i had the time of my life – day 4 and 5

Rosebary Lake, May 18

Warm morning, dawning pink on the horizon. Bittern galunks for a mate, white throated sings of her sweet Canada, two Canada geese honk their way low over the water, woodpecker works for her breakfast, and the requisite grackles and red wings punctuate the marsh with their nasal trills. The morning choristers beyond these – too numerous to count.

Out of the tent before 5:30, the glow of daybreak inviting me to bear witness to her secrets, I am awake early, despite the grueling day that was yesterday, after which I was certain I’d sleep forever. A subtle sunrise, with no clouds to catch her, but still the pinks cast their nets over the water.

In bed last evening by 9:30, I suppose I did get my full 8 hours, except for those moments @1:30, when I woke for a drink of the stars- my first real opportunity of the week with our early bedtimes and the fullness of the moon.

A loon calls, the beat of wings overhead strums, two red squirrels chase one another through dry leaves, a dozen or so mosquitos alight. The sun now peeks her orange eye, just a glance over the edge.

Yesterday, we also rose early, about the same time as today and were on the water by 6, just as the sun made her appearance. Beginning the day in such tranquil beauty, we paddled where beaver and otter play. We saw none of the latter, but noted much evidence of their presence – scat on logs and burrows in banks. We spotted a few white-tailed deer in the marsh, the first I have encountered here. Though I have heard reports of moose swimming across this river, moose by the dozens in these stretches of water, we have not yet been graced by one. Who would guess that such a large creature could be so elusive? Size does not necessarily make for boldness, I suppose.

Perhaps they are here even now, in these woods over my shoulder. Certainly the evidence on this campsite, piles and piles of mooseberries, at least a half a dozen between our tents and the fire ring! would indicate that could be so.

Back to yesterday- we continued our morning paddle along the Nippissing through the marsh to where it intersected with Loontail Creek, then along that creek to the portage into Latour Creek, which narrowed as it wound its way to the end of its watery trail, which by this time was no more than a beaver run through the bog. The beaver run petered out such that we could not seem to make forward progress at all, and so we decided we surely must have missed the portage sign and turned back. Back to a point on the map where we took our bearings from an inland pond and an entering creek, we paddled, then turned back once again. For an hour we searched (crossing the same creek-spanning log 3 times) until back into the petered out run we pushed through, lining the boat near the end, and at last caught a glimpse of the portage sign.

That portage took us 3 hours (including several rest stops and a lunch break, where we cooled our feet and poured water over our heads, then laid back in the grass for a nap) The uphills and downhills tested our stamina and our strength. When we finally got all of our gear across, we were dreading the final 450 meter portage of the day, which we could see across the small Floating Heart Lake from where we sat. We were so very tired and expecting more of the same from that next portage – hills and muck – but fortunately for both our bodies and our spirits, it was straightforward, flat and dry! , for which we truly gave thanks. Landing on Rosebary, we opted for the first site we came to and crashed!, cooked a quick dinner on the backpacking stove for expediency, drank several mugs of rum and went straight to bed.

I have just made a trip to the box on this site, upon which we landed as if shipwrecked, as if it was a miraculous desert island and not at all the ‘poor site’ we had been warned that it was. Perhaps because of its reputation, folks have largely abandoned its use altogether, for the trillium grow in abundance amongst the trout lily and viburnum surrounding the box. So spectacular is such small beauty, and so easily overlooked in search of the grandiose. (such as those elusive moose)

Later, early afternoon, at the end of the portage around the falls from Tim River to Tim Lake.

The wind gusts are phenomenal here and so we are waiting, perhaps for even a few hours until the (hopefully) quiet waters of late day, before crossing this shallow bay whipped up by those blasts. Who knows, perhaps we will be taking a midnight paddle from here. That full moon I bemoaned earlier in the week could be our friend now.

The morning’s paddle up the Tim River was breathtaking, with light and shadow taking turns on the hillsides like children at play, illuminating the fresh green and yellow leaves of spring’s awakening. The marsh at their feet was alive with color as well. Two Bull Moose, munching along the shoreline right next to our site as we paddled away from camp, added to the magic of the morning.

Except for this wind!!, which made of a leisurely up river paddle a significant physical chore, such that even before we arrived at this end of the portage trail, it had stressed our weary bodies. Each day, except the layover day on Grass lake, has had its challenges.

The first of the boats, with which we have been waiting out this afternoon blow, has made passage across the windswept bay. I am less confident after watching them cross than before they did so. The second boat, a solo, paddled by the man, a strong experienced paddler, with whom we shared the campsite 2 nights ago, has just set out across the bay too. He has been blown off the course he suggested he would take, and has had to tuck in behind some tufts of marshgrass. The clouds on the western horizon look ominous now, which is no real surprise, given the strength of these winds. We shall continue to wait.

I have moved over the lip of land at the water’s edge to the other side of a logjam dam, where the water flows and cascades over the rocks. Here there is no wind at all. As I lie back, I can watch the clouds flow overhead, cascading in a way too, I suppose. I wonder what is behind them that has made them build up to crash over the edge so.

Though I am protected here, I can see, across the falls, the grasses lying down almost horizontally in the wind. Still, I can relax here without monitoring and fretting quite as much. Deirdre has lay down in the canoe for a nap.

The insects are abuzz on this side, away from the wind. My guess is there was a hatch in yesterday’s hot temperatures (the ones that encouraged Deirdre and I to pour bottles of water over our steamy heads). That, as well the pollen in these prolifically and suddenly budding trees, seems to allure them. We watched the fish leap from the water to snatch at those insects this morning. I expect this morning’s escalation in bird song is not unrelated.

Later, 9 Pm, Tim Lake campsite

We wound up staying at the end of that portage until after dinner, which we cooked on the stove in the lee of the embankment, where those blackflies (my virginal experience of them) munched on my forehead, beneath the brim of my hat. They behave like gnats in a way, except for those flesh tearing bites, and they too seem to prefer to be out of the wind.

We had to hunker down underneath the overturned canoe to ride out the thunderstorm that finally rolled over us, rocking the boat several times and bending trees into bows over our heads. It was an experience unlike any i have had her before, and I am grateful for it.

Perhaps we should have set out earlier, when the others took their chances, but the paddle would’ve been arduous in that wind and we have been exerting ourselves so strenuously these past days. I don’t know that we’d have had the energy or the endurance at that point. After that rest, during which Deirdre dozed and I journaled, and refueling, we were refreshed and antsy to get back on the water. That was just about the time we heard the first thunder clap and rumble in the distance. We felt quite fortunate that we weren’t out in that storm with no place to put ashore.

Finally, during a lull in the storm, we set out, and by 7 o’clock made it here to the first campsite on Tim Lake, with its sweeping view, windswept though it remains. After setting up our tents for the night, we sat silently together, soaking it in, for a half an hour or so before bed. I was grateful that we had already made dinner and did not have to cook and clean up after making camp. Finally, a rainbow graced our goodnights, fleetingly though, as those clouds rolled back in shortly thereafter. The wind howls in the trees even now. Both of us wish for a calm morning and a graceful goodbye.

The Tim River is really remarkable and I would love very much to visit it again someday soon, perhaps paddling the opposite direction next time. I do hope Deirdre will join me again. I fear that this trip may have discouraged her. I cherish her so as a companion and willing partner on these trips. We shall have to be more careful about our planning in the future. I was anxious about this trip before it began. My instincts and experience were perhaps correct. Still, I would not take it back for anything! What a journey we have had.

Sleep now. So very necessary. Good night.

Postscript. The next morning, we woke to a light coating of snow on our tent’s roofs, before we packed up and paddled our way out of the Park. What a wide range of weather and experiences we had on this trip. I am still smiling inside when i think of those days.

for days 1 through 3, look here

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