Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Algonquin, August Long Weekend 2006

The Route: via Entry Point 17
Day 1 -- Farm Lake - 730 m portage - Bridle Lake, the first campsite
Day 2 -- Bridle Lake - 1600 m portage - Shirley Lake - 1050 m portage - Crotch Lake -
500 m portage - Oram Lake, the second campsite
Day 3 -- Oram Lake - 500 m portage - Crotch Lake, then around the corner to Entry Point
17...which is now Exit Point 17

The Voyageurs: Liz and Mike, Caroline and Carlos, Liz, Hassan and Tanya

This is a weekend of balancing: two people (or three) in a canoe; two people in a hammock; a pack on a back across muddy or sandy or hilly or rocky terrain; the amount of food for the amount of people; the amount of work with the reward of rest. Everyone works together seamlessly: no one feels left out, no ego exerts exclusive dominance. Hassan is recognized as the expert because of his recent and continuous experience in this arena, but Mike is also well-versed in out-tripping. For those of us new to this or being re-introduced, we are eager to learn and pitch in.

For my first time portaging/canoeing and 'real' camping since my teens, this is a relaxed trek with a relaxed group of people. Our common denominator is Hassan; I had met everyone before but only within the last couple of months (since Hassan and I started dating); Carlos is a new face for me, having arrived the week before from Seville, Spain, to visit Caroline, his girlfriend.

Another aspect of this balancing is between Hassan and myself. It's a new relationship in an extreme environment where one must depend on others: we're learning to balance each other's temperaments, to play our weaknesses off our strengths, to listen and accept suggestions, to apologize when we're wrong. And we laugh. We laugh often.

'Civilization' is a dirty word here. We avoid talk of work, of the city, and absorb in the short time we're here the beauty and serenity of the trees, the water, the wind which blows to keep us from shore, or rocks us to sleep in the hammock. The loons' mournful songs are a balm; the ducks are silently thanked as we float wordlessly past them on Farm Lake. Curious hares make Liz and I jump on our log sofa around the fire; any twig snapping could be a bear, and we hope for and fear this possibility.

On this trip we have: an English Prince
an Arabian Knight
a King of Spain
a WaterWizard
a Medic of the Highest Order
a Druish Princess
a Celtic Warrior/Scribe

We swim in rapids, on Day 2; Mike, Hassan and I brave the stronger water just past an ancient, man-made dam used originally as a log chute. The portages are challenging but not impossible. Our final portage of Day 2 is only 500 m - we anticipate the short trek after the length of the other two. Upon arrival at the end of the day paddling against strong winds the portage was short, and all uphill. And lush. And quiet. We have time for relaxation, even after Hassan and I spend about 2 hours setting up the tarp against the threat of rain. Hanging the BearBag is a nocturnal adventure: giggles from the three intrepid hangers - Mike, Liz, and Hassan - keep the rest of us laughing at the campfire until I'm called in to salvage the operation.

The first half of the night is windy, so windy that it rocks Hassan and I to sleep in the hammock. The wind dies, the rain starts, and if we hadn't hung our cocoon on an angle where we slide to the bottom, we still would be comfortable. The rain stops. The mosquitoes assemble their armies. We watch the sun rise amidst slapping and swearing. The light is perfect for BW shots; the mist rises from Oram Lake; Hassan starts a wetwood fire. The boys saw off a chunk of the log serving as this site's sofa and promptly place it on the flames. A chunk of Hassan's eye is bitten by an irate wasp, whose home was being hewn for yet more fuel.

Living in such close proximity with people can either bring them closer together or push them further apart. I feel closer to these people I had met briefly in urban social settings. Perhaps it's chemistry, or common goals and interests, or a certain elan that determines this. Perhaps it's the magic of the forest, the mystery in the lakes. Perhaps it's simply that in this atmosphere I feel most myself, and my automatic trust in the goodness of human nature is rewarded without question by those around me.

1 comment:

Hassan said...

These Algonquin write ups are amazing. Capturing the spirit of the park in words is not an easy task. They say pictures are worth 1000 words, but i think in this case, words are worth 1000 pictures. You bring the relationships of people with people and people with nature to life and help me relive the trips.