Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back from the Northwoods

We got back early Sunday afternoon from our 2009 sojourn into Northwestern Ontario. I have a hard time getting myself back into my usual routine when home. Yesterday, I just went through the motions, today I'm starting to actually be consciously aware of what's going on around me. I'd much rather not, but I gotta.

Bud says that this trip could be boiled down to two words, "Wet ass!" The seat of his pants never seemed to dry out because his seat cushion in the boat we used was perpetually soggy! It rained. It sprinkled. It poured down in buckets. It spit at us. It thundered. It boomed. It lightninged. It cracked. It shocked us awake in the middle of the night, hearts thumping, skin tingling. For seven out of the 10 days we were there.

The sun did manage to peep out for short periods between showers (that brought out some beautiful rainbows!), so we did get out between the worst deluges. We had brought with us some good rain gear to help keep us dry, but it was rather discouraging to have to skitter back to camp with the first rumble of thunder just when the walleye would start biting again!

We knew that the weather had been miserable up there for the previous two weeks, but we got a phone call from the Frostiaks, the Keystone Lodge owners and proprietors, the day before we left and they told us that they would meet us to transport our belongings from the one mile mark from the camp because that last mile of the road was washed out! Indeed, when we turned onto the 8 mile gravel road that leads to the camp we were met a couple miles in by a worn, wet and bedraggled looking Dave Frostiak on his ATV telling us that, instead, we and our belongings would be transported via boat from a sister camp to Keystone. Our van stayed parked at the Northern Lights camp for the duration. Heather, the 15 yr old Frostiak daughter, navigated our boat for the 40 minute lake ride, in the rain, to Keystone Lodge. She made a wrong turn at one point and her brother, Mike, didn't let her live that down all week! It was, definitely, not an auspicious beginning to the week.

That ride started Bud's chronic ear infection to start ferociously up again despite the precautionary meds he was taking. Wednesday, one of the days the sun managed to stay out until late afternoon, we hopped in a boat, made the 40 minute trip back to the van and went to the Dryden hospital (another hour+ ride). A tiny, petite, very young woman doctor named Esther (What young woman is named Esther these days? And if I saw her on the street I'd think I was pushing it if I thought she was 20!) dressed in blue jeans and hoodie prescribed different meds for Bud and off we went back to camp. Blessedly, the meds worked wonders! Thank you, Esther!

Saturday, the Frostiaks thought it might be safe, after a couple of dry days, to try transporting us out of camp over that mile of washed out road. We headed out in the Suburban. Yikes! That road was one big mud pit! Shortly before we hit that mile mark we got mired to the axles. Bud and I sat in the Suburban while Mike Frostiak dejectedly slogged back to camp for reinforcements. He and another camp visitor came back, Mike on the ATV and the visitor in a truck. We transferred our belongings to the truck. . . . then the truck got mired. . . .

Mike went back to camp on the ATV. He and Dave came back on the ATV with a covered trailer attached. Most of our belongings fit into the trailer and I got my first ATV ride with Dave back to the camp. We unloaded and he went back for Bud and more of our stuff. We wound up boating back to our van at the other camp in that visitor's very de-luxe boat. Lovely thing! And we made the trip in half the time! But what a muddy, soggy mess we were!

The Frostiaks were continually apologizing, poor things. But what could they have done? They had no more control over the weather than anyone else! They did everything they could and, as usual, bent over backwards to make everyone as comfortable as possible. Neither Bud nor I have any complaints about Keystone Lodge and its proprietors. Quite the contrary. They did all they could to make our stay a good one. And it was, despite the crummy weather. We caught lots of fish! Northwestern Ontario is gorgeous, even in the rain. We rested, slept and ate well while we were there. And the company was the best! They are plain, good folks.

Anyhow.... despite those adventures, there were others to be had! On our way up to Keystone I saw a Wolf! It was just standing amid some trees by the side of the road somewhere between Duluth and Twig, MN. I just stared at it as I went by, hardly believing my eyes! Beautiful character. Lanky and sinewy, golden and black coat, standing there, panting, looking like he was considering whether he should risk trying to cross the road or not. There was no question in my mind it was a Wolf and not a dog. My gosh, he was beautiful. For an hour afterward I just sat smiling to myself.

We also saw a couple of Beavers, three very playful Otters, countless Loons and Bald Eagles, Deer - one particularly handsome fellow with a marvelous rack - and a Moose! Well, Bud saw a Moose. I saw a brown lump on the edge of the water from too far away to determine what that brown lump was and so I turned away. Then Bud says, "A Moose!" He saw it stand up from bending down and drinking and walk back into the woods. So, I kinda saw a Moose.

I got two good books read while waiting for rain to stop. One, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, I will recommend to anyone. It is a treasure. And the other was a Temperance Brennan novel, Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs, the novels that inspired the TV show Bones. Gruesome at times, but fun stuff to read.

So that's my foray into the Northwestern Ontario wilderness for 2009.

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