Transcript: Enjoying Ontario's Backcountry Safely | Jul 16, 2021

Jeyan sits inside a room with blue walls and houseplants in the background. He's is in his thirties, with short black hair and a trimmed beard. He's wearing spotted blue shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Enjoying Ontario's backcountry safely. Jeyan Jeganathan. @JeyanTVO. @theagenda."

Jeyan says THIS HUGE PROVINCE OF OURS HAS ENDLESS NATURAL BEAUTY TO EXPLORE, AND THIS SUMMER, AFTER BEING COOPED UP FOR SO LONG DURING THE PANDEMIC, PEOPLE ARE GETTING OUT TO ENJOY IT. BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO THE BACKCOUNTRY, OUR EASTERN ONTARIO HUB JOURNALIST MARSHA MCCLOUD HAS BEEN LOOKING INTO WHY CAUTION, AS WELL AS CURIOSITY IS CRITICAL, TOO. SHE JOINS US NOW FROM TORONTO TO EXPLAIN.

Marsha is in her thirties, with long auburn hair. She's wearing glasses and a spotted white blouse.

Jeyan says HEY, MARSHA.

Marsha says HEY.

Jeyan says ALL RIGHT, SO MAYBE WE'LL TAKE A STEP BACK. WHEN WE TALK ABOUT BACKCOUNTRY, WHAT ARE WE ACTUALLY TALKING ABOUT?

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod. Eastern Ontario Hub Journalist."

Marsha says I GUESS I'LL SAY WHAT IT ISN'T. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE MIGHT REMEMBER CAR CAMPING. THEY MIGHT HAVE GONE WITH THEIR PARENTS. I CAN CERTAINLY REMEMBER GOING WITH MY PARENTS. AND IF IT RAINED ALL NIGHT, I MIGHT SLEEP IN THE BACKSEAT OF THE CAR. BACKCOUNTRY CAMPING, YOU CAN'T DRIVE TO THE CAMPSITES. SO, IT MEANS YOU'RE EITHER HIKING WITH ALL OF YOUR GEAR ON YOUR BACK, OR YOU'RE CANOEING INTO YOUR CAMPSITE, BUT YOU ARE DEFINITELY NOT DRIVING UP TO THE SITE. AND ONCE YOU GET THERE, YOU ARE GONNA FIND, YOU KNOW, THERE'S OFTEN VERY WEAK CELL SERVICE, IF ANY AT ALL. THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE AN ELECTRIC HOOK-UP. THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE A, UM, FLUSHING TOILET, FOR INSTANCE. YOU CAN GOOGLE THUNDER BOX IF YOU'RE CURIOUS FOR HOW THAT WORKS. UM, AND YOU KIND OF JUST HAVE TO MAKE DO WITH WHAT YOU PREP.

Jeyan says AND IN TERMS OF WHEN WE LOOK AT ONTARIO, WHAT AREAS WOULD WE BE LOOKING AT?

Marsha says YEAH, I THINK SORT OF THE QUINTESSENTIAL BACKCOUNTRY OFTEN THAT PEOPLE THINK OF IS ALGONQUIN PARK. IT'S ABOUT FOUR HOURS NORTH OF TORONTO, A LITTLE BIT FURTHER, DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU'RE GOING IN THE PARK, AND IT'S A PRETTY MASSIVE EXPANSE. AND MUCH ALGONQUIN PARK ACTUALLY IS BACKCOUNTRY WITH, YOU KNOW, SORT OF MARKED CAMPSITES. SO, IT'S NOT JUST TOTALLY RANDOM. YOU DO BOOK A SPECIFIC PART OF THE PARK AND THEN HEAD THERE.

Jeyan says NOW, DURING THIS PANDEMIC, WE HAVE SEEN AN UPTICK IN PEOPLE USING OUTDOOR SPACES, WHEN WE TALK ABOUT JUST GREEN SPACES IN URBAN SETTINGS, BUT ALSO TRAILS AND PARKS. WHAT HAVE WE SEEN IN TERMS OF BACKCOUNTRY AND THE POPULARITY THERE?

The caption changes to "Marsha McLeod, @marshamcleod_."

Marsha says YEAH, I MEAN, EVEN JUST ANECDOTALLY, I THINK ANYBODY WHO'S TRYING TO BOOK A BACKCOUNTRY OR EVEN NOT NECESSARILY BACKCOUNTRY, BUT EVEN CAR CAMPING KNOWS THAT YOU GO ON TO THE ONTARIO PARKS WEBSITE AND YOU MIGHT SEE A LOT OF LITTLE BOOKED UP RED TRIANGLES. BUT IN TERMS OF THE ACTUAL NUMBERS, WE KNOW THAT 2020 WAS A RECORD SETTING YEAR FOR ONTARIO PARKS. THEY HAD 11 MILLION VISITS, WHICH WAS THAT WAS A COMBINATION OF DAY USE, AS WELL AS CAMPING. AND PRIOR TO THE APRIL SHUTDOWN, IT SEEMED LIKE 2021 WAS GOING TO BE ON TRACK TO EVEN BEAT THAT. BUT WE'LL HAVE TO KIND OF SEE HOW THE DATA COMES IN. AND I THINK, AS WELL, YOU KNOW, ACROSS NORTH AMERICA, A TREND HAS BEEN THAT VOLUNTEER SEARCH AND RESCUE ORGANIZATIONS, AS WELL POLICE SERVICES ARE SAYING, YOU KNOW, WE ARE SEEING A LOT MORE PEOPLE NEEDING TO BE RESCUED FROM THE BACKCOUNTRY AND EVEN FROM SOME AREAS THAT AREN'T NECESSARILY THAT REMOTE.

Jeyan says NOW, WE'LL GET INTO THAT A LITTLE LATER. BUT I DO WANT TO TOUCH ON THE BENEFITS. OBVIOUSLY, A LOT OF US HAVE BEEN SITTING PUT IN OUR DESKS AND WORKING FROM HOME, IF WE HAVE THE LUXURY TO DO THAT. BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF GETTING OUTDOORS.

Marsha says VERY GOOD QUESTION. SO, I MEAN, GROWING UP, I WORKED LEADING AND HELPING LEAD CANOE TRIPS IN ALGONQUIN PARK, AND TAUGHT CANOEING, AND IT'S AWESOME TO SEE FOR KIDS, BUT ANYONE AT ANY AGE, BUT ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS TO SEE THE BENEFITS OF GETTING AWAY FROM TECHNOLOGY, LEARNING NEW SKILLS, THE CONFIDENCE THAT COMES FROM THAT, BREATHING REALLY FRESH AIR, AND IT'S JUST A REALLY... CAN BE A REALLY AWESOME EXPERIENCE, IF YOU'RE PREPARED AND KIND OF ABLE TO HANDLE THE THINGS THAT MIGHT GET THROWN AT YOU. BUT I MEAN, IN TERMS OF JUST... IT'S CERTAINLY NOT JUST ME SAYING IT. THERE'S A LOT OF REALLY WELL ESTABLISHED RESEARCH SAYING THAT GETTING OUTDOORS - NOT JUST THE BACKCOUNTRY, BUT WHATEVER, REALLY - CAN IMPROVE YOUR MOOD, IT CAN REDUCE STRESS, IMPROVE HOW YOU'RE ABLE TO FOCUS. SO, IT'S IT'S REALLY PRETTY ALL ENCOMPASSING.

Jeyan says SO, LET'S TALK ABOUT A LITTLE BIT OF SAFETY. AND I THINK THIS IS INTERESTING - MAYBE A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW, BUT MAYBE A QUESTION I'LL POSE TO YOU IS ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS, CERTIFICATIONS, THAT A PERSON NEEDS TO HAVE BEFORE, YOU KNOW, BEING ABLE TO USE SOME OF THE EQUIPMENT IN THESE AREAS?

Marsha says NO, REALLY, YOU GO ONLINE, YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION, AND THEN YOU'RE GOING TO SHOW UP AT THE ACCESS POINT WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO BEGIN YOUR TRIP, AND MAYBE YOU'RE RENTING GEAR, LIKE A CANOE, YOU'RE RENTING SOME DRY BAGS, BUT THERE'S NO REQUIREMENTS THAT YOU HAVE TO HAVE. I MEAN, THAT SAID, THE EXPERTS THAT I SPOKE TO - SO, TRIP GUIDES, I SPOKE WITH THE SEARCH AND RESCUE COORDINATOR FOR THE ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE - THEY SAID TO ME THAT THERE ARE SOME SORT OF REQUISITE SKILLS THAT ARE GOING TO MAKE YOUR EXPERIENCE SAFER, BETTER, MORE ENJOYABLE, AND ONE THING THEY REALLY EMPHASIZED WAS BEING... HAVING A MAP, FIRST OF ALL, HAVING AN OFFICIAL MAP, BEING ABLE TO READ THAT MAP. KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE AND KNOWING WHERE YOU'RE GOING - SUCH AN IMPORTANT SKILL IN THE BACKCOUNTRY, AS WELL AS THINGS LIKE OPEN WATER SAFETY IF YOU'RE CANOEING. AND THINGS EVEN JUST LIKE CAN YOU BUILD A FIRE, SET UP CAMP? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF IT'S POURING RAIN? THOSE KINDS OF THINGS.

Jeyan says NOW, YOU YOURSELF HAVE BEEN OUT IN BACKCOUNTRY. YOU HAVE, YOU KNOW, PRETTY MUCH FOLLOWED THIS SORT OF INDUSTRY FOR QUITE A WHILE. DO YOU KNOW OF ANY KIND OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT HAVE LED TO SOMEONE NEEDING TO BE RESCUED? IS THERE SOME ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE, YOU KNOW, LOOKING TO GET OUT THERE?

A screenshot from the TVO website pops up showing an article. It reads "tvo.org/OntarioHubs. Eastern. Are your ready to go backcountry camping? By Marsha McLeod."

Marsha says YEAH, I DO THINK I PROBABLY COME BACK TO KIND OF THE OPEN WATER SAFETY ELEMENT. I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK "I'M A STRONG SWIMMER, LIKE WHY DO I NEED TO WEAR MY LIFE JACKET?" THINGS LIKE THAT. I MEAN, FOR ME, I'VE BEEN PADDLING FOR 20 YEARS. I WOULD NEVER TAKE MY LIFE JACKET OFF IN THE BACKCOUNTRY, LIKE JUST AS A MATTER OF PRACTICE. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN. BUT... AND I THINK THAT'S WHAT THE EXPERTS REALLY SAID TO ME, TOO, IS THAT WHEN WE SEE REALLY BAD INCIDENTS HAPPEN, IT'S OFTEN THE COMBINATION OF OPEN WATER AND LACK OF SKILL OR EVEN COLD WATER. I MEAN, THESE LAKES ARE REALLY BIG. IT TAKES A LONG TIME FOR THEM TO HEAT UP, SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT IF YOU'RE GOING IN THE EARLY SEASON OR THE LATER SEASON. BUT EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SUMMER, THEY CAN STILL BE QUITE COLD. AND THINKING ABOUT THINGS LIKE, ARE YOU GOING TO PADDLE STRAIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE? WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU TIP? WHAT'S YOUR PLAN? WHAT IF ANOTHER CANOE IN YOUR PARTY TIPS? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HELP THEM? DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO A RESCUE? REALLY, YOU KNOW, MUCH MORE SAFE IS PADDLING ALONG THE SHORELINE, SO THAT IF YOU DO TIP OR SOMETHING HAPPENS, YOU'RE MUCH CLOSER TO SHORE, THINGS LIKE THAT THAT JUST KIND OF TAKES A WHILE TO LEARN AND PICK UP. AND, YOU KNOW, BEING ABLE TO STEER IN WINDY CONDITIONS, THOSE SORTS OF THINGS.

Jeyan says OKAY, SO, I WANT TO TAKE A STEP BACK, LET'S SAY, BEFORE I EVEN GET TO THE WATER, BEFORE I'VE EVEN MANAGED TO BOOK SOMETHING, AND THIS... MAYBE I'M SPEAKING FOR MYSELF HERE, BUT I'M SURE THERE'S A LOT OF OTHER VIEWERS HERE WHO ARE PROBABLY IN THAT SAME BOAT. HOW SHOULD I PREPARE? WHERE SHOULD I BE LOOKING? IS THERE ANYTHING THAT I SHOULD BE READING OR TRAINING ON LAND OR ANYTHING FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS?

Marsha says YEAH, I THINK EVEN JUST THE FACT THAT, DAN, YOU USED THE WORD 'PREPARE' IS A GREAT SIGN. I THINK THAT THAT'S WHAT... I MEAN, MYSELF AND EXPERTS WOULD... WOULD REALLY EMPHASIZE IS JUST YOU HAVE TO PREPARE, AND THAT MEANS THINGS LIKE LEAVING BEHIND... CREATING A DAY BY DAY ITINERARY OF WHERE YOU MIGHT BE GOING AND LEAVING THAT BEHIND WITH SOMEBODY WHO IS NOT COMING ON YOUR TRIP, SO IF YOU DON'T RETURN BACK IN TIME, THEY CAN CALL THE AUTHORITIES AND SAY, "HEY, YOU KNOW, MY LOVED ONE, "MY FRIEND IS NOT BACK FROM THEIR TRIP ON TIME." PLANNING THINGS LIKE, DO YOU KNOW YOUR GEAR? YOU KNOW, I ONCE ACCIDENTALLY BROUGHT WATER PURIFICATION TABLETS THAT TAKE FOUR HOURS TO PURIFY, WHEN I THOUGHT THERE WERE 30 MINUTE PURIFICATION TABLETS, AND, YOU KNOW, THAT WAS A PRETTY SILLY MISTAKE. IT'S NOT SOMETHING I WOULD DO AGAIN, AND IT ALMOST HAD SOME PRETTY NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES. SO, REALLY, KNOWING WHAT YOUR GEAR IS. HAVE YOU SET UP YOUR TENT BEFORE? SET IT UP IN YOUR BACKYARD OR EVEN IN A PARK. LIKE ,IT'S JUST, IF YOU LIVE IN TORONTO, MAYBE SETTING IT UP IN A CITY PARK, EVEN IF IT FEELS SILLY. BUT JUST KNOWING HOW YOU'RE GEAR WORKS, I THINK, IS REALLY IMPORTANT AND MAKING SURE YOU'RE WATERPROOF, AND MAKING SURE YOU'RE AWARE OF CERTAIN THINGS; LIKE IT'S QUITE EASY TO GET DEHYDRATED WHEN YOU'RE OUT ON THE WATER OR UNDER THE SUN FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. AND DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WATER YOU'RE GOING TO NEED TO BE DRINKING THROUGHOUT THE DAY?

Jeyan says IS THERE SOMETHING THAT WE SHOULD BE KEEPING IN MIND ONCE WE'RE IN THE PARK, NOT JUST SAFETY, BUT ALSO ETIQUETTE AS WELL?

Marsha says YEAH, THAT'S A REALLY GOOD QUESTION, AND I THINK, ANECDOTALLY, SOME PEOPLE DID SAY THAT LAST YEAR... AND THEY EMPHASIZE, YOU KNOW, THEY REALLY DIDN'T THINK IT WAS MALICE; IT WAS JUST, I MEAN, IT'S SORT OF AN EDUCATIONAL PIECE... BUT THEY NOTICED A REAL INCREASE IN LIVE TREES BEING CUT DOWN, WHICH IS AGAINST THE RULES IN PROVINCIAL PARKS. SO, FOLKS CUTTING DOWN LIVE TREES FOR FIREWOOD OR EVEN, REALLY, ANY KIND OF LIVE PLANTS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE REMOVED. AS WELL AS THINGS LIKE GARBAGE - YOU KNOW, ARE YOU PACKING OUT ALL OF THE THINGS THAT YOU BROUGHT IN? NOT JUST SORT OF TRYING TO BURN IT HAPHAZARDLY IN A FIRE PIT. AS WELL AS THINGS LIKE HANGING UP YOUR FOOD WHEN YOU GO TO SLEEP AT NIGHT IN A TREE AWAY FROM THE TREE TRUNK, BOTH TO PRACTICE BEAR SAFETY, BUT ALSO SORT OF MAKING SURE SMALL CRITTERS DON'T GET INTO ALL OF YOUR SNACKS.

Jeyan says THE UNDERSTANDING IS LEAVE NO TRACE, I GUESS.

Marsha says EXACTLY.

Jeyan says NOW, ONE THING THAT I THINK, YOU KNOW... IN SOME SITUATIONS, IT MIGHT BE TOO LATE - YOU KNOW, IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU ARE ON A BOAT OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT - BUT IF YOU DO NEED HELP AND SOMETHING GOES WRONG, WHAT ARE THE SUGGESTIONS? I IMAGINE, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF PEOPLE MAY NOT HAVE THEIR PHONES ON THEM. WHAT... YOU KNOW, IS IT A CALL TO 911? WHAT SHOULD SOMEONE BE DOING, IF THEY NEED HELP?

Marsha says YEAH, I MEAN, IT IS A REALLY GOOD IDEA TO HAVE YOUR PHONE ON YOU IN BACKCOUNTRY, JUICED UP, JUST IN THE CHANCE THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO GET A LITTLE BIT OF WEAK SIGNAL. BUT FAILING THAT, SOME PEOPLE DO SATELLITE PHONES INTO THE BACKCOUNTRY OR THEY BRING OTHER SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES, LIKE SPOT DEVICES, I THINK, ARE BECOMING MORE POPULAR. HOWEVER, THERE ARE PEOPLE THAT DON'T USE PHONES, EITHER, AND IT'S JUST KNOWING, DO YOU HAVE THE SKILLS AND ABILITIES, IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG - A MEMBER OF YOUR GROUP IS INJURED - TO BE ABLE TO GET BACK TO THE OUTFITTERS OR TO BE ABLE TO FIND SOMEBODY ELSE IN THE PARK WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO GO BACK AND PLACE THAT CALL FOR HELP. AND I THINK, AS WELL, UM... REALLY MAKING SURE THERE IS THAT PERSON ON LAND WHO KNOWS WHEN YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE COMING BACK IS SUPER IMPORTANT BECAUSE IF YOU'RE NOT BACK... THE PROVINCIAL COORDINATOR OR THE SEARCH AND RESCUE COORDINATOR FOR THE OPP REALLY STRESSED TO ME THAT, IF PEOPLE ARE NOT BACK IN TIME, DON'T HESITATE TO CALL THE AUTHORITIES. HE SAID, YOU KNOW, "IT'S MUCH EASIER TO DEAL WITH THESE THINGS WHEN WE HEAR OF IT HOURS LATER OR RIGHT IN THE MOMENT RATHER THAN DAYS AND DAYS LATER." AND HE SAID TO ME, EVEN, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF THE TIME WHEN THEY DO GET CALLED IN, WHAT'S HAPPENED IS THAT SOMEBODY IS INJURED OR, YOU KNOW, THEY MIGHT HAVE SORT OF BITTEN OFF A TRIP THAT IS TOO SIGNIFICANT FOR THEIR ABILITIES. AND I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE REALLY EMPHASIZED TO ME, START SMALL, START WITH WHAT YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO, AND DON'T... DON'T GO OUT THERE AND TRY AND REALLY FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO PROVE YOURSELF WITH SOME, YOU KNOW, 14 DAY TREK OR SOMETHING. REALLY START SMALL.

Jeyan says THIS IS GREAT STUFF. NOW, I DON'T WANT TO GET AHEAD OF MYSELF, BUT MAYBE I'LL SEE YOU OUT ON THE WATER THIS SUMMER, POTENTIALLY.

Marsha says I WOULD LOVE THAT.

Jeyan says THANK YOU SO MUCH.

An animated slate reads "Ontario Hubs. Ontario Hubs are made possible by The Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust and Goldie Feldman."

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