Feeling a bit fatigued from a summer that's been rife with, let's say, peaks and valleys, my wife Amy and I came to the realization a couple weeks back that perhaps it was time for society and us to spend a little time apart. Georgian Bay beckoned, and when we read in one of our favourite paddling guidebooks, called simply Kayaking Georgian Bay (a highly recommended read, by the way), that a trip to the Churchill Islands was "generally a trip into solitude," we were sold.
The Churchills are a remote island chain south of the mouth of the French River near the Bay's eastern shore, about a twenty-kilometre paddle north from the nearest put-in, the town of Britt in Byng Inlet. There are few humans to be found on the Churchills, save for one of the Bay's last commercial fishermen (whose rickety boat I believe I spotted on day two of the trip), and they appear today, I'm sure, much the same way they did when French explorers Samuel de Champlain and Etienne Brule first visited the area almost four hundred years ago.
Here are some of the photographic highlights:
Night one got us to the southern tip of the Churchills, near Rogers Island. It was a long afternoon's paddle in the face of fairly heavy westerly winds that had blown the Bay up into a bit of a snit. But by evening, as you can see, things had levelled off nicely, making for some very deep outdoor sleeping.
One thing you can forget about up here is staking a tent in any way. In my experience, this is pretty much unheard of as soil of any real depth is virtually nonexistent. So you anchor to the boulders, baby, and pray. The upside: no dirt or sand gets into your sleeping bag or your clothes. After four days out, our little shelter is always clean as can be.
Evening, Henvey Inlet. In search of even more silence, Amy and I paddled up this inlet, which cuts into the Bay's eastern shore, and camped on a small island overnight. Both shores of the inlet belong to the Henvey Inlet Indian Reserve, which means no camping, and no cottagers. I think the photo says it all.
The Cunningham Islands lay about eight kilometres or so north of Britt, which makes them a great waypoint on your way back in. We camped a night here, and I saw perhaps the most clear night sky I think I've ever seen (shooting stars, satellites, you name it and it was up there). During the day, we paddled a number of beautiful little canals like this one. When the glaciers retreated across the Bay millions of years ago, they cut thousands of little passages like this one, which are perfect for exploring by sea kayak.
Amy and her new boat dance among the ripples of Byng Inlet on the way back to Britt. A safe journey, a safe return. But one last challenge remained: readjusting to the sound of other people's voices, traffic, and the general racket of society. That one took a few days.