A short day. And well deserved, I feel. When we woke up this morning, Irene's ankle wasn't any better. Indeed it was looking worse. Conveniently, this was to be our slack day anyway. A limited amount of paddling and only token portaging. We got up to - surprise surprise - cloudy skies, around 7am. I was feeling quite tired, but couldn't feel anything wrong with my shoulder. I tried a bunch of lifts and movements but for all canoe trip intents and purposes, it's fine.
Irene's ankle, on the other hand won't take much weight. The not-so-little blue muscle relaxant pills seem to help, and she's using a stretchy camesole as a tensor (Ace in American), but certain movements are painful.
So we decide that for today at least, she's on lifejackets and paddles and that we'll do the less portaging, more paddling route back into the interior, via Baie Fine, rather than the Kirk Creek/Three Narrows route.
The water on Baie Fine looks a lot bigger than anything we've managed to date. I hope it's navigable because we can't afford to be windbound. But that's so tomorrow.
We headed out around 9:30 after a decadent breakfast of pancakes with Van Winkle Lake blueberries and my dad's homemade maple syrup. Delicious. Packing up I felt a bit tired and disoriented, perhaps beginning to feel the fatigue of seven days in "wilderness". Or maybe it's because I slept last night with my head lower than my feet.
Who knows. We made for the North Channel (of what I don't know, the map just says North Channel) through Low Lake (with a 70m portage over rock), then following a small creek, then into an unnamed expanse of bog (we scraped across a few semi-sunk logs) via a 20m portage into open water.
This corner of the park is beautiful. Rounded pink ridges topped by wind bonsai conifers. There's cottages too, though, three or four we've seen. We're on the edge of the park, so motor boats are legal too. We've even seen seadoos since we got here, just before noon.
The paddle down the east channel was neat. There's one point where you have to line/walk your canoe through a tiny channel between two islets. I'm told water levels are higher than normal. In low water years, about 15cm less would make this a portage.
A kilometre or so after that came our site, #136. It's gorgeous. Rocky - a bit like a Georgian Bay site - with a 270 degree view. Forget the cabin cruiser moored 1km off to my right and you have paradise. We've anchored the tent with a fwe rocks and we should be set.
We took advantage of our early arrival and made the gutsy, decadent move of firing up the stove at lunch time, first to heat up the leftover thai curry, then to make grilled cheese sandwiches, and last, but not least, a second cup of coffee.
We travelled maybe 6km today with less than 200m in portages. I hope this gives Irene's ankle a bit of a break.
We're in the middle of this surreal experience. I had stripped off all my clothes for a swim when two women in a canoe paddle by. I run back up for my clothes, and when I'm dressed, they're close enough to speak normally.
"It's a little early for the moon," one says.
"Apparently," I blush. It turns out they've taken the same route we're planning through Baie Fine. The portage, they say is easy and the water manageable. "But you have to watch out for the boaters," they add. "Some are nice but some are assholes. Stay along the shore and turn into the waves." So they paddle on. I wait for them to round the point then head down to the water. This time I leave my clothes on. I want them near at hand.
I hear the sound of boat motors. It would certainly not be the first time.
But instead of the usual fishing skiff, these three massive cabin cruisers chug round the corner, being led by this pilot fishing boat. They're easily as long as two or three canoes. I guess this is how you rough it if you're an American millionaire. Or billionaire.
It's not the fact that they're American that I dislike. I imagine most of the people in this park as I speak are American, and everyone we've encountered has been nothing but courteous to us and reverential of the environment. It's the yachters and their gaudy excess of consumption, the presumption that the world is your oyster and that you may enjoy it to the detriment of others because some random occurrence such as birth has gifted you with wealth in such excess that you can think of no other thing to buy than one of these monstrosities.
It pisses me off that, as canoeists - American and Canadian - we take risks, sustain injury, exert energy, plan, reserve months in advance, compete with each other for campsites and struggle to gain some solitude and these rich fucks can come along without asking permission, without regard for the environment, or even park rules and plunk themselves down wherever the fuck they want.
No reservations, no can and bottle ban, nada. Just 'cause.
We can only hope they're just here for the afternoon and that they'll head back when the booze runs out. We're going to pretend they're just not there.
I dove in, buck naked, in full view of all three of them, just to reclaim the space, so to speak. And that worked, for a time.
I've been greatly enjoying poring over these rocks (this should be obvious from the photos). Examining a point like this, it's easy to see how these massive trees come to be growing out of seemingly nothing. It starts with lichen or a crack in the rock. That collects enough water and or wet dirt to start moss. Then grass. Then a tuft. Each of these permits more dust to gather and become dirt. The dirt holds water. The water supports more plants. And when it freezes, it expands, expanding the cracks, permitting thicker roots, which permits bigger plants. Then a bird or the wind blows a seed into the crack, and a tree takes hold. It may die but it drops more seeds, which get bigger, leads to more earth, leads to more plants...
...and eventually you get yachts. Sorry. One track mind.
I had a much different idea of how this evening would unfold. I imagined the yachts would leave, the sun would come out and Irene and I would enjoy a fabulous burrito on fresh tortilla dinner, gazing into the sunset and into each others' eyes.
Only two of the above actually happened. The yachts stayed, at 6pm it started to rain and it's been raining ever since. We did have an excellent burrito dinner, but scrunched under the tarp, taking turns frying up what can be best described as cornmeal latkes.
Today's lesson: always try cooking something at home before you take it on a trip. Take corn tortillas, for example.
Carol Hodgins says "use Corn Masa." But not much else. So we found ourselves with this bag of vaguely yellow flour trying to figure out how you get from there to tortilla.
"Uh, I think you make a bread-like dough and squish it between your hands until its... ah... a like raw tortilla," I say, retaining my rep' as the trip's walking encyclopaedia of trivia, semi-reliable information and bad ideas.
"But it just sticks to everything," Irene says.
"You have to have flour on your hands," I say. "Get some flour from the bannock bag and use that."
I hear: "stony silence."
Irene thinks: "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
Irene says: "I'm mixing it up like pancake batter and frying them that way."
She was, of course, doing the right thing. We had these cornmeal latke like things under melted cheddar, beans with salsa and veggies on top. Tostadas if you will.
But it was very time consuming. Two hours. I'm glad (I hope) we have lots of stove fuel still. But will it start a Honda Civic?