Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fall Trip into Nature

Our fall trip into nature this year – traditionally embarked upon after Canadian Thanksgiving (second weekend in October) – took on a fresh twist. David and I have become over the years paddle pals, taking time out to canoe out into the semi-wilderness of southern Ontario’s gems of provincial parks for several days and nights of deepened connection with the wild. We have soaked up scenic locations in Algonquin, Temagami, Masassauga, Kawartha Highlands (all twice) and Killarney three times, showing it to be our favourite and most mystical.

On our dozenth trip in twelve years, we chose to skip the canoe rental, those sometimes life-sapping portages, the cold at night huddled around the smoky campfire, the winds howling through our summer tent. We went a bit wussy and opted to take up the kind offer of long-time close friends Chris and Allan to use their cottage on quiet small Otter Lake near Minden, well south of Algonquin. I know this place well, having enjoyed many visits. The property is set in fifty acres of natural mixed forest abutting the lake. A long winding narrow laneway escorts us in from the road. Set in white pines on a rocky outcrop with a lovely view right down the lake, the cottage and adjoining deluxe “bunky” are the perfect spot to unwind after a busy season.  And the joy of soaking in the cedar hottub filled with 104 degree orangey-brown pine-tannined water pumped straight out of the lake is second to none, rain or shine.

On these trips we always eat and drink well. Traditionally, when camping, we have used David’s trusty (and heavy) Coleman stove. And we have taken adequate but limited supplies of drink to see us through the long hours of dark! Well, this year, we could load up the car and splurge a bit. At night, we cooked grass-fed beef liver with bacon and onions, rack of lamb, Berkshire ham steak, accompanied by Rolling Hills Organics spicy salad mix, baby arugula, sunchokes, carrots, potatoes, Cloud & Bear’s Brussels sprouts. We cranked up the Buena Vista Social Club and Orchestra Baobab as counterpoint to Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, early Van Morrison. The logfire was roaring. Red wine from Chile, California, Australia, Argentina was free flowing; vino tinto is a staple of conviviality.

By day, we went on a hike north of Carnarvon called  Circuit of Five Viewpoints and took in marvellous autumnal vistas over Halls Lake. We also did rent a canoe for old times’ sake and had a pleasant few hours in the warm sunshine paddling up the Oxtongue River to the frothing cascade of Ragged Falls from Oxtongue Lake north of Dwight. We returned to “civilization” and news of a fatal shooting in Ottawa

We’re really not up to the extreme lugging involved in multiple portages to reach the ideal campsite nor the sub-zero temperatures sometimes endured for the sake of sleeping under the stars, but we did miss the spectacular feeling of being truly out there on a rocky island looking out over the vast openness of lake, forest, mountain and endless sky , miles from humanity and its grubby goings-on.