Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bayfield Inlet to Foster Island ... and back

A couple weeks ago, I decided to take a solo paddle from the town of Bayfield Inlet on Georgian Bay's eastern shore up to Foster Island and back. It's a beautiful, roughly 30-kilometre loop that features a wide variety of water and terrain.

The first six kilometres takes you through the Alexander Passage. Here, you'll see a number of cottages from many different eras, from simple, yet elegant log cabins to a futuristic-looking multilevel dwelling, complete with skylights and a lost-city-of-Atlantis looking bubbled front window, located just east of Meneilly Island.

Once you reach the open bay, you turn north and pass Charles Inlet, then wind your way along the coast toward the many islands that surround the mouth of the Naiscoot River's north channel. The shore here is fairly flat, and a popular spot for camping, except it's pretty low to the water. The key is not to get sucked in by the beautiful view of the Bay this area offers; the westerly winds in this area can pick up in seconds, and there's a real possibility you could wake up in a tent that feels more like a boathouse. I decided to move on, past Head Island and Inside Head Island and into the narrow passage that heads east past the south end of Foster Island.

By the end of the day, I had made it to our usual campsite in this area, a lovely secluded spot on Prisque Bay. But the sky was darkening to the northwest, and I just got the tent up before the first drops started to fall. All that night, I lay in the tent, in a deluge like few I've experienced on the Bay. Next morning, it was time to dry out:

The wind picked up considerably through the rest of the afternoon, so I decided to retrace my steps and head back toward Charles Inlet. Getting there involved about four hours of paddling straight into a stiff west wind. Soaked and exhausted, I managed to set up camp in a cozy little channel on Big Burnt Island, where, after a quick bowl of soup, I drifted off to sleep.

That night, I slept the dead sleep that I only seem to be able to attain on the Bay. But the weather radio called for yet more storms, so I loaded up and headed back to my waiting car in Bayfield Inlet.

As much as I love camping, sometimes it's better to watch a storm from a local pub. That day, I chose Wellington's, in Parry Sound, as my way station before joining the weekend traffic back to Toronto. It was a perfect transition from the wilds of Georgian Bay to the city's hustle. And the Great Canadian burger sure beat another can of soup.