Paddling into the Grey

It was a grey day. The sky hidden with the foreboding, heavy, dark clouds that hang just out of reach. I wanted to wait for a better time, but we had a reservation, this was the time to begin our canoe trip into the interior of Algonquin Park.

Bear barrel keeps food safe from animals

We packed the canoes with the knapsacks and tents, the food barrels and fishing rods. I made sure the kids wore their rain jackets under their life vests. I climbed into the red canoe and we pushed off from the shore. I love the feeling of gliding through the still water. I love the almost silent dip and gurgle of the paddle as it cuts through the water, propelling us forward. The lonely call of a loon in the distance breaks the near silence. We paddled for a few kilometers barely talking, each of us in our own silent world. I could feel the stress of the winter fall away with each stroke of my paddle. Our retreat into the wilderness, eagerly anticipated, planned in detail for months, was unfolding.

The first raindrops broke the glassy water undetected. Soon their presence was met with groans from the children.  “It’s Raining” complained the youngest, “let’s go home.” she whined, thrusting her chin forward for emphasis. “No way” her wise brother chimed in, “it will only last a little while, besides, fishing is better in the rain.”

Rain

Rain

“Let’s go closer to shore” I worry about lightning although these clouds seemed like the kind that hang low and rain for hours. I almost wish they were thunderclouds; I wanted them to dump out their rain move on.

As we reached the first portage, the rain began in earnest. A heavy downpour, drenching everything we owned.

We scurried about emptying the canoes and piling our belongings against a tree. We covered it all with a tarp and brought the canoes onto shore, turning them over to empty the rainwater and then leaning them against a fallen log. We decided to have lunch, hoping that the worst would soon be over.

The portage ahead of us was steep but short. I hoped we could carry our gear over the portage without getting too wet as we scramble over the roots and rocks.

Camp Pathfinder Canoe Petawawa River Portage

Typical portage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sitting under the trees, we ate our sandwiches and we watched the lake transform. A wind blew in and sheets of rain swept across the bay in front of us. Grey upon grey, everything was grey. Even our moods turned a dark shade of grey. The worry that the rain would never end hung around us like a heavy blanket. No one wanted to say the words, but we all felt it. This was only the first portage; it was not too late to turn back. I imagined ten days of wet complaining children. I imagined trying to prepare meals and cook in the rain.  As much as I enjoy the wilderness experience, as much as I looked forward to this yearly getaway, I was tempted to give in, the first to echo the words “Let’s go home”.

But I didn’t  I held my tongue. The boys ran to the water’s edge with their fishing poles. They were excited despite the rain. I watched as they let their lines fly out over the water and splash down. I watch them reel in, time and again. I was impressed by their determination. I couldn’t help but smile. My boys didn’t care about the rain.  I leaned back against a tree, breathing deeply to release the stress. That damp woodsy smell enveloped me. This is where I belong, in the wilderness with my family. No cell phones, no radios, no iPod’s  we even left our watches in the car. We eat when we are hungry, go to bed when we are tired and usually wake up with the dawn.

Photo by Lily Mugford

Photo by Lily Mugford

The rain was merely a drizzle now. Was that a break in the clouds? It seemed lighter, brighter.

Just then Stephen reeled in a small mouthed bass. It was only about eight inches long, but he was thrilled. His father helped him take it off the hook and together they cleaned it.

“I guess we have dinner tonight.” He told his son who was proudly grinning from ear to ear.

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