I drove north a few days later than I’d hoped, due to an unexpected medical test, and so my time was short. My initial plan had been to visit with my dear friend, accompany her on an overnight or two during her days off from the lodge, then accept her offer to use her place as a base for my own exploring — including perhaps a short solo trip, some day hiking, or just drinking in some much needed rest.
As fate would have it, some friends of mine from my hometown also decided to visit the lodge and park during the time I would be there, which neither of us realized would be smack in the middle of a holiday weekend. So, when I looked to book myself a few days in the park for that impromptu solo I’d hoped for?… I found all of the nearby lakes booked solid. At the time my friends had booked, they had grabbed one of the few remaining permits and generously invited me to join them.
We had paddled together for 6 hours the day before in nearby Conroy Marsh-me in my solo canoe, them in their tandem, and our friend in her kayak- and I was bushed, thinking I’d sleep in the next morning, read a bit, begin going through my gear for a trip perhaps the beginning of next week. But as I looked at the timing of that with my need to drive home on Wednesday, it soon made sense to get my self ‘in gear’ and join them. At first, I thought to decline, not wanting to infringe on their private time, and really wanting some time alone myself, but their offer was genuine, the lodge was bustling, and my need for some quiet time real.
They had a permit for a small lake, Oram, with just 2 campsites and only one permit available, so we knew we’d be out of the way. At the end of a canoe trail, with no other portages in or out, there’s no reason to pass through Oram lake unless you’re making it a destination. I thought perhaps I might take the second campsite and accommodate both of our needs for privacy that way.
I’d not paddled my solo boat since last season and I was feeling a little rusty at first, until I settled into my own rhythm and remembered her ways, how she responds to the angle of my paddle next to her hull, where she likes to carry the weight of her load.
The paddle today was short. Just a few kilometers around the bend from the access point and we were at the mucky, log littered, uncleared entrance to the 495 meter portage. With an overall uphill ascent of just 20 meters, it rolled up and down enough that I was still huffing under the 50 pounds or so that I carried in the heat of mid day. My Keene hiking sandal had been torn from my foot in the muck at the beginning of the trail and i’d had to secure the sole to my foot with duct tape (later I discovered that ball bungees worked better. I’ll repair it with gorilla glue later tonight). The second pass across with the repaired shoe and my lighter canoe on my shoulders was much easier.
I’ve landed upon the second site, around the corner from my friends, and facing south into a pleasant enough view, with some notches into the marsh, lined by spire-ing spruce. I really have quite a bit of privacy here… I could swim naked from the sandy beach at my feet, where turtle was sunbathing earlier, and not be seen at all, though the deerflies are enough to dissuade me from that for now. I am grateful that my friends extended this invitation to me, allowing me to come, somewhat supported, yet allowing me to also be alone. Here, I can give myself permission to be quiet – not feeling either self-conscious or responsible or getting caught up in care-taking.
I really do belong here, just as I am.
It is evening and I am tucked inside my bug net, draped from my tarp, though I notice there are blackflies swirling about and climbing the inside walls. Right now they are all buzz and no bite. Time will tell.
The sun is just kissing the tips of the trees on the western ridge to my right. Hmm, I am disoriented a bit as I had expected the sunset view to be in my face from here. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will reposition the tarp, but not this evening. I am ready, more than ready, to be still. Besides, I expect the mosquitos to wake up for the night any moment and I’d rather not be out there with them.
As the sun dips behind the ridgetop the temperatures markedly drop. I likely will retire quite soon, as I am weary from yesterday’s long paddle and today’s carry and camp set up.
A beaver thwacks her tail… again. She did so earlier this evening as a paddled down into the boggy bay at the end of the lake, where she was out with her partner munching on lily pads by the glare of the late day sun. Two otters were also out for an evening paddle, curious about me in my red canoe, raising their long necks for a look, then hissing before diving to rise once again on the opposite bank. How long they held their breaths. A lone loon dove into those tannic waters as well, as I glided by in my boat as gently as possible so as not to disturb their dark depths. Now the water smooths in those great sweeping curves that often appear near dusk. Soon it may quiet to glass.
I have been such a grumpy pants. I am hoping my time here will quiet my spirit, restore my soul by these still waters.
Bullfrogs begin to croak from the bay, swainson sings from the woods, and red squirrels continue to scold and to chase as the sky pinks in the notch. Perhaps I shall stay awake to watch it develop.
Morning, tucked inside the screen netting, and inside my bug jacket, which I’ve decided is markedly better than the head net, which just makes me itch and sweat pulled tight next to my neck as it is.
It was a wild night. I feel as if I didn’t sleep at all. Retiring early (the sky still held onto the light) I laid awake for some time, first getting comfortable in my body, then watching the trees dance overhead. I’d pulled back the fly completely, rolled it up at the head of the tent with a rock to weight it down, to let in the air. Later, when I rose sometime @ 1am or so to go to the bathroom, about a dozen or so mosquitoes darted in to join me. After disposing of them, I laid back again, listening for a long while to the wind in the treetops above me. It sounded oceanic in its rising and rushing, like tides crashing and receding. Closing my eyes, I allowed it’s healing sound to wash over me.
Soon, I heard drips. At first I thought they were needles dropping from the pines, but a splash convinced me it actually was rain, so I rose to pull the fly over the top of the tent roof, still leaving the sides wide open for air. Shortly, however, the lightning began to flash in the distance, and those high winds dropped down from those treetops to the surface of the earth where I lay in my tent. As the storm approached and came closer, the windgusts grew strong and tugged at the sides of my tent, pulling the stakes from the duff and flapping the tarp. I was glad to be lying inside, my body weight holding her fast to the earth. She shook mightily in the gale, but she held on.
The winds were still blowing in earnest when dawn broke, continuing to bellow until 10 o’clock or so, when all at once they stilled, the water calmed, and a gray blanket descended upon what had appeared to be a clearing, blue sky. The quiet waters invite me out for a paddle, though the sky portends rain. I’d go out if I thought it would hold. Time will tell.
Red squirrel chases and chatters and scolds me, each time seeming surprised and affronted by my presence. Thrush whistles her trilling melody. Songbirds of some sort run through their entire repertoire. Insects descend (or rise) in full force with the abatement of the winds. My morning rain jacket is replaced by a bug jacket.
My friends paddled over to check on me this morning. The visit was sweet. After they left, I made some rearrangements of camp (I moved the tarp and its billowing screen). I am beginning to feel myself settle. More than physically, I am quieting in other ways too. This spring has been full, and my early summer mind has been abuzz like these insects around me.
My tummy tells me it is noon.
At the water’s edge, awaiting the sunset (though I don’t know for how long as the blackflies are swarming again).
Still at last.
The day continued to be blustery, save the short spell just after lunch, when I took that paddle around the circumference of the lake, after which I stripped and took a brief soapless dunk in the water to cool off and remove the residue of dirt, sweat, and insect repellent from my skin (I wonder what that insect repellent does to the water??) It was hot out there!
I crawled naked into the tent for a bit after that to rest, tired from last night’s lack of sleep. Soon as my head hit the pillow, it seemed, another thunderstorm rolled through, dumping a fair amount of rain as it passed. So, I was up to pull the fly over the tent once again. I finally did rest, rising at 4:30 to prepare my dinner and paddle across the lake to join my friends for the evening meal. These evening visits with them are welcome and sweet.
After dish washing, but before returning to camp, I paddled again to the south end of the lake, where once again the beavers were out for a water lily snack. I didn’t stay long to watch, for I was ready to be back in my camp for the night.
It’s really too bad the evenings are so unbearable for sitting out with the insect barrage. Inside this bug jacket, the perspiration rolls down my nose, my neck, my cleavage, my back. I think I shall move up the hill to catch a breeze.
I slept deeply and restoratively last night, waking this morning with an audible sigh at the luxury of it all. The near-full moon shone down upon me as she made her way across the summer sky, softened beneath its haze of humidity. Though I sensed her presence, I saw her just twice, first as she broke free from the eastern horizon and then again, midsky as I also rose — for a bathroom break.
It was sheer pleasure (pun intended) to be protected from the insects by the tent’s screen, while having the fly pulled back fully to gaze up into those towering red pines overhead. I was reminded of the gift of screening during that mid-night bathroom ‘run’, when those mosquitoes lay in wait for my exit.
This morning, however, it is delightful to sit here in the shade, on this slight rise over the water’s edge, my back against the pine, a breeze softening the heat. Back in the bush at the box, away from this breeze, the mosquitos this morning were brutal, but here they are non-existent. Morning birdsong and the bullfrog’s last ditch call for a mate are my only companions.
This south facing hillside is carpeted by blueberry plants, their unripe fruits soaking the afternoon suns. Yesterday, I found 2 ripe ones, full of early summer flavor. The spring has been kind to them.
Such a perfect summer morning is this.
I have just risen from my book to do some camp chores – washing up breakfast dishes, filtering water, putting things in order, brushing teeth and hair, etc. The water has been beckoning for some time, but my goal was the chapter’s end and by the time that turn of the page came, my friends had paddled over for their morning water-gathering and check in. They commented how very hot the morning already was, and I realized how fortunate I am to have landed upon this site with its breeze-siphoning slope on the north side of this bay, where the sun doesn’t reach until after noon. So, I decided to appreciate that shade a while longer, lingering there with my book until noon.
After the sun finally hit me, I rose to explore just a bit, moving back into the woods behind the small bay. My footfall stirred the insects to rise and swarm and I was bothered and bitten more in that 20 minute foray than I had been all morning. I came upon some wild iris blooming in the dried up end of the bay, where it was swampy behind the logjam. I would take my camera back for a photograph, but its not worth the swarm. I’ll keep the image of them in my mind.
Back at the campsite, I took some time to comb through those blueberry plants, gathering a quarter cup or so, enough to bake into a bannock, which I intend to make for my dinner, along with some jerky and cheese. I have brought more food than I need – I could stay another two days before running out.
Now I have moved around to the west side of my site to eat lunch. The horseflies are all worked up into a frenzy around me and I have gone for my sticky hat tape to see if i might encourage them to land there rather than on my shoulders, which are feeling quite prickly enough. Already I have trapped 6 of the buggers and my shoulders are quite relieved.
A breeze rises up from the water, again cooling the hot air up here. As I sit, it continues to pick up, encouraging the resident horsefly population to move on.
Needing to move my body, I took the canoe out after lunch to encircle the lake once again and to see who might be out and about on the water. As I’d expected, however, nobody but me was out in the heat of the day and by the time I got back I was spent by it. So, I took the plunge and went for a full-fledged swim. How glorious it was (as my friends had assured me it would be as I’d paddled past their skinny-dipping bodies) I spent a half hour swimming out for a distance, then lying back and letting the lapping waves wash me back to shore.
After dinner with my friends, I again paddled those lower reaches of the lake, where again the beavers were out for their evening snacks and again they thwacked their annoyance at my interruption of their evening delight. Back in camp, the air grew so still and so close that I felt as if I could dunk myself all over again in those cooling waters, except with the sun just beginning to set, I feared the mosquitoes would have been lying in wait as I emerged. As it was, until I closed up camp for the night, the horseflies were swarming so that I literally dove into my tent to escape them. I launched an attack with my paperback book on the 8 that jettisoned themselves in here with me and have been reading from inside its blood streaked cover since then. (read more about that here)
My back is weary now. And so I shall lie back to sleep.
Day 4. Back at the lodge.
We left the lake at 9 to walk back across the mosquito infested portage trail over blowdown and past stagnant inland pools. Leaving my bug jacket in my pack (thinking i’d be too hot in it), I walked that trail the first time across in record pace ( at least for me!)
The paddling was far too brief until we were back at our cars in the dusty lot. I do hope to take a long paddle tomorrow on this long, beautiful lake where I am lucky enough to have both shelter and friends. There are 3 beaver lodges down the lake that I have promised to visit before I head home.
For now, the breeze has picked up so that my sundress is not content to stay tucked beneath my legs as I sit at the edge of the water here in this Muskoka chair. The sensation on my skin is pure delight, as my shower washed hair is being blown naturally dry. The book in my hands fills me with wonder. With the wind and these words on the page, I am carried away…