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Day 3

July 30th, 4:20pm, Balsam Lake, Site 120

The wind is blowing east, across this smooth rocky point we have for our campsite. It's looking like rain after an entirely sunny day.

We have the site at the butt end of Balsam, but given our options, it was the best bet. Yes, this lake is once again swarming with canoeists. And I imagine all the sites on Balsam are booked this evening. It's a nice lake, but it's not stunning. I think there are a lot of people who do the Bell - Balsam - David - Johnnie loop or something.

We woke at 7:30am and dutifully ate our oatmeal, grateful for the wild blueberries that had not yet been eaten. We were on the water for 9:15. This would be a mostly paddling day.

We wound our way up Carlyle to Johnnie Lake and along Johnnie to the portage to Bell. This stretch of the park is very cottagey. Not Lake Muskoka cottagey, but there are a fair number of cottages and even a couple of lodges.

Johnnie gives you a view of Silver Peak. We'll be climbing that tomorrow.

The beaver damn lift over at the bay near the Johnnie - Bell portage has become an obstacle. It rises about four feet above the lake. Most people, it seems just pull out and start walking before the beaver dam. It adds another 100m or so to the 'tage, but it's easy walking.

The Johnnie - Bell portage goes through the Bell Lake access point. And upon entering Bell, you're treated to a vista of a lake scarred by a fairly huge lodge, complete with manicured lawns, that's sending out flotillas of day trippers.

We followed Bell as it poured into Three Mile Lake, stopping for lunch around 12:30 near where I imagine the two lakes cross over.

At the end of Three Mile Lake is the trolley. Still there, still amusing, making quick work of a 30m portage. Irene asked if they have one of these on the 2945m from David to Great Mountain that we have to do two days hence. I explained that as of yet my lobbying efforts had been unsuccessful.

Balsam was swarming with people. Two canoes full of parents and kids took the second site we passed, just as we were approaching it. The first site, right of the portage was empty, but we wanted to be closer to the portage into David. The second site was also empty, but we dared to get closer still. Some homesteaders had occupied the fourth site. That left three sites, including two very close together on a small island.

I could feel the tension creeping through my shoulders. The mad campsite dash had begun.

We overtook this group of campers singing some goofy answerback thing just as we were approaching the island. As we passed their lead canoe we discovered that they were headed for the island. We pushed past them. They weren't actually going that fast.

We shuddered at the idea of the 24hr all-Kumbaya chorus for neighbours. We noted that the other site on the island was already taken. We pondered our options. We looked back and saw their canoes, wiggling slowly toward the island.

An ethical quandary. Take the convenient site and deprive the Tim Horton Summer Experience kids of "their site" or move further up the lake a couple of km out of the way and hope that site wasn't taken too. After all, we were the faster boat. We could theoretically "handle it" more easily. But on the other hand, we were the faster boat, so "fuck 'em - we got there first."

In the end, we found a third way: "You know, I don't really want to stay that close to another group," Irene said. "Let 'em take it and we'll find some privacy."

We believed the more distant site would afford us that. Oh, I laugh.

So we pushed on. We made it to this site at 2:15 or so. It was empty and it's not actually that bad. It's a tad close to a swamp but apart from that, grand. Stone furniture, even.

We put up the tent and went for a swim. Hot and tired after six hours of paddling under July sun, we were due.

To reduce pack weight, of course, we hadn't brought towels or bathing suits. We got out of the water and, suddenly overcome by the glorious feeling of sun on skin we became amorous... passionately affectionate.

Okay okay, we were having sex when this flotilla of canoes rounds the point not 200m off shore from our campsite. We calmly, but quickly ran behind some bushes. They must have seen the site was occupied (if not much more). Why were they coming nearer? Our clothes were back on the point and the rest of gear still in the pack by the canoe.

Finally Irene said "let's just go to the tent." So we do. And through the mesh window we watch as they - and the moment - pass us by. So much for privacy.

9:20pm

After watching a glorious sunset, eating a sumptuous meal of dahl, rice and pita, we're settling down in the tent. We've got real bug hum outside. Inside we're safe.

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