Down for the Count – But Not Out!
These Times They Are A- Changin’
This was the WWFFCC’s 10th year anniversary travelling north to the cabin, but unlike our previous excursions, this would be a somewhat bittersweet experience.
Having found ourselves using it rather infrequently over the past several years, coupled with the logistics of both maintaining the property and getting there, we came to the reluctant conclusion that it was time to sell – which in fact we did.
Did you know that the traditional symbol for a 10th anniversary is tin or lead?
Come to think of it, I should have wrapped up a package of lead sinkers for the boys as an anniversary gift - either that or a couple of tin cans.
While this year’s trip started off like most others, with Lou and Roman arriving the night before our scheduled departure day and loading up the boat, vehicle and so forth – there was one major difference.
There were no tools or construction materials to pack up, drawings to review, or visits to any building centres on the agenda. Nothing – none - nada.
It was weird to say the least, albeit a lot easier on my wallet.
Having said that, I was going to miss walking down the aisles of the Home Depot, Lowes, Rona or Home Hardware, as the boys threw everything they could lay their hands on into the shopping cart, all the while providing me with constant assurances that every item was absolutely critical to the success of whatever building project was on the agenda for that year.
Man, those were some trips.
There were years when we drove through the night, arriving in camp around 8 am, just in time to meet the Nakina Air "Turbo" Otter that would be bringing in the bulk of our building materials.
During out first trip in, and before we had the little Jon boat to use as water borne trailer of sorts, we put everything, and I mean everything into one small 14’ aluminum boat. Coolers, supplies, luggage, building materials and tools, not to mention the three of us, were all somehow jammed in.
In fact as we came through the channel that very first time Greg, the pilot from Nakina Air who had just touched down minutes before our arrival, wasn’t sure we were actually riding in a boat, because he couldn’t see it given how low in the water we were.
On one memorable occasion during one of those all nighters, we blew out most of the fuses in my SUV, because the WWFFCC decided it would be a good idea to test our new 12V water pump using the vehicles electrical system.
I always took along a large box of spare fuses after that.
We had so much to do, and so little time to do it in – but no matter what the odds or obstacles, it got done – done right - and without any compromises. Twelve - hour days were the norm during the early years.
And even though we were all pretty much spent, and a little stiff and sore at the end of each day, there was always an overriding sense accomplishment that helped dull any pain we may have be experiencing. Truth is, I’ve never slept better in my life.
We got away just before 4 am, and there was yet another indication that this trip was going to be different from any of the others.
Roman, who is usually asleep even before he buckles himself into the back seat, actually stayed awake for the first hour or so. Not only that, unlike what, if anything you get from Lou first thing in the morning by way of conversation, we all engaged in a discussion that actually made sense - well mostly.
This was starting to feel like an episode of the Twilight Zone.
Our only stops en route were for food and fuel in New Liskard, and to top up the tank, and scarf down some ice cream in Hurst.
Without any project to scope out and fuss over, we amused ourselves by researching a variety of topics - when we had cell service that is – ranging from determining the whereabouts of the Lancaster Bomber that once stood along Lakeshore Blvd in Toronto, to the building of of Hwy #11, and the Ontario Northland Railroad.
If nothing else, it was certainly an educational excursion, and as we have come to realize, it’s very important to keep Lou busy between naps.
In one of several “reminder” emails I sent to the boys prior to embarkation, I recommended that they bring along their rain gear, as we were likely to run into a few showers in and around the time we would be heading down river.
Sure enough, it started to rain fairly hard just outside of Geraldton, despite assurances from Lou that according to HIS weather report, we could only expect one, or at the most two millimeters of the wet stuff.
Upon inquiring as to the whereabouts of said rain gear, while Roman had at least brought his rain coat – why he left the pants behind remains a mystery – Lou had no gear, even though he had initially packed it!
I was clear that he would get absolutely no sympathy from me, and in fact suggested that it would serve him right if he got drenched.
About ten millimeters of rain, and an equal number of kilometers later, I suggested we stop at the Husky Station, located just past the turn off to Geraldton, and see if we could buy some plastic garbage bags that could be “jerry rigged” into some type of rain gear.
“Great idea” said Lou, and he managed to get four or five large bags, that while willing to let us have them free of charge, he nevertheless gave the pump attendant $3 for his trouble.
For the record, I had all of my rain gear, and in fact wore it on the trip in.
Once we hit the boat launch, our well-oiled pit crew swung into action, and in no time at all the boats were launched, gear shifted, and we were on our way.
As noted in previous narratives, tradition plays an important role in virtually all of our activities – including enjoying a wee nip from Lou’s “fish shaped” flask on our way down river.
Lou dutifully produced his flask, and while Roman was having a nip, Lou said something that I didn’t hear, but which caused Roman to spray whatever he had in his mouth over the side of the boat.
After chastising him for wasting good Cognac, Lou took a long pull, and offered it to me, but as we were going through a rather tricky part of the river, I only took a short, quick sip in that it was important to stay focused until we were in deeper water.
Once we were clear of the shallows I requested the flask, only to find that it was empty.
Who would knowingly hand their buddy an empty flask after he just navigated you safely through a stretch of sketchy water?
If he thought for one moment that Roman or I was going to let him off the hook for pulling a stunt like that – he was then, and will continue to be sadly mistaken for a long time to come.
The Weather God’s must have taken pity on us – well Lou and Roman anyway - because although the skies remained threatening for the duration of our trip into camp, not a drop of rain fell.
Once at the cabin, it only took about forty-five minutes to get everything organized and up and running - including the water system.
The time had finally come to truly chill out with a few cocktails and something to crunch on, followed by what had become our traditional – there’s that word again – first night in camp dinner entre. See menu below for details.
The skies had fortunately cleared, so the boys gathered up some firewood – there would be no left over construction materials to burn this year – and we enjoyed a campfire, digestive, and some quiet conversation under a star filled sky.
It was a warm, pleasant evening, so much to his disappointment there would be no need for Roman to super heat the cabin with the wood stove.
Day Light Come and Me Wanna Go Home!
As Roman had been first to test the “facilities” the previous evening, when I ran into some operational issues first thing this morning, who do you think I pegged as the culprit?
Despite my somewhat less than complimentary remarks and suggestions he get up and fix it, Roman remained rolled up in his sleeping bag, while assuring me that everything had been working perfectly yesterday, and if there was a problem, it was Lou’s to rectify, because he had set everything up in the first place.
While that particular logic was rather hard to follow, Lou nevertheless got up and managed to solve the problem, following which he got back under the covers, while mumbling a stream of oaths that were clearly intended to dissuade us from bothering him for the rest of the morning.
Did I ever mention that Lou is not a morning person?
With that crisis averted, breakfast was prepared and consumed, following which we picked up last nights discussion regarding Roman’s “special” bottle of Cognac.
Lou’s concern was that by opening the bottle of Courvoisier Roman had been saving to celebrate a much different occasion; we were likely to be struck down by the curse of the twelve dead something or others.
His concerns notwithstanding, he managed to choke down his fair share, and I don’t seem to recall anyone handing him an empty bottle then, or for that matter, at anytime throughout the rest of the week.
So now what?
It was almost 11 am, and usually by this time we were already well into some sort of construction project. Fortunately something came up that got their “mojo” working again, because when I started to do the breakfast dishes, the hot water was – well - not very hot.
The boys sprung into action, and in no time removed several hoses, and began tinkering with the heater. I asked if it would make sense to boil up some water while they worked on the problem, but was assured that all would be well in short order - which unlike the heater issues we experienced last year - it actually was.
By the time everything got sorted it was almost noon, and with nothing really left to do, we packed up the boat and went fishing.
Deciding to try our luck downstream, it wasn’t long before we got into some fish – or should I say that Roman got into some fish.
To put it succinctly, Roman is a fish magnet – they simply come to him – and if he’s not catching, there are not likely any around.
Having caught about half a dozen just below the “swift,” we moved further down stream, and I suggested trying a small, relatively deep trough that was framed on three sides by a shallow sandbar.
The wind had been blowing into the trough for most of the day, so there was a good chance it would be holding fish – which fortunately it was.
We pulled in eight Walleye, the majority of which were 14” or better, which for that particular river are pretty big fish. Luckily for them we hadn’t included a fish fry on the menu, so they all lived to fight another day.
In an attempt to make our last trip to the cabin something of a special one, I decided to put on a Caribbean theme night, complete with umbrella drinks, pink flamingos and Caribbean inspired food.
Having said that, in terms of the Premier cours, you would be justified in asking what the hell duck liver and black truffles has to do with the Caribbean.
No matter, it was all - good, and afterwards we enjoyed one of Lou’s more impressive campfires under a stunning cosmic canopy.
When it came time to turn in, it was so warm that we refused to let Roman spark up the wood stove yet again, although we could have used it first thing in the morning.
No Particular Place to Go…
The day dawned cool and crisp – 42 degrees Fahrenheit cool and crisp to be precise.
On a morning such as this, with no particular place to go (thank you Chuck Berry) or anything in particular to do, no one was in any hurry to roll out of a nice warm bed.
Lou began muttering something about lighting the stove, but as Roman was not showing any signs of movement, I suggest that he suck it up, and perhaps go for jog in order to get the blood flowing.
I didn’t realize he knew so many cuss words.
Being in the mood for a hot cup of coffee, I got up and slowly started to put breakfast together, and by the time the coffee was ready, Roman was up and about, but Lou was still wrapped in his sleeping bag.
Over the years, I’ve found the best way to get him out of bed is by making him feel somewhat guilty about being the only remaining lay about.
When asked if he wanted his coffee served in bed, once he replied in the affirmative, I knew that I had him, and after the coffee was delivered, he was out of the sack in a matter of minutes – albeit continuing to drone on about the stove.
After a leisurely breakfast, we spent some time reminiscing about the work we had done over the past ten years to transform the camp from its rather humble beginnings into what it is today, with Roman reminding me that originally, all I wanted the boys to do was build a lean to!
Once the dishes had been washed, and the few remaining camp chores attended to, it was time to go fishing.
Because our lake is known to have some very big Pike, we initially gave it a go, and shortly after we put our lines in, Lou got a very solid hit, and whatever it was began peeling off line.
My first thought was that it was a decent size Pike, but when it briefly came to the surface, the profile suggested perhaps a big Walleye - but something just didn’t feel right.
He finally tired the beast out, and once it was up next to the boat, we saw that he’d caught of all things - the “Petersen Lake Sucker!” I had never seen, never mind caught a Sucker in either the river or any of the lakes on the system, and while not exactly what we were looking for; it gave a very good account of itself.
We then moved onto the river and fished up steam from what I call the “Big Bend,” back down to the entrance to our lake.
It would be something of an understatement to say that it was extremely slow, so we slid down below the swift, where we had some luck the previous day.
Both the area below the swift and the trough produced fish yet again, and brought our days total to fourteen Walleye. We also managed to get relatively close to a Bald Eagle who was perched on a branch overhanging the river, and fortunately I was able to get several good pictures.
After another perfect day on the water, it was time to chill out on the beach with a cold one, which was later followed by cocktails, and a variety of Premier cours.
Following a late dinner, we lit up the sky with our campfire, and once it had died down, I shot numerous pictures of the night sky, that was once again resplendent with a trillion, trillion bright stars.
It was as if you could reach up and touch them, and who knows if any of us will ever see such an incredible display again.
The night was surprisingly warm night once again; with the result that Roman was denied access to the wood stove for a third consecutive day, even though he had it all ready to go.
We’re Movin’ On Down the Line
Did you know that today was our last?
That’s right – no kidding – really.
As we would be overnighting in Kapuskasing, there was no hurry to break camp and hit the road, so we took our own sweet time breaking our fast, and going about the task of ensuring that everything was buttoned up tight, and in perfect order for the new owner.
I hope he comes to appreciate and enjoy being there as much as we did.
The water levels required that we pull the boats through the channel into the river, so I ran them up to the top of the channel, while the guys followed along, taking a final stroll along the beach.
Lou decided to finish things up with a flourish, by doing a face plant in the channel, while all the time yelling that he couldn’t get wet.
Clearly that particular ship had sailed, and because his foot was buried in some quicksand like mud, Roman and I had to pull him up and out. Not only that, while doing so, yours truly got stuck, and Roman had to pull me out. I then returned the favour because his foot got buried while helping me.
We would have done the Keystone Cops proud!
It soon became clear why Lou was going on about not getting wet, because he was planning to smoke a cigar on the way out, but his lighter got soaked – so there was “no cigar” as they say. He can be very persistent when the occasion demands, and kept fiddling with it until he got it working, and was thus able to spark up his “stogie.”
It was a fairly quiet ride to the boat launch, with all of us by and large keeping our thoughts to ourselves.
Petersen Lake had given us the perfect send off.
We had incredible weather, a great time reminiscing, good food & drink, decent fishing, the star show to beat all star shows, and lots, and lots of laughs. I don’t think I could have scripted it any better.
We arrived at the Advantage Motel, in “Kap” just after 5 pm, and after cleaning up, and downing a cocktail or two, we headed on over to Papa Franco’s for dinner, where Roman proceeded to dump his beer onto Lou’s lap.
I guess you could say that he finished the day much like he started it – wet.
During the ride home the following day, Lou kept us entertained with a variety of fun facts and stories, including one about some guy he knew who liked to fish, that went by the name of “chawie,” or “chalky.” Truth be told, I never did quite catch the name.
Finally, we made our traditional stop at the Thornloe Cheese Factory, for you guessed it – cheese - and of course a ginormous ice cream cone.
Waaait! - To be continued…
When provisioning this trip, I failed to fully take into account our somewhat laid back schedule, and lack of any really strenuous activities, with the result that we actually had some edibles and libations remaining at the end of the week.
That said, this egregious error will be rectified during the month of October, wherein we will gather to drink the vintage Port pictured below, while munching on some aged Parmesan.
While this chapter of “The Adventures of the We Work For Food Construction Company” may have come to a close, we ain’t done yet, having decided to start a new chapter by setting this time aside, with the intention of doing something together in the years to come.
Perhaps we’ll head up to Esnagami Wilderness Lodge, assuming good buddy Eric Lund needs a hand building something, with a few stops en route to visit some small towns that we’ve never had time to check out, and of course if Lou has his way, do some “pick’n” at the various junk – or should I say antique – stores along Highway #11.
Or we might just stay a bit closer to home, and give Roman a hand if he decides to renovate the family cottage.
So stay tuned…
While I could easily go on for several more pages, let me finish this off by simply saying thanks to my Goombah’s, because these past ten years have been without question the very best of times.
Hickory Smoked Back Ribs w/Habanero Infused BBQ Sauce
Tuna Salad w/Curry & Dill
Hendry Vineyard Blocks 7 & 22 Zinfandel - 2012
Eggs Benedict w/Smoked Salmon & Canadian Bacon
Ontario Field Tomatoes
Bacon Wrapped Duck Terrine
Duck Liver & Fois Gras Pâté
Black Truffle Chicken Liver Pâté
Grilled - Jerk Marinated Tiger Shrimp
Jamaican Rice & Peas
Alsace – Domaines Schlumberger – Riesling Grand Cru – Kessler - 2009
Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Rum
Free Range Eggs to Order
Cumbrae Farms Chicken/Mushroom/Dijon Sausage
Ontario Field Tomatoes
Cumbrae Farms - Hot Italian Sausage
35 - Day Dry Aged New York Strips
Ontario Field Tomato, Sweet Onion & Danish Blue Cheese Salad
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon - 2012
Metaxa 12 Star
Canadian Bacon, Steak & Ontario Field Tomato Sandwiches
Woodford Reserve Manhattan’s
Grey Goose Martini’s
Sleeman Original Draft
Grolsch Premium Lager
And One More Thing…
Our pool pump was slated to be sent out for repair while we were away, and the guys kindly offered to hook it back up once we returned.
Upon closer examination, they declared the existing electrical connector to be of inferior design and quality, so we would have to acquire an appropriate replacement at some point to complete the hook up.
As you know there were no stops for materials etc. during the drive north, but coming back we hit the Canadian Tire in Cochrane, an electrical supply store and Home Hardware in New Liskard, and finally Lowes in Whitby, where we found the perfect part.
I guess there are some itches that just gotta be scratched!
Please enjoy some images from journeys past in the gallery below.