healing waters- part 3

Tuesday afternoon, July 25, Bonnechere Lake

The day yesterday continued to be blustery with driven rain, never really letting up completely except for a brief spell after lunch, when we momentarily considered packing up camp, as we’d spotted two other parties traveling and wondered if they might be warmer than we were, sitting there in the cold and raw conditions. In the end, we chose to stay, a wise decision it turned out to be as the rains picked up in earnest soon thereafter, blowing from the east.

For my body’s sake, though, I needed some movement, and I went in search of firewood that might be split to find some dry insides. After helping me with the chopping and splitting, I persuaded Don to paddle me back to that bay behind the first campsite, where I had discovered the berry patches earlier in the week. My plan was to pick enough to bake into a bannock over the fire I’d hoped to build with that split wood.

OF course, the conditions worsened as soon as we hit the water. Don tried to fish again as I gleaned the berries, but, quickly, he got quite wet and cold. I was fairly soaked as well, mostly from the wet foliage brushing my legs, though my new rain jacket performed quite admirably .

The fire was such a mood lifter, warmth to ease the chill and dry our dampness. The mac and beef dinner was super yummy, perhaps more so because of the open fire cooking, no cozying this meal. The dinner warmed our bellies as the fire had warmed our spirits and our flesh. The baked bannock I tucked into the barrel for a quick breakfast in the morning, as we hoped to make an early start the next day, rain or shine.

This morning dawned with a blue sky! Two full days of raw rain are quite enough and I found myself singing ‘Good morning Starshine’, a song that often rises in me on these trips. As we had agreed ,we were up by 6 and on the water by 8. Paddling past the first campsite on the lake, we noticed some movement. We’d watched that party paddle in late last night, hoping that they weren’t destined for the site upon which we were camped, as we didn’t actually have a permit for this lake last evening.  We were relieved when they made a bee line for the other site. Really, for most people that site is the prime one; it just wasn’t right for us this time.

Soon enough, we were on Bonnechere Lake, paddling past the campsite that straddles it and Cradle Lake, where we’d heard the wolves so nearby on that magical, misty morning last fall. Unoccupied this morning, we decided we’d prefer this time one of the sites at the southern end of the lake, all 3 of which we felt were quite nice and believing that the mosquitos might be quite intense this time of year at that Cradle site.  When we reached the south side though, we were surprised to find all 3 sites occupied. Since the morning was early (9 o’clock) we chose to wait for the possibility of one of them clearing.  We ditched our gear on a rocky point in an eastern bay to take the canoe exploring down a wetland creek. That creek led to a much smaller lake, Head Lake, where we thought we would spend the morning fishing, then lunching upon her shores. A private oasis kind of day we had in mind.

We were able to paddle about half the distance to that lake before the stream became impassable, and so we ditched the canoe too and hoofed it the rest of the way. As it turned out, we walked a lot farther than we’d planned, as the lake proper was quite a distance beyond where the waterway reopened.  When we return to this place another time, I will carry the canoe across that spit of land.  Doing so would give us access to the entire lake. The bushwacking through the woods was hard work, but we made it!! Unfortunately, the fishing from that wilder shoreline wasn’t great and both of us got our lures caught on the logs and rocks on the shallow lake bottom there.

When we returned to Bonnechere, two of the sites remained occupied. We suspect it is one large party of young people. They are a bit louder than we’ve grown accustomed to, having been mostly alone for the week, but they are enjoying Algonquin too!  (we later learned that one of the sites was being used by a pair of park rangers, who had been dropped there by float plane, camping in the park for 2 weeks as they performed trail and campsite maintenance) So, we grabbed the third southern site, both of us fairly exhausted from the day’s excursions. What a surprising find this is, as we had once dismissed this campsite as less-than. What we hadn’t realized then was that there is a perfect landing around the corner in a small protected cove, and a nice path leading into the campsite proper from there. A good reminder for me to look deeper than surface impressions.

There are pleasing viewscapes from various vantage points along the length of this site, including the long projecting granite point, covered in lichen and blueberries, with its requisite sentinel pine. Perhaps tonight at last we will have our star gazing delight.

But now, Don and I are resting on the rocks directly in front of the camp, having chosen to rest and refuel for a bit before setting up camp. My feet are refreshed at the water’s edge, the sun is soothing my tired muscles, and my eyes are nourished by a momma loon, fishing for her baby’s lunch, slowly encircling the perimeter of our perch. She dives for a fish as the young one watches from above, ducking his head beneath the surface of the water until she emerges with a morsel for him.

I think the kids next door are packing up now, so perhaps the evening will be quiet after all. I am grateful for this day with Don.


In the shade of a large cedar I rest, the sun on the west facing rocks at the edge of the water having grown too intense for me. It is quiet. Low lying cumulous clouds retreat into the notch on the horizon. A soft breeze caresses. The only sound comes from a few flies buzzing, occasionally, nearby. Now the gulls call. This morning it was Thrush, who awakened me from my sleep, her song persistent, incorporated completely into my dreams as she roused me gently.

Ah, this view is so very intoxicating, entirely more so than the shot of rum I put into my afternoon drink.  This sky so very blue, that sunlight sparkling on gently rippling waters, this curve of the land. I am grateful for shade, for breeze, for water, for beauty. For this.


Wednesday morning, July 26, Bonnechere Lake, granite point of campsite, from which a trillion stars struck me dumb with wonder last evening.

We’d stayed awake to be with the starry array, as it was the first clear day and evening since early in this trip, when we were so tired we’d gone early to the tent. Don was fairly physically exhausted last evening, again, after the day of bushwacking, and was not able to remain long with me here even last night. I understand now that his stamina and strength are diminished and accept that as part of our relationship, something to love. As the years progress, I imagine that will only become more prominent. If I am to remain in loving, which I must, I shall have to learn to let go. Perhaps I am coming face to face with aging for the first time in my life. Don is much more than his physical body. This is perhaps what we all eventually realize as our bodies decline and fail. Our identity no longer can come from our physicality, thank Godde.


Again, I gathered blueberries, handfuls of them, plump and ripe, upon each plant, the picking so much more fruitful than a few days ago. Afterward, I collected firewood as Don split a few larger pieces. We baked pancakes on the silicone sheet I’d brought to trial. I learned that the fire needs to be quite a bit hotter than I’d imagined – either a bank of coals or higher flames, which is what I landed upon in the end, this morning. The silicone held nicely, yet I am not at all certain the entire process was any more efficient or expedient than cooking them one at a time in our small skillet.

We took a short day trip, up the length of Bonnechere again and into her other arm and across the liftover to beautiful Cradle Lake, those protective rock cliffs protecting her deep blue waters. We paddled the short length toward the larches that crowd her northern bay, where the portage to Plough Lake begins. The portage trail was quite primitive and overgrown, perhaps seldom used as it leads to a long thread of small lakes with no campsites. The walk was quite lovely as a result, the ‘path’ lined with solomon’s seal, bunchberry, and blue-beaded lily. There was a great old pine along the way and the largest turkey tail fungus I have ever seen, 18 inches across, on the trunk of a fallen giant. We lunched on the opposite end of the portage tail, a mucky landing overlooking a bay of little Plough Lake. Fortunately the mosquitos, for some reason, abated long enough for us to eat.

On the way back through Cradle we exited on the opposite shoreline, carrying the canoe across the campsite there that straddles the span between Cradle and Bonnechere, exploring there for a bit. That spot really could accommodate a relatively large group. I am dreaming again of bringing my sons and their daughters….

Now, I am tucked beneath the billowing tarp, flapping as it is in these returning gusts. I have spent some time tweaking the tarp here and there so that it might offer more of a windbreak, though I don’t know how much warmth we can muster beneath it with these windy conditions. Perhaps it will be an early to bed evening. I am more tired than I typically am. Perhaps that late night under those intoxicating stars. Ha.

I think for now I shall put down my journal, stop fussing with nylon tarps and redundant words and be here for a while, watching the slicing rain, listening to the patter, the gusts, and the occasional song of persistent bird or frog. Close my eyes. Be here now.

Night in the tent.

It is 9:30pm. I am feeling quite a bit better than earlier in the evening. The winds and rain blew cold and raw before they let up. My tummy and head was stirred up too. Fortunately a hot dinner helped with both and soon thereafter the storm system blew over as well. We were able to wash our dishes and close up camp in ‘dry’ weather, after which I made myself a cup of hot fennel tea to take with a few Tylenol.

Soon the sky began to put on a fabulous display. For over an hour, we basked in that beauty, as low lying clouds rolled away, revealing layer upon layer of thin clouds overhead, upon which the setting sun projected her light. From fiery oranges and reds through to fuchsias and pinks, peaches and golds, purples and dusky mauves, the colors flowed, unfolded, and flowered. In the waters below, reflecting so exquisitely that brilliance, a lone loon floated, as if she were also basking in that beauty.  No human made light display could begin to compare.

Don and I stood in silence for long moments, blessed by that beauty. I thought to myself that the earth could offer me no more perfect apology for the physical discomforts of the day than such a parting pageantry. And still. Everything belongs. Everything is beauty. (another song that I find myself singing here)

Tucked into the tent now, I note the gusting winds again, perhaps the tail of that dragon, but perhaps it is not yet ready to depart. Either way, I shall sleep peacefully, secure in the shelter of this tiny tent. I hope that loon is also hunkered down securely somewhere, safe in her nest, as am I. And now, to fall asleep to this lullaby of sound, winds in the pines, water lapping the shoreline, my husband’s breathing beside me.


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