Algonquin: Two-chord songs, chops, and relaxed excited chatter

2022 Sunday May 15th, Rain Lake to Jubilee Lake

Though it’s still hardly 8:30 P.M. and the sun is still a long way from disappearing, I’ve retreated into my hammock to write.

It’s my intention to write something every night, usually when I turn into my hammock, though sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night … No cellphone signal here in the bush, and I’m not going to edit any photos until I get home. I’m typing into the Notes app on my phone, and copying the text elsewhere to minimize the chance of losing what I’ve written. What you’re reading now is being finalized a couple of days after we finished these excellent shared experiences!

I’m enjoying the happy back-and-forth of the guys down on the lakeshore, sharing stories, guitar licks and understandings — the joys of being with compatible and welcoming folks outdoors where we are all comfortable. I’m guessing we’ve spent perhaps two hours reviewing the guitar licks from two-chord songs. This common ground is building those relationships that will smooth our way through these six days here in Algonquin — and beyond, I hope.

Spring is bursting out all over up here. The tree canopy is gilded by that warm yellow-green translucence of the season. Red Trilliums are very brightly backlit by the barely-filtered sun. Trout Lilies (yellow stamens) are even finishing on the dry forest floor! Carolina Spring Beauties are everywhere along one of the portages. Lots of Goldthread in flower; some Rose-twisted Stalk, and Hobblebush (with the larger outer ring of flowers around the edge of the flower head) in flower as well.

Red Trillium, Trillium erectum. Beautiful, except for the smell of rotted fish which attracts flies to trick them into pollinating.
Yellow stamens of Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum. (There are at least two colours of stamens, this yellow, and another, more orange-red. These different colours may attract differing insects for pollination, though this is only recently been studied.)
Goldthread, Coptis trifolia. The underground stems are often used in various traditional medicines … with some possible value. The sepals are white and are easily mistaken for petals. The four to seven petals are small, yellow and club-like, almost hidden in the centre of the flower, and they are smaller than the stamens which are numerous and thread-like with delicate anthers.
Hobblebush, Viburnum lantanoides, with the large sterile outer flowers. I am fascinated with the deeply wrinkled young leaves. The young expanding leaf buds are even more striking!

The Peepers are taking over now as the sky darkens. The robins are cheerily bidding adieu to all, though the other fellows are staying out on the point to chat.

We gathered at 7:30 this morning at Ron’s place outside Orangeville, loaded the two cars with two canoes & one kayak, and headed off in to the sunny warm day. A quick take-out lunch at the Farmer’s Daughter in Huntsville, and to the Rain Lake entry point just after noon. Loaded into the boats and off down the narrow lake with a decent tailwind, certainly enough to clear the blackflies. An easy paddle, and remarkable dry easy short carries. At the campsite on the north shore of Jubilee Lake just after 4 P.M., tents up, firewood gathered, and Ron put the veggies on the fire to grill, ‘found’ a box of fine red wine in the lake, and put the pork chops over the coals. A fine first-day dinner!

The Five, doing the final loading before heading north: Ron, Dave, Josh, Ross, and Mark
Putting-in at Rain Lake on the west side of Algonquin
Fire-grilled veggies and fresh pork chops for our first fresh supper!

A pair of loons passed just off the campsite, pipping to each other now in the gloaming, as the robins settle into a more subtle chirping and the peepers build their insistent courting.

I’m sorry that the clouds have come in as the evening drops. We’re going to miss the total eclipse of the Moon …

Actually … the skies have remained remarkably clear. The full Moon is rising over the glassy water. Only a few Whirligig beetles stir the calmness. And one possible otter. I went out and sat with the rest as we watched for the eclipse to begin. Saw a great passage overhead by the ISS. The eclipse didn’t visibly begin to happen, so about 10:30, we all turned in.

Josh woke up about 12:30 A.M., and watched the eclipse for the better part of an hour!

Cognac, I believe …
Possibly an otter? Not the broad-headed ploughing through the water of a beaver …

I should explain about this trip. About a hundred years ago, my father and a fellow theology student hired a native guide to teach them paddling. The guide took them from Dorset into the south end of Algonquin, starting when the ice came off the lakes, and leaving when the bugs became too bad. My father and his friend returned for several years after that, learning on their own.

‘WS’ (or “Will” to his family) was born in 1905 in what was then the outer part of Toronto, just south of the Danforth. He was in the Theology Class of ‘26 at McMaster College, then part of the University of Toronto, which would put him as a young university student in the early 1920s, so it’s possible that this year is the 100th anniversary of his first paddle in the Park. (His first summer pastorate was in Westport when he was possibly only 17.)

I’m treating this anniversary as ‘true’ … though that’s perhaps because I’m not getting any younger, and I’d like to get back to the lakes he paddled on before I’m not able to hoist a canoe onto my shoulders for portaging.

4 thoughts on “Algonquin: Two-chord songs, chops, and relaxed excited chatter

  1. Hi Mark, I’m so glad for you and this trip. It looks great! Great picture of Uncle Will! What a fish! I can’t wait to hear more! Lots of love, Eunice

    • It was fascinating to try to reconstruct what the land, i.e., the forest, would have looked like when WS was there a century ago. We think too easily as if this is a primeval forest. It’s actually been cut at least twice, and I see evidence of it being logged three times in places. Will would have been there during the second period of logging, when much of the land would have been covered in scrubby regrowth forests. Very different from what we too easily imagine!

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