April 16, 2006

Piddle, Paddle, Early Season

Melissa is the queen of solo adventures. Sometimes, though, she'll announce that she's ok with company - but she makes it clear in the invitation that "this is a paddle, not a piddle" trip. Me, I'm a bit of a piddler... But I was also antsy as anything to spend time in my kayak, and I think Melissa is interesting and cool and knows lots of stuff that I don't, and it follows that I must consequently attempt to stalk her. So, rather than retreat into my piddling chickenshit but it might be too hard attitude, I countered her "let's drive to the Bay, paddle for 40km, with a hike in the middle, and then drive home" email with "how about we do an overnighter?" And she went for it. Yay!

Besides being tougher and fitter, Melissa is also more organized than I am. And she gets up earlier. So she drove up to our first choice of put-in, Pete's Place in Massassauga, while I was still piddling around at home, trying to get my stuff together. And then, when I was no further than Barrie, she called me and reported that Pete's Place is all locked up, we'd try for Snug Harbour. Fine with me. The islands we normally visit out of Snug have started to feel like home: the Snakes, the McCoys, the Pancakes, Franklin, the Minks, Sandy and Bateaux Islands... I think I could do a three or four day trip here without a map, even. But I had the Parry Sound map with me in any case.

Of course, it's also pretty hard to make a trip report in this area sound even remotely interesting. We were headed to the Snakes - to a site that I've camped on more than any other single site on the Bay. I think I've been there at least once every year since I started paddling. Last year alone, I stayed here for five nights (on three separate trips). And still, this time, it felt like a first. This trip was, after all, the first time I paddled on the Bay when it still had ice cubes floating in it. It was the first time I camped on one of the islands when there is still snow. It was also one of the few times I didn't bring any beer (see above point on lack of organization on my part) and it was a waste, given the beer-cooling snowbanks!

Miraculously enough, Melissa had never been to the Snakes, and thus failed to notice that we only paddled a bit more than 5 km to get there and happily frolicked about in the snow while her wetsuit hung on a tree. I kept expecting her to say we'd get back into the boats and do another 35 km and come back to the site later, but no! She got out her camera (in the list of things she does better than I do is also photography - I dick around with a little point and shoot. She could publish a coffee table book. I even thought of bringing the digital SLR just so I could have a rival shutter click going instead of the cheesy pretend shutter click sound my little A95 could make if I asked it to, but I didn't), and we hiked around the island. We found an old beer bottle that we used for goofy pictures (please note, we would not a) drink such bad beer; b) take beer in bottles). And, Melissa being more dedicated than I am, she picked up garbage the entire way (thus effectively guilting me into poking through old fire rings to get out foil bits and glass shards too). There is not nearly enough bush on the Snakes to create the deadfall needed to support as many fires as there are yahoos who show up to have them, thus some of the afore-mentioned yahoos have started cutting live trees. Even though, a few hundred feet back in the bush, there are dead trees they could have chopped up if they *really* needed to have a bonfire. This makes my blood boil, particularly since the firepits they obviously used to burn this wood are now filled with their leftovers.)

We also discovered the drawback of snow: if there is a critter on the island, you will see its prints. We couldn't explain these, but rationalized them away pretty neatly in the interests of a good night's sleep. The island is small. It is 5km open crossing to the nearest other island. It is the last one out there before endless open water, so it's not a stopping off point to somewhere with better habitat. Yikes. Upside of the snow? Snow angels. On a paddling trip. Neat, huh?

It was a cool feeling, likely being the first people to camp on the island this year. Realistically, this was probably the first weekend it was even possible, since ice-out just happened. Even more realistically, most of the people we know will tell you they have no desire to camp when there is still snow or kayak when the water is just above freezing. And at this early time of year, there is a good chance that when you go to paddle back, and you decide to take a detour to the south around the Pancakes because you can't just paddle five or so kilometers and expect to escape Melissa's piddling designation, that the wind is wickedly strong out of the north. Which means that, if that were to happen, you'd face a tough and somewhat chilly slog back to Snug Harbour, and be really glad you ate that extra granola bar at breakfast. I'm just saying, that's what could happen.

But whining about how unexpectedly high-energy the paddling was on the way out, that probably puts me in the piddler category. Ah well, at least I got to piddle around outside in April, and it was fun.

Posted by Johanna at April 16, 2006 10:15 AM

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