My Watermark is Serpentine Lake in Kawartha Highland Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.
My first experience of Serpentine Lake was when I was a teenager, working for the (formerly known as) Ministry of Natural Resources as an Ontario Ranger.
Having spent much of my early childhood in Timmins, Ontario (8 hours north of Toronto), I had developed a strong connection to nature. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be in a creek catching frogs and fish, or be wandering the bush for blueberries. When I moved to the Greater Toronto Area, I longed for the wilderness, away from the noise of the city.
Now back to Serpentine Lake. Our crew of 10-ish teens and two leads were tasked to clean out the backcountry campsites and to do some maintenance along the portage trails throughout the Serpentine Lake loop. We loaded our canoes with camp gear, food, tools, and our adventure spirit, excited to venture into the unknown (most of us have never been to Kawartha Highland Provincial Park).
Throughout the trip, we encountered numerous animals, including some species-at-risk (e.g. Five-Line-Skink and the Eastern Musk Turtle). For a week we canoed through sundew filled swamps, crystal-clear waters, and over large beaver dams (sorry!). We learnt that everything was shaped by the water; the plants and animals drank the water; the granite rock is eroded by the water, and the weather (to a degree) influenced by the water.
Every day we worked, played, and drank from the waters, which seem to surround us no matter where we went. The water offered a refreshing moment when working the summer heat, so it was not uncommon for us to jump into the lake, work boots and all. The water was the life-force for this beautiful place, and we all depended on the water.
One night, we laid on the rocky shores, surrounded by the crackling of the fire and an orchestra of frogs. I remember seeing the milky way so clearly that night and was star-struck. Gazing upward, satellites and shooting stars race across the black canvas of the night, while sparks from the fire float up, seemingly to join the race.
It was at that moment, where the water was calm, the milky way in the sky, and the smell of fire in the background, where I decided to pursue my education and career in the environmental field.
Now as an adult (and working in the environmental field), my friends and I have made it an annual tradition to venture back into Kawartha Highland Provincial Park, with the same goal of escaping the noise of city life.