The plan was to spend Saturday night at my friend’s cottage and then the two of us could share the drive to South River where we would meet up with the other participants and our photography coach Rob Stimpson (www.robstimpson.com) for this Moose Safari.
It was a two and a half hour drive from Kennisis Lake to South River which is situated on the western edge of the Park. Traffic was light and although overcast, it was not raining. Jeff drove. We turned off Highway 11 towards downtown South River and headed off into the wilderness following the twisting logging roads. The GPS told us we had arrived at our destination and behold the lodge was before us, enshrouded with trees and abuzz with mosquitoes.
We were early which was a good thing as we had missed a turn in town that would have led us to the canoe parts store, a required stop on Jeff’s agenda. How we did this in a community with only one stop light shall remain unknown. With new directions in hand we headed back to South River, a twenty five minute trek on yet more, but different, gravel logging roads. A curve here, a twist there. On and on.
We located the factory and then the store, but on a Sunday afternoon, and despite, Jeff’s pre-trip calls, no one knew anything about his order. By the time we retraced our path to the lodge, we were a touch late but there were still sandwiches to be had and time to meet our fellow travellers.
Paddles, life jackets, mozzy defences — hat, spray, netting — and we were off down the narrow path to the small lake behind the lodge for Canoeing 101, an essential run through for oldies and newbies. Racks of paddles and PDFs sat under a shelter near the dock. And I thought, oh good, red canoes….they will be able to see us if we flounder.
“Yes, this is paddle, not a splasher….etc”. I could hear the speech my husband used to give the kids we took on canoe trips. Now I was the would be learner. But really, it’s like riding a bike, you don’t really forget how to paddle. That said, when put to the test, I clearly wasn’t any better than I remember and probably was more of a lily dipper than I had been years before. Nonetheless, my paddle partner seemed to think he and his camera equipment would survive with me in the bow and so we declared ourselves competent after accomplishing several goes across the lake, a few “wheelies” and the completion of a slalom course amongst the dead heads.
Back at the lodge, the fire was burning in the two story stone fireplace and the warmth on the second floor was more than adequate. Wonderful aromas were emanating from the kitchen.
I had lugged my assorted yellow dry bags to my room shortly after arriving but somewhere in that heap of essentials was my head lamp. It was time to access the organizational system in my brain and see if I could come up with its location amongst my belongings. Dark would happen and as an x-girl guide, I had to be prepared.
We met for pre-dinner drinks and assorted instructions in the screened porch and I for one, drank Moosehead beer to complement the delicious cheeses and more than ample supply of crackers. It seemed the thing to do. Rob provided instructions on moose watching and emphasized the patience required.
Leather couches, a log table, lamplight, wine with dinner… yes, this was a good start with a nice transition from everyday existence in a busy world to life on a rock. For the most part cell phones had been put away as the only hot spot was in the driveway where the word was out that fresh blood was available and the mosquitoes were congregating in clouds.
A delicious meal around the very long split log table was followed by free time to get to know Rob and my fellow photographers – a teacher, a government employee, a tool and die maker, a videographer, and two retirees, including me. A mixed bag for sure.
Despite the efforts of the Voyageur Quest staff, there wasn’t any interest in the wood fuelled sauna and it was soon time to find our way in the semi-dark to our rooms. No electricity. The lamps on the table and by the fire, threw soft light on the stairs. That is a giant step towards life without amenities.