Sunday, September 9, 2007

North Shore Series #3: Outer Fox Islands

The Outer Fox Islands, located just east of the main outlet of the French River, are the very definition of isolation. It was a short afternoon's paddle west from Dead Island Channel under clear, sunny skies to get into the Outer Foxes, where we promptly set up camp for a couple days of exploring. Technically within the boundaries of the French River Provincial Park, and way too far from any major city to make for viable cottage country, the Outer Foxes are a place of pin-drop silence and incredible beauty. While we were there we encountered no one, not even other paddlers; just a few fishermen out in their open aluminum boats. As such, there is not much to say about this little corner of Georgian Bay. Its story is best told in pictures.

A tree growing out of near nothingness on the shore of Major Island, the main island in the Outer Fox chain. About a kilometre and a half long, Major Island is too rugged to really even be hikeable, but there is one "official" campsite at the south end, which I assume is visited on occasion by the folks from the provincial park. The site is marked by the little yellow symbol of a tent, which national and provincial parks have been using for time immemorial and is, at least to me, a comforting little marker to stumble across in the backcountry.

It's hard to believe that the same glaciers that retreated over this land millions of years ago, creating some of the highest, most jagged cliffs I've ever seen, also carved out smooth indentations like this one -- just big enough to fit an eighteen-foot sea kayak.

Setup, campsite #2, our home on the Outer Foxes. Loading and unloading the boats like this, day in and day out, along with crouching to cook, clean, and do pretty much anything else, is mainly why Amy and I both dropped a waist size or two over the eight days we were out here. But the Foxes themselves make a great base from which to explore the millions of little inlets and channels that line both the islands themselves and the mainland to the north.

Case in point: a peaceful inlet where a perfect little marsh ecosystem, complete with a massive frog population, has set up shop on Vixen Island, on the northern end of the Outer Fox chain.

If you want to hang all of this paddling crap and just go fishing, the Georgian Bay Fishing Camp, the only place that showed any real signs of civilization on pretty much the entire trip, is your ticket. We passed the camp, which has all the trappings of a 1950s northern Ontario clapboard lodge, on our way out of the Outer Foxes. Here we encountered our first human in three days, a cheery worker and his lovely black dog, who barked incessantly at the two interlopers who had invaded the harbour in their tiny craft. "The office is open," he called from the dock, "if you need anything."

It was hard to resist asking about a cold beer, even at ten o'clock in the morning. But there was much to do; the weather was starting to turn gloomy and the French River, and whatever little island we would end up calling home when we got there, were still a good distance off.

For the Georgian Bay Fishing Camp site, click here.

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