Thursday, Final Paddle: A Compass, Hammocking + Dreaming of Beer

I started this day with mixed emotions. While I was grateful that we were humming along with a picture perfect, smooth sailing trip so far, I was already sad with the realization that this was our last full day on the water. There is something about being completely disconnected; experiencing solitude with nature, truly connecting with others; hour after hour paddling in a world of simplicity and beauty; it grows on you. A Monday to Friday trip really didn’t feel like it was quite enough. When we set out (four days ago, the last time we had any access to a ‘weather forecast’ aside from our reading the skies each night), rain was strongly predicted Thursday so I was thankful to wake up to another blue sky sunrise and the sight of a peaceful lake. Being out here, we had no way to know what the ‘forecast’ was. It makes you realize how life was far before the luxuries we have today, in a world of ‘just Google it’. I guess in an earlier time, it was ‘figure it out’. Use your brain and common sense. Crazy concept.

Dad had to lure Will out of bed at about 6.45 am to Derick yelling “Wakey Wakey Hands Off Snakey!” (poor kid to be surrounded by such an immature bunch) but by 8.30am we were coffee’d, fed, and off for our paddle. We hit our final portage quickly, in probably 15-20 minutes, but this was only a 10 rod portage. We were actually able to ‘pull the canoes’ through this one, as there was a short trail to portage but a shallow creek crossing alongside it lead to Red Rock Bay, our next body of water. It made more sense to pull the canoes, not having to empty them out. Derick and I walked the canoes through the creek, guiding them through the rocks. It was a ton of fun, and I was thankful I didn’t snag any leeches. At 9am the skies still looked blue. It looked like we may luck out!

We proceeded into Red Rock Bay and while there was a lot of navigating islands through this section (reading the map, short canoe consultations to assure we all agreed on our path; or rather, agreed enough) the paddling was on smooth, glass-like water. The peaceful ambiance was of course interrupted by Will telling dad his J stroke was slowing them down and that he was being lazy, and Derick and I mocking William since every time we looked over dad was paddling while Will was sitting there holding his paddle. Dad barked back at William (about something, I’m sure of no significance), and all was right in the world. As we were nearing the Canadian border, I belted out “BLAME CANADA!” from South Park an obnoxious number of times. I think in hindsight, we were all really enjoying in a light-hearted manner what we knew was nearing the last of our trip.

By about 10:30 we realized we were far ahead of schedule, so we pulled aside in a small bay to determine which island was our campsite. Our goal was to camp on Clark Island, which would put us only about 2 miles from our takeout. Finally, we hit our first major disagreement! It was grand. Derick, William and myself all believed we should make a hard right towards Clark. Dad was sure it was more of a straight shot. Things escalated, and for the first time we pulled out our trusty compass from the Emergency Ditty Bag to determine who was right. A bet was laid down between Dad and Will because, of course, they were the two who were arguing the most.

So the bet was this. Dad is right? He owes William 1 Fortnight Shield. (~$20 value). If Will is right, he owes dad a case of beer. I mean likely not an appropriate thing for a 15 year old kid to owe his grandpa, but ya know, …whatever.

After about 20 minutes of banter and figuring out what the bet was, Derick played the role of compass-master to make the final decision. Way to go dad! Experience wins. This sounds crazy but really, this is what this trip was; trying to decide to the best of your knowledge where you actually were in relation to the maps; if you were going the right direction, and if the campsite you were at was in actuality ‘that’ campsite. A bit daunting but also pretty dang cool.

Back to the bet. Will wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion as he felt he was still correct in a way, so the pay was cut in half; he only owed dad a 6-pk of beer. Glad we got that sorted.

We rolled into Clark Island at about 11:30, which was a beautiful site with a bit of a breeze; on a hot day, it was perfect. This spot also took us creeping back towards civilization and Other Humans (boats with motors and such). We unpacked our canoes, lunched, and Derick fished the shoreline while myself, Will and Dad enjoyed a swim. It was actually pretty nice to arrive here midday as we really had time to unwind a bit. Derick & Will headed out to fish while Dad and I chilled at the campsite. I hammocked, read, and journaled atop a rock with beautiful views while Dad then dozed off in hammock. This afternoon of solitude made me realize this was the final few hours we had of time away from everything… I will miss this… though a cold IPA sure sounds good right now…

William and Derick provided sustenance! They came back with 1 pike and 3 small mouth bass, and this time we opted to eat the pike. We would officially have our 2nd fish dinner! Not bad for only 4 nights out. Given that the pike is FULL of bones, they opted to slice it into chunks (has the consistency of a swordfish) and toss it into foil with 6 lbs of butter, salt,  and grill it. It was tasty! (once you navigated the sea of bones). They fried the smallies. We paired the fish with a rice medley (just add water deal) and it was amazing. It’s kind of awesome how good food like this tastes when it’s is all you’ve got and you prepared it over a fire, all by hand and everyone helping out, in the great outdoors on rickety aluminum plates. Perfection if you ask me.

We watched motorboats whiz by, and I considered flashing one and yelling “We need beer!” Derick seemed skeptical that this would elicit any result. Once dinner finished we tried to ration our scotch (I can’t believe it was still alive), but quickly our cups were empty; so we reached for dad’s 7 oz flask of 30-year old Beam (literally, he bought this shit in 1985). We packed up camp so that we could head out early as skies starting to look somewhat daunting, and much to the disappointment of the flesh-devouring bugs, we were all safe and sound in our respective tents by 9 pm. Our last night, we all fell asleep to sound of silence peppered with loon calls. That is the way we should fall asleep every night; if only…




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