandma inspired me the most to get outside. We have a family cottage on the Bruce Peninsula that I have visited for over 30 years. When I was younger, my grandma and I would go on nature hikes and then come back to the cottage and use her flora and fauna guides to figure out what we saw. The cottage is on Lake Huron, so you also couldn’t get me out of the water during the summer! More recently though, my husband and daughter inspire me to get outside. It is our goal for her to love the outdoors as much as we do.
On moving to and from Alaska…
A few years ago, my husband retired from a career as a professional hockey player. During the 2010-2011 hockey season, he was planning on playing in sunny South Carolina. We had been in a long distance relationship for 5 years while I was in school, so once I graduated, I had decided to finally join him. A few days before I was going to drive down from Ontario, he got a phone call that he had been traded to a team in Anchorage, Alaska. We were hesitant to go because it was so far from family, and from what we had read, it was cold and dark, but we knew we couldn’t pass up the adventure. Turns out, it was one of the best decisions we have ever made – we loved it so much that we ended up staying for three years! During our last hockey season in Alaska, we got engaged and were planning a wedding back home in Ontario for the summer of 2013. While it was extremely hard to leave the friends we had made and the place we called home for three years, the family was calling back in Ontario. So, we packed up the three years of our lives in the back of our Kia Sorento and drove the 4500+ miles home to Toronto to get married, and ultimately, start a family.
On the challenges of getting outside in the big city…
Living in Alaska, it was so easy to get outdoors. From hiking to camping, and fishing, it was a new adventure every weekend (even in the middle of winter). Now living in the concrete jungle of Toronto, it is the exact opposite.
At around 300,000 people, Anchorage is much smaller than Toronto. Smaller often means more laid back. It is a much different environment and culture. People are not in a rush and suits are not normal work attire. A small city also means a much shorter commute, which allowed for more time in the day to get outside. An adventure was also only a 5-minute drive away. The city has numerous trails to hike and peaks to climb, so even if we couldn’t drive outside the city limits, every adventure was different.
Toronto is such a busy city, and if we want a real adventure we have to get in the car and drive over an hour. On top of that, long work commutes mean getting home late, often when its dark, and my husband and I currently have opposite work schedules, which means limited weekends together. We also have a 1-year old daughter, which means we had to put our yearly canoe-in camping trip to Algonquin on hold for a little bit. We look forward to taking her car camping this summer!
Adventures are no longer spontaneous, and require planning ahead (and often taking vacation time). The scale of adventure is currently dialled back as well – no hopping on a boat and taking off for the weekend. Any way that we can get out of the city for a few days is an adventure to us nowadays. My parents have a fantastic piece of property on Lake Huron, as well as a cottage up on Bruce Peninsula, so those are often our go-to mini-adventures and a chance to just relax with family for a few days. When we can’t get away for a few days, we’ll hit the trail that runs along the Don River here in Toronto.
On working in conservation and education…
I grew up on Lake Huron, so from a young age I have had a strong connection with the outdoors. I have a degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology and a Graduate Certificate in Ecosystem Restoration, and my entire career has been dedicated to sharing my passion for the outdoors with others and teaching them how to protect our natural world. In Alaska, I worked at the Alaska Zoo – an amazing non-profit dedicated to providing a home for orphaned and injured arctic, sub-arctic and like-climate species. I delivered the school programs and had the chance to work hands-on with many amazing animals including red fox, musk ox, great horned owl, red-tailed hawk and more! Now back in Toronto, I am still in the conservation and environmental education field, but in a different environment, at the local aquarium.
A little Q & A…
Q: What is your go-to adventure snack?
A: We always have a bag of beef jerky or homemade trail mix with us.
Q: What piece of gear do you never leave the house without?
A: Our Nalgene water bottles*. It’s important to stay hydrated wherever your adventures take you.
Q: What is your favourite nature quote, and who said it first?
A: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~ Albert Einstein
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