Ishpatina Ridge

September 16 – 20, 2005

Day 5

September 20, 11pm, Overbrook

When I woke up this morning I reckon about the only thing that could have made me laugh would have been the suggestion that I was going to miss being outdoors once I got home.

Why? Let’s see:

But despite all that, and despite being very happy to see my sweetie, when I got home, I really wished I was back out there. It seems every time I go to Temagami, something goes wrong with the house. Last time, the roof leaked. This time, we discover that our basement is leaking so much that the person we’ve hired to insulate our basement won’t do it unless we re-grade the driveway.

Suddenly the last 24 hours in the northerly tail of a hurricane seemed like fun.

But forget all that. Last night after dinner, the rain drove us into the tents at 9pm. We’d agreed to get up for 6am so that we could make it to Ottawa at a reasonable time. We’d all need the time to hang things out to dry, wash the sand from our... well, everything and otherwise recuperate.

I slept very poorly. I knew at some point we were going to get water in the tent. It couldn’t possibly rain that much without compromising the tent. Normally it’s the floor that goes. And so with every thunderclap or flash of lightning, I was awake, gingerly feeling the tent floor for moisture.

I kept telling myself it didn’t matter because my next destination was a house with a bed and clean sheets. But still I fretted. Was that patch of damp the start of a deluge or merely the trailing edge that had already engulfed my tent mate?

Michael said later when he woke up he could feel the floor rippling like some kind of backwoods waterbed. I didn’t feel that, but even the bits of dampness - not really worth worrying about - had me convinced that the tent was awash, only my clothes had absorbed all the water and that my sleeping bag was next.

I have a down sleeping bag, which is great because it weighs next to nothing and compresses to something about the size of a coke can, but if it gets wet, you might as well take off your clothes and sleep outside.

I lay there in the tent, sleeping bag up around my ears, like some sort of paranoid yogi, focussing my energy on my butt and shoulder blades, urging all my energy into my nerve endings to sense any lowering of temperature, or moisture. I felt nothing.

Cautiously I extended fingers onto the tent floor. Water. And not just damp. I felt an adrenal rush as if I had just reached out and felt a horde of scorpions crawling across the tent floor.

But where was all the water? In my half asleep daze I reasonned that my clothes (folded under my calves and feet as if to pretend to be the other 1/3rd of a thermarest) had absorbed it all.

"S’awright, it’s the last night," I told myself. Over and over.

At 6:00am, my alarm told me it was okay to be awake. I sat up and reached for my clothes. They were damp, but then, so was the world. My sleeping bag was more humid than damp.

I wriggled out of it and started packing. I could hear wind and waves and could see the tent being buffetted. It was, I imagined, blowing down from the north, right into our faces.

We had a shivering, quick breakfast. Despite the additional time it takes to break camp and pack in the rain (it took me at least two extra minutes to psyche myself into saying goodbye to my dry footwear and putting on my soaking "water socks" from yesterday), we were on the water just before 8am.

Lisa and Markus had acquitted themselves admirably in their canoe all trip, this despite it being Markus’s first canoe trip, however this morning was going to be quite difficult. We agreed that Markus and I would paddle together as would Ken and Lisa. Michael’s first words to me after he opened his eyes were "I’ll solo today," so that was pretty much settled.

It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. I had warned Lisa and Markus that there would likely be moments where they’d have to paddle hard just to stay still. But it never really got that bad. Most of the paddling was along the Montreal River which never gets that wide, and was often cutting across the wind.

Lady Dufferin Lake was quite the chore, mind. And I was indeed relieved that we’d been agreeable to and capable of making the north end of Smoothwater Lake yesterday. I think Smoothwater would have been quite an unpleasant paddle today.

Despite the headwind, we made it to the Beauty Lake Road bridge over the Montréal River at around 10:40. We packed up, changed to street clothes, hopped into the cars, cranked the heat, and drove off.

We stopped in New Liskeard to do finances and avail ourselves of Pizza Hut’s all-you-can-eat pizza buffet (how fortuitous). We stopped again in Temagami to give back the rental canoe, and lastly, for ice cream in Deep River. Does that seem strange? Recall that it gets a lot warmer as you drive south, and by the time we got to the Laurentian Dairy, sitting outside with frozen dessert was something we could contemplate.

Eventually we got back on the road and were back in Ottawa by around 7 or 8pm.

Low light, flapping tarp. Way early, Tuesday morning.

Low light, flapping tarp Way early, Tuesday morning.

Boats on a leash. We tied the canoes to a tree in case the wind got uppity with them.

Boats on a leash We tied the canoes to a tree in case the wind got uppity with them.

We’re done. After a hard slog into the wind, we arrive at the take out. (Markus Wandel photo)

We’re done After a hard slog into the wind, we arrive at the take out. (Markus Wandel photo)