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Day 6

Wednesday, September 06, 2000

I love this place.

You wake up every day here, with a brief spark of expectation. Because you honestly never know what the lake is going to look like until you actually sit up in bed and look out the window. You’re anxious to see if it’s raining, sunny, windy, calm…. Whatever. Doesn’t really matter, but it can affect your planning and the options for the day ahead.

I was awoken this morning by a shrill shriek. Not really anything that I recognized so I opened my eyes and thought seriously about getting up to investigate. Just as I opened my eyes, I saw a giant dark figure swoop past the bedroom window. Actually it was out over the water, but it was so large that it got my attention. So I got up quietly so as not to disturb the sleeping “gas factory” in the loft, and I tip-toe over to the balcony doors.

Over to the right of the front yard, there’s a pretty good sized birch tree that has lost it’s top, and tipped out over the lake. It’s still upright but it leans out over the water. On the very end of that tree is perched a very large, very young Bald Eagle. He’s young enough that he still has a lot of grey or white speckles in his feathers. I can see them clearly. And his head is still brown.

I grab the binoculars to get a closer look and while I’m doing that I start to make a little more sense of what’s happening here. I can hear three maybe four separate voices making that same shrill call. One is him, I can see him head turn and his mouth open when he calls out. Plus it sounds like he’s right in the cabin with us.

But then you can hear him answered by at least two other Eagles. So I’m looking around. There… there’s another one. Directly across the bay on the north east point, just this side of Keith’s new dock sits another Eagle. This one is much more mature. Dark brown body, and stark white head. Just like on the postcard !!

I’m watching him through the binoculars when I hear him call and I can see that it was him. Man those birds have big beaks. I could stick my hand in there. So now I’ve located two and I’m looking for the others. Well this is way too interesting to keep to myself so I rouse Snoot and he comes down to help. Grabs his own set of glasses and we’re looking for the missing voices.

Out on Spanky’s Bush, Constance is perched on her throne. She’s the third voice. Amazing that even over the wind, you can hear her as clear as a bell from about ¾ of a mile away.  Somewhere in the bay, there’s a fourth bird but he must be down by the shore between the young one, and the one over by Keith’s. You can hear them talking. Not sure exactly what the conversation is about, but I get the distinct impression this is Mother, Father, and the two kids. Maybe it’s a training exercise?

I love this place.

I don’t really know if Eagles are family oriented. I have enlisted the help of the Monk-a-potomus (Justyn) in Vegas to research that for me. He’s a Bear Scout now and this is the type of research that is right up his alley. I’ll let you know what we learn.

I’m beginning to worry that I’ve got my priorities a little messed up. Because while this is still going on, I decide to check my email and finish yesterday’s journal. I’ve got a family of Bald Eagles working on their hunting skills right in my front yard and I’m wondering if Oracle closed up yesterday. Man, I’m a mess…..

So while Snoot continues to monitor the progress out front, I’ve managed to get a batch of “Giant Cinnamon Rolls” into the oven. They’re just starting to smell up the cabin and combined with the smell of fresh Folgers brewing, it’s really too much. Too bad you can’t find a way for morning to last all day.

By looking out over the lake it appears that we’ve woken up today to a deceptively calm bay. One of the things that takes practice up here is that you have to learn to assess all available information, not just the obvious and visible clues.  For example, the cabin is in a small bay that is protected on three sides. We can see about two miles across the water up to Birch Island and Burnt Rock. So you think that by looking at the water from here, you would get some idea of what the lake is going to be like. Well today that single visual clue will prove to be quite unreliable.

For one thing, we’re on the north side of the island and the cabin is hidden amongst a hundred towering Birch trees. They’re about 4 stories tall and even if there’s wind blowing over the island, you can only hear it. You’re eyes can fool you. The lake looks calm, but this is not always the case.

Ok, based on this somewhat limited analysis of the lake conditions, we pack up, dress up and head out. The plan is to stop at Cyclone and check in to Canada (don’t make me get started on that again….silly-ass Canucks.) And then we’re going to shoot for the Tug Channel and/or Gator Bay.

But first over to Flag for fuel (remember my note-to-self from yesterday) Nobody around at the dock on Flag so we have to wander for a few minutes to get somebody’s attention. Actually, we had to go into the lodge and there we found Sharon, the bartender, and in the kitchen was Jim, making a secret batch of his homemade chili. (We were fishing when they ate and didn’t get any). Jim could not stop such a delicate process in the middle so he got Scott (another bartender) to come down and help us with gas and bait.

Scott didn’t have any change so he offered to just write it down. There’s a spool of adding machine tape hanging inside the door to the oil drum on the east side of that little dock shack that’s used to record fuel and oil sales and the like. There’s another spool of tape hanging inside the shack used to record the sale of bait. As we were leaving, Scott says, “Next time there’s nobody around, just get what you need to get, and write it down.” So wanting to make sure I can actually do that, before we left I checked on the location of these rolls of adding machine tape.

What I noticed there gave me pause to smile. It’s a long piece, about three feet long, of adding machine tape still attached to the spool hanging down the door. About every inch or so, there’s another entry for another purchase. It says “Wells, 8.5” then there’s a line across the tape and another entry, “Swenson, 12.9” then another line and the last entry “Fox, 5.7” Well I think you know who that’s for. We don’t really need names anymore. They’re just knowing us as Fox Harbour Lodge and for purposes of brevity, just Fox. I can live with that.

So the trip to Cyclone is an eye opener. The water is getting rougher and the true force of the winds is now apparent. So we spend a few minutes trying to approach the doc at Cyclone without actually landing on top of it, and finally after a few aborted landing attempts (I’m still getting used to the drifting properties of this boat) we get up to the phone where you call Canadian Customs. The first time we checked into Canada they asked a lot of questions. But I think once you’re in their database, the process goes a lot faster. This is our third day checking in and I’m getting to know the ladies voice on the other end of the radio phone. She gets my boat number, the souls on board, and that’s about it. We’re off.

We start east across the top of Flag, and as we stick our nose out into the gap between Flag and Oak we run smack-dab into the waves. I think the winds were lined up exactly with that gap and therefore the waves hitting us were coming from 45 miles across the lake. They were pretty good sized.

So we sneak over to the north side of Oak and decide to troll that shore. There’s no fish there, we know that, but at least we can fish without being beaten to badly.

Takes us about 45 minutes to get to the northeast point of Oak, just above the bay where Bonnie Brae and Angle Inn sit.  While trolling, we passed a group of three small, VERY SMALL boats. They can’t be more than 15’-17’ foot boats and their motors look like glorified trolling motors. Maybe 10 horse at best….

They’ve stopped all together in front of a cabin and we start wondering if they know something we don’t know. But not wanting to look like we’re horning in on their hot spot, we troll on by.  About 15 minutes later, as we approach the end of our calm water, we notice that one of those boats has motored up ahead of us and is drifting north. They’re not fishing, looks to me like they have a map out. With boats that small, you know it’s a rental so I’m thinking maybe they’re a little turned around. We keep trolling towards them. About 7-8 minutes go by and they’re not moving. Not fishing, and not going anywhere….

As we get close enough to see a little better, it appears they have to cover off the motor and are doing something to it. So we watch…..

After a while, they put the cover back on and give it a pull. No-go. Then off comes the cover again. Ok, we’re going over there to offer aid.  The winds are going to blow these guys all the way to Konora if we don’t help them. So we motor over to see what the deal is.

Turns out the recoil has broken and the motor is not retracting the starter rope. So if it doesn’t start, they have to hand-feed it back in. Big pain in the butt. So we hover around them while they try to get it started and finally, they do get it running. Just as we’re motoring off, their motor dies again and so we stop. After a few minutes of this, we all agree that they’re getting nowhere. It says “Norm’s Camp” on the side of these three little boats so we offer to tow them in but they decline.

One of them points over at the other two boats which are now coming this way and says “Naw, that’s OK. Here comes our buddies. They’ll tow us in.” Well, one look at their buddies and I can tell that is going to be a problem. One of those boats is already towing the other. They have three boats between them, and two of them are dead. So me and Snoot do the honorable thing and tow these guys around the point and across that bay in front of Bonnie Brae to Norm’s Camp which as it turns out is on the very southeast point of Oak right by that red buoy.

Of course they want to thank us with a cold beer and since we’ve already put in over an hour of serious fishing, we’re ready for a break. It’s 11:30 anyway and we’ve had a long morning.

I love this place

After some dodgy landing techniques we get all four boats tied up. Two of them running and two of them not.

Then a short hike up to a pretty nice rental cabin tucked way back in the woods. And here we have Len, Rodney, Dwight (who just had a stroke), Steve, Roger and Kim (man…. And I thought Kelly was a girl’s name….) They’re all from Iowa and the come up here every so often to fish together. It’s not quite noon yet, but they break out the Scotch and beer, and Ruby Red (grapefruit juice and whiskey), and sausage and cheese and chips and the works. Well we’re not easily lured away from a setting like that so an hour and a half later, we’re seriously trying to leave. We would probably have just stayed but it’s almost lunch time and we thought maybe we could troll over to Sunset for some grub.

And that we do.

Over to Sunset for a couple of burgers and a beer each, then back on the lake for some more rough water trolling. Tried to drift a few times, tried to troll a little, finally decided to head up the east side of Windfall. There’s some real deep water up there, 50 feet or more, and who knows, maybe we’ll find some fish.

While we’re drifting towards the shore at Windfall (about 4 miles north of the Bay Store) I just caught the flash of red on shore.

fox1.JPG (43244 bytes)  fox2.JPG (58900 bytes)

Pretty good sized red fox. Windfall is a fairly large island and it appeared he was doing a little trolling of his own. He was working at a trot, patrolling the whole shoreline. Even seemed to have a bit of a path worn. He spent about five minutes checking out the water’s edge and then over some tree trunks, and around some rocks and then back down to the water’s edge again. Finally we had drifted close enough to shore where he got a look at us. Stopped and checked us out for a few minutes….. stared right at us and then turned and continued his patrol. When he finally turned to head back into the woods, he went up a clear trail and we lost sight of him.

I love this place.

It’s about 5:00 PM now and we’re not catching any fish. We’re not even fishing properly. Can’t seem to get any rhythm at all. We decide to head over to Flag and see about getting a guide for one of our remaining days. Started walking up towards the Blue Eyed Chief and found Scott sitting in those Adirondack chairs just between the dock and the shed right by the walkway to the bar. Asked him if the bar was open yet and he said. “Let me get the keys. We’ll open ‘er up.”

I love this place.

Up to the bar for a couple of cold-boys, and some CNN Headline News (I know, I’m sick) then a couple episodes of the Simpsons, and it’s time to plan supper. We’ve been saving this big gourmet breakfast for a couple of days now. We’re planning steak and eggs, bacon and some nice biscuits that Hose bought and generously left for us. But there’s a problem. We’re down to three eggs. So the plan is to motor over to Rick’s and pick up a dozen eggs. By this time Jim has wandered into the bar and over heard the plan.”You can probably get a dozen eggs from the kitchen if you want.” So we do.

I love this place.

Then it’s back to the cabin to plan supper. We decide that we’ve been pretty good citizens today. We helped some people in need, and we’ve…….. well, ok that’s all we did, but still we deserve a nice supper so it’s Steak again. Fire grilled steak with some boiled red potatoes, baked beans, and sweet corn. What a life. I love this place.

We’ve eaten until either of us can move. But somehow we manage to take our coffee out to the deck. We kill all the lights in the place and just sit out there in the dark. There’s lightening on all four sides of us. No rain here yet but it’s really quite a show. Hard to sit in the dark and listen to distant thunder without getting sleepy so after about the third time I doze off, I decide to take a nice hot shower and call it a day. It’s 10:30 PM and tomorrows just around the corner.

We fell asleep to the sound of a gentle rain with big drops. Seemed almost comforting.

I love this place.

Good night Friends.

-Mayday.

Next day...