Algonquin Camping Trip

I took this past Friday off and packed up my newest camping equipment along with an eager beagle and drove off after waking up at 5:30. After driving about 380 km, after picking up a fishing license in Barrie and the last bits and pieces at a Sobey's grocery store and Canadian Tire, I was on my way. I rented a solo canoe which was incredibly light -lighter than the 2 man job I carried for about 4 km last September - this one would have been a breeze. Made of Kevlar, so it likely would have been a little bullet proof, if the chipmunks got a little out of hand. I plopped Monty into the canoe, who squeaked as much as he could to protest his watery imprisonment, and padddled on down the river, out into the lake, and made a beeline for a set of islands on the opposite end of the lake - about 45 minutes away by one-stroke engine (ha, I made that joke up just now).

When I made camp, I sat for a moment in my folding chair and thought about what to do. I cooked up some curried-rice and grilled a steak over the fire, and shared the steak with Monty who was very helpful in reminding me that I had some left on my plate whenever I looked away from him.

Then it was 1:00 PM and I listened to the CBC on my Grundig shortwave/fm/am wind-up radio powered by AA batteries - why wind it up when it can use batteries instead? I read my book for a while in my chair, gathered fire wood, discussed chipmunks with Monty, and hours passed, and I got hungry again.

Since I had left my new fishing rod at home for some reason or another, I figured catching a fish was out of the question. But then I remembered Ray Mears saying a rule of bushcraft is to make the tool that you need. So I got some kitchen cotton string, a dead pine sapling, trimmed it, tied a 15 foot length string to the end, a hook and fake wriggly salamander lure to the end and threw it in the water.

That is, I threw it, instead of casting, because it all bundled up and landed by my foot. So I tried again, with a long, graceful swooping movement, and the salamander dipped under the surface and vanished about 12 feet away and 4 feet down, over the edge of a dark rock in the lake.

I looked carefully at the rod I'd crafted with my hatchet and shifted my feet and all of a sudden felt an insistent, almost anxious tugging on the string. I yanked the rod, and pulled up a 4 foot, 120 lb bass (see image below, some numbers have been exaggerated).

After cleaning it, I threw it in a firepan with olive oil, salt and pepper, and cooked it up over the fire. Beer and pan-fried fish - perfect. Monty had some too, after reminding me that I had some left over.

He settled down on a blanket with his stuffed toy (important for comfort) and all the while kept an eye on the chipmunk territory in the woods, taking off after them every so often with a smile on his face.

I wandered the edge of the island where I was from time to time, and found thick growths of soft lichen on the granite, and was followed by my trusty canine companion. He kept watch over the island - climbing like a mountain goat up the steep cliff around the camp site.

The first thing I noticed about the camping spot as I pulled in with the canoe were the blueberry bushes, small, but covered with blueberries.

I picked a few for snacks and on Saturday morning made blueberry pancakes. Very good. Scrambled eggs and tea accompanied the pancakes. Nothing better for breakfast.

The early morning sun warmed up the island - weather was perfect, warm in the day, cool in the evening.

Monty had a great time, and snoozed when he could, but also kept a close eye on the chipmunks as much as he could.

One evening I made a lantern out of pine pitch, a branch and some spruce roots. It burned for several minutes in the blackness, and illuminated the site clearly.

When I returned, Spring told me that she'd be up to going camping the next time I went - so we'll all be going up in August some time!

Check out the rest!

His fare was away in a blur of lights.

Earlier this evening I witnessed a horrible sight - I stepped out of my car which I'd just parked, heard a 'thwack', looked up and the woman who'd been standing on the corner as I pulled into the parking lot was laying in the road with blood pouring out of her swollen face and her immobile body twisted and crumpled on the streetcar track and road looking quite horribly dead. I was sure she was dead. A moment later a streetcar driver ran out and holding his arms up above his head yelled 'NO - OH FUUUCK!!! NOOOO!!!' and ran back to the streetcar. I thought it was a suicide - that was my very first thought. I think he'd thought he'd killed her.

I started over to her, along with a couple other people. I told a woman to support the unconscious but squirming victim's head with a brown Danier bag she was carrying - she hesitated. I reminded her it was plastic and could be cleaned off. She agreed with me quite seriously, quite thoughtfully. Then I pulled out my cell to call 911 and saw a guy with a cellphone. I asked him if he was calling 911 and he said yes. I told him to tell me if he'd gotten through. He ignored me and stared at the sky. A woman told me she was calling and would tell me once she'd gotten through.

Cars decided to try to drive past us. I raised my hand - directing traffic - and caught the eye of the idiot man with his idiot wife trying to drive past and refused him passage. He argued in mime. I, in mime, threatened holy grevious injury on him if he proceeded. He backed down - his wife looked scared of me.

It is difficult to remember the order of everything. Like a dream.

It looked like brains out of her nose - but it was just blood matting her hair, stuck to her face. And then she came to, she fought, she resisted and then the ambulance was there and she fought the ambulance attendants who looked huge like wrestlers and she was kicking her legs and groaning without a face that made sense. It was swollen and she looked pissed off and drunk and wasted yelling and agonized.

Observe: Cervical collar, a hard board and an ambulance and a shocked bystander beside me and a pool of blood on the asphalt and a shoe on the tracks. The tough policeman - radio calls, departing ambulance, sirens.

Then I saw the cabbie across the road just stopped - motionless, uncertain, sad, not believing, staring in stony confusion. His fare was away in a blur of lights and medical equipment. He drifted away after a while. He's thinking of the incident. The accident. So am I. So is the streetcar driver. So are the other witnesses.

Bushcraft, Root Cordage, Headlamps

I've been focusing a lot since I got several books on bushcraft for my birthday on both the psychology of survival and on skills to use found materials to make outdoors living more easy.

At the beach today, I pulled up a length of willow root, stripped off the root bark and produced a strong piece of cordage. I lashed it to a hook I carved from washed up wood, and tied it to a long piece of willow bough, carving small niches in the pieces. I then used it to lead my distractable beagle back to my car - I had left the leash there trusting he would pay attention to my commanding voice. By the time we'd finished our walk, he was interested only in the input provided by his olfactory senses. Tied up using natural resources, he hardly complained.

For my birthday I got a headlamp for camping. I wanted one because camping presents certain lighting challenges. The sun goes down earlier than our incandescent-trained brains would like, and putting a naptha or propane powered lantern in a tent at dusk just won't do. Positioning a flashlight over one's shoulder to illuminate a book is an awkward job, and candle-lanterns don't give off enough light. But my new little toy will do it just fine - strap it to your head and light pours from it in a triumphant blaze of heavenly glory. In green LED, white LED or yellow halogenly happiness. Plus, as my concierge likes to repeat, it helps me find the tree at night.

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