Thanksgiving weekend is the wild card of autumn in southern Ontario. Often, it is a cold and miserable three-day slog, but sometimes it can be a gift -- a veritable extra summer long weekend.
This year, we were blessed. The marine forecast called for light winds and twenty-five-degree temperatures on southern Georgian Bay. Not missing a beat, Amy and I decided tack a couple extra days onto the weekend and set off for The Massasauga Provincial Park, which consists of a number of rugged islands and cozy inland lakes along Georgian Bay's eastern shore, just south of Parry Sound.
Moon Island, a large island to the west of the area's main launch point, literally a small trailer and boat ramp called Pete's Place Access Point, is classic southern Georgian Bay landscape -- high ridges of rock combined with dense forest that, somehow, manages to hang on in mere inches of soil. From Pete's, it is about a forty-minute paddle out to the island's quiet and serene shores.
One of the things that always hits me on landing at a place like Moon Island is the smell, especially in the fall. The wafting scents of pine and fir, combined with that of brackish marsh water are overwhelming, and almost instantly my muscles relax as I downshift into "camping mode," and the stresses of daily life begin to fall away.
The Moon Island trail is a meandering, four-kilometre ramble through the varied terrain of the island's interior. It was hard to believe it was fall as we sweated past tiny lakes, rich marshes, and tall stands of coniferous trees.
In a startling brain cramp, both Amy and I, excited just to be there, entirely forgot to check the trail map before setting off. Finally, a little over an hour in, we began to question why the so-called loop trail didn't appear to be heading back to the trailhead. Was it really only four kilometres? Was it really a loop? Had we missed a turn somewhere? Why in God's name had we not brought even a few peanuts along? No one could answer any of these questions for sure.
So, after we were finished beating ourselves up, and even though we were probably only feet from the end, we decided to turn back. About an hour later, we emerged at the boats, hungry and exhausted. After flopping on the dock and gorging on the aforementioned nuts, fruit, and, for dessert, delicious M&M's, we finally took to the kayaks and completed the paddle out to our campsite, near Sharpe's Island, a stone's throw from the open waters of Georgian Bay.
Camping in a provincial park is something of a luxurious experience after a summer of flopping on the Crown land along Georgian Bay's shores. Our site came fully equipped with a firepit, a picnic table, even a privy box (essentially a wooden box set back in the forest -- for privacy, of course -- with a fold-down lid and a seat carved out of the top).
After the day's hiking and paddling excitement, and as the temperature began to drop with the early nightfall, we ate dinner and warmed ourselves around a small, hastily constructed fire. The clear sky yielded a bright blanket of stars, and soon it was time to hit the tent for a good night's rest. The next day, we planned to explore one of The Massasauga's feature attractions -- the aptly named Wreck Island.