this adventure of love- day 3

Day 3, September 3

Early morning

We tucked into our down bags shortly after 9:30 last evening. I awakened once or twice throughout the night to clear skies, those slow trolling flotillas of clouds at last having slid into port somewhere east of us. On one of those mid night calls, I made my way out to the point to drink in the milky way, noticing that the dipper was also plunging her ladle into those waters, her bowl almost making contact in the northwestern bay.

The morning waters now are just beginning to ripple, after the stillness of dawn, and a low scattering of clouds, thin, is beginning to build, settling in to cover….or perhaps pass over as did those great spreading fans in succession last evening. This morning, however, they seem to be moving from the east back to the west, as if they are in a great spiraling dance above us.

We are not moving today, so I do not need to move either. Breakfast can wait. Don can sleep. I can be. Still, beneath a dancing sky.

Later

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We went out fishing before breakfast, paddling past the sentinel islands and into the fingerlike bay in the gradually graying morning. The bright berries of Mountain Ash punctuated the banks, lending the sweetness of ripening that things only can do when they’ve matured.

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After trolling down one shoreline and back up the other, I climbed from the boat in a small cove tucked into the south shore, where a great pile of sunbleached logs had gathered, their trunks twisted and curled about each other, like lover’s limbs, where they lay. It reminded me of a pile of bones in a mass grave. This morning, we’d heard the lumber trucks motoring along a logging road somewhere to the north of us. The vestiges of the logging industry all about us here in this lush landscape– the rusted alligator, the remains of the log chute, the simple cross marking the death of a log driver – remind me of the tenacity and resilience of life, but also the oft-short sightedness of man who commoditizes its gifts, forgetting that he is an integral part of our mutual thriving.

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The fishing line came back empty, so we returned to camp with our empty bellies to fill them instead with pancakes, cooked over the fire. It was already 10:30 by then. So, fairly hungry and hunched over beneath the kitchen tarp, the cooking of those pancakes, one at a time in my little skillet, seemed a protracted process. I soon realized I’d forgotten to pack maple syrup (sprinkling the buttered tops with sugar made the last batch more palatable). Finally, after boiling the same pot of water one too many times (I’d not heated enough for the cleanup), I was more than ready to be back out on the water, as we set off again to explore. Upon kneeling in the boat again, that feeling of what I can only describe as a deep sigh, through my own weary bones, flowed into and out from me.

Catfish lake is really quite beautiful, with its many fingers and larger bays, some of them quite isolated from the main body of the lake, offering a wide variety of habitats – from meandering wetlands to high rocky cliffs. It harbors wide open waters, island studded bays, and jutting peninsulas. Through the narrows that lead out of this northeastern bay, we paddled, noticing the remarkable water lines, some 2 feet above the current water level, on the rocks there.

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Past turtle rock and around ‘Shangri La’ island we traveled, getting out of the boat once, on a long point of land jutting out into the water, to explore a campsite there. On to the southernmost end where the lake narrows again into the wide sweeping curves of the Petawawa river, we continued. With the low water levels, large swaths of sandy shoals were exposed around those broad bends. We noticed several beaver lodges with their ‘underwater’ doorways exposed and others that appeared to be suddenly stranded on sand spits. Stopping for lunch around 1:30 at the last site on the lake, we too were surrounded by marsh.

As we were boarding the canoe after lunch, a light rain began to fall, and so we donned our raingear before launching to head back to camp. The rain bounced on the water in a rhythmic cadence, increasing in tempo as the drizzle grew to a shower, as we also began paddling a more deliberate pulse. Still, the lake was quite beautiful, with its high knobs and shallow notches bathed in gray.

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By the time we arrived in our bay, an hour later, the rains had temporarily ceased. So, Don decided to try his hand at trolling the last stretch. Just as we were pulling close to our campsite, a strong pull on his line indicated he’d caught something- either a large fish or the lake bottom. In fact, he wasn’t sure which it was up to the last moment, when the line was directly beneath the boat, drawing his rod into a great arch. By then he thought he surely was snagged, when suddenly out from the water emerged a 21” lake trout, speckled with gold.

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It’s funny how we can’t always discern what that tug might be. I know that I struggle with this so much of the time. Is this thing I feel just in my head, or is it real? There are so many tugs and pulls, so many stirrings in my belly. Are such nudges merely what it means to be a sentient being? Does any one particularly strong pull mean that I should act, or is it something I can release? Am I being invited to bring it up to the surface, so that it can be released, or should i let it lie? Is it even mine to grab hold of in the first place? To what call do I respond? Could that heart tug be anchoring me…for good or for bad…or will my persistent attention to it draw forth something wet and wiggling into my hands to offer its nourishment, guilded with gold? .

Delectable, pink fleshed, seasoned just right, we dined on the fresh fish with delight, grateful for the gift. I wondered if the fish tasted so delicious somehow because she had so recently been alive- breathing in oxygen, swimming in these waters of life. In this strange earth, of life and death, where one thing naturally gives up its life so that another may live in this reciprocality of being, what does it mean that the fish, that ate the frog, that ate the insect, that drank the nectar, that gathered in the bloom, that blossomed on the stalk, that grew from the earth, is now a part of me.

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Now we are beneath the tarp again, the fire keeping us warm and dry. It is blowing mist, and quite gray. I’m pretty tired tonight, though it is only 7 o’clock. I think I will be headed to the tent before long.

this adventure of love- an interlude

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Two months have passed since the days documented here took place. Flipping through the pages of my journal, I am transported back, and I get to relive those exquisite moments. One simple sentence opens an entire scene for me, and small unrecorded details come pouring through that opened door – I feel my body picking along that rock strewn shoreline in the mist, my feet finding tenuous footing, my arms pulling the bleached limb free, my fingers caressing its stunning smoothness— I recall balancing the pail of water as I pull it and my body up over that rockface at the water’s edge… I hear the profound quiet of that evening paddle….inhale the scent of pine underfoot in the campsite.

After almost 2 months, all tolled, in Algonquin this summer, I admit it took some time for my spirit to return to me here. I felt a bit like an alien landing in a strange, disorienting, noisy, busy world, or a zombie perhaps – my body was here, being moved by outside influences of routine and commitment, but its animating force hadn’t yet caught up. Going through the motions (fake it til you make it?) and feeling a little lost, I finally grounded myself here by reconnecting with the earth in this place, too- taking my camera along with me on a few hikes to help me see beauty here- and reconnecting with those whom I love in this place. Connection to that love within myself brought me back home.

I have come to understand that my days in Algonquin are profoundly spiritual ones for me…mountaintop experiences in that low relief land of water and sky. The combination of singular presence, deep attention, love, beauty, body and spirit alignment, silence, intimacy, and pace all contribute to that experience. I am fairly certain that there are other mysteries, beyond my ability to see or understand, that also make it a sacred place for me. Perhaps the scents, chemicals, songs of water or bird, curve of land against the water, vastness of sky, deep darkness… are calling something home to me, perhaps something ancestral, perhaps something healing, perhaps something of belonging, perhaps something human that is buried in the world of man-made artifices.

I recently read a facebook post where the sharer stated ‘This is the place where we pay our annual pilgrimage. The building there is the gatehouse to the cathedral’ (the building in his post was the office where canoe campers check in and pick up their permits). Yes, Algonquin is truly a pilgrimage for many of us, this rhythmic return to a place that is sacred, involving the slow, steady journey over land and water, where the physical, daily work of our bodies combines with the quieting of our minds and the opening of our hearts, where we encounter something perhaps ineffable, yet vital. And, as with any unspeakable experience of the sacred, any attempt to share them with those who have not felt it, who cannot possibly grasp its life-affirming reality, can cheapen it. Online connections with like-spirited folks, who get it– because they have tasted it, love it, understand the draw for More– can help with those feelings of disconnection, isolation, and alienation.

Last evening, I listened to an interview with a film-maker, who also keeps returning time and again to Algonquin because she experiences something profound there. The artist in her keeps trying to capture and express what it is that she feels in that place. She explained that this is what artists attempt to do… bring forth/ make tangible, that which is felt or experienced, no matter how unreachable is that hope to do so. It drives us to go back, seeking the essence of that feeling, and drives us to craft something real to pay homage to it. Like those ancients in biblical times, or ancestors from the great north, with their impulse to erect a cairn to honor a place where the sacred was encountered, we humans long for something to bear witness, giving expression to our wonder.

That I attempt to do so with words is a great paradox, because we are speaking of experiences deeper than words, for which the attempt to name them only makes them slip farther from grasp. Perhaps these words open the door for me alone. Perhaps only I can enter through the portal they create in me, into that space of physical wonder.

I know that my partner can walk through that door with me too – because the memory of the stories is also in him. A few years ago, when he was in so much agony following a traumatic injury to his body, when strong pain medications – oxycodone and morphine, both—were unable to touch his pain, he asked me through tears, to please read to him from the journals of our most recent trip to Algonquin. The words soothed him, almost instantly, as he was transported. Perhaps he left his body behind, traveling with me to that place of peace, beauty, and love. And so, I know that these words at least capture a drop of its healing essence.

However, I also realize that the sacred, which I experience out there, is also deep within myself, and it is that wild soul dancing, my Real self, awakened, alive and intact, keenly present to Beauty and in Love, a self that is competent and unfettered, a self that thrives without mirrors and walls, without façade, fear, self-doubt or shame, a self without striving to fit in or belong, because it is born from wilderness and in wilderness it returns home – that I encounter out there and truly wish to bring back with me. How to distill that healing medicine, bring that home? Because while Algonquin is indeed powerfully magical, it is who and how I am, and how I simply am who I am, when I am there that I most miss when I return. And like all spiritual experiences – on pilgrimage or retreat – the challenge is bringing that experience of the Real back into my everyday life.

That requires some turtle medicine, perhaps, for she reminds me that I carry my home with me wherever I go, and that my true Self is contained within, always.

On this day, we paddled past turtle island, an aboriginal spiritual site. In the Anishinabee creation story, Turtle offers his back in the midst of a watery world to Sky Woman, who has fallen through a hole in the sky, grasping onto a fistful of seeds from the tree of life on her way through. Her dancing in gratitude upon his back- after the creatures of the waters, one after another, have dived to the bottom of the lake for the mud, which they understood she needed- causes the soil to grow. It is there that both nourishment and life for the creatures of the land began.

And so…. on to day 3

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this adventure of love- day 2

Day 2 – Sept 2

I have been up for an hour or so, since a little before 7. Don is just beginning to stir. I have just now settled, coffee in hand, into my perch, overlooking this boulder strewn river. Kingfisher is busying himself, catching his breakfast. Ours is prepared, waiting, tucked into the cozy to steep.

I hear Don beginning to pack up the tent. I will let that be, for now, not jump, like a knee jerk to the reflexive hammer, at the sound. I have been busy enough with my own morning chores – fire tending, water gathering, breakfast preparing. Division of labor is a good thing.

I slept so sweetly to the song of the river, rose just once to attend to the water in my bladder, and then to the stars at water’s edge. It was startlingly clear then, though by morning a blanket had pulled itself over the sky – like a child not wanting to get up, or like Don when the night is too clear!

However, it was warm sleeping last night -warm this morning too- and I am kicking myself for digging into those extra clothes now. That night in the campground was dangerously tempting, with all of those extra items of clothing at close hand in the car. I so easily could have layered what was already in my pack. Sigh. Oh well, perhaps later in the trip, I will be grateful for that cold opening in the campground. Who knows?

Now. A loon wails in the distance. Crows squawk nearer by. River babbles. Around and between these, silence. With no man-made sounds at all, I feel my body unwind, even with all of yesterday’s physical work.

I can let go here, with Don. Breathe. Be still. Be here.

The grasses are ripening, their seed heads, tawny and full. Joe Pye and Goldenrod add splashes of color to the autumning landscape, each finding purchase wherever they can in the river bed, in rock crevasses, upon seasonal islets. The bracken is browning. Even cedar and pine are shedding the needles they will release this autumn, as their cones- golden on cedar – fill up on waning sunlight.

The small maple on the islet’s caribou-moss-covered knoll blazes orange already, announcing the coming to its neighbors on hillsides and ridges, like a child to the adults surrounding her when she spies something exciting upon the horizon.

so much more detail to share – the bright red of low blueberry, chokeberries in purples and reds on the same branch… but it is time to move along now.

Afternoon @2:00 pm

We have landed on beautiful, peaceful Catfish Lake. We have the place to ourselves, at least this northeastern bay, where we came into the lake from Narrowbag Lake late this morning. Exploring this end of the lake before settling upon this red pine clad site, with its rocky ledge up high and its sandy cove down below, with its 270 degree panorama of islands, bays and sky, with its west facing sunset view, we found the lake to be surprisingly charming. It feels much smaller, more intimate, than it appeared to be on the map. We’ve already seen a small beaver out for a swim in the narrows between this upper and the lower section of the lake. We’ll surely revisit that spot before dusk.

Click on any image to enlarge

We left camp shortly after 9 this morning, and were escorted through a craggy channel into the welcoming bay of this lake @11:30, 2 short carries and paddling the length of Narrowbag Lake was all that we had today after putting that long portage behind us yesterday. Narrowbag Lake, with its singular campsite, surrounded by shallow lilypad carpeted water, opposite a steep granite wall, felt inviting to me. The lake narrowed at the end, where we portaged around a shallow riffle where the remains of an old log chute were being reclaimed by the river. Looking at the map, it appears that it may be possible during the high waters of springtime, to poke around in some of the small bodies of water south of Narrowbag Lake – lakes by the name of Onach, Kagagee, Waymuk. It could be a place to bring our friends D&M one day (there I go bringing to heart loved ones again, in this place that I Love). I think they’d love it here — after we got past that 2400 meter portage, that is!

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log chute remains

Yet another remnant of those logging days rests on one of the islands across from our

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campsite here, a rusting ‘alligator’ – a steam powered machine that could travel across both land and water, used to corral logs on these lakes a hundred years ago- will likely take many more seasons to be returned to the earth. Sometimes, its hard to believe that these beautiful shorelines- thick with cedar, spruce, pine – and hillsides of hardwoods, this afternoon hinting of orange and gold, were utterly denuded a century ago, in this place I want to see as untouched.

It is so very quiet now, especially since the brief shower, with its accompanying breeze, passed through after lunch. No rushing water here. No wind. The only sound – that of Don putting on his shoes.

Time to gather water, wood, fire up the stick stove. Coffee. Read.

Evening.

After dinner we paddled down the long finger of a bay that points eastward around the corner from our camp. I had walked along the shoreline -piled high with rocks that are likely submerged by more typical water levels- to the point at the mouth of that bay this afternoon, after those light showers had passed over, and laid out several large pieces of dry firewood on those rocks to be picked up by canoe this evening.

The water was tranquil as we paddled along. Reflected in its mirror was the boulder crammed shoreline, the berry clad shrubs, the departing clouds. Alternately shoals and then coves traced the water’s edge. Multiple beaver lodges and otter dens, with their garbage piles of freshwater mussel shells outside their backdoors, were tucked into its banks.

Shells that will one day be sand.

Turning west to paddle back to camp, the clouds over the islands were catching the remnant blaze of the setting sun. I’m fairly certain my own face was aglow in response.

Don and I sat on the high point to take in the stars, after our return to camp. Mostly, we watched the clouds rise and take form over the ridge to the west, then spread like a fan over our heads as they moved towards the east, alternately blanketing the stars, then pulling the curtain back again to reveal the show. The moon, too, a waxing crescent that hung low over the southwestern horizon, played peek-a-boo with us.

Soon we were chilly and the tent called us inside. Sleep beckons.

this adventure of love -day 1

I awaken to the morning light, a golden glow upon the tent fly. It feels like just moments ago that I poked my head under the edge to breathe in black night air, peering up though the canopy into the depths of infinite stars. I’ve had to gather these glimpses in the wee hours, like this, after the moon has set, because her fullness has outshined their grandeur earlier in the evening. Most nights, a blanket of clouds has also been pulled over them, a blanket I have not entirely objected to, as that same blanket has also kept me warmer. My nose informed me that it dipped below freezing last night beneath that finally clear, star-littered sky.

My nippy nose also brought to my mind and heart the dear mentor and friend who taught me to notice such things, and I imagined how she would love this canoe trip. So often that happens to me out here -loved ones come to mind with whom I’ve shared natural spaces such as this, and the longing to be with them here in this wild place also rises. From the time my children were small and we began taking family camping vacations, because that was all that we could afford, I realized that something magical happens out here – an intimacy unfolds in the undiluted, undistracted presence to one another, to the earth, and to oneself.

It has been that way on this trip with Don, too. We have fallen into a rhythm of being with one another in our days out here, almost akin to falling in love. Again. It happens almost immediately as the distractions that pull us apart fall away, the weights of our at-home burdens – anxieties, worries, insecurities, trivialities, busy-nesses- slide from our shoulders and into those tranquil waters as we paddle across the very first lake, at dawn, on day one.

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Day 1 -Sept 1

That distance between us begins to close, even as the thick curtain of fog, which hung heavy over the waters this morning, opens, as if it was awaiting our arrival. Kneeling in the bow of the canoe, tracing the parting edge of that shroud with the blade of my paddle, across the large unusually placid lake, it is as if we were being ushered into an other world.

The act of kneeling is not lost on me. There is something undeniably sacred in this place for me, which I cannot begin to name. I am humbled by the vastness, the wildness, the beauty, even the indifference. Who am I in the face of such wonder, after all? Still, the expanse of water and sky seem to hold me in its embrace, and root me as something infinitesimally small in the midst of it all.

Truthfully, last evening, gazing across this huge lake from the campground where we’d booked our first night, I felt my anxiety rise in its wake. We had read many reports about the wildness that this lake can dish up. What would it look like at dawn? Should we cross now while it was atypically still? Would we be able to orient ourselves to find the passage into the bay where the first trail to the interior lay?

…. ‘the first trail to the interior’…

I suppose facing the unknown is often like that – a bit frightening and wondrous at once, that far shore utterly indiscernible through the fog from where you stand. Making that initial crossing to the other side, to where the perspective is vastly different than the one your culture/family/self has so carefully organized and crafted, can feel disorienting. It’s often not easy to leave that other way of seeing or being behind, on that shore. Yet, we humans are braver than we know.

Of course, we had no trouble at all finding that bay, and, soon enough, we understood the distant roaring that had provided the soundscape for our dreams last night. I’d been awakened by it several times throughout the night (perhaps also from the cold- a cold that prompted both of us dig into spare gear in the car for more layers—a decision we likely will regret when carrying that same gear across mile and a half portage trails) , wondering how I could possibly be hearing traffic so far from any road. It had been a 45 minute drive along a dirt lane from the nearest paved road. The night air was so calm I also couldn’t understand how it could possibly be the wind, even if it was high in the pines overhead. Don surmised it was a generator on a camper in the campground next door. So , I laughed out loud at myself, as we paddled into the mouth of that bay, where the Petawawa river dumped into Cedar Lake. Of course, the roar was that of the river! How disconnected from what is natural I have become when my feet are planted in that other world, over there, that I attribute the sounds of rushing water to man-made machines!

We’d thought to go only as far as a campsite on the River, the last one before the long 2400 meter portage, but even with putting two portages behind us, totaling @1000 meters (x3), and taking our time to drink in all that the river offered to us – 2 waterfalls, wildly gorgeous even in these low water days, once paddling upstream to boulder strewn scrambles to get a bit closer – we were still at that campsite by noon, lunching in patches of sunlight on its rocky point.

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lunch break

The wind was truly blowing by then, with clouds having rolled over the sun, and we were chilly, so we decided to push on ‘just to see’ what the next campsite might offer. Thinking also that the more distance we were able to put behind us today would make tomorrow’s workload easier, we were considering splitting the portage just ahead of us into 2 days.

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Beaver lodges lined both sides of the widening of the river in this section. We paddled past a young family of loons, completely undaunted by our presence as we passed quite near to them, and a small turtle basking on a deadhead, soaking up the afternoon sun as had we. I had the thought that, had we decided to stay the night here, a twilight paddle would bring even more creaturely delights.

Of course, it’s hard to go back after you’ve decided to check out a ‘possibility’ further along. The river has her way of carrying you along, even when paddling upstream, enticing you to see what lay around the next bend. The takeout for the 2400 meter portage was a bit tricky, balancing bodies and gear over the exposed rounded rocks in the low water. There, we met a young man, awaiting the remainder of his party to cross over the long trail, dipping his bottle into the water. He suggested to us that the campsite on the far end of the trail was probably worth the walk.

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portage takeout

So, uncertain we had the full 2400 meters left in our legs (x3–we cross each trail 3 times, twice with gear and once empty-shouldered to go back for the second load), we sorted through our gear, deciding what we would need for the night if we decided to stay at the small site on this end (which was not terribly inviting) and carrying across to the far end what we would not need until morning. I carried the canoe, Don took the much heavier food barrel (we also had an ursack with us, which we tied to a tree with the food we would need for an overnight stay on this end) and we set off up the gradual rise.

The site here on the far end, where we landed, is really delightful, and quite spacious for being at the end of a portage trail, as it is. Its beauty confirmed our decision to push through and portage with the rest of our gear. I was quite exhausted after that last trip. All tolled, with rest breaks on either end and one at the top of the hill on our last trek across, it took us about 3 hours to complete the portage. The hardware pack, with the addition of the ursak containing 4 days of the food for our planned 14 day trip packed into it, was quite heavy enough for me.

Reminder to self- pack lighter- one of the gentle reminders that a return to the simplicity of nature offers (or not so gentle, depending upon how much weight one chooses to shoulder), something that our modern world of ease and plenty no longer affords us. We believe we have to ‘have it all’, ‘do it all’ or ‘carry it all’ or else we are not (doing) enough. We fear the stripping away of what lends to us sense of security, no matter how illusory that security might be. We surround ourselves – our homes, our bodies, our minds, our spirits, our lives—with stuff in order to cushion our fears of not-enoughness. Not enough money. Not good enough. Not safe enough. Not lovable enough. Not enough experiences. Not enough learning, books, diplomas, friends, views, likes, support, involvement, attention, belonging, doing (I’m sure you have your own list of not-enoughness)

Out here, I learn to trust – that I have all that I need, that I am more than okay without something I thought was vital, that I am creative enough to make do, that I am capable of withstanding discomfort, that I am okay with what I have and who I am. Out here, I also learn the true cost of carrying too much. I feel the weight of it, tangibly, on my shoulders, even as I conversely felt that sliding from my shoulders of all that I carry, emotionally, upon entering the sacred waters of that first lake, leaving it behind on the opposite shore. The world will turn without me.

It has been such a good day. Autumn is just beginning to color the trails golden; the scents of decaying bracken fill the air. The sky now is a smoky dusk – dark mauves and purples. Soon, I will be left with only the sounds of the water to fill my senses. It is quite pleasant music – bubbles and gurgles, swishes and rushes of the river over and around those boulders where we took our dinner an hour ago. A few crickets join in the chorus tonight.

Don has just returned from his fishing, having had some success after some frustration earlier in the evening when all that he managed to catch was the river bottom. We think it was perhaps a splake (or a REALLY big speckled trout).

He released it.

We’d already cleaned up camp for the night. We’d had enough.

I am losing light. Good night

What makes you feel most alive?

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Tell me, how would you answer this question? ( It came up as a question of the day in a gratefulness daily prompt that I practice)
 
Undeniably, I know the answer to this question for me. When I am out there in the wilderness with my Don, my senses fully awake and aware and present, the physicality of our days putting me in direct contact with the earth, our bodies carrying or gathering all that we need — food, shelter, fire– the camera helping me to pay closer attention to the play of light or color, to the most intimate of details or to widen my lens to take in the whole, I feel simply alive. The rhythm of the days puts me in sync with the rhythm of the earth, as if we are breathing together ( and puts the 2 of us–Don and me– in sync with each other.) I rise and set with the sun, my nose records the overnight temperatures and also the subtler changes in scents along a trail, informing me of flora or fauna. My muscles grow lithe and strong. My heart quiets. My body rests ay days end on the security of earth.
The immediacy of each moment quiets all the extraneous noise in my mind and I am simply there, undivided, immersed without striving. I am not speaking of extreme survival or adversity, of risk taking or proving myself in order to feel alive, but of BEING alive, fully and simply.
I have pondered how the modern practices of meditation and mindfulness seek to train us to do what comes naturally out there, away from the distractions and neuroses of the modern world, and I understand the state they are attempting to recapture- a oneness of being, the whole of your self in one place– because this I have known in Algonquin.
.

at last Algonquin- day 8

May 22

We were up before dawn and onto the water by 6:15, paddling our way across the still, quiet Rosebary Lake towards Tim River. There had been significant gusts throughout the night, but the prevailing winds had calmed at daybreak. Soon we were on the twisting S turns of the Tim River, paddling through the notched valley towards Tim Lake. As the predicted high winds of the day were picked up by the rising sun, we were only occasionally kicked by it as we rounded a bend or were forced to be broadside to it. Mostly, the ridges of the valley sheltered us.

As always, when I paddle the Tim between Rosebary and Tim Lake, I was struck by the beauty of the river as it winds its way through the marsh, which here was greening a bit more than in the Nippissing valley a bit further north- the grasses a few inches taller, the sweet gale breaking open its tightly held russet buds, the pink blossoms of the larch subtly beginning to blush, the brightening green of maple and birch against the spires of dark spruce, all painting a breath-giving palette of spring.

As we paddled into the widest section of the river- actually a named ‘lake’, Little Butt – we noticed the impact of the wind, but also the body of a dead moose, still covered in fur. Perhaps she had fallen through the ice when it was too thin a week or so ago and, unable to free herself, froze to death or drowned.

Soon we were over the 3 large beaver dams in this section of the river. The first, and largest, had a breach which we attempted, with all of our might, to paddle up, but the current and the obstruction proved too great for us (as it did at all 3 of the dams), so we climbed out and heaved as usual. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the beavers’ labor, which makes this river wide enough to paddle in places where it might not otherwise be accessible by canoe.

The last section of the river, between the final beaver dam and the portage, was teeming with warblers! I had no idea they came in so many colors! Something must’ve hatched (perhaps the dreaded blackflies!) for it was a virtual feast day of celebration, singing of spring! For a long time, I sat, after landing at the portage, as Don took the first load across, overlooking that spectacular, favorite view, delighting in their display, breathing in both beauty and joy.

The remainder of our morning paddle, through more marshland, around widening bends in the river up to Tim Lake reminded me why I love this access point so very much, and sealed my decision to bring my women’s groups into this area later in the summer. There is so much to explore here – varied habitat, abundant wildlife, delicate wildflowers, inviting bays, granite outcrops and boggy beauty. It caused me to feel the first stirrings of excitement, replacing a nagging, more tentative anxiety, about bringing them here. The campsites on Tim Lake (we stopped by to check out yet another on our way past) are well used, but mostly not abused.

We were able to paddle across the middle of Tim Lake, rather than hugging the shoreline as we had planned, and through the notch in its large central island. However, when we came out the opposite side, the winds were pushing waves into our gunnels and we had to turn into them for awhile, altering our course for a bit, so as to not get broadsided and swamped. This reminded me to be careful with a group of novice paddlers on this lake.

We arrived at our car @10:45, surprised to find the parking lot fuller than we’ve ever seen it (about a dozen vehicles in all!). Still, the feeling of remoteness there is unlike any of the other access points we’ve been through.

Soon we were on the road to town, about a 40 minute drive, looking forward to breakfast at our favorite ‘Rise and Shine Cafe’ in the small town of Kearney — only to find it closed due to an equipment failure. So we headed back to Edgewater Park Lodge for lunch instead. That place is starting to feel like home too, so many memorable trips have begun there for us– so it was good to revisit them.

Soon, we were on our way across Highway 60, and stopping at Oxtongue lake, at the outfitter there, test paddling a new, lighter, shorter, canoe—- which we actually bought! We are now a 4 canoe family. My hope is that this boat will be just a bit easier for my shoulders to bear and just a bit more maneuverable on the small waterways that Don and I have so grown to love.

Love is, of course, the reason.

at last Algonquin – day 7- enduring

May 21, 7:30 pm, Rosebary Lake

The rains began just after 5pm, shortly after we returned to our camp along the Nippissing, and it continued to rain steadily throughout the night. We had plenty of firewood, (and left quite a bit behind for the next camper), and with the tarp perfectly pitched over the fire circle, the wind blowing the smoke away, we stayed out in it much longer than often we would. I prepared dinner over the fire, then baked the bannock and boiled the coffee for this morning’s breakfast, as we wanted an early start today. After the chores were done, we sat together watching the night fall for another hour or so before making our way to the tent.

We’ve seen no stars on this entire trip, as every night has been overcast. A few of the nights, the full moon peeked through at the horizon, early, but was soon blanketed.  We have also noted how quiet have been the loons and even the peepers these last few days— the temperatures have perhaps dropped too low even for them.

As I write tonight, we are in the tent already at 7:30. We are both chilled as it was a raw day for traveling  and the weather upon arriving at camp was a wind-driven rain into the site, which made warming ourselves even with hot broth and a strategically pitched sheltering tarp, a challenge.

We were up this morning at 5:45 and on the water by 7, and we hope to be on the water again tomorrow at 6, as we intend to paddle out in the morning. Tomorrow looks to be another cold day with high winds and we don’t feel compelled to spend the day, a planned rest and explore day, stuck in camp, cold and wet.

We paddled and portaged today for 7 1/2 hours, sometimes against the wind, though fortunately, for most of it, we were on small water- Loontail creek and Latour creek (which narrows to nothing wider than a beaver run at the end).  The day’s trails were rough – quite hilly,  with trudges through muck, across streams and small swamps, and up and down mud slides. I fell with the canoe at least twice and on several other occasions I just had to put it down and take Don’s assistance because the footing was too treacherous. But again, we worked well together, supporting and laughing and persevering.

Sadly, much of the day’s scenery was paddled past without being able to take in the beauty, grey mist and bowed heads clouding our view. Not much wildlife was out and about on a day like this, but again evidence of their presence in piles of scat was abundant.

Unfortunately, we have landed for our last night on a meager campsite, paddling to the first site we could land upon on the wind driven lake, after finding the hoped-for aboriginal site we’d visited several falls ago to be occupied. We had committed to heading in this direction by then and so, finding this site open, we took it. We were too tired by then to battle the wind and waves to the other side of the lake in search of a better option and so we have decided to make this any-port in-a-storm, a one night stay. I’d hoped it might at least have a promising view, but the shoreline is obscured and, regardless, we were forced to set up a tarp facing away from the water in order to find shelter. This site appears to have been abused – several trees have been hacked, the logs intended to be benches have been charred, and there is evidence of an out of control campfire.

I did walk down to the point where there is a concealed view of a small island in the bay that wraps around the land here. Several dozen warblers, animated and colorful – blue with white wing bars, yellow striped, orange and black – browsed the brush at the water’s edge there.

It’s difficult to write lying on my stomach in the tent like this, but I want to record these remembrances, in order to bring them back later- the osprey we saw over the creek, the way the morning tailwind (no rain at all when we pushed off first thing) sailed us downriver until we turned up current into the creek, the Dutchman’s breeches alongside the first blooming trillium around the edges of the virtual swamp we had to circumvent at the bottom of the trail from Latour to Floating Heart Lake– that entire trail is a memory in itself!!!- the mooseberries (again), the pockets of snow still lingering in low lying areas (on the 21st of May!), the new community of life forming on the exposed rock face in the lee of a fallen giant.

 

I have just peeked out of the tent, as a sudden light on the sidewall invited me. The light at the end of a day has a way of inviting us to see differently.  The sun, just beginning to sink beneath the horizon, is spreading a yellow glow along the far ridge, the sky above is suddenly and at last a clear blue Perhaps the system has blown over.

Again, I am sleepy. Good night.