Last week, Hubby and I set off on our annual early summer camping trip. We were feeling hopeful, praying for sun, but fully prepared for rain and bugs, with lots of sunscreen and a bucketful of DEET. This trip is not to be confused with our annual fall camping trip. Nor our semi-annual canoe camping trip, or Hubby’s two or three other yearly canoe trips, all of which are wilderness trips into the interior of Algonquin Park. Yep. Over the years, we’ve had to schedule much of our lives around camping, canoeing, and fishing. Even our wedding. But I’ll get to that later.
Relative to our wilderness canoe trips, this trip is luxurious. We camp at Bonnechere Provincial Park, where there are showers, picnic tables, and even electrical hook-ups. We sleep in our tent trailer with sheets and pillows, and not in a tent in a sleeping bag on an inch thick sleeping pad. We even have a small screened “room” that we attach to the awning of our trailer. See what I mean? Luxury. And we are minimalists compared to some other campers who have enormous travel trailers with televisions and air conditioning, outdoor lights strung around their campsite, carpets, and huge screened dining tents. This year, one camper even had a flag pole attached to their trailer. Might as well stay at home, I say.
But never mind. The kids, whether they’re sleeping in a tent or a luxury trailer, always have a fabulous time. Or so it seems. We love to watch the gaggle of little ones on bikes and tricycles swarm along the narrow dirt roads in the park, snaking through the campsites, and between huge pine trees and frog ponds, down to the beach. Seems they are always lead by a bossy nine or ten year old girl who organizes the games, shouts instructions over her shoulder, and reminds me of myself at that age.
After setting up, Hubby and I also head out on our bikes. Our favourite ride is to wend through the park, then out onto the highway, and up Turner’s Road. Turner’s Road is named after Turner’s Camp, since 1937 an enduring symbol of the hunting and fishing history of this area. We used to stop, on our return trip, for a soft drink at the camp store, located in the “front room” of the old house, and kitted out with a 1950’s lunch counter, stools, and a pop cooler. Hubby would admire the fish mounted on the walls, and try to pick Mr. Turner’s brain about possible fishing spots. He’d been a longtime hunting and fishing guide. We don’t stop there anymore since the camp store, and now the camp itself, has closed.
One of the old guest cabins at Turner’s Camp
Just past Turner’s Camp, we stopped for my seasonal shot of the old piers in the Bonnechere River. Then we pedaled on until the hardtop ran out, and the road turned to gravel. Given the number of days of rain we’ve had this summer, perfect for a bug population explosion, and the fact that deerflies and mooseflies seem to love gravel roads, we didn’t pedal far on the gravel. Instead we turned quickly, and picked up speed to outrun the clouds we’d attracted about ten seconds after we left the pavement. But, despite the speed of my bike, and the pumping of my feet on the pedals, my rear end remained fairly motionless, and seemed to provide a sort of haven out of the wind for my pursuers. And since I was wearing cycling shorts which are tight and thin I…ah… paid the price. Ouch. It’s summer in Canada, people.
View of the old piers on the Little Bonnechere River
Once we outran the deerflies, I dared to stop for another photo. I love this old farm, below, with its split rail fence, log barns, and pasture surrounded by bush. When Hubby was growing up, and spending his summers at his grandparents’ cottage not too far from here, he knew a family who lived on a bush farm. He said that the farmer’s wife used to move their herd of milk cows from the barn to the farthest pasture, along a trail in the woods, accompanied by ten or more dogs to keep the bears at bay. And that every summer his grandparents would stop in to visit this family, no doubt for a cup of tea and a few stories about the old days told around the kitchen table.
I love this old farm on Turner’s Road
As is our habit each trip, we spent a day canoeing and fishing for brook trout on the Little Bonnechere River.
I put my paddle down for this shot up the river as we set off
The Bonnechere meanders through a wide marshy area, and then narrows to a much swifter stream, flowing between grassy banks and tall trees.
Wild iris along the banks of the Bonnechere
When the river gets very narrow, we squeeze through and under alder bushes, and back paddle around logs. Have to get to those trout pools, you know. Hubby says he wishes he had a picture of me, as I pushed bushes aside from the bow of the canoe, and, at one point, completely disappeared from sight, my head lost in the branches of a windfall tree. Ha. I’m just glad he doesn’t have that part on audiotape. I may have uttered a few profanities just then.
There’s always evidence of beaver activity on the river. And we usually have to pull the canoe up and over small dams. Last year Hubby waded into the water and broke apart a portion of a large dam so we could squeeze through. This year the water was so high we hardly recognized the same spot on the river. Have a look at the video below. I sound a bit distracted at first since I’m trying to film and, at the same time, answer Hubby’s questions about whether the dam is blocking the whole river.
Thank goodness the day was sunny and warm, but not hot. I wore my long-sleeved bug shirt, long pants, and thick socks all day because, at times when the wind died, the black flies descended. Usually blackflies are long gone by July, preferring the cool and rainy late spring months. Not this year. Blackflies are the worst. Mostly because they are teeny-tiny, and travel in clouds, and once they land, they crawl up under your sleeves or down your socks. But… mustn’t whine. The breeze blew most of the time, and we had a great day. And we caught enough brook trout for a fish supper that evening.
You know, we’ve been making this early summer camping trip for many, many years. It started as a ‘get out of town as soon as school was over’ trip. The better for me to crash after the insanity that is June for high school teachers. Then it became our ‘let’s get summer started’ trip. Now it’s tradition. We plan the rest of the summer around it. And the autumn around our fall Thanksgiving camping trip. That’s mostly why we don’t travel to faraway places in the summer or early fall. And then Hubby also goes on a late May or early June, and an early September fishing trip with his longtime canoeing buddies.
So, yeah, you might say that we schedule our lives around camping, canoeing, and fishing. You might even say that we started dating in a canoe… although that would be exaggerating slightly. But it’s no exaggeration to say that camping and fishing has become an important part of who we are as a couple. Our relationship has been tested as a result, at times. Like years ago when we began to discuss wedding dates, and Hubby said: “But not during fishing season, Suz.” Okay, okay… I’ll admit I knew he was mostly joking. Then there was my very first canoe trip in May 1985… when it snowed. That was a test, for sure.
But mostly the wilderness and our time spent in a canoe, or a tent of some sort, has cemented our relationship. Healed wounds. Helped us get back who we are as a couple, and how we began our journey together. We spent part of our honeymoon on a canoe trip in Algonquin Park. And for our tenth anniversary booked into Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin.
Which brings me back to last week. And how after several days of sunshine and good weather, of cycling and swimming and fishing, it rained. And thundered. All night. We were tucked up nice and dry while we slept. But the next morning, everything outside was sopping. And we had to pack up to go home. And there is nothing more loathsome at the end of a camping trip than packing up wet. Unless it starts to rain again while you’re doing it. Which it did, albeit only lightly.
And as we were taking down the trailer, and I was unclipping clips, and unzipping velcro fasteners, and pushing the wet tent portion inside so Hubby could crank the roof down, it suddenly dawned on me. And I looked over at him, and grimaced, and said, “Hey…. Happy Anniversary.” And he grinned. And then we laughed. We’d both forgotten.
Packing up in the rain on our anniversary… how appropriate is that? Ah well. We’d stop for hot coffee at the camp store when we were ready to go, and it would be perfectly sunny by the time we arrived home.
Marriage is like camping, you know. You have to take the bad with the good. To keep paddling through the rain, and hope that the sun comes back out, and the breeze clears off the blackflies. And learn to laugh when the bugs are biting, but the fish aren’t.
Have a listen to this classic Canadian animated film produced by the National Film Board. It’s short. And so appropriate. Be sure to watch until the very end for the little surprise during the credits.
What with unpacking, setting up the tent trailer so it could dry, hanging everything out in the sun, packing it up again, and doing loads and loads of laundry … we still haven’t celebrated our anniversary. We will this weekend, though. At a restaurant in a lovely old stone house in a small village near us.
So… what have you been up to, my friends, since I’ve been camping, and fishing, swatting bugs, and forgetting my wedding anniversary?
High Heels in the Wilderness is for women like me. Women who love clothes. And books. Who dream of travelling to amazing places. Who want to explore their own lives, and their own potential, now that they aren't twenty (or even forty) anymore.