OK, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a morning person except when there is a monumental natural occurrence happening or I have a plane to catch. Today it was a five am start. I am just functional.
I had packed my stuff by flashlight last night and had my camera gear ready along with my “bug” suit. This morning, I fight with my down sleeping bag to get it into a dry bag while wrapped around my tripod. As my tent is not far from the kitchen I hear voices and the sounds of activity in the kitchen. I extricate myself from my tent, possibly the most difficult part of this trip for me, and find my way to a coffee cup. Wakeup gorp and fruit get me ready for coffee and a 5:30 launch as I watch the sun paint the tops of the trees yellow and the clouds over the lake a glorious pinky blue. The lake was tranquil, reflections perfect. Of course! As you recall, my tripod is packed! I improvise with a rock and a stump. I have many images with slightly slanted horizon lines as proof of my efforts. But to witness and be in the moment was the most important. I did that and then quietly slipped down the path to the Thunder Box.
Jeff and I are getting coordinated as paddle partners and I am either pulling my weight or he is just being really nice. We now have a silent signal system to allow me to know when he wants me to paddle and when to stay still. At any rate, we are off from the beach by 5:30 am with little fanfare. As we head down the lake the sun is just coming up over the trees. It is both beautiful and slightly blinding. This time I am in full battle gear- head to toe bug suit coated with multiple and supposedly deadly layers of Deet! One paddle stoke at a time, we move towards the swamp to catch the rest of the morning light and moose in the mist.
Now there are always moments in photography that you wish you could relive. You know the ones where in the old days, you forgot to put the film in the camera or you forgot the flash or now,the memory cards are full or the batteries are blinking before their final demise. Today, the mist rises and the moose eventually pose with precision and I get flare…lots of flare. Ok, there is a lot to remember and I am so entranced by the blinding light that I forget it was just that….blinding light!
The water droplets of an early mist shine on the shore grasses as a mother and calf splash for dry land. We cautiously approach and see them disappear into a sparkling green fairy land. We carry on bordering the lake, quietly, speechlessly, watching.
Again a hand goes up from the red canoe. A young moose with a sprouting rack stands in the shadows. His brown moulting coat catches the light as he moves his head slowly and looks back over his own shoulder and out at us. Then he saunters in ankle deep waters towards the right. He stops and looks back coquettishly as if to pose for the perfect back-lit portrait. Then, head down he continues his breakfast.
Resigned to the fact that our time on Craig Lake is drawing to a close, the canoes pull from the shore and head back to camp. The sun is up and winds are freshening. A lone heron flies up from the marsh.
While we were out “The Marks” have made breakfast – melon, french toast, bacon with maple syrup and lots more coffee. We break camp and load the canoes for our paddle out.
The portages in reverse are just as slippery and perhaps more challenging than when we arrived. Remember, I am not a morning person and I have already been up for four hours give or take. Need I say, I am tired.
Having sacrificed my runners to the bog, I now slop in and out of the canoe to the best of my physical ability and as required at each portage. Even without the big packs and the need for me to portage the canoes, I am definitely wearing out. It crosses my mind that if this trip had been four days instead of three, and if I had had a less able paddle partner, I might have to live here! That speaks to the energy I have at sixty something versus my memories of canoe trips when I was twenty something. But the truth is that had I not had outdoor adventures when I was young, when I travelled with my family to experience Algonguin for the first time, and had I not been able to paddle to remote lakes with my husband and then with children from my work, I would have missed a lot.
The truck trundled down the logging roads as we retraced out steps to the landing where the cars and a buffet lunch sat waiting for our return. My shoes squished swamp mud and trust me, three days without a shower cannot be offset by L’eau de Deet. For the last time, Jeff and I lugged our gear to his car and headed home exhausted, but glad for the experience.
As the song goes….”Canada is really really big” and Algonquin, a National Historic Site, is mighty in both its beauty and its impact and it is right here in Ontario. It is accessible in ways that can meet the needs of nearly every type of adventurer. All seasons present opportunities for the young and the young at heart. I’ll be back.
[Special thanks to Jeff and Chris, Rob Stimpson ( http://www.robstimpson.com) and Voyageur Quest (www.voyageurquest.com) for making this adventure a reality.]