just another 3 days in paradise

Wednesday, September 21

This morning, we rose, packed up camp, had a leisurely breakfast and then made our way across 3 lakes and as many portages to this campsite on quiet and secluded Lawrence Lake.  We are alone here, far enough at last from the logging noise that has plagued this trip up to now. The wind and the water are now calm though they were not earlier, as we paddled the length of this lake to the campsites on its eastern end, causing us to choose this site around the bend from that driving wind but also away from the long view the one other site would’ve offered.

We passed through picturesque and secluded Phipps and Kirkwood lakes on our way here today, through grassy inlets and boggy outlets that looked ripe for moose, otter, and beavers. After passing through those bodies of water, I think we were all a bit disappointed in this one, with its less picturesque campsite, but I am satisfied here and now, despite the no-seeums biting.

I am seated on one of the few exposed rocks in the weedy riverbank down near the water’s edge, for a close view of the water, if not a wide one. It is the only view possible here.  My friends are perched above me – the bank proved too treacherous a footing for them, especially in the ensuing dark- so I am seated at their feet, listening to their easy comradery, a fitting place for me this evening.  

I imbibed in some coffee around 3 o’clock this afternoon, so I am feeling less fatigued and definitely less hangry than I have some other evenings. Perhaps I will stay up for a bit…..


Thursday, September 22

I took our new boat out this morning, before the others had awakened, for a trial solo paddle. I’m still trying to befriend this beast, and I miss the easy relationship I had with the MadRiver, the way she and I could dance in the water together. Though this new boat is lighter, she is large and long and cumbersome to heel, but I trust I may grow accustomed to her after a time, learn her temperament, perhaps even learn to love her.

After breakfast, we packed a lunch and paddled our way into Pardee and Harness lakes. Pardee is definitely a destination lake, with only 2 campsites, one of which is simply spectacular, with its great granite slope of a threshold in front and its rear ‘door’ opening out to a scenic waterfall, where the rushing water is channeled through a granite flume. Just beyond those falls, there is a picture-perfect bog in the lower end of Harness Lake. Evening treks to that bog for visiting wildlife could be easily made from the Pardee campsite. Harness Lake itself is along the path of the Highlands Backpacking trail and there are some lovely bays on the lower end, where backpackers might take in the beauty of the water on an evening’s layover.

Returning sometime after lunch from our morning’s escapades, I explored the wild untamed area downriver from our campsite, where there are gorgeous downed trees, covered in moss, lying in dense hemlock shade. The terrain was thick and involved quite a bit of bushwhacking. The scents of the forest filled my breath with the pine and wood and bark fragrance that my body still wears.

Now, seated again at the water’s edge, I notice the grasses here are browning, ready to let loose their seeds, at once. White puffs seem ready to burst in this breeze, to be carried by the water to some fertile pocket of soil downstream, where they might sprout and take root next spring.

And so it goes. Those seeds of summer released. Where will they land in me?

The mushrooms continue to amaze me. How they can NOT be here one day and be in full flower the next – all of that work underground, miles and miles of growth laid down, giving them the strength to push through those layers of soil and duff, rock and moss. I delight when I discover one, caught in the act of emergence, with a tuft of moss still on its head, and I wonder, what did that look like on me when my friends caught up with me here a few weeks ago.

Now, the breeze soothes, as does my friend’s flute from the ridge behind camp, carressing body and spirit alike. Her melody echoes across the water, which is now speckled with rain, lightly falling. So many circles…

The wisp of a breeze teases up a ripple.

Raven’s wingbeats pulse in my ears.

The scent of dry grass, in which I am tucked, fills my breath

This is my kind of happy hour.

Friday, Sept 23

We left our campsite on Lawrence Lake and made our way back to Bonnechere, passing through Kirkwood and Phipps again on the way. Beginning the day in raingear, thinking we would be paddling in it, we wound up in sunshine. Though the wind did pick up again later, seeming to come from the northeast, it gave us a helpful push along the way.

Stopping at the beginning of the portage from Lawrence to Kirkwood, I picked more of the cranberries that I’d gleaned from that end a few days ago. Those cranberries baked into bannock quite tastily and I hope to add them to a breakfast of pancakes here on Bonnechere.

The trail to Kirkwood was littered with the first red maple leaves, lining the pathway to autumn. It was such a pleasant day… though Don and I bickered about rocks and canoe control. I mean what is there to not understand about the words, ‘I think we should paddle farther away from the edge’ (the canoe is not nicknamed a divorce boat for no reason).

We paused for lunch on Phipps Lake, on a site wrapped around by the water, with a long sandy beach, leading back to the bog, littered with tracks of moose and otter. There, a long and low jutting ridge, rising up from the surface of the water like the back of a great ancient fish, invited a walk out onto its back, where it was easy to imagine oneself lying back on dark nights for a complete view of a star littered dome.  And the long, intoxicating view into the spruce spired bog at the end of the lake… I cannot imagine a drug more alluring than that.

Arriving at the isthmus between Bonnechere and Cradle, on that evocative site at which we had lunched earlier in our trip, we made camp for the night. I yearned to dip my paddle into the water on Cradle Lake, to complete the exploration of her circumference that we had cut short when we passed through her before, but I was more eager than the others to do so. Don finally relented, though his reluctance made the paddling less satisfying for me. Still, the grove of yellowing Tamarack in the far end made for a nice consolation.

While paddling back to camp, my weary eyes alighted on the lichen and moss covered cliffs, leading my heart to wonder. And so, upon landing, I whacked my way through the bush and pulled myself up over those rock faces to one of those perches, where I stripped off my too-many layers and actually yelled.. just a little.. the feeling of liberation and power in that exhaled breath.

Later, we cuddled around the fire, the four of us holding our feet to the flame, soaking in as much heat from that fireplace, with its great boulder backdrop, as we could. The night had grown blustery cold by then, though we’d sat as long as we could on that ridge, watching the setting sun light up the bank of low lying clouds with a fiery orange blaze.  






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