26 June 2007

Back at latitude 33.8

Ah. A day of settling in. The mail has been sorted and for most part shredded. The bills are paid and the checkbook balanced. The washer's pulled steady duty for most of the day. And a good dose of Febreeze, and a little airing, has made the dirty laundry suitcase servicable again. One golf-turned-fishing towel was so awful --not to mention still smelly-wet from Saturday evening's rain -- that on Sunday morning we left it for the Shining Falls washer and to another angler who somewhere along the way loses the one he or she brought along.

While looking at photographs yesterday in the Winnipeg airport -- we have several hundred as you might imagine and yesterday we had several otherwise unoccupied hours, I discovered how to rotate vertical photographs in the program Blogger uses to upload images. (That pesky right-click is the key.) I really like taking vertical shots. While you might not have noticed, all the photographs I've used the past two weeks have been horizontal. This one isn't anything spectacular, but I'd remembered to stick the polarizing filter in my pocket that day and the clouds please me. When is see it, I'm transported back to that spot, the erstwhile sun making an appearance and our simple lunch tasting so good.

It's hard to describe how different I feel when I'm away from home. This time, for several reasons -- and blessedly, it didn't quite end AS the time away drew to a close. Although I was sad the last two days at Shining Falls Lodge, I was able not to anticipate the leaving quite so much as normal and able to focus on the moment. The "being away" has lasted right up until the regular routine resumed this morning. Indeed, while we accomplished quite alot today, Tal and I guarded ourselves, running errands together, for example, so as to continue enjoying the companionability of this memorable and sweet vacation.

I've determined that one of the most important things I can do is to continue looking at people, situations, encounters here in Edgefield County the same way I did for the past 13 days. I have been ready to be fascinated at every turn. We have delighted in the people we've met along the way, from the clerk in the drugstore in Pine Falls (who gave me a pen inscribed with "Stolen from Pine Pharmacy") to my seatmate between Chicago and Columbia last night. Can my "fresh" eyes last? Can I keep from returning to that heavy sense of drowning in the demands of life at home and at work? Can I expect the best? Can I enjoy my life? I am hopeful.

I'll end this entry with one of the nicest sights I had from the deck of Cabin 4: Tal at ease, having moved a chair to the dock as evening fell on Family Lake. No to a fish at that sitting. But, yes to being at peace -- for us both.

PS All the socks are washed, folded and back in a nice pile! Where shall I take them next?

25 June 2007

Half the fun: getting there

Who said that? Whoever it was never sat in the airport in Winnipeg during a ground delay in Chicago. In spite of today's tedious nature, we're happy and safe. What's next? A night's sleep in our own bed. More tomorrow.

An afternoon at The Forks

Our flight out of Shining Falls was smooth and fast. Even with a visit with the folks who run the air base and a stop at Power View*, we were at the hotel here in Winnipeg before 1:15. A nap was in order. But, after that it was adventure time. All I can say is that I'm glad it was a Sunday afternoon and not rush hour on a week day!

The Forks is a large area in downtown Winnipeg where the Assiniboine and Red Rivers converge. And, it's now a well-developed public space, celebrating all the people who have used the space over time, especially the native people and the French and English-speakers. The children's museum is there, lovely walking paths (the lower levels flooded at present) and gardens, bicycle and skateboard courses. And, this weekend just past ... a jazz festival in the amphitheatre.

The pedestrian bridge (on the right in the photo above) over the Red River is spectaclar. The bridge for vehicles is decorated (at least on the side facing the pedestrian bridge), but hard to capture with the camera, especially when the photographer is hot, tired and hungry! I presume the entire side of the bridge tells a story, but yesterday was not the day to tease it out.

Supper followed on our way back to the hotel. Awe-inspiring (and damaging) thunderstorms marked the night and could well be a factor in today's travel.

* The town of Power View has a dam, which travelers to Shining Falls Lodge cross on their way to Bissett. Water is so plentiful and provides so much electricity that people in Manitoba pay their "hydro" bill.

24 June 2007

Flying shotgun

One of the lines of discussion last evening during dinner was our eminent departure. Since 16 guests were arriving and 16 departing, either two airplanes or two trips were going to be necessary. Come to find out Blue Water Aviation does, indeed, have a turbo Otter and, of course, my first thought was about how terrific it would be to get to fly in it if the two plane scenario played out.

But. There's always a but, isn't there? Although, of the three departing groups, there was no one trying to make the 1:30PM plane in Winnipeg, there was a party of six that had a 14-hour drive ahead of them after arriving in Bissett, so they wanted to fly out first. And, that meant, since the Otters seat a maximum of nine, that Tal and I would fly with them. And, of course, as breakfast was finishing up this morning, the old Otter arrived on the scene first.

But. Yes, another but, a wonderful one. The pilot allowed me to ride shotgun. (Admittedly, I was pushy; I asked to ride up front, knowing full well that the rule of thumb is to have the biggest man in that seat.) With the camera over my shoulder, I strapped myself in.

Then, as we began our short taxi to the open water, the pilot wondered if I'd like to photograph the falls. Well, yes. YES! It was very nice of him, as it does take several extra minutes to circle back and make the long, slow turn. Since the weather had turned warm, the windows in the cockpit doors were open, so the resulting photos of the falls and Shining Falls Lodge turned out pretty well. (Double click on either photo for a larger view.)

What a ride.

Leaving latitiude 51

Well, it's Sunday and someone else is leading worship at the Church of the Ridge, a great someone, by the way, who also officiated a funeral this week in my absence. It feels odd not to be there, but to quote -- sort of -- a song released in the past 20 years or so, we're all under the same sky. Anyway, the bags are packed and out of our cabin. Breakfast is smelling heavenly and I would imagine there's activity on the dock at Blue Water Aviation 60 miles south.

Yesterday, our last day on the water, was a memorable one. We fished quietly before a shore , catching a few fish AND discovering a massive beaver dam, pictured here.

Following a delicious lunch of fried walleye, with six boats parked picturesquely on the rocky shore of the island, we took one last ride to Spring Fever Bay, one of our first and most favorite fishing sites. It was there that the Tarbox Fishing Guide Service did herself proud! ...

Tal caught fish until he just couldn't make one more cast. What a great ending to this trip. Once back at the lodge, we unloaded the boat at our dock and I motored it over to the beach and turned it in. No need to go out again. Sigh ...

23 June 2007

Socked in

I awoke at 4:30 this morning intent on having one last early morning, pre-breakfast fishing excursion. But, from our front windows I couldn't see beyond the opening to the cove in which the lodge is nestled. FOG. Drippy fog. Now, if that doesn't beat all! Feeling our way along the water didn't seem appealing, so I went back to bed without waking Tal. Thursday's sunrise photos will be the only ones this trip.

But, at 9:30 last evening Tal and I pulled away from our dock, cruised out to the nearest island, about a mile away, I guess. And, from there we turned back to face west and watched the sun go down. Truly a powerful, humbling sight. At one point we could see three con-trails, each one on a slightly different course, two moving east and the third going west.

There we sat, two people who mean the world to each other in a little aluminum boat with the motor putting along in neutral on one of thousands of lakes in this part of the world under a great big, glowing sky witnessing the steady rotation of the earth, while probably several hundred people flew over us, each one on some sort of mission, going someplace for a particular reason. Almost more than a heart can bear.

We were back at our dock before 10 o'clock (22 hundred, according to the watch I'm wearing), satisfied and very ready for sleep.

22 June 2007

Anticipatory grief

In our little cabin all my clothes are arranged in neat stacks on the top bunk on my side of the bedroom. When we unpacked last Friday morning, I happily counted out nine pairs of socks and placed them on the front edge of the mattress. Nine pairs of socks ... nine mornings. That little cache has been shrinking by the day; I'm down to just two pairs as of a couple hours ago. Sigh ...

After we finished our breakfast of oatmeal and (the best) rye toast, we made our reservations for next June. Now, maybe I can put that dwindling sock stock out of my mind and enjoy THIS gift of a day.

21 June 2007

I gotta fish!

The first year Tal and I came to Shining Falls Lodge neither of us knew quite how to fish for wall-eye and great northern, large-mouth bass and bream anglers that we are. So, things were a bit slow for the first few days. During one fishing outing on that visit we were trolling back-ward, anticipating catching wall-eye, when I thought my lure had become caught in some sort of underwater structure -- grass, a submerged tree limb or rock (there are just a few of both of those particular items around!). I gave a mighty jerk on my fishing rod -- and something jerked back: a 103 cm northern. What a fight to get him into the boat. I've always secretly wanted to do that again, but it just hasn't happened.

Not until today, that is. We were in a very pretty bay and had caught our limit of wall-eye to take back to camp. All the pressure was off! Backing into a cove there was a particularly dank looking corner on my left, complete with two fallen tree trunks jutting into the dark water. Northern territory for sure; get a fish or lose all your tackle in the process of trying.

Just like that he took my bait and the fight was on. After five minutes of reeling and back-reeling and moving the boat into larger water while reeling and back-reeling and with Tal's quiet AND intense encouragement, I got him near enough to the boat that Tal could get the landing net under him. At 95 cm he's not quite as large as the one in 2004, but I'm thrilled.

After all was said and done -- photos taken and the great fish returned to the cold water of Family Lake, I was just about as shaken as I was to be pulled over by a turbo Otter!

Early morning

My watch alarm went off at 4:30 this morning. I slipped out of my bunk, dressed, and loaded the boat -- with seat cushions, life jackets, tackle and bait and, of course, the ever-present camera. THEN I woke Tal. Outwardly grumpy and inwardly pleased is how I would describe him. We pulled quietly away from the dock just before 5:00.

And, as you can see, the sun is showing itself rather spectacularly at the beginnig of this longest day of the year and the first day of summer.

As I write this it's 8:45. Breakfast is over and Tal's walked back to the cabin for a nap! More later.

20 June 2007

Keeping the feet dry

I am sitting in the dining room, breakfast now over and the waiting well underway. The skies are low here and in Bisset there is heavy fog. Yes, the planes scheduled to bring in the next 18 guests and, in turn, take out the pacing 16 are still at the base on Fish Lake in Bissett.

This island looks like two islands joined by a sandy beach. When a new dock was constructed three summers ago, the old dock was moved to the other side of the beach -- and now has come in very handy. In anticipation of needing the dock this morning and wanting to keep guests' feet dry, Pat and Noah fashioned an adaptation by moving part of the retired dock along side the flooded walkway.

It was a several-hour long process, the end of which I captured on "film."

Pulled over

When the skies began to hint at some clearing yesterday, everyone took to the water. Tal and I were fishing within sight of the lodge and were not having much luck, I might add, when a lovely turbo Otter began circling, a much newer, sleeker plane than anything Blue Water Aviation flies. An attention getter! In fact, I stopped fishing to take pictures.

It lined up for a landing near us, so I began moving our boat to stay out of its way. Then, the pilot opened his door and motioned for us to approach. Yikes. Pulled over ... in the wilderness no less.

Two crisply uniformed men met us on the left float. It was the Manitoba Department of Natural Resources wanting to make sure we had all our papers in order: angling permits on our persons, barbs crimped, a single rod in use by each angler, regulation-sized fish on the stringer and life jackets in use, not just in the boat.

From the air they had spotted all the boats from Shining Falls and once on the water taxied from point to point until they'd consulted with each of us. We all passed and were sent on our ways. Interestingly, after the fact I was physically shaken just as I would have been for a traffic stop.

19 June 2007

Morning sounds

As I began to some awake this morning, gradually I became aware of three distinct sounds: the whoosh of the fire Tal had built in the wood stove, the insistant flame in the propane-powered hot water heater and the sad moan of the wind around the edges of the cabin. It was tempting not to crawl out from under the layers of cover! But, missing one of Chickie's delicious cold morning breakfasts simply wasn't an option. As it is, everyone in camp is grounded until the wind abates.

Yesterday afternoon following supper one of the groups in camp wanted to see Shining Falls. Since the water's high, the river's quite fast, so Pat suggested he guide them. The short trip was aborted when it began to rain -- hard. These are shots of their top-speed return to camp.

18 June 2007

Ontario's overflow

When we communicated with the Harristhals two weeks prior to the beginning of our vacation, Chickie said the stationary part of the dock was almost under water, but that evaporation should have taken care of the excess water before our arrival. Turned out when we landed if we walked carefully from the floating dock to the beach we could keep our feet dry. No more ...

While it's rained pretty regularly here, there's been adequate sunshine as well. But, it's also continued to rain in Ontario. So, Family Lake continues to rise no matter how sunny the days here at the lodge.

The green fuel barrels are intented to keep the walkway from buckling and coming off the rock cribbing. An extra advantage? Keeping some of us from mistakenly driving a boat over it!

Who me?

Low skies

It's funny. When we're at Shining Falls we are more attuned to the weather than at any other time of the year or any other place we travel. Being clothed properly when we're out on the water -- warm enough, cool enough, relatively dry, protected from the sun -- is important, but more so is being safe. A sunny day it seems can cloud up within minutes and a glassy Family Lake can turn angry almost in an instant. Fortunately for us, the reverse has been true today.

Overnight we experienced the most formidable storm in the four years we've been coming to Shining Falls. After supper the wind picked up and shifted from north to south, distant thunder moved closer rather fast, by dark (about 10:30) the rain came down in torrents. After midnight, frequently the interior of our cabin was briefly but uniformly lit by intense flashes of lightening and the rain continued.

Here at the lodge Pat Harristhal was was up and outside seveal times: once to make sure all the boats were secure on the beach, another time to close a normally protected outside door (under the lodge where the ice machine is which stays open to keep the ice machine cool), to check on the animals (two dogs and a cat). I stayed awake to witness the drama of it all: hearing the rain on the metal roof, peering out at the waves in the cove AND worrying that our boat tied to the dock would sink! (A sunny scene of the boat and dock is included below.) When morning came, the boat, riding lower than normal ,was still afloat. Before I could bring it over for fuel, I had to bail 7 inches of water!

Everyone -- all 15 of us -- was late to breakfast. Tal's and my plan to fish before breakfast was foiled by the fact that we slept until 7:30! Despite the weather, though, clad in full rain gear, we pulled away from our dock at 9:30 under threatening skies (which the bush pilots call low skies) having promised Chickie that we'd not go far. As we fished -- and filled a stringer -- the weather did its thing. After a fashion these two photos, both taken before lunch, depict the mercurical nature of things.

Tal has taken another guest out fishing and I'm heading back to the cabin for a bit of my book and a nap. More later.

16 June 2007

The fishing's good!

The combination of two days of travel and difficult weather once we arrived kept us from fishing yesterday, but today was a wonderfully different story. We caught our limit of walleye by 9:30 this morning. And, when we were almost too tired to go on during the mid-afternoon, Tal boated a very respectable northern pike. Naptime!

Evening and morning

We are at Shining Falls Lodge, at long last. And, now it feels as though we've never been away. My computer's back in its usual spot at the table our usual table in the dining room. While much is the same, there are also differences. The walkway to the floating portion of the dock is slightly under water, a first in our experience and last evening's rain here and to the east isn't going to improve that situation. Also, the 9.9HP (two-stroke)Mercury motors, well-used for three long summers have given way to 15HP (four-stroke) Yamaha motors, which I discovered last evening before the rain that they are quieter and easier to start.

The two photos below show the same view from the deck of our cabin, one taken last night at 8:30 or so as we awaited the rain and the second taken this morning at 5:30. In the last issue of The Ridge Runner I wrote about taking the long look, the long walk. This is a scene of which I do not tire and my gaze could never be too long.

14 June 2007

Desk view

One of my tasks for this morning, while we're still in the hotel in Winnipeg, was to make sure both cameras are up to speed with Adobe while wireless internet access is still available. Surely, I don't want to waste time once at Shining Falls trying to download software!

Look what I found on the Fuji FinePix! A view of what I've left behind. Looking at it makes me smile because (1) it's a very pleasant place to spend time and (2) I'm not there at the moment.

We had a good night. Breakfast in the lobby was simple and adequate -- Raisin Bran, milk and coffee. And, now that I'm feeling assured about the photography end of things, we'll be on our way -- Bissett-bound -- shortly.


At some point in the past month I read an amazing statistic: the American airline industry throws away enough aluminum in a year to build 58 747s. I was struck with the enormity of that when I read it, but -- given the schedules of life -- simply noted it and moved on.

Yesterday, while Tal and I waited for our flight to Winnipeg in the ground level area at O'Hare, I watched planes land, able to spot their lights in the sky several minutes before they reached the airport. One of those planes was a 747, an Atlas Air cargo plane, huge and made more visually huge given its lack of windows along its length.

I found myself trying to picture 58 of those planes. How many soda and juice cans would it take?

Once in Winnipeg and after a brief nap, Tal and I went on a mission for our hosts at Shining Falls Lodge. At "The Real Canadian Superstore" we didn't find what we were looking for, but found something to buy (isn't that always the way?). The woman ahead of us in line had the child seat area of her card full of cloth bags in which she loaded her purchases. When we checked out, the clerk asked if we needed a bag. I said that we did, we finished our transaction and we went on our way. That bag cost us four cents.

In other stores we visited while shopping for our hosts, we noted customers, most customers, entering stores with their used plastic bags or with cloth bags.

Buy bags or bring your own. Interesting -- and challenging -- thought.

13 June 2007

From Winnipeg

I am almost surprised that we're here, our air travels for the first leg of our vacation finished and wonderfully uneventful -- except for the repeated "we're bringing your plane from the hangar" at Chicago's O'Hare. We cleared customs in Winnipeg with good cheer on all fronts, received gracious assistance in finding the rental car counter (a circuitious arrangement at best) and located our hotel in the rental (brand-spanking new Caravan) without any trouble.

We are tired! And, it's only 7:45 (central time). Tal's already turned out the light and I only want to get this "we're on our way" posted before I find my place beside him. It's too hard to explain how wonderful it is to be here, so I won't try. Suffice it to say that it's just in time.

More tomorrow.