My Academic Life (so far)

When I put things down on paper or in a blog I make a public commitment. Right now I am working on developing an academic schedule that will take me through the next four years. Yes, this is an assignment for one of my courses, but this is really a letter to myself. I understand the importance of committing to a plan. When I was working as a  principal I would plan ahead all the time, even though the job by its very nature, was unpredictable. Despite the chaos in running an elementary school, every week I would write weekly plans in a school blog to parents so that they would know what was intended to go on at the school. On some Sunday afternoons, this writing would take hours. I never resented the time. This was an opportunity to reflect on what had happened the week before and plan for upcoming events.

My last school blog post – December 2016

I never worried that the school schedule did not follow what was set down on Sunday. Writing was a  way for me to take a longer view and celebrate what was going on with our parent community. This also made the learning more visible for the community.

Six years later I find myself planning again: this time for a Ph.D. which will consume my time for the next four years.  The first year in a Ph.D. program is probably the most straightforward. I am in the process of taking six courses – two last semester, three right now and one in the spring. After this I will be starting work on my comprehensives. This begins with the development of my bibliography and continues on following the schedule below:

StepsExpected completion
Courses completed Spring, 2022
Committee Member List 
Comprehensive Exam: Bibliography
Written component
Oral presentation
1) October
2) spring
3) fall 2022 
Thesis proposal  winter 2023
Ethics approval spring 2023
Recruitment and data collection summer – fall 2023
Thesis winter 2024
Defense December 2025
my first draft at a long-term schedule

To get to 2025, I need a detailed schedule. I am sure this will evolve as I learn more about the Ph.D. process. However, on this cold January afternoon in 2022, there is comfort in editing a draft schedule that sets a future path and supposes order to a very busy four years.

The challenge will not only be managing a busy writing and reading schedule, it will be finding ways to balance this work with many other interests. The foundation of the week will remain exercise. If I have learned anything through the Pandemic it is the importance of keeping body, mind and spirit healthy. The activity can change from the Peloton to hiking to biking, but this is where I have to start, I simply can’t afford to let this go no matter how busy things get.

one thing we did regularly during Covid was to take walks and photos

At the heart of all this will be the thesis and defense. These are the end goals and I have to keep these in mind all of the time. Over the past summer I started to collect articles and write summaries of what I was reading. This has fallen off with the amount of work I have been doing, but now I need to get back to the process of preparing for my end goal. To do this, I will reserve one morning a week – Wednesday for reading and summarizing articles that I can start using for my comprehensives and beyond. It is a challenge to block out time for a goal that is so far away, but by the fall I plan to produce a bibliography of 20-30 pages that will prepare me for my comprehensives.

Every article – one-page images – can be single entry or represent a folder with hyperlink; text in different fonts – synthesized big ideas; icon for connections – your own and/or other articles or sources; photo scan – original written notes; ideas – applications for your own teaching.


content or topic with matching photo article on gallery walk – pedagogy
  




 text – big ideas/concepts


                   ← other resources







applications for own teaching/inspirations
the summary chart I started using last summer – designed by Heather Swail

The summary chart above was really helpful last summer and I plan to start using it again this Wednesday. I have known for a long time that I write best in the morning, especially after an exercise session, so I am going to reserve time every day for writing – summary notes, assignments, reflections, and revising.  I plan to put in two hours in the mornings each day to get something down. This semester, my goal is to improve my academic writing. Last semester I learned that while I write well, I am a little careless with my grammar and I need to brush up on my APA and academic style.

This leaves afternoons free for reading –  a highly necessary Ph.D. activity. Right now, I am working through Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life by bell hooks (hooks, 1997). She writes that when researching her first book hooks would read up to three books a day, sometimes getting only one line she could use for her own writing (p. 102-103). That will not be me. I am a slow reader; sometimes I need most of the day to absorb one article. I will read every day, otherwise, I will never keep up.

bell hooks (Anthony Barboza/Getty Images)

It is one thing to write a schedule, it is another to live it. I will need to weave in the work I continue to do at the university and for Discovery Education. I won’t give up my work with Discovery, I love working with them. The assignments are always different and interesting. Whether I am writing or editing for one of their digital science books, there is a great sense of accomplishment in getting this work done. Without doubt, they are the most positive and affirming people I know, so why would I leave that behind? It is hard to add this work to my growing schedule as I never know when another contract will come up. When it does, I can easily put in 15 hours a week working on their material. Because there is always a deadline, I will have to estimate and portion out my hours throughout the week.

Right now I have one meeting a month with the graduate student committee for Thinking Historically for Canada’s Future. I am definitely the junior member of this group, but I am starting to meet some great people, so I need to find ways to become more involved.

I also want to keep up my teaching at the University of Ottawa. Right now the responsibilities are light: we work as faculty advisors to second-year teacher candidates, but we haven’t been able to visit their schools since the beginning of the Pandemic. Next year I hope to get either another section of this course or even better, a section of the history methodology course that I taught three years ago. I am certain that this experience led me to this PhD journey. I can’t really schedule this time yet, but when the fall comes I will have to restructure my days. For now, I will reserve one morning a week to work on our current course.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
exercisexxxreading for
comps
xxx
writingAMAMAMAM
readingPMPMPMPM
DEwhen
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
when
available 3-4
hours daily
University
work
AM
classes5:30 – 8:30pm11:30 – 2:30 pm
free
time
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – 6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –6:00 pm –
My schedule – first draft

There will be adjustments to this schedule over time, but the daily reading and writing will remain the foundation of my schedule. I am leaving some events out like meeting with my supervisors and committee work, but as these become more frequent I will have to find space.

My schedule is seven days. Since my days as a principal, a seven-day schedule made more sense. There is less pressure and at times when there is no Discovery work I can get ahead on my assignments. I really hope to keep my nights free – there needs to be time for fun, just as bell hooks said (p. 122).

What is missing right now is something I love to do. If I mention it here I know I will get back to it – our regular radio shows – Old Fellas New Music. Bob Kennedy, a very long-time friend and I started doing this show in the spring. Work took over and we gave the show a bit of a rest. We got two episodes done over the holiday break and we hope to get another one in next week. This is a great creative outlet and I am determined to work this in, let’s say Wednesday afternoons for now.

You can find our shows on Mixcloud – https://www.mixcloud.com/paul-mcguire3/

What is also missing are some of the activities that were so important to us before Covid. In 2017 Heather and I developed a fundraising campaign for Christie Lake Kids, an Ottawa foundation that provides recreation programming for children throughout the year. Our campaign – Climb for Kids has raised over $100,000 over a three-year period. We raised this money by carrying out group climbing trips in Peru and the Alps. Our next trip was to be Mt. Kilimanjaro, but this has been on hold because of the Pandemic. Our whole family has been involved in this venture and all of our children have worked for Christie Lake Kids. The family is not on the schedule, but in all things, family comes first.

Our first Climb for Kids trip – The Ausangate Region of Peru

If I write it down, I will do it. If I publish this, I have to do it! Thanks professor for giving me the push to get all this down. I am writing again and it feels great!

References

hooks, b. (1997). Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life. Holt.

Kilimanjaro Day-by-Day in the times of COVID

I will be putting out a day-by-day post for the next eight days outlining what we would have been doing if this had been a normal year. Today we start the journey from the Ottawa train station.

This post will grow each day as we go through the days of our Kilimanjaro trek.

Departure date: 25 July – arrival Kilimanjaro: 26 July

Air France

bus Ottawa-Montreal + flight Montreal-Paris-Nairobi-Kilimanjaro

Departs with the whole group at 3:00 pm, we arrive at the airport in Montreal at 5:00pm. Around 10:00 pm, we board the plane for Paris and arrive around 10:30 am on Sunday, July 26. Soon after, we leave for Nairobi, Kenya, then on to Kilimanjaro International Airport

leaving from the Ottawa train station in 2017

Kilimanjaro International Airport

Day 2 is really a transit day. We are in the air for 15 hours, with stops in Paris and Nairobi. We will arrive very late at the airport in Arusha.

Jomo Kenyatta International Airport

Day Two – in transit
CDG PARIS DE GAULLE, FRANCE 10:45 am.
Arrive NBO NAIROBI KENYATTA, KENYA 20:55 pm –
Arrive JRO KILIMANJARO, TANZANIA 23:50pm (7-hour difference) – 15 hours flying time

finally arriving at the airport in Arusha – 15 hours in flight

We advise group members to wear their trekking boots on the flight over – if luggage is lost it is difficult to replace your boots. That is a long time in your boots!

 

We have added in a rest day so we can start to recover from any jet lag and hopefully spend some time getting to see Arusha. It will be good to arrive.
Always with the mountain at our back.
Day Three – July 27th, a rest day in Arusha.
This is a good day to take it easy and get your gear together. You will have to weigh your gear to make sure you are not over what you are allowed to bring with you. Extra luggage will be left at the lodge.

There should be a scale at the hotel so you can weigh your bag. Extra stuff can be left at the hotel. It took me a while to get my weight right!

 

The rest of the day will be yours to relax, maybe go into Arusha and we will have our team meeting.

A tour of Arusha

 

Team Meeting – There will be a trip briefing this afternoon/evening. Please bring with you your passport and insurance details, and your air ticket details. The briefing will cover all aspects of your trip and will include the distribution of any hired equipment you have booked.

Our group briefing with our head guide, Living Maleo

Tomorrow we start for the beginning of the Lemosho Route!

First day on the trail
To Londorossi; begin ascent to Lemosho Forest (2650m).
In the morning we transfer to Londorossi (2250 m), passing between the slopes of Kilimanjaro and the horseshoe-shaped volcanic crater of Mt. Meru
(a distance of about 120 km).
After completing the necessary registration formalities, we drive on for a short distance through farmland and plantations to reach the Lemosho road head. The last 5 km of the road to the park gate is of poor quality, particularly after rain, and the drive there should be considered part of the adventure.
We often have our lunch in the glades before starting to walk. It is an easy day of walking up a small path through beautiful and lush forest, this area has a variety of game including buffalo. We camp at Lemosho Forest camp (2650 m). Approx 3-4 hours walking.

a video of the first day showing the weighing of bags at the trailhead and the beautiful vegetation at the beginning of the trek

our campsite after our first day of trekking in 2017

 

July 29 – Day Two
Explore Shira Plateau; camp at Shira One (3550m).
The trail starts out in the lush rich montane forest before ascending into the moorland zone of giant heather. The trail climbs steadily with views across
the plains opening out as we reach the rim of the Shira Plateau. There is a tangible sense of wilderness especially if the afternoon mists come in. We camp in the centre of the plateau at Shira One (3550 m). Approx 6-7 hours walking.

Shira One Camp, the summit is in the background

If you take a look at the altitude at Shira One, you will see it is over 3000m. Once you get over that boundary, you really begin to feel the altitude. Every effort becomes a challenge and you really need to take things slowly and be mindful of what you are doing. This is the world you live in for the next week.

These short videos give you a sense of what it is like on each stage of the Lemosho Route – no commentary, just the trail.

July 30 – Day Three
Walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral to camp at Shira Hut (3840m).
A day to help acclimatization and to explore the grassy moorland and the volcanic rock formations of the plateau. We walk to the summit of Shira Cathedral, a huge buttress of rock surrounded by steep spires and pinnacles.

Shira Cathedral

The views from our camp near Shira Hut (3840m) of Mt. Meru floating on the clouds are simply unforgettable. The afternoon is free to relax. Approx
4-5 hours walking.

This is an acclimatization day – you need days like this to help your body get used to the change in altitude. You will definitely be going at a slow pace now – don’t rush and stay with your guides!!

This is a good short video for you to watch. You will notice that the trekkers are going very slowly along the caldera, but all the time the altitude is increasing. By the end of the day, you will be over 3800m. A short, gentle day like this will help you to acclimatize for the journey ahead.

July 31 – Day Four

Leaving Shira One Camp

Descend to camp at Great Barranco Valley (3900m).

A morning of gentle ascent and panoramic views, walking on lava ridges beneath the glaciers of the Western Breach. After lunch near the Lava Tower junction (4550m), we descend to the bottom of the Great Barranco valley (3900m), sheltered by towering cliffs and with extensive views of the plains far below. Approx 5-7 hours walking.

This is a very long day. I remember this day very well as I went through bouts of altitude sickness throughout the day. Next time, I will be sure to take Diamox, something I didn’t do in 2017!

The guide says 5-7 hours walking, but I think it is longer than that. Remember, you are walking very slowly at this point, so taking your time is really important.

Walking away from Shira Camp – this is a long day at increasingly higher altitude
Pole! Pole!

lava tower in the mist – our lunch stop on Day Four

Day 4 up to the Lava Tower at 4,600m and dropping down to Barranco camp at 3,850m is one of the harder days. It can take between 6 and 8 hours depending on the group. It’s for days like this that we train so hard for this trek!

August 1 – Day Five
Over the Barranco Wall to Karanga (4000m).
A short steep climb up the famed Barranco Wall leads us to an undulating trail on the south-eastern flank of Kibo, with superb vistas of the southern icefields. The terrain changes to volcanic scree, with pockets of lush vegetation in sheltered hollows, and a powerful sense of mountain wilderness.

video footage from the Barranco Wall 2017. This is a tricky section where you have to hug the wall closely to get around a protruding rock

Our next camp is at Karanga (4000m) a short distance away. The valley floor has the last water point on the approach to Barafu and we camp on the higher sides of the valley with views towards the glaciers of the southern icefields. Approx 4-5 hours walking.
We are now sleeping at high altitude with one more camp to go before we make our summit attempt. The landscape now is barren, but beautiful. For me at least, the altitude sickness has calmed down. All I need to do now is breathe and keep moving one step at a time.

Karanga Camp. I don’t actually remember this camp very well. Altitude will do that to you.

 

August 2 – Day Six

This is a good day to rest – you will be getting up around 10:30 pm for your ascent to the summit

Steep ascent to Barafu campsite (4600m), with optional afternoon ascent to the bottom of S.E. Valley (4800m).
The trail follows a path on compacted scree with wide views ahead including the Barafu Ridge where our camp lies. The trail climbs unrelentingly to reach the Barafu campsite (4600m) for lunch, after which there is a short acclimatization walk to the plateau at the bottom of the southeast valley (4800m). The remainder of the day is spent resting in preparation for the final ascent and includes a very early night.
Approx 3-5 hours walking.
In honour of this day and to walk under the same moon, we will be doing a night walk tonight around the time we would be getting up for the summit attempt. This will be part of the Kilimanjaro Challenge put together by Nathalie and Remi Roy.

Heading from Karanga Camp to High Camp at Barafu. This is a slow and steady hike which takes 3/4 hours to get to high camp. Take your time as you ease your way to high camp.

August 3 – Day Seven
(full moon)
An early start to reach Stella Point in time for sunrise; on to Uhuru Peak (5895m), the highest point in Africa; descend to Millennium Camp (3800m).
We will start our ascent by torchlight around midnight so that we can be up on the crater rim by sunrise. The steep climb over loose volcanic scree has some well-graded zig-zags and a slow but steady pace will take us to Stella Point (5735m), in about five or six hours.
We will rest there for a short time to enjoy the sunrise over Mawenzi. Those who are still feeling strong can make the two hour round trip from here along the crater rim to Uhuru Peak (5,895m), passing close to the spectacular glaciers and ice cliffs that still occupy most of the summit area.

This shot was taken with my phone on a cold morning ascent of Kilimanjaro.
I took the picture then forgot about it. High altitude can easily do that to you!

The descent to Barafu is surprisingly fast, and after some refreshments, we continue to descend to reach our final campsite (3800m) at Millenium camp. Most of us will be too tired to notice the beauty of the forest surrounding the crowded campsite. This is an extremely long and hard day with between 11 and 15 hours of walking at high altitude.

Our group shot at Stella Point, probably around 9:30 April 2017. Stella Point (5739 m) is on the crater rim but it is still a two-hour return journey to Uhuru Peak (5895 m)

Once we had all gathered at Stella Point, I actually turned off my tracker. To my oxygen-starved brain, I was done. To people back home, it looked like I had fallen off the edge of the world.

Tracking the night of April 7. There is no track back…

Finally, a great video taken at sunrise going up towards the crater. Look at how slowly these climbers are going! At sunrise, they are at Stella Point. The group makes it to Uhuru – a beautiful series of shots. You can actually see the curvature of the Earth! I really want to make it to Uhuru next time!

August 4 – Day Eight
To Mweka Gate; transfer to Arusha.

You have descended 4255m in a day – it is great to be at low altitude again!

This day is a sustained descent on a well-constructed path through lovely tropical forest alive with birdsong and boasting lush undergrowth with considerable botanical interest. Our route winds down to the national park gate at Mweka (1650m); and on through coffee and banana farms to Mweka village. The shower, the beer, and the swimming pool are tantalizingly close! We return by bus to Arusha (a distance of about 100 km). Approx 4-6 hours walking.

The final day coming from Mweka camp 3,100m and exiting the national park at 1,900m. These last two days are tough going up to the summit at 5,895, to 1,900m do not underestimate this challenge.

Getting started with our Virtual Kilimanjaro Climb!

Hi everyone!
We are very excited to get our Virtual Kilimanjaro Climb started!! It begins this day – Sunday, June 21st
We have a few notes here to get things going.
1. The suggested contribution for the climb is $58.95 – the altitude of Kilimanjaro in meters. If a group of you are doing this, a group rate can be $75.00 – these are suggestions, whatever you can contribute is great.
You can make your contribution to your own Canada Helps Page, if you don’t have one, you can contribute to one of the Climb for Kids trekkers here.
2. Starting Sunday, we will send each of you a set of Google Slides representing the challenge for that day. Here is a sample page. Please go at your own pace, just let us know how you are doing!!
3. We have set up a Strava page where you can challenge people and list your daily totals. You can join our group here
4. We also have a Spotify Playlist for you to listen to. Please feel free to add songs to our list here
5. Each day we can record your total steps – or you can do it yourself here. If you want us to record your steps, please send us an email at the end of the day.
Thanks very much for joining us! Let’s have lots of fun with this!!
If you know someone else who wants to join us, please let us know and we will add them to this great list!!

Communities Move Mountains!!

Paul And Heather

A virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro – Join Us!

We are organizing an event for all of you starting on the first day of summer – June 21st – a virtual climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Here is your opportunity to climb to the Roof of Africa under your own COVID roof!!

climbing the Barranco Wall

 

Each day for seven days we will put out to those who are interested 1) a step count that approximates the steps you would take on that particular day (8-10,000 steps); 2) a commentary embedded for you to listen to that goes over what that day on the trail is like;  3) a video log of that day by Arienne Parzei; 4) a conditioning follow-along video by Chase Tucker; 5) some music to inspire you for your day; 6) some Kilimanjaro interesting facts and; 7) a fun African recipe.

This will be sent to you in the form of a google slide that we will add to every day. Of course, it is up to each of you how many days you take to complete the challenge.

This is a screenshot of the day 1 slide

We will create a spreadsheet so you can record your steps every day. We will use our Facebook pages so you can record how you are doing, any inspirational messages for people or any group challenges you want to put out there! If you are new to all this, we will add you to our Kilimanjaro 2021 Facebook Page – an added bonus!!

 

We want to raise some money for Christie Lake Kids, but we are not emphasizing the fundraising nature of this experience. We are suggesting each participant contribute $58.95 – the height of Kilimanjaro in meters. If this works out well, we might do this as a full fundraiser this fall. We are still committed to raising over $40,000 for Christie Lake Kids before we actually climb Kilimanjaro in 2021. Right now, we are at $26, 722.

If you want, you can get sponsors to raise more money – we leave this up to you. With the pandemic, Christie lake Kids stills to raise money – most of its regular fundraisers have been postponed, but they still plan to run a really cool virtual camp this summer called Camp in a Box.

This is a good opportunity to invite more people into the Climb for Kids experience. If friends and/or family join, we will add them to the spreadsheet, to our Kili FB Page and make sure they get the link to our climbing slides.

Our poster for the virtual climb!

So, please let us know if you are interested and we will get you signed up! Write me here – mcswa1@gmail.com

Remember – Communities Move Mountains!

Living in the Times of Covid – 19: A Journal

So, I reorganized my CD collection, sent a video to my mom and put a silly picture on Facebook. My very busy agenda for the day is complete. I am thinking now it is time to start an on-line journal on our days staying inside.

Just to be clear, none of this will be me complaining. I have a sister-in-law who is a nurse in Montreal, our daughter and her partner and our daughter-in-law are all front-line health care workers. They are the ones I know who are actually going through challenging times now.

Thank-you Norma, stay safe!

This is more of a reflection piece. Where was my mind at during the Pandemic?

If you can see the photo I put up on Facebook, you can get a sense of where my head is at. I really think, number one, the idea needs to be stay stable, don’t go off the deep end, this is a really weird time.

But at some point, we will all go over the deep end.

Two nights ago during a Zoom book club, I didn’t follow my own advice. I had spent an hour listening to the daily presser with Donald Trump fact-checked by Now This News. It is really good because they fact-check Trump in realtime. Good, but very disturbing.

Going from this train wreck to a discussion on books about hiking was a little too much. I erupted about Trump, about trekking books, about everything. If my Zoom partners could have backed further away from their computer they certainly would have. For good reason, my state of mind is now a discussion item and I can hardly blame people for that.

Trying to keep an even keel these days is a real challenge!

We all have minor and major disappointments. We can’t see our friends and family. Everyone is seeing opportunities and plans go up in smoke. In the very worst cases of course, many people are dying terrible deaths.

There was an incredible article in the Sunday New York Times – He Could Have Seen What Was Coming: Behind Trump’s Failure on the Virus.

It is a long article – four pages in the NY Times.It really outlines in gruesome detail how President Trump hid from what was coming. Then I read an amazing piece by Nicholas Kristof, Life and Death in the Hot Zone. Here is the video he made of his time in a COVID ward.

 

So, I think we need to do a bit of both. We need to send out the silly photos, we need to share our pictures about baking bread and we need to read good pieces on hiking too. We need to do it all. We need to face up to what is happening too.

There is no balance in the time of COVID -19. There are highs and lows and all are good. We need to witness the terrible and we can’t turn our faces away from the corrupt and stupid. Somehow, we need to find a way to see both.

For me right now, the best I can do is write. Yes, it is a bit of an apology for a wonky state of mind, but we all need to acknowledge that this is a different time. Terrible for some scary and uncertain for everyone.

If this works I will keep writing, maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, take care everyone!

ps – I leave you with this – while I don’t really like books on trekking I love trekking videos – definitely, to each their own!

Communities Move Mountains – looking for more climbers

 
I have kept almost all my promotion for Climb for Kids Year III on Facebook and Twitter, but on this Thanksgiving Weekend, I am sending out one note to long-term supporters via email and here on my blog.
 
We have 10 trekkers for July 2020 and we want to get 10 more. A group of 20 seems right for such a big climb. It also means that we could reach a new goal of $40,000 this year, making our total for the three years of Climb for Kids over $100,000.
 
Maybe this climb is not for everyone – physically and mentally it is a great challenge. However, word of mouth is still the most effective way to get new trekkers so we are hoping that the good news will reach the right people and we will pick up 10 more people. If you are reading this and happen to know someone who might be interested, I would like to ask you to share this note with them.
 
There are several things people can do if they might want to come with us:
 
  • First, share this post with your network
  • Second, if you live close to Ottawa, come to our launch on October 25th at the Senate Tavern (Bank Street) – Tony Perdomo, from Exodus Travels will be there to talk about the trip and all the details.
  • call Monique Perras, our travel agent at Club Aventure – 613-789-8000
  • email me (mcswa1@gmail.com) and I can answer any question someone might have about the trip.

 

We have a large and growing network of supporters who continue to help us raise money for Christie Lake Kids.

Somewhere out there is a trekker who will help us get to a climbing group of 20 people and who will push us over the $100,000 mark. Maybe your job is to pass this note on to them!

 
Communities truly Move Mountains, and we really want to make this our biggest year yet! You can be a big help.
 
Who is out there waiting to join us?
 

To Be a Pilgrim

Who would true valour see, Let him come hither
One here will constant be, Come wind, come weather.
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent His first avowed intent,
To be a pilgrim

John Bunyan

Pilgrim – person who journeys to a sacred place; a traveller or wanderer.

Lightfoot Companion to the Via Francigena

symbol for the Via Francigena

Retirement is a funny thing. After decades of defining oneself by an occupation, the time comes where your definition needs to come from somewhere else. It is a different journey with fewer signposts.

After two and a half years, I think I am putting some of the pieces together. While there is work from time to time, retirement for me is becoming defined by the sojourn. This was not the plan, but it seems to resonate.

Two years ago I climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and entered the world of thin air and extreme trekking. Later, I travelled the old military roads of the Scottish Highlands with my daughter Colleen. The following year, on our first Climb for Kids trek, we climbed the sacred ground around Ausangate in Peru.

Colleen finds the Braveheart Car Park on the West Highland Way

My son Liam and I followed this up by walking the Pathway of the Gods in Amalfi. We also traced ancient Roman ruins at Pompeii and Rome. Very soon, our second Climb for Kids group will be trekking 170 km around Mont Blanc.

Liam and I starting another trek on the Amalfi Coast

Now I am starting to plan for my longest journey, part of the Via Francigena next October. We are also actively planning for Year III of Climb for Kids. The next trek will be an epic climb, but we won’t announce this one until the end of the summer.

I think what is happening here is that in my retirement I am becoming a pilgrim. There is an ‘avowed intent’ that is linking all of these walks. I think the most important intent is to connect or reconnect with people. On my treks in Scotland and Italy, I had the wonderful privilege of travelling first with my daughter Colleen then with my son Liam.

There is a true beauty in reconnecting with your adult children. We all change as we grow older and we all need to take the time to make sure our relationships stay vital and fresh. You can do this really well by walking and talking or sometimes just travelling in silence.

Climb for Kids is a wonderful experience for all sorts of reasons. I wrote about Year II last week and you can see that post here – Communities Move Mountains. This trek is about connecting too. Most importantly I get to travel and plan with my wonderful partner Heather Swail. We did our first high-altitude trek together last year in Peru and we experienced the beauty of the mountain together. After so many years together, it is still possible to learn things about your partner, especially when you are trekking under conditions of high physical stress.

Heather reaches the high pass at 5200 m with her buddy Beth

We have a great group this year and we will learn a great deal about each other as we travel around the highest mountain in Europe. Mountains take you to another place. They help you to hold others who travel with you in higher regard. They help you to gain a greater respect for yourself and for what you are able to do. The mountains truly make you a pilgrim.

There is a really good story that John Muir told about trekking. He never used the word hike and neither do I. He liked the word saunter because of its connection to an ancient practice.

Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.

John Muir

A Parable of Sauntering

So this is my saunter. It is defining much of what I do these days, although until now I didn’t know if I had put this together. I still have to start writing about the Via Francigena and I will either soon or after the TMB. There is so much to learn and a world to saunter in. Each journey takes me to another holy land and I guess that makes me a pilgrim.

Acclimatization camp on Mt. Kilimanjaro

Where do the trails lead you?

I am reading about trails. Robert Moor has written a magical book called On Trails An Exploration

This is an interesting book – trails are different from paths, ‘trails tend to form in reverse, messily, from the passage of dirty feet.’ (page 68 On Trails) It has got me thinking.

Trails are where we find something magical. The trail through giant ancient plants on Kilimanjaro. The feral goat who looks down on you on the West Highland Way, the ghostly llama as darkness gathers.

Trails also lead to friends, new and old, sometimes family and loved ones too.

On trails you make friends, but more importantly, you learn to depend on others

Trails draw you into a new life and once you walk the trail you are really part of the trail. 

You don’t go once, you go again.

Climbing up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Because of those who walked the trails before I now am hooked. I dream about old trails – can I do them better, can I experience more, can I test myself in some other fashion. The trail takes on dreams and the dreams make me want to push on do more, learn more, experience more.

The pathways are not just pathways. When I walk, I need to do it for another reason too. There are two reasons that I have figured out so far. To help in some way children in poverty and to connect to my family.

The West Highland Way

For me, working for children is a matter of social justice. I walk, raise money and then support programs that actually can break the cycle of poverty. That is why I can only walk for Christie Lake Kids – the cycle can be broken, but it takes innovation and a huge community effort. I want to be part of that effort.

Second – connecting to my family is what I want to do. I am 60 years old. I don’t have to worry about making an impact or being successful in my job. I am happily beyond that. But I do need to reach out to my partner and my children in important ways. So, I need to take the path with them.

Last year I walked with my daughter. This summer I trekked with my partner. In a few weeks, I will hike with my son.

If I am going to do something like this it has to be for kids, social justice or family.

There are, I hope many more trails and many more wonderful people to meet as we raise money and awareness. In between treks for Christie Lake Kids, I will walk with my family – all of them.

This is where the trail will lead.

Towards nightfall with Christie Lake Climb for Kids

Christie Lake Climb for Kids – Linking People, Adventure and a Great Cause

It is really great when a project comes together.

A year ago we came up with the idea for Climb for Kids. The idea was to raise money for a program in Ottawa that is transforming the lives of low-income children throughout the year through recreation and leadership programs – Christie Lake Kids.

A venture like this works really well when you have lots of great community partners. First, we based our model on the wonderful initiative of Shawn Dawson’s – Dream Mountains. For eight years, Shawn led trekking trips to Africa, Nepal and Peru and in the process raised over $1 million for local charities. I had the wonderful privilege to take part in one of these climbs to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 2017. This was truly a transformative event that showed me how you can link adventure up with support for community agencies.

These projects are all about partnership and mutual support. Shawn continues to help us by offering his restaurant Fat Boys as a location for our group fundraisers. He has also helped us with training and is definitely part of our support community.

We also work with a group of travel agencies and businesses including Merit Travel and Exodus Travels along with Great Escape Outfitters and Sail. Merit was our go to travel support who were with us all the way, especially when the group ran into some significant troubles getting to airports in Peru. GEO provided jackets for the group and Sail gave the group discounts on equipment for the trip. Investors Group acted as a corporate sponsor who really helped us with some of our equipment costs.

We also had the wonderful assistance of a group trainer – Shaun Kehoe. Shaun started working with some of the group in February and we continued training with him right up until the beginning of August. His work with us certainly made us stronger for a very tough trek.

On a different level, there were countless sponsors and individual contributors who helped our group raise over $25,000 for CLK. This was $10,000 more than we expected in the first year of this project. A huge success for the first year of Climb for Kids!

Group members preparing for the trek in Peru

The best social enterprises are those with broad community support. Much of our success depends on the social capital we have raised over the past year. Our group of 17 trekkers were supported by hundreds of other people and businesses. We were united in the belief that it is really important to support transformative recreation for low-income kids in Ottawa. This is what binds us all together.

The real success for Climb for Kids lies in developing a legacy of fundraising. Our first year was a great success so now we need to begin work on year 2. We have a trip planned out, again with the assistance of Merit and Exodus. We will  announce the new trip soon and we will start looking for recruits for the second venture to take place in July 2019.

We want to continue to link adventure, fundraising and community into a dynamic social enterprise. As I have written, this is all about people. Our 17 trekkers were so well supported throughout the past year. We will continue developing with wonderful community into year 2. Ultimately, we are supporting kids and that is what makes this all so worthwhile.

We will grow our support, recruit new climbers and sponsors and we will trek again in less than a year. We are empowered by a terrific community.

Now is the time to recognize and thank this wonderful community. We are so grateful and we have gained so much and most importantly, we did all this together!

Getting underway – Vamos!

 

Christie Lake Kids Goes to Peru

In a few days, we leave for the mountains of Peru. We are 17 climbers all raising money for Christie Lake Kids – transformative recreation for low-income children here in Ottawa.

A year ago we started putting this experience together. Our small team recruited hikers, planned fundraisers and over the space of eight months raised over $25,000.

This is the big idea. Come up with an exciting experience then recruit fellow adventurers who are willing to raise money for kids and work together to train for a demanding physical experience.

Climbing in the Peruvian Andes is an arduous experience. We will trek for 5 days and 4 nights reaching as high as 5200m (Mt. Everest is 8,848 m). Over the five days, we will never go below 4300m which means we will be living in a high altitude environment for an extended period of time, more than most of the group has attempted before.

We are a new group, we didn’t all know each other before this whole thing started. We have trained together and have held really fun fundraisers together, but the first time the entire group will be together will be in Cusco, Peru. We are united in our love of adventure and the willingness to support a truly wonderful organization that is changing the lives of children every day.

We are supported by Christie Lake staff, three different travel agencies, a wonderful local artist (who just happens to be one of our daughters), two outdoor gear stores which have sponsored us and given us equipment discounts, two physical trainers, various corporate sponsors (whose logos we will take to 5200m) and a tremendous number of individual stores and donors who have supplied silent auction items and venues for our group fundraisers. We also have so many contributors who have helped us surpass our original funding goal by $10,000. We now stand somewhere over $25,000!

just some of our sponsors from our first group fundraiser

So, with such a large community of supporters, I think it will be important to let people know how we progress through the mountains.

To do this, we will be using a great tool first suggested to me by Ottawa adventurer, Elia Saikaly. We will be using the InReach satellite tracker. Once activated, the tracker will send out a waypoint every ten minutes.

The InReach track I created on the way up Kilimanjaro last year. You may notice, there is no track down the mountain. For some unknown reason, I turned the InReach off once we reached the summit!

The link you can use to follow our progress is here: – https://share.garmin.com/climbforkids

I will also be able to use the InReach to post messages on Twitter and Facebook. We have some preset messages ready to go and I am able to send other messages during our trek. Here’s the tag #climbforkids.

We have also tried to catalogue most of the events that have taken place over the past year. For this, we are using an Esri Story Map, a great communication tool that allows you to tell a story using maps, video, audio recordings and pictures.

One of our Esri Story map pages highlighting an earlier fundraising achievement by the group.

I have a bunch of cameras that I will use to document the trip. The most important part of this will be to get the stories of the individual group members – why are they doing this, what are the challenges they see ahead, how did it feel to put yourself out there as a fundraiser?

The training is over and so is most of the fundraising (we are still happy to take donations here!) The story gets really interesting now as we pack our bags and get ready for a gruelling 11-flight from Ottawa to Cusco. We have a great group and we are raising money for a wonderful organization.

We all hope you follow us up the mountain!