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The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION CANADA -

Al­go­nquin Pro­vin­cial Park has eight fam­i­lyfriendly drive-in camp­grounds, each at­tached to a lake. The back­coun­try has more than 1900 camp­sites reached via back­pack­ing trails and 2100km of ca­noe routes. Most camp­ing and park fa­cil­i­ties are open from spring (April) un­til au­tumn (Oc­to­ber). The op­ti­mal months are July and Au­gust; Septem­berOc­to­ber is peak time for au­tumn fo­liage. Park per­mits are re­quired. • al­go­nquin­park.on.ca • on­tar­i­oparks.com/park/ al­go­nquin could be driven down a treach­er­ous river high­way from the high­lands to the sea­port in Que­bec.

Black-and-white pho­tos show mous­ta­chioed men around open fires, in­side win­dow­less shanty build­ings, two to a bunk, socks hang­ing from the rafters to dry. I think of the lone­li­ness, the bit­ter cold and their bleak diet of bread, salt pork and beans as I dump my packet of de­hy­drated chicken vin­daloo on to my Tran­gia 25-3 ul­tra­light stove (de­signed in the moun­tains of Jamt­land, Swe­den) and wres­tle with the poles of my “three-sea­son wind-sta­ble feather-lite 20-de­nier-ny­lon tent”.

The jux­ta­po­si­tion seems com­i­cal. How can you com­pare burly fron­tiers­men to me, a lone fe­male, the Canada-born daugh­ter of Tai­wanese im­mi­grants. But are we so dif­fer­ent? My par­ents were pi­o­neers, too. They came here on a prom­ise of op­por­tu­nity, a nar­ra­tive as rel­e­vant to­day as it was two cen­turies ago. They came here to work, grow roots and ful­fil dreams. My coun­try has a long his­tory of im­mi­gra­tion, from Loy­al­ists to Scot­tish High­landers to 60,000 Viet­namese boat peo­ple. It’s es­ti­mated 20.6 per cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion is for­eign-born; in Toronto it’s 50 per cent.

My camp­site for the night is Oak Lake, a small yet daz­zling pool and one of about 1500 in the park; it is mine alone for the night and the sen­sa­tion is over­whelm­ing.

I wish I could tell you about a grip­ping event, per­haps a tran­scen­den­tal en­counter with a beaver or a tale of be­com­ing lost and sur­viv­ing on noth­ing but bark. A solo trek in the woods is usu­ally a se­ries of mi­nor undig­ni­fied mo­ments, such as trip­ping over roots, walk­ing into branches, en­coun­ter­ing leeches of course and cow­er­ing in a tent pet­ri­fied that ev­ery snap or rus­tle is a bear or the ghost of an axe-wield­ing re­venge-seek­ing lum­ber­jack.

I re­call my col­leagues won­der­ing why I was go­ing alone. Now I can tell them how I crawled from the tent at first light as drag­on­flies hov­ered and dew­drops sparkled on clover leaves. How I saw the mist ris­ing into the shad­ows be­tween the pines, and how I knew I could be com­pletely con­tent to be by my­self, here in my el­e­ment.

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