This years Beaverland adventure had it all. People being stalked by wild – well sort of wild – animals, unfinished “Welcome Coolers,” stuffed mushroom caps, snakes on a plane - or in this case a boat – a dead skunk in the middle of the road, camaraderie, a haberdashery extravaganza, and ahem - much, much more!
And in the Beginning…
There were only 9. Yup, we were down one this year, because Ivan was on the west coast attending the christening of his grandchild.
Assuming that he turns up next year, he had better come with more than just the usual pizza that stragglers/latecomers are required to bring as penance for being late to the dance.
Having only 9 mouths to feed may in part explain why for the first time in recent memory the welcome cooler was not disposed of before the clock struck 12 – that would be 12 midnight btw - on the first day, either that or we are getting a bit older and simply don’t have the same capacity we once did.
Good thing we came this week, because the previous week the water was so high, that unless you had a very small boat, it was virtually impossible to get under the first bridge. And while that may have put a crimp in our fishing plans – we could always drink and play cards.
Gotta be flexible ya know!
The entire crew had arrived by 2 pm, and once all of the boats were launched and things put away, the “homecoming” party kicked into high gear shortly thereafter. We were able to carry on our merrymaking al fresco, because fortunately the bugs were just coming out and were still somewhat punch drunk, so they really didn’t bother us – not today anyway.
Nick decided that we should all have a “shot” as Day 1 tradition demands, and came up with a couple of concoctions that would not have been out of place in a windshield washer reservoir, and while everyone dutifully took the plunge – I found a substitute that was unlikely to corrode my pipes.
Dave produced some new Cabin 14 haberdashery that was probably the best yet in terms of both design and quality. He obviously liked them so much that everyone was given 2, which was probably a good idea just in case someone fell asleep in their dinner plate and needed a clean shirt to wear tomorrow.
It’s been known to happen.
Gary’s amazing “Sawgeeg” patties were on the menu this evening, and after dinner the soiree continued, but in a more subdued fashion, and by early evening some of the revellers began to drift off in order to get reacquainted with the inside of their eyelids.
Did I mention that we didn’t do any fishing today?
Well just in case you missed it – I just did…
Move 'em on, head 'em up
Head 'em up, move 'em on
Move 'em on, head 'em up,
Today was the beginning of a series of culinary challenges for our grill master – Cousin Dave.
I had brought along a meat thermometer because if you’re not used to it, cooking over real charcoal can present a significant challenge, so I figured it would help Cousin Dave ensure that everything – our steaks in particular – were cooked more or less to peoples liking.
He politely informed me that he had upgraded his skills to the point where he could determine the level of doneness by touch, and that a thermometer was therefore not required. Despite his confident assurances, I suggested that he might want to hang onto it – just to be on the safe side.
The “touch” method was put to the test this very morning, as we were to have bacon wrapped fillet mignons to accompany our eggs and home fries.
I put them on our small gas BBQ, and after a time asked Dave if he thought they were done. He poked each one with his index finger, following which he declared them “done to a T.”
And by golly, if you liked a rare steak they were indeed “done to a T.” Fortunately the steaks were of sufficient quality that even though they were still quivering on the plate, they tasted just fine.
No harm no foul as they say!
The day was sunny and warm with a nice steady breeze that kept the bugs – which were now fully awake and hungry - at bay.
McFee was the place to be, and Dave and I booked 22 walleye, including several in the high teens and a couple right at 20”. Dave also caught a 22-1/4”which was not only the biggest of the day, but also held up as the biggest fish for a good part of the week.
Every boat either limited out, or brought in some fish, thereby ensuing that there was no rest for the “Wicked Pickle” our resident fish cleaner.
The best fishing was on the left hand side towards the back in 4 to 7 feet of water, although there was some fish caught on the right hand side as well.
Welcome to Swiss Chalet – Cabin 14 Style
With Ivan off in “la la land” our menu was going to undergo something of a change this year – hey – you know what they say about rolling stones and moss – neither of them taste very good.
Last year I brought along several racks of smoked ribs that a few guys scarfed down one evening after smothering them in Lauren’s world famous BBQ sauce.
Gary sort of got left out of last years rib fest under circumstances that are still in dispute – although the one thing that is not in dispute is that the closest he got to a rib was when listening to guys rhapsodize about how good they were the following day.
But as he is fond of saying, “I’m no fool in the face” therefore this year the ribs were served for dinner together with our BBQ chicken – not as a snack later in the evening.
It was chicken and ribs a la Swiss Chalet – Cabin 14 style, and the only thing missing was a big bowl of Chalet Sauce, which will be rectified next year as the consensus was to make this particular combo a regular feature on the menu.
Dave did a great job grilling the chicken, with the exception of the breast that I loaded onto my plate, which let out a blood curdling “cluck” when I cut into it.
Perhaps the meat thermometer just might put in an appearance tomorrow on steak night. Hmmm…
After a day in the hot sun, a few cocktails, and a hearty meal together with the after effects of what we all consumed the previous day, no one chose to burn the midnight oil.
All in all it was an absolutely salubrious day!
Hey There Little Red Riding Hood You Sure Are Looking Good…
So give it up for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs - and course for little Foxy as well!
After a great breakfast courtesy of Lynn, our Chef du petit déjeuner, the armada headed off for McFee once again, which was not surprising given the success we had yesterday.
Gary had installed a brand new trolling motor this year with ALL of the bells and whistles, unlike the one the “Pickle” brought up last year that only had a bell but no whistle.
Upon our arrival in McFee, Dave and I headed over to see if Brownie and Gary were having any luck, and while still some distance away, we could tell that everything was not exactly ship shape on the good ship Gary.
Apparently his trolling motor, which had worked like a charm the previous day, was now completely unresponsive, and being good Samaritans, decided to send Dave over on a service call to see what was up.
Dave tested the battery, which had plenty of power, apparently checked the fuse that had popped out the day before while the battery was being removed for charging purposes, and we even connected Gary’s motor to my trolling motor plug in, but no cigar.
The consensus at the time was that it must be his female plug that was the issue, and if that was the case - no problemo -because one could easily be obtained either in North Bay or at Temagami Marine.
While Dave was on his service call, rather than just float around and offer a series of useless opinions, I figured I might as well fish, and while doing so caught a 21” Walleye. Maybe there is something to this fishing alone stuff that I should consider exploring further as the week progresses.
Having done all that we could at that point, we went on our merry way and wound up having another really good day.
We actually threw back more fish in the slot size than we were able to keep, which was a very nice problem to have indeed.
All of the boats brought in a few fish if I recall correctly, so it was another afternoon of work for the “Pickle.” The good news was that we had all we needed for a fish fry together with a good start on our take home fish as well.
Hey Buddy – Can You Steak Me?
It has now become something of a tradition to host both the current and previous owners for a “surf and turf” style dinner, and while Mike and Lori were able to join us, Dorothy and Albert were attending to a family matter out west, and unfortunately were unable to attend.
Tonight was going to be a real test for our grill master. 11 steaks – some thick – some not so thick – all over natural charcoal, with as many different requests in terms of how people wanted their steak cooked as Carter has pills!
Fortunately Dave holstered his “poking” finger, and instead decided to rely on the aforementioned meat thermometer.
To make a long story short, he did a very good job, although he was not all that happy with the result, because according to the meat thermometer everything should have been spot on.
Afterwards I explained that if you stick the thermometer into a steak while it is sitting over a 500 plus-degree bed of charcoal, your results will likely be somewhat skewed.
Not to worry Cousini – I’m going to bring along some additional tech. next year that’s going to make your job a whole lot easier.
Afterwards, the “Brown’s” treated everyone to some vintage Port and a selection of fine cheeses, although Brownie was at something of a loss to explain why both bottles of Port were only about ¾ full before any of us had a chance to have at them.
Trystan in particular was having a really good time, but when he attempted to fill his glass using a corked bottle, and then tried to drink out of his empty glass, he was escorted back to the Cabin from the Rec. Hall where he managed to tuck himself in for the night – which considering that he was sleeping on the top bunk was pretty damn impressive.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs was on this evening, so some of the guys hung back to watch the game, while most of us ambled back to the cabin.
The next morning, Russ told us a harrowing tale of being stalked from the Rec Hall all the way back to the cabin by a monstrous fox that was likely rabid, and had huge teeth together with glowing red eyes.
Perhaps it was not a fox at all but rather a Jurassic Park version of the big bad wolf (note the Little Red Riding Hood reference above), or some other type of massive carnivore from the Late Cretaceous period.
At one point he was in such fear for his life, he tossed his drink – yes, his adult beverage - at the monster in an attempt to fend it off, although it’s not clear if that included the glass as well.
But according to Russ, the beast would not be deterred and continued to stalk him, no doubt hoping for an easy meal.
Given the circumstances, a full investigation was launched in order to determine what type of creature was running wild in camp, and if in fact it would be safe to go outside.
Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce you to the culprit otherwise known to Mike and Lori as “Foxy,” the camp fox, who they had become intimately acquainted with, and hand fed over the winter months.
Need I say more?
Nacho, Nacho Man – I Gotta Be a Nacho Man!
Today was “Shrove” Tuesday, and in the finest Uncle Harry tradition, Lynn cooked up a mess of beer pancakes.
I know that at least one can of Guinness made it into the mix, but I’m not sure what other brand(s) made the cut, because the final decision was made when I was not around.
There was yet another wildlife encounter today, which took the form of a snake that somehow managed to find its way into my boat.
Not unlike Russ’ monster fox, this beast was at least 10 ft. long with fangs dripping with venom.
But if I wanted to go fishing I had no choice but to face it down, and somehow remove it from the boat, where it was coiled and ready to strike.
Now in fairness to Russ, my encounter took place in broad daylight and without having ingested several cocktails beforehand, so I got a somewhat better look at my critter than perhaps he did.
In actual fact it was a 12” Northern Rope snake, which with the help of a minnow net was flipped back onto the dock where it bloody well belonged.
As to how it got into the boat in the first place – THAT remains a mystery – but several suspects were identified, but no charges have been laid as yet.
Although it was mostly sunny, our day started out and remained incredibly cool particularly when compared to the last couple of days of t-shirt weather.
Rather than head straight back to McFee, Dave and I stopped off in Bruce and fished the shoreline on the east side, just past the opening to the deep bay, and while it can be a bit snaggy, it has produced some nice fish in years past.
Dave stared things off with one around 20” following which I got a 23 ½ ” walleye, that as it turned out stood up as the big fish of the week.
I suppose I should have been kept it a secret until the end of this narrative so as to maintain the element of surprise – but what the hell.
We picked up a couple more fish after that, but it pretty much shut down so we headed back into McFee.
Seems like the beaver, who is attempting to block the entrance to the lake with his damn dam was back in building mode, because it seemed as though there were more twigs sticking out of his partially completed dam than on the previous day.
Truth be told, it was probably not the beaver who was to blame – although I’m conceding nothing to that bloody rodent – but rather the water levels had continued to drop thereby exposing more of the little buggers earthworks, making it difficult to get our boat over the damn dam.
Fact is Dave and I got stuck on top of the GD thing the following day, as the water levels had continued to drop.
Fortunately the fishing was good, meaning that both the “Pickle” and his fillet knife were put to work yet again.
Given the number of fish that we had on hand, and in order to stay within our allowable limit, we were now on a strict quota until the fish fry reduced the overall numbers.
Although tonight was “Greek Night” – no, not that kind of Greek night – and would therefore involve copious quantities of food, some of the boys decided to start a new tradition by having grilled cheese sandwiches a couple of hours BEFORE dinner.
Lynn, who usually limits his culinary activities to preparing our breakfast, was an enthusiastic participant and happily gilled up a mess of thick, gooey, cheesy sandwiches for all those who cared to imbibe. And because pickled eggs were deemed to be a suitable accompaniment, they took a beating as well.
I have to admit that the grilled cheese sandwiches notwithstanding, the boys did a pretty good job with dinner, and there wasn’t a whole lot left behind for the sweeper.
As we were cleaning up, I suggested that rather than keep filling the fridge with leftovers that rarely if ever get eaten, we chuck any uneaten food.
After some discussion all but the remaining tomatoes from the salad were given the heave with a promise that they would be incorporated into tomorrows grilled cheese sandwiches - which in fact they were!
Tonight I was invited over to visit with my buddy Billy Stein, his son Adam and fiend Troy for some wine, cheese and conversation.
As the invitation was for 10pm, I told the boys, who had been subtly lobbying for nachos over the past couple of days now, that if they wanted them tonight, the kitchen closed at 9:30 – never thinking for a moment that they would take me up on it.
Remember my earlier comment about diminished capacity being nothing more than a myth?
Well, if there was in fact any lingering doubt whatsoever, that myth was shattered into a million pieces because I was told to get a move on with the nachos before the kitchen closed.
I made up a huge tray loaded with ground beef, cheese, salsa and jalapeno peppers, that but for a few crumbs were completely demolished – and all this just 1 ½ hours after dinner – and lets not forget the grilled cheese before that.
Billy also invited Cousin Dave over as a way of saying thank you to both of us for doing him and his crew a solid, by helping to ensure they had enough Walleye for their fish fry.
Dave, who professed to not have any room whatsoever for even a mere morsel of food or drink, did Cabin 14 proud by putting away a significant quantity of smoked duck (which was delicious), mock crab, cheese, crackers and most of a bottle of white wine – the red wine being far too heavy for his delicate constitution.
If Billy, Adam and Troy knew what he had put away before our visit they would have truly been amazed.
Hell, I sure was, and this was not my first rodeo in terms of witnessing what I’ve seen my guys - especially Dave - pack away during the course of an evening.
Let me finish off today, with an update on the status of Gary’s trolling motor.
Gary was not all that enamoured with the idea of heading into either North Bay or Temagami Marine to get a new plug in, but did bring the battery back into the cabin to be recharged – I think Lori actually brought it up for him – on the theory that some extra juice might get things working again.
The next morning when Dave took that battery down to Gary’s boat, he checked out the fuse once again, and much to his surprise (and to the other 2 or 3 guys who had ostensibly checked it earlier as well) found that when it had popped out the other day, it was reinstalled in the compartment where the spare fuse is kept, so in other words the circuit was not completed, therefore no power was getting to the motor.
Once that was rectified the motor purred like a kitten, although because his battery was not in the best of shape, Gary usually ran out of power about half way through the day, but by that time he and Brownie were about ready for a break in any event.
Fry Me a River
Unlike yesterday, today would be a scorcher, with little or no wind throughout the entire day.
Dave and I stopped off in Bruce again first thing, but other than a couple of small fish it was pretty much dead.
We made it back into McFee, but as mentioned had to use the paddle to push our boat over that damn dam.
Because we were on a strict fish quota – I think we were only allowed to bring in around 8 fish in total, our primary focus was on quality - not quantity.
We did catch some fish in the morning, but as the day wore on and got hotter and hotter, the fishing simply shut down.
So we just floated around some, caught a few rays, drowned some minnows and entertained the other boats with our stirring renditions of such classics as “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes,” “Gimme 3 Steps” and “We Are the Champions” to name just a few of the tunes in our rather extensive repertoire.
In fact there we received some interesting comments regarding our vocal stylizations – not all of them complementary – to which we replied that we were the “happy” boat, and if they didn’t like the music they could either find another lake, or come up with their own tunes.
Around 1pm or so Dave and I looked at one another and without saying a word, wondered what the hell we were doing baking in sun, when there was cold beer and some cool shade waiting for us back at camp.
Tonight was to be our weekly fish fry, and I suggested that as the Rec Hall was at least 20 degrees cooler than the cabin – we should have dinner there.
Vince and Janet were as usual in camp, and before dinner we had a visit in the shade of one of the big trees down by the river, while most of our crew went in for swim to cool off.
Russ invited “Big Jim’s” son to have dinner with us, and we enjoyed a mess of crispy fried walleye, together with some baked beans, and the “Tigers” out of this world coleslaw.
Apparently fish, regardless of how much you actually eat, is not really all that filling, so I agreed to make up a batch of stuffed mushrooms for the boys – mostly for Dave actually – so they would have something to snack on while watching game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Once prepared, Dave took them over to the Rec Hall but to be honest, I don’t know how many may have “fallen off the tray” between the cabin and the hall.
They were pronounced the best ever which is always a good thing to hear, and they even managed to save a couple for Gary.
Maybe what took them over the top this year was that I flambéed the escargot and garlic with some of the “Pickles” Irish Whisky that he had brought along following his recent trip to the Emerald Isle.
Apparently Russ was not stalked by Foxy on his way back from the Rec Hall this evening, although given the ribbing he had been taking since the first incident, I doubt he would have mentioned it even if he had.
I'm singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin'
I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds
So dark up above
Let the stormy clouds chase
Everyone from the place…
Kindly excuse my somewhat abbreviated version of these classic lyrics, but those “stormy clouds” did in fact chase “everyone from the place” – with that place being McFee Lake.
The weather took another hard left today, and while it was reasonably warm, we got hit with a shit load of wind and rain, with the result that people either decided to stay in, or didn’t stick around all that long – leaving McFee to me, Cousin Dave, “T” and the “Pickle.”
We had a bit more flexibility in terms of our fish quota, having freed up some cap space as a result of yesterdays fish fry, and it was just as well because the wind and rain notwithstanding, McFee was on fire. Between our boat and the “Pickles” we boated over 40 walleye, along with a pike or 2 and a couple of “pussy cats.”
It’s too bad the other boats didn’t stick around, but it was kind of nice to have the entire lake pretty much to ourselves for most of the day.
Nick and Russ didn’t have much luck in McFee, but decided to hit one of “Big Jim’s” spots in Bruce on the way back to camp, and caught a mess of fish within a very short space of time. Apparently it stopped as quickly as it started, but at least they caught something – and some nice ones at that.
Once the final fish count was completed, we now had enough for everyone to take home their limit, meaning that tomorrow the focus would be solely on besting 23 ½”.
No Soup For You!
Tonight chilli con carne made its triumphant return to the menu.
This old chestnut was pressed back into service because with Ivan off doing his thing on the west coast, we missed out on his goulash and beef noodle soup.
I guess everyone had more than enough chilli and garlic cheese bread for dinner – not to mention the grilled cheese sandwiches that were disposed of beforehand – because no one said a peep about having yet another midnight snack.
We played a couple of games of Chase the Ace after dinner, and in the second game it came right to down to a shootout at the OK coral between Gary and I, with the Captain taking the prize. In fact the Desjardin’s brothers took both ends of this particular double header, because Lynn had won the first game!
Huh - Gonna have to keep a close eye on those 2 from now on…
After dinner a few of us wandered over to the Rec Hall and watched several episodes of Fawlty Towers, which was a great way to cap off the evening, and what was otherwise another perfect day.
Who Left the Damn Fridge Door Open?
Don’t like the weather?
Just wait a day and it will throw something else at you.
Things started out somewhat overcast and cool, and pretty much stayed that way throughout the course of the day.
Dave and I tired our “go to” spot in Bruce but there was nothing doing.
We then decided to head over to the west side, but Donny had set up shop in that area, and after watching him land a fish, we decided to head back into McFee after a quick stop at the Ace of Spades.
We found out later that Donny had struck the mother load, not only where we first saw him, but in the back of Bruce as well, where he and his partner boated over 30 fish. Sweet!
“T” and the “Pickle” were already in McFee when we arrived, and as we pulled up to see what was happening, Mike asked how big a fish was needed to take the lead.
After reminding him that 23 ½” was still the one to beat, he asked if I was sure because Trystan had caught a 22”. A nice fish to be sure, but it didn’t even take out Dave’s 22 ¼” that he had caught on Day 2.
Oh well, the day was not over yet – but then again we all know how this ends.
We bobbed around for a few more hours but it was really slow, and after a quick stop in Bruce where Nick and Russ caught a few the day before, and in little Marten, we headed back in, pulled the boat out, packed the car and straightened out the bill.
“T” and the “Pickle” were not far behind us, with Nick and Russ being the last to arrive about an hour or so later.
Primarily because of the Cabin 14 haberdashery extravaganza, our grand total was up at bit from last year, and it cost us each the surprisingly affordable amount of $420pp.
Once the grand total was announced it only took a single prompt before Gary uttered his signature phrase:
“I didn’t want to buy the place!”
We all agreed to change things up in terms of the groceries next year.
Rather than someone being designated as the “short end of the stick” with all of the stress and consternation that comes with it, we will spread all of the groceries out on a relatively even basis next year and see how it goes.
I will have my work cut out for me over the winter reconfiguring the list.
Cabbage rolls, perogies and wait for it – nachos - were on the menu tonight.
Perhaps something of an odd combo, but think of it as kind of an East meets West thing.
Nevertheless it was all good, and after we cleaned up both the dishes and ourselves, most of us headed over to the Rec Hall to watch a few more episodes of Fawlty Towers, before wrapping things up for night, and for that matter the week.
WELL – THAT’S ALL FOLKS!
We all hit the deck pretty early, and it certainly was a chilly one, so much so that the automatic seat warmer came on when I started my vehicle.
After distributing the take home fish and the remaining groceries, we gave the cabin a once over with the broom, and checked out all of the nooks and crannies to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind.
It was then off to Antonio’s in South River for breakfast, where Brownie was under strict instructions NOT to even think about ordering poached eggs.
Because I fluked the big fish it was on me to pay, and it only cost me about $20 more than was in the pot to cover it.
What a country!
If you have read any of these narratives in the past, I apologize for sounding like a broken record, but it seems these trips just keep getting better and better with each passing year.
The weather, while a real mixed bag was by and large fine, we caught loads of fish, ate some pretty good vittles’, had a cocktail or 2, laughed a lot, sung a few songs, connected with some old friends and just otherwise had a really good time.
Thanks to Lynn for getting up at the crack of dawn each morning and preparing our breakfast, to the “Pickle” for cleaning a shit load of fish and making sure only the people who pissed him off got bones in their fillets, to Cousin Dave for his work on the grill, to Gary and the Tiger for the sawgeeg, coleslaw and pickled eggs, to Nick and his mom for the cabbage roles and perogies, to the Brown’s for the cheese and partially full bottles of port, and especially to Chief Constable Kriddle for keeping us safe from any and all furry woodland creatures that may have otherwise wished to do us harm.
Hey – where the f**k were you when I was being attacked by the snake?
See ya’ll next year, and remember – only 358 more sleeps!
THE LAST WORD(S)
I figured that after 5,275 words its about time I shut up, so…