When the snow blankets the ground for the first time each year it’s immediately clear there are two kinds of people in the world: those who huddle warmly indoors, and the ones who wrap themselves up and plow boldly outside, eager to experience winter’s harshest offerings.
Andrew Twigg is one of the latter.
For Andrew (also known as Twiggy to friends and clients), the outdoors in winter is more than just a place to transition between vehicle and home or office, it’s a magical world that invites you to get moving, explore, and truly connect. Given this, it makes sense that after working in the financial industry in a “cement box” for a few years, Andrew launched his own outdoor business, Cruising Canoes.
Located on Mississagagon Lake in the northern parts of Frontenac County, Cruising Canoes offers year-round outdoor experiences focused on connecting people with the beauty of the outdoors all year long, and particularly in winter. In fact, Andrew offers a winter tent-camping experience specifically to introduce others to the beauty of the woods in winter.
“A lot of people are intimidated by winter camping, but if you’re moving around and have proper winter attire on you’ll be warm, you’ll enjoy being outside and find a new appreciation for the outdoors,” explained Andrew. “Plus, you’ll sleep so deep in your tent, it’s unreal.”
It was Andrew’s grandfather who first introduced Andrew to the magic of the forest in winter. Andrew describes the relationship with his grandfather as pivotal in shaping him into the man he is today, an outdoor adventurer eager to introduce others to the wonders of the natural world and their healing potential. In many ways, the experiences Andrew offers at Cruising Canoes recreates those he had with his grandfather.
Originally from Norway, Andrew’s grandfather had a natural appreciation for winter that he passed on to Andrew. Each Sunday, he would pick Andrew up and head out for an outdoor adventure. Andrew explained his grandfather may not have spoken a whole lot, but that was okay, because it gave Andrew a chance to “learn very quickly that when you’re out in the woods you can hear a lot.”
“We would travel all over, looking for that cool spot to explore. I would follow along and it was very quiet and gave me a chance to hear what was happening in the woods,” said Andrew.
As Andrew explained, even when it seems coldest in the woods in winter there is life continuing all around you.
“You can follow the trails in the snow and see bobcat tracks, deer tracks, rabbit tracks,” Andrew said. “Even the bugs in the snow, there’s so much going on and while you would think everything is frozen and put away for the winter, but it’s not, it’s thriving.”
Andrew’s appreciation for nature stood him in good stead when a series of tragedies struck him and his family. When Andrew was 22 his 14-year-old brother was hit by a car and killed, and around the same time Andrew’s grandfather fell and injured his back, becoming a paraplegic.
Andrew recalls that period of time as a very difficult period in his life, but that he naturally turned to nature to help heal. The death of his brother prompted Andrew to travel and experience life, having learned the hard way “that life is short and every day counts.”
“I lived a lot of my life for my brother at that point, so a lot of the experiences, the adventures, I do it for him. He’s my silent passenger on my travels, the adventures I go on I believe we would have done together. It’s not just for me, it’s for him.”
Andrew turned to the woods and nature to help heal, and spending time outdoors in winter was a big part of that.
“Sometimes the harshness of winter can really be satisfying,” Andrew said. “When I’m out in the woods it’s hard for me to be negative. When you’re surrounded by beauty, you’re breathing heavier, your heart’s beating faster, it feels good, it shakes you out of your negativity. It allows me to work out what’s in my head and come back refreshed.”
Looking for more inspiration for connecting to winter in Ontario’s Highlands? Click here or read the stories below.