June 26, 2011

Blue Lake & Rocky Shore [Canada 2011]

Land of the silver birch,
Home of the beaver,
Where still the Mighty Moose
Wanders at will
Blue lake and rocky shore,
I will return once more
Boom de de boom boom,
Boom de de boom boom, 
Boom de de boom boom, boom.
BOOM boom.

I was taught this song in early elementary school, second grade I believe.  It has remained with me since.
We just returned (once more) from the far north wilderness of Ontario, where we share a little cottage with family.  They call them cottages up there, not cabins.  While we were there, surrounded by rocky shore, I continuously had that song chanting in my head.  I'm still singing it.
We had planned on going sooner, but a few things held us up.  The biggest being Mitch became very ill from a deer tick (a.k.a. black-legged tick) bite, and was in no condition to go anywhere.  Once he was feeling up to it, we did go north for further rest & recovery time. 
The journey was a smooth as we've seen.  Our earliest start.  Canadian Customs was pleasant at the border, and crossing on a Wednesday was swift.
I love the Rainy River District.  
We saw this long-legged fox just north of Ft. Frances, carrying a muskrat.
The drive is long.  Once north of the border, we travel through only 3 towns in over 350 miles (and Wabigoon is very small.)   Then, somewhere north toward Lake St. Joseph the road goes through two small reservation communities of the Mishkeegogamang First Nation.  But that's all.  The rest, is trees & rock & water.  It's long.  So the best we can hope to help pass the many winding, hilly miles is to see some wildlife.

In earlier June, the bears are thick along the roadside, foraging where it's first green.  
This late in June, though, they have more places to forage & we didn't see a bear until about mile 440 or so.  Then around mile 450, we came across a young one in the road.  
I immediately had the windows down & camera ready, as I do for every moose or bear we see.  Usually the bears are quickly a black blur & gone into the thick woods.  So, I was delighted that we were able to slow down to a stop along side this one.  And then surprised when it turned back toward us, rather than run away.  Both Eric & I had our passenger side windows down, and the next thing we knew it's well-clawed paws were coming up on the side of the vehicle at our window.  That's the moment when delight & surprise turned to alarm.  I scolded, "No-no-no!" and luckily Mitch hit the gas fast.  That bear would've been our vehicle in less than two seconds, and little or not, it wouldn't have been pretty.
Quite a surprise, hundreds of miles into the wilderness.  It's not like we were traveling through one of those "Bear Country USA" drive-through parks, where you expect that kind of thing.  
We wondered it's story, why it was alone.  It was too big to be this year's cub, but pretty small to be on it's own.
And so we'll remember the little bear who nearly jumped into our car & made the long, long trip more interesting.

Bathroom break.  Our only one in 9 hours!  The kids are troopers.
 And the road goes on.
This is when little bear in the road made it's quick turn for us, last photo I got before it jumped up with it's front paws and we made our  getaway.
Sorry, Young Black Bear, no room for you.  We wish you well.  Go be wild!
We arrived 500 miles north of home to a temp of about 25 degrees warmer.  Beautiful weather. 
Hot the first two days.  The kids jumped in the lake nearly immediately.

Boating in.
Calm there, living on and in the water.
Mitch & the kids built a seine & the boys caught their bait.  I don't know if that's legal, but it's self sufficient & not a bad survival skill to know in remote land.
Plenty of good fish & moose meat to eat, which we did. (a kind local friend gave us the moose meat.)   
 Johnathan hooked a fish of a lifetime.  That'll have to be a whole 'nother post.
We admired where wild berries will soon be abundant.  Raspberries, as before, and this time I discovered great patches where, when the season's right, we can go ashore & pick blueberries forever.  Pretty excited about that. 
Johnathan & Lilly chopped dead trees & driftwood, building up the firewood supply.
They live for hatchets.
The backyard terrain.  You sink right into that moss.
There was a good amount of moose sign surrounding the cabin.
The flowers:  Irises, Bunchberry, Star Flower, Bluebead Lily & Canada Mayflower were abundant, just as they are at home.   The wild roses though, I've never seen them so thick as they are in Ontario.  Just beautiful.  Hawkweed & Indian Paintbrushes, too.  That was another thing that added to the interest of the long drive, the color of it.  Orange, purple, yellow, bright pink, & white. 
I found a lone pink lady slipper.
Labrador Tea.  Thick.  Everywhere.
Wild roses.  They bloom every year for my birthday, which was celebrated observed while we were there.
Twinflower, so tiny.
We ventured ashore at a portage to a neighboring lake and walked a ways.
Found honeysuckle, which I've never seen in the wild before. 
(Home of the Beaver)
Other notes, this trip:  
-Saw just five bear
-One moose.
-Two fox.
-Several eagles.
-There was a forest fire in the region while we were there, a pretty big one. 
 We experienced a lot of smoke & some ash in the air, but weren't in any danger.  
-Daylight was long, the week leading up to summer solstice.
-No demerits from the OPP!  :)
-Our first trip up without tools or building material of some sort.  Nice.  Packed light.
-We met two brothers from the twin cities who have a cabin there on the same lake.  One is an emergency room doctor.   Good to know, should we ever happen to be there at the same time again & need medical attention. 
Blurry 60 mph moose shot, as we came around a curve. 
I googled the Land of the Silver Birch song, to see if it could be found & if I had the words correct from seven-year-old memory.  In fact, I did.  
I learned it's a Canadian folk song, sometimes sung to keep time while canoeing. 
And there are more verses:

Down in the forest,
Deep in the lowlands,
My heart cries out for thee
Hills of the north
Blue lake & Rocky shore
I will return once more ...
Boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom
Boom de de boom boom, boom.
BOOM boom.

Another good trip.  And good to reurn home, as well.  We are fortunate that we are in our element,  in touch with our natural surroundings, at peace with the life we're a part of, in both places. 
These trips are an extension of our life.  
They are good. 


  1. Amanda, you have such a way with words! Your description made me feel like I was there with you! The cottage sounds like the perfect escape. How wonderful to share the love of nature with your kids. Someday when we meet in real life you'll have to teach me the tune to that song. I would love a paddling song!

  2. What a great trip! Mitch looks great,that means he must of been feeling all better and up to a nice little vacation, how wonderful! Your kids are definately right at home out there, how great, love the picture of Jonathan with the moose droppings :0 Funny, He looks so grown up! What a beautiful family you've got there. Take care, they sure are growing up fast!

  3. Naomi - I'm not a great singer, but this is one I am confidant in singing. I'll teach you for sure. :)
    Erin, I can't believe how much they're all growing. Beau was just 2 our first trips up there, he's grown so much in photos.
    Eric's been checking himself out in the first dock photo - thinking he's pretty "buff." ;) This was the first I'd seen the older boys in swim trunks this year, and can't believe how much they're muscling up & changing.
    The "moose mess" is pretty crazy!! That patch of it was only a few feet beyond our outhouse path.
    Mitch is doing great! The antibiotic seems to have done it job, we're very thankful for his recovery.