When my wife Amy and I go camping, things usually go smoothly. That is perhaps an understatement. Things often operate with a choreographed precision that would make any armed forces marching band proud.
Checklists are made and followed, gear and provisions are loaded into the car, the destination is reached at the prescribed time, the kayaks are loaded and weighted just so, and we shove off. Few words are spoken.
And so the dance began anew at five a.m. sharp last Saturday morning. Our destination was Foster Island, which is an uninhabited pile of rock about a four-hour paddle south of the coastal town of Britt, on the eastern shore of Georgian Bay.
Just to the east of Foster is Prisque Bay, a name that exists only on marine charts. We have a bit of a secret campsite there, where we've been going, not really by design, for the last two Canada Days. The nearest road is several miles away, and the Magnetawan Ledges, fierce slabs of rock that rise near the water's surface, guard much of the surrounding area from pesky motorboaters. It is not uncommon to go for days at a time in this remote corner and encounter no humans at all.
Almost from the beginning, we knew our carefully laid plans were going to face a stiff challenge. The forecast called for unsettled weather, and Mother Nature didn't disappoint. We loaded the kayaks onto the car in a fierce downpour and faced howling winds and heavy rain for the entire three-hour drive to Britt. But we made it, and in no time had the car unloaded. That's when we heard the hissing sound coming from the right rear wheel.
Instinctively (although I can't remember the last time I changed a tire), I unloaded the spare from its nest deep in the trunk and set to work. As the rain pelted down and the muck splattered back into my face, I managed to jack the back end up and disassemble the right rear wheel. Fortunately, the spare went on smoothly and our hearty little automobile was soon back in working order. Dirty and sweaty, but not wanting to lose another minute, we checked the sky for thunderheads and quickly launched into a downpour.
And then, almost as if on cue, the rain stopped. After clearing Byng Inlet and looping around to the south, our muscle memory clicked in and we churned out a steady rhythm toward our destination. Four hours, and a couple of wrong turns later, we arrived in the protective confines of Prisque Bay to find not silence, but, of all things, other people. Fishermen, in fact, slowly trolling back and forth in front of our campsite. Then a miracle occurred.
As we were setting up the tent, one of the boat's occupants waved an arm in our direction. "We have two pike," he called out, "and we'd like to give you one."
Gleefully, we accepted, and they tossed this handsome guy up onto the shore. Informed only by a recently purchased copy of Fishing for Dummies, I set upon the poor creature with my shiny new filleting knife. After forty minutes, we had a good deal of meat -- and a lot of little bones. But the struggle was more than worth it. The little bits of pike, cooked only in butter, were some of the most delicious morsels I've ever eaten.
Confident in my manhood and thoroughly stuffed, I crawled into the tent and quickly fell into the kind of deep sleep that only follows a hard day's labour. The next morning, we would set out in the boats to revisit the mysteries of Foster Island. And hopefully uncover more.